Wonderland in Llandudno
Bordered by water on three sides, Wales offers many ways to explore its treasures, no matter what your mode of transport. If you're planning to drive, The Wales Way comprises three classic touring routes. But those seeking an adventure on foot would do well to hit the Wales Coast Path, which stretches along 870 miles (1,400 kilometers) of the Welsh perimeter. In 2022, the path—one of a few to follow a country's complete coastline—marks its 10-year anniversary.
The seaside resort town of Llandudno is an excellent starting or ending point for many North Wales treks along the Wales Coast Path. Alice Liddell, the girl who inspired Alice in Wonderland, spent her summer holidays in Llandudno, and the town's Alice Trail nods to parts of the story. From the shops and cafes of nearby Colwyn Bay, it's a 6.5-mile (10-kilometer) walk to Llandudno. This route will take you across Little Orme, with plenty of seabirds and seals to spot along the way. You can expand the journey with this multi-day North Wales itinerary from the official Wales Coast Path website.
To plan itineraries and chart your travel, download the Wales Coast Path app from the app stores for Apple iOS and Android devices before you go. The path itself also has guidebooks for sale and an interactive map.
Cycling Along the River Dee and North Wales
Parts of the Wales Coast Path are also open to cyclists, with alternative routes available where the path is not accessible by bike. A section of the path in North Wales shares a route with the National Cycle Network, a system of bike paths throughout the United Kingdom. This overlap creates possibilities for cycling trips along the North Wales coast.
For a short day ride, start from the town of Chester, which is at the border of Wales and England and about an hour's drive east from Llandudno. A flat, paved path runs right along the River Dee from Chester to Connah's Quay, a distance of 6.5 miles (10 kilometers).
For a longer trip, consider riding from the town of Prestatyn west to Llandudno and then on to Llanfairfechan, a total distance of 28 miles (45 kilometers). Here again, parts of the Wales Coast Path serve cyclists, and in other places, some detours to National Cycling Network paths are necessary.
Anglesey: A Trek to a Landmark Lighthouse
The North Wales Way, one of the three touring routes in The Wales Way, runs right through the heart of Anglesey, an island covering about 260 square miles (673 square kilometers) of the western mainland. But the Wales Coast path offers something different: The opportunity to walk the isle's circumference. While that journey would take several days, there are many other ways to experience Anglesey's beauty through both short and long walks.
Consider a three-day excursion to explore Holy Island, an island off the west coast of Anglesey. The itinerary will take you past the Holyhead Maritime Museum and the landmark South Stack Lighthouse. Among options for short walks around Anglesey, take a 2.25-mile (3.6-kilometer) stroll on the loop near the village of Rhosneigr, or go 3 miles (5 kilometers) from a village with a striking name, Llanfairpwllgwyngyllgogerychwyr-ndrobwllllantysiliogogogoch, to Menai Bridge, one of two bridges to the island.
Ascend to a Castle on the Llŷn Peninsula
South of Anglesey, the Llŷn Peninsula is a less-explored part of Wales that rewards visitors with rugged, dramatic coastlines and plentiful wildlife. About a quarter of the region is protected by the United Kingdom's Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty (AONB) designation. To the north is the Irish Sea; off the south coast, Cardigan Bay. The Wales Coast Path outlines the perimeter, with plenty of possible itineraries for short and long walks. The region is home to multiple spectacular castles and affords views of the Cadair Idris peak.
For a longer walk, start at Criccieth Castle on the southern base of the peninsula and travel 6.5 miles (10 kilometers) to Porthmadog. Situated high above two beaches, the castle affords incredible views of the town of Criccieth and Cardigan Bay. In Porthmadog, take a ride on the Welsh Highland Heritage Railway. Another 5-mile (8 kilometers) route option: Head from Aberdaron, a village at the very tip of the peninsula, to Plas yn Rhiw, a manor house from the early 17th century.
