Coastal Wales: the guide

By | Category: Travel destinations, Travel tips & opinions

Coastal Wales might be wet, but it’s also wonderful. Your guide to the award winning region starts here...

Population 2.2 million
Main towns
Swansea, Aberystwyth, Llandudno
We lsh, English
Major industries
tourism, agriculture, fishing
Unit of currency
British pound (£)
Cost index
B&B per person per night £30-50 (US $50-83), pint of real ale £2.90 (US $4.85), castle entry £3-6 (US $5-10), surfboard hire per day £10 (US $16.70), laver bread (seawee d mixed with oatmeal) £3 (US $5), pot of cockles £3 (US $5)

What a wonderful thing: to walk the entire length of a country’s coastline, to trace its every nook, cranny, cliff-face, indent and estuary. How better to truly appreciate the shape – and soul – of a nation?

Well, in 2012 Wales will become the only country in the world where you can do just that. Due for completion in May, the All Wales Coast Path (AWCP ) will squiggle continuously from Chepstow in the south to near Queensferry in the north – via dramatic serrations, sandy bays and domineering castles – making 1377km of shore accessible.

Much of it is already in place, including the spectacular Pembrokeshire coast (a national trail since 1970); a new section from Llanmadoc to Port Eynon, passing Rhossili (one of the UK ’s best beaches); and the Isle of Anglesey Coast Path, waving to royalsin- residence Prince Wills and Kate on the way.

And as for the missing bits, the AWCP will soon fill in the gaps – announcing to locals and interlopers alike that this varied, increasingly vibrant seaboard is uninterruptedly open for business.

The whole coast may soon be open, but Pembrokeshire’s craggy edges remain a showstealing starting point, with Barrafundle Bay and St David’s (the UK ’s smallest city) particular highlights. You can also take in a glut of coast-protecting castles, such as Harlech, Caernarfon and Beaumaris, then learn to surf on the Gower Peninsula’s perfect waves and amble around Anglesey. Wildlife buffs can seek out seabirds on the isle of Skomer and watch dolphins play off Cardigan Bay.

Come 1 March, pin on your daffodil for St David’s Day, when Wales’ patron saint is toasted nationwide: Colwyn Bay hosts a parade and Swansea a weeklong festival. Alternatively, visit the main man’s remains in St David’s itself.

Swansea’s Maritime & Sea Shanty Festival (mid-July) is a salty affair – celebrate the sea port, dance a jig and watch the ships go sailing by.

Wales’ annual Eisteddfod – celebrating all things Cymru, from science and technology to music and dance – will be held a stone’s throw from the sea in Llandow on 4–11 August.

Soak up Olympic action in Wales: some of the London 2012 football matches will be held at Cardiff’s Millennium Stadium.

Speaking Welsh. Unlike most minority languages, Cymraeg (Welsh) is on the up – more widely spoken now than in the 19th century. National TV and radio stations broadcast in Welsh, road signs are written in Welsh and English, and there are Welsh-medium schools, books and newspapers. Try Nant Gwrtheyrn centre, on the Lleyn Peninsula, for courses.

Portmeirion. What’s a town like this (part Italian riviera, part wedding cake, part surreal spy-thriller setting) doing on the Snowdonia coast? The fancy of architect Sir Clough William-Ellis, begun in 1926 and owned by a charitable trust, it delights and befuddles.

At first glance Welsh words can seen bewilderingly strange, and unhelpfully short on vowels (though note that w and y are also vowels in Welsh), while poor old j, k, v, x and z don’t exist at all. But it isn’t so hard when you know a few rules – here’s a quick primer:

Cymru Wales
Iechyd da i chwi yn awr ac yn oesoedd
Good health to you now and forever
cuddle (once voted Wales’s favourite word)
OK , it’s a place name, not a regular word. But it’s brilliant.

Welsh food is having a moment. This land of plenty (all that rain has to be handy) nurtures succulent lamb, tasty beef and top-notch cheese and dairy. Traditionally it was served up with little ceremony (cawl, a meat and vegie broth, is typical). However, the gastro-bug has been caught, and innovative chefs are using Wales’ bounty to better effect. Along the coast, look out for herring, mackerel, salmon and cockles. Brain’s beer (brewed in Cardiff) is the tipple of choice, though Pembrokeshire’s vineyards are starting to make a mark.

Extract taken from Lonely Planet’s Best in Travel 2012, available to purchase from


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