Festival Review: Love Trails, South Wales

One of the world’s friendliest festivals, Love Trails combines music, trail running and adventure activities in the coastal landscape of South Wales.

What is Love Trails?

Love Trails is a totally unique style of festival: it is a music festival that offers daily organised runs through the stunning Welsh countryside.

Located at Weobley Castle estate, just a mile from the coast, festival goers can explore the Gower Peninsula on runs ranging from 3km (1.8 miles) to 55km (34 miles), then return in the evening for live music and a well deserved beer.

Co-Founders Theo Larn-Jones and George Restall first started Love Trails as a party for their friends who shared a common passion for music festivals and “the best things about running”.

This fresh, exciting concept has quickly spiralled and in 2019 Love Trails welcomed 2000 happy campers (up from 900 in 2018), and put on a dazzling array of talks, workshops and fitness classes in addition to the music and runs.

Why go to Love Trails

The concept is simple; trail running involves running through the countryside, along beaches, up and down hills and through forests. It’s better for your knees than running on the road and much more interesting.

You don’t need to be a keen runner to take part, as there’s distances and courses for all abilities, but to make the most of it some running experience will help.

There’s a lovely, relaxed and friendly vibe at Love Trails (c) Lucy Woods

Love Trails is so friendly

What makes this festival so special is the incredible vibe: the chance to run in groups makes it easy to start up conversations, and everyone is so friendly.

Every time we sat down for a bite to eat or a pint, people would ask if they could join us and strike up a conversation. I spoke to several men and women who travelled to the festival alone, and they all commented on how easy it was to make friends.

A dog friendly festival

What’s more, Love Trails is a dog friendly festival, and I felt a rush of joy every time I spotted a Labrador puppy or friendly terrier. It really added to the happy atmosphere of the weekend.

Accommodation

Love Trails may be a relatively small festival, but there’s ample space for camping. There are two main campsites: Estuary View and Castle Camping, both with their own car parks. The latter campsite also has pre-erected tipis if you would like the full “glamping” experience. Both campsites have plenty of portaloos as well as showering facilities – the latter has an additional surcharge. There is also a dedicated area for campervans next to the Castle car park.

Castle Camping site at Love Trails (c) Lucy Woods

One thing to note is that Love Trails doesn’t have any dedicated security lock-up facilities, so you may want to leave your valuables at home. The festival is situated in the middle of the countryside, so the chances of theft are pretty slim.

Running activities

The majority of organised runs at Love Trails are included in the ticket price. These guided trail runs and “just show up” runs have a variety of themes, from wine tasting 5km to a 20km run to wild swim.

Some of the runs take place within the festival grounds, but most branch out much further, through fields of cows and sheep, up scrambly hills and along pretty forest paths. Festival wrist-band wearers also have access to the Love Trails Adventure Bus, so if you get tired or want to get straight to the beach, you can jump on a bus for free.

Love Trails beer mile relay – it’s harder than it looks! (c) Lucy Woods

For runs under 10km, there’s little pressure to run at a specific pace – it’s all about having fun and exploring the trails. The longer runs are dedicated to the hard core runners.

Highlights include a fantastic 5km medieval themed obstacle course, with axe throwing, archery and rock climbing. I  attempted a “beer mile” relay, which involved downing a can of beer and sprinting 400m around a course as merry festival goers cheered wildly.

Many of the runs are hosted by running clubs from around the country, which is fantastic for those thinking about signing up to club once the festival is over.

I joined the City Hash House Harriers for a 7.5km jaunt through the Welsh countryside. They describe themselves as a “drinking club with a running problem” and this mantra certainly rang true on my run. It was great fun and involved plenty of beer and several moments of walking – not every run has to be serious!

Fun times with the City Hash House Harriers (c) Lucy Woods

As well as the free running activities, you can sign up for a choice of “extra adventures”, which come at an additional cost. This includes a 10km run to sea kayaking, 13km run to paragliding and 15km run to coasteering.

What’s the music like at Love Trails

Love Trails has just the one stage and music starts every day in the afternoon (7pm on Thursday, 5pm on Friday, 12pm on Saturday and 1pm on Sunday). There’s a huge variety of live acts and DJ sets.

Pyrotechnics are kept to a minimum, although they make full use of the confetti cannon.

Mr. Bruce from the Correspondents puts on quite the show (c) Lucy Woods

Live acts in 2019 included Afriquoi, whose funky beats and happy energy got everyone dancing. The Hackney Colliery Band headlined Saturday night with some brilliant brass band covers that contributed to the lovely, chilled atmosphere.

My personal highlight was The Correspondents, the London based electric swing due of Mr. Bruce and DJ Chucks. Mr. Bruce had some spectacular dance moves and their mix of jazz, swing, hip hop and drum and bass brought the crowd into an energetic frenzy.

What else is going on?

There’s little chance of getting bored at Love Trails as there is so much to see and do. As well as the trail runs, festival goers can participate in various exercise and wellbeing classes including yoga, pilates, cheerleading and combat to music.

Cheerleading class at “The Big Stretch” tent (c) Lucy Woods

If you need a break from the exercise, there’s a vast selection of talks and workshops led by running royalty such as Adventurer Ross Edgley and GB runner, Holly Rush. There’s also a craft tent (adult and child friendly) where you can make a flower head garland or decorate an old t-shirt. The craft tent transforms to a bar in the afternoon.

The Estuary Spa has amazing views of Weobley Castle and the Welsh coast (c) Lucy Woods

The Estuary Spa is located next to Weobley Castle, and you can have a blissful soak in one of two hot tubs, heat up in the sauna and cool down in the plunge pool. The castle itself is also open throughout the festival – have an explore at night and experience the spooky atmosphere.

Food & drink

There’s lots of delicious, healthy food at Love Trails, and a few less healthy options as well. South Indian thali, fresh salads, deep fried polenta, halloumi chips, toasties, pizzas and burgers are all on offer. Food is reasonably priced at £6-£9. Breakfast options were limited to a couple of coffee trucks and a vegetarian breakfast stall, although you can nab a bacon sandwich if you walk to the castle (about 10 minutes from the main festival grounds).

Deep fried polenta from Polental – delicious! (c) Lucy Woods

There’s plenty of booze on offer and you won’t need to queue for long. There’s a dedicated G&T stall as well as plenty of beer, cider and a limited selection of wine. We were very impressed to discover that the plastic looking pint glasses are actually compostable.

Verdict

Love Trails smashed all of my expectations – they have succeeded creating a unique festival with a fantastic selection of adventure activities and a wonderful atmosphere. It’s nice to return home after a festival healthier and lighter than I was before!

Fact File

How much: Early bird tickets for Love Trails 2020 are already on sale, costing just £115 per person. Shower passes, the estuary spa and “extra adventures” can be booked in advance at an additional cost.

CLICK HERE to buy tickets to Love Trails 2020

Getting there: Love Trails Festival 2019 took place at Weobley Castle, West Castle Farm, Llanrhidian, Swansea SA3 1HB. You can either drive to the site (there’s plenty of parking) or book a dedicated coach from London.