Spot the Colorful Homes near the Ceredigion Coast
The Wales Coast Path crosses along 60 miles (97 kilometers) of coastline in Ceredigion, the county historically known in English as Cardiganshire. One possible itinerary takes you 14 miles (22 kilometers) between Llanrhystud, a small village with a shop, pub, and park for camper vehicles, to the seaside town of New Quay. Along the way, you will pass Llanon, a community where ships were once built on the beach, and Aberarth, where low tide reveals the remains of medieval fish traps. For an extended journey, continue for a total of 8.75 miles (14 kilometers) past New Quay to the beaches of Cwmtydu, known for its dark sea coves, and on to Llangrannog. The latter beach village has plenty of sports and leisure activities, including a dry ski slope.
Another highlight along this route is Aberaeron, a charming town of multicolored buildings. Have a meal of fresh seafood by the water and keep an eye out for bottlenose dolphins—the Cardigan Bay is one of two places along the British coast where they can be seen. Continuing on to New Quay, you can learn more about spotting different types of waterborne animals such as porpoises and seals at the Cardigan Bay Marine Wildlife Center.
Explore Remote Beaches near Marloes Peninsula
The Wales Coast Path runs through the Pembrokeshire Coast National Park, which protects much of the region's coastline. Pembrokeshire itself is filled with gems to discover, from the tiny cliffside St Govan's Chapel to Pembroke Castle, the birthplace of Henry Tudor. There are also plenty of unique and quirky places to stay: floating pods and yurts, to name two options. But venture out to the very western edge of the Marloes Peninsula in Pembrokeshire and you'll find magnificent beaches, islands named by Vikings, and soaring seabirds.
A walk for two miles (3 kilometers) between Marloes Sands and Martin's Haven reveals these sights and more. Marloes Sands Beach is one of Britain's best, with amazing sea vistas that include seals and volcanic rocks. In late August and early September, you might be able to spot seals with their pups. And in late spring and summer, bursts of wildflowers such as bluebells decorate the clifftop path.
At the Martin's Haven harbor, catch a boat to Skomer or Skokholm islands. You can stay overnight on both islands—on Skomer, a farm has been converted to accommodations with private rooms for a total of 16 people.
Channel Dylan Thomas at Laugharne
The Welsh poet Dylan Thomas (1914–1953), famous for the poem "Do Not Go Gentle Into That Good Night," was born in Swansea. The Wales Coast Path offers a chance to follow in his footsteps, discovering some of the places linked with his legacy. A 2-mile (4-kilometer) walk in the town of Laugharne will enthrall anyone who has admired his work—for those unfamiliar with the writer, it's another chance to see beautiful scenery and historic buildings.
Thomas lived intermittently in Laugharne for two decades, calling it the strangest town in Wales. On your trek, take the Wales Coast Path northeast from the village, passing the "brown as owls" Laugharne Castle, as Thomas called it. You will come upon the boathouse where Thomas lived from 1949 to 1953, a beloved spot where he wrote Under Milk Wood. The boathouse is preserved with memorabilia and a writing desk set up just as it would have looked when Thomas was working there.
Eye-Popping Gardens in Swansea
The Swansea Bay and Gower section of the Wales Coast Path covers 70 miles, including the Gower Peninsula, the United Kingdom's first designated Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty. It's easy to break this up into several shorter walks. One option: Start with some ice cream at the Mumbles, a headland and village on the western edge of the Swansea Bay, and walk 5.75 miles (9.25 kilometers) to the city of Swansea.
In Swansea, visit the National Waterfront Museum, where interactive exhibits span 300 of years of industry and history in Wales' second-largest city after Cardiff. Check out the Swansea Market, a hub for gifts and fresh food established in 1897. And visit one of the city's many top-rated parks and gardens—Clyne Gardens, in particular, stands out for its collection of rhododendrons and architectural features, such as a Japanese-style footbridge. When it's time to settle in for the day, a range of accommodations are available, from affordable hotels to luxury rentals.
