PHOTO: View from Beaumaris Beach, Isle of Anglesey, Wales (Photo via Flickr/Patana Rattananavathong)
When the Wales Coast Path opened on May 5, 2012, a new distinction was bestowed upon Wales: The first country to have a dedicated footpath around its coastline. The footpath takes visitors and hikers (and bikers) on an 870-mile journey through Wales' stunning scenery, past quaint seaside villages and dramatic hillside castles.
North Wales and the Dee Estuary. Go ask Alice the way to Llandudno Pier, the longest in Wales at 2,295 feet. In addition to the pier, the town was once the vacation spot of Alice Liddell, the inspiration of Alice in Wonderland. Further along is Conwy, home to the smallest house in Britain, as well as a striking medieval castle.
The Isle of Anglesey. Follow in the steps of the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge, who lived in Anglesey after their 2011 wedding. Given that 95 percent of the region has been named an Area of Outstanding Beauty, you can count on there being plenty of beauty to behold, including Beaumaris, which is touted as the “most technically perfect castle in Britain.”
Menai, Llyn & Meirionnydd. With Snowdonia National Park on one side and striking beaches on the other, this is one of the more picturesque sections. Take some time to visit the castles of Caernarfon, Criccieth and Harlech before exploring the village of Portmeirion. Further along, cross over to Bardsey Island for an overnight stay.
Ceredigion. There are plenty of opportunities to explore Wales’ charming towns and villages along this section of the footpath, including Aberaeron, which with its paintbox houses is one of the cutest in the country.
Pembrokeshire. Dolphins and puffins, oh my. This section of the route features 58 beaches and 14 harbors, as well as the smallest city in the United Kingdom—St. David’s.
Carmarthenshire. Nature lovers, unite! Stop by the National Wetland Centre to feed the world’s rarest goose and be amazed at the trees growing in the sand at Pembrey Forest. Literary fans will want visit the town of Laugharne, on which Dylan Thomas was said to have based Under Milk Wood.
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Gower and Swansea Bay. Beach lovers will enjoy this section of the footpath as it’s home to some of Wales’ best beaches, as well as a few colonies of seals. The town of Mumbles offers up plenty of quaint seaside charm, not to mention opportunities for shopping and ice cream.
South Wales Coast and Severn Estuary. This stretch of the footpath offers up big contrasts with spectacular scenery ranging from rugged cliffs and coves to the cosmopolitan capital of Wales, Cardiff. And, should you visit in September, you might just find yourself surrounded by hundreds of Elvises (Elvae?) in town for the world’s biggest Elvis festival.
For those who prefer to do their sightseeing on two wheels, portions of the Wales Coast Path are accessible to cyclists and have been designated as sections of the National Cycle Network. Those in search of a bigger adventure might want to consider “coasteering” their way around Wales. Literally. Coasteering, a term that was invented in Wales, means using any means necessary to get around a coastline, be it swimming, cliff jumping, biking and more. And don’t forget the four-legged option when it comes to transportation as numerous sections of the footpath are bridleways as well.