Published on : Wednesday, December 20, 2017
There’s no better time than our Year of the Sea to explore the Wales Coast Path: the first path in the world to follow the coastline of an entire country. Dip in anywhere along its 870 miles and delight in jaw-dropping views, contemporary cultural hotspots, unforgettable encounters with nature, and thousands of years of history. Look out for these highlights along the way.
South Wales Coast and Severn Estuary
Of course, it all begins with a castle. Chepstow is home to a beautifully-preserved fortress and is where the Wales Coast Path begins (or ends, depending on where you start) and where it connects to Offa’s Dyke, the path that runs along the Anglo-Welsh border. Heading west, the path takes an exciting urban turn, passing through Wales’s buzzing capital city. At Cardiff Bay, take a tour around the Senedd (home to the National Assembly for Wales). Then take in a show at iconic international performance venue, the Wales Millennium Centre, before finishing up in one of the area’s lively restaurants or bars. If you’re feeling more energetic, head for the rapids at Cardiff International White Water Centre. Find beautiful beaches and more along the Glamorgan Heritage Coast between Aberthaw and Porthcawl, where you can stop in at Wales’ longest continually inhabited castle, St Donat’s, whose grounds shelter contemporary cultural gem St Donats Arts Centre.
Gower and Swansea Bay
Gower was the UK’s first designated Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty, and it’s not hard to see why. Rhossili Bay was recently named best beach in the UK on TripAdvisor, and nearby Three Cliffs Bay can easily claim to have the best campsite views anywhere in Britain, with a majestic vista across sand dunes, limestone cliffs and salt marshes. From Rhossili, check tide times and venture onto Worm’s Head, a lush tidal island where author Dylan Thomas once got stranded! Surf-lovers can catch waves at Caswell and Langland beaches, while stand up paddleboards can be hired at 360 Beach and Watersports. The path winds through the city of Swansea to Swansea Marina, an attractive pocket of al fresco cafés, bars and the free National Waterfront Museum. Don’t miss The Mumbles, a charming fishing village with outstanding ice-cream parlours and attractive bay views from new waterfront development, Oyster Wharf.
Run free on Cefn Sidan and Pendine Sands, two of Wales’s longest beaches. World land-speed records were set and broken at Pendine in the early 20th century, and you can find out all about it at the Museum of Speed, which overlooks the beach. Today, adrenalin-seekers can get their thrills kite-buggying, land-yachting and Blo-karting, while families will love Pembrey Country Park. The park backs onto Cefn Sidan and offers plenty of activities for little ones, plus a riding centre if galloping on the beach is on your wish-list. Head to the striking and contemporary Millennium Coastal Park Discovery Centre for ice-cream, bike hire, and information about scenic coastal cycle routes. And don’t miss Laugharne, the coastal town that charmed Dylan Thomas. Visit The Boathouse, where he lived and loved, and stop in Browns, his favourite pub and watering hole.
Pembrokeshire is home to 58 beaches, 14 harbours and the world’s second-best long distance path, according to National Geographic. The Wales Coast Path here follows the stunning National Trail, the Pembrokeshire Coast Path; along these 186 miles you’ll encounter the UK’s smallest city, St Davids, home to a splendid Cathedral and a brooding Bishop’s Palace. Of the many beaches, Freshwater West and Marloes Sands caught the eye of film-makers and have featured in dramatic scenes in Harry Potter, Robin Hood and Snow White and the Huntsman. If you’re hungry, Coast in Saundersfoot offers a blissful sea-inspired menu located right on the shoreline. Pembrokeshire is a fantastic place to fling yourself off the coast path and into the water, and we do mean this literally: the addictive adrenalin sport coasteering was pioneered here, and the Blue Lagoon has hosted Red Bull’s Cliff Diving World Series multiple times.
Pick any west-facing beach on the Ceredigion stretch of the Wales Coast Path at sunset and settle in for a spectacular sight as the sea lights up with the day’s last rays. Spot dolphins and seals from Mwnt’s spiritual and secluded beach, or head on a dedicated boat trip with A Bay to Remember from Cardigan. Further north is Aberaeron, a pretty town with rainbow and pastel-hued seafront houses. For culture close to the sea, Cardigan’s intimate Theatr Mwldan is well worth a visit, or head to lively Aberystwyth for the striking Aberystwyth Arts Centre. Aberystwyth Cliff Railway takes you up a funicular to the summit of Constitution Hill, for beautiful coastal views.
Menai, Llŷn and Meirionnydd
Enjoy old-school seaside charm at Aberdovey and Barmouth; just outside the latter, find trendy new eatery Norbar (“North of Barmouth”), a sleekly designed bar and restaurant that’s ideal for a coast path pitstop. Between Fairbourne and Barmouth is a particularly beautiful stretch of the path, with views of the Mawddach Estuary plus Cadair Idris and the Snowdonia National Park looming inland. A trio of commanding coastal castles at Harlech, Criccieth and Caernarfon will wow you, while magical Portmeirion delights with its whimsical architecture and riotous floral displays. The Llŷn Peninsula is one of Wales’s least explored but most rewarding areas, where the coast path has a wild, romantic feel. Climb to the headland from Aberdaron and feel like you’re at the edge of Wales – and completely at one with nature.
The Isle of Anglesey
Most of Anglesey’s coastal zone is a designated Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty. Enjoy sea, mountain, and forest views as you walk to Llanddwyn Island along the beach; once there, breathe in the tranquillity of this spiritual site, the home and resting place of Wales’s patron saint of lovers, St Dwynwen. At the isle’s western edge is Holyhead, and perched right out to sea is South Stack Lighthouse – a dream location for every photographer. Back towards the mainland don’t miss Beaumaris Castle, considered the most technically perfect castle in Britain. Fancy seeing Anglesey from another angle? Then hop on board an exhilarating RIB ride, zooming under the impressive bridges that span the Menai Strait. On the trip out to Puffin Island you’ll see the adorable seabirds, seals, cormorants, as well as old shipwrecks.
North Wales and the Dee Estuary
Historic Conwy is a UNESCO World Heritage Site with impeccably preserved buildings and a truly magnificent castle – all just a stone’s throw from the coast. Synonymous with Lewis Carroll and Alice’s many adventures, Llandudno is a classic seaside town with the glorious Great Orme at its tip. Steep summit trails take in incredible coastal views and there’s even a tram or cable car available for tired legs. Stroll out on Wales’s longest pier at Llandudno – measuring 2,295 feet – and get a culture fix at stylish waterfront arts complex Venue Cymru. Spot wildlife at Colwyn Bay and enjoy Prestatyn’s beaches before rounding off the coast path with – of course – a castle! Flint’s 13th century castle was the first Welsh castle to be built during King Edward I’s invasion. And since it is the Year of the Sea, be sure to stop off at the imposing Talacre lighthouse, on the coastal path route between Prestatyn and Fflint.
Tags: Wales Coast Path