Stunning Views at Rhossili Bay Beach
The Wales Coast Path along the Gower peninsula offers many stunning sights, but Rhossili Bay Beach is a must-see. Positioned at the very edge of the peninsula, this 3-mile (4.8-kilometer) stretch of shoreline regularly appears in roundups of the best beaches —in 2014, TripAdvisor ranked it the top beach in Britain, and among the best in Europe and the world. Its wide expanse of beach is flanked by green hills behind and calm, lapping waves ahead.
Take a walk from Llanmadoc village, traveling 6.75 miles (10.75 kilometers) to Rhossili. Along the way, you'll pass Burry Holms, a small tidal island, and Broughton Bay. At Rhossili, low tide will reveal new sights on this jewel of a beach, including the remains of the Helvetia, a ship wrecked in 1887. You can also walk the 700 yards (650 meters) out to Worm's Head (report to the Coastwatch Centre before you go), a tidal island named for its serpent-like appearance.
Relax with Wildlife in South Wales
Rest Bay is among the must-visit beaches in South Wales. In the nearby resort town of Porthcawl, you can warm up for a walk by strolling along the seafront promenade, which was first built in 1887 and restored in 1996. Between the Rest Bay Watersports Center and the Porthcawl Surf School, you have ample opportunities to get your feet wet before setting off toward the Kenfig Nature Reserve.
On this 3-mile (5-kilometer) walk, heading along the Wales Coast Path to the west, you'll first pass the top-rated Royal Porthcawl Golf Club before coming to Sker Point. The rocky Sker Point affords views of Swansea Bay and, at low tide, a monument to the lives lost in the shipwreck of the 7,000-ton SS Samtampa in 1947. You can also see the inspiration for R. D. Blackmore’s novel, The Maid of Sker, Sker House—which some say is haunted. End at Kenfig National Nature Reserve, a sand dune reserve where you'll spot rare wild orchids and the region's largest natural lake, Kenfig Pool.
Cardiff and Severn Estuary
The area surrounding the Severn Estuary, where the River Severn begins its 220-mile (354-kilometer) path up into eastern Wales, provides a wealth of beauty and wildlife just near Wales' capital city. One possible walk along the Wales Coast Path takes you along the estuary's banks, starting at the large fishing lake Parc Tredelerch (Lamby Lake). From there, a 4-mile (6-kilometer) path takes you to the village of Peterstone Wentloog along the seawall.
Another option is to check out the Cardiff Bay Trail, a 6.2-mile (10-kilometer) loop that runs around the bay. You'll see the Norwegian Church, where Roald Dahl was baptized. Dahl led an effort to restore the church, which was ultimately dismantled and relocated to its current site in 1992. Today, it's home to an arts center and cafe. You'll also pass Cardiff's Wales Millennium Center, a performing arts destination and one of many examples of stylish contemporary architecture in Wales.
Newport: A University Town near Nature Trails
Just a short drive up the coast from Cardiff, the South Wales city of Newport has plenty of hidden gems to discover. Newport is "a university town with a multicultural vibe, steeped in history…complete with artisan breweries and a rich musical heritage," writes actor Darragh Mortell, who was born there. Check out Friars Walk, a shopping and leisure complex, stroll along the Fourteen Locks Canal, and don't miss Mortell's other picks for indie food, drink, and shops.
For a family-friendly and accessible walk, visit the Newport Wetlands Nature Reserve, which has a 3-mile (5-kilometer) circular path through marshland and along the coast, with views of Cardiff and Penarth. A longer loop of 7.5 miles (12 kilometers) takes you through the Gwent Levels, a network of marshes, fields, and waterways. Many other walking routes at the Gwent Levels intersecting with the Wales Coast Path take you into the area's nature, passing medieval churches and the East Usk Lighthouse, built in 1893. Beyond Newport, the Wales Coast Path continues on to Chepstow, where the majestic Chepstow Castle runs along a limestone cliff. At Chepstow the path joins Offa’s Dyke Path National Trail, which weaves along the border of England and Wales.