The gorgeous South Wales coast has an otherworldly edge to it that rivals even the prettiest of far-flung seaside escapes. It’s heaven on earth for lovers of nature and the great outdoors, thanks to its abundance of beautiful Blue Flag beaches, cherished National Trust treasures, quaint fishing towns and wonderful wildlife. The ‘land of mystery and enchantment’ remains unspoiled, and we’ve rounded up the best ways to uncover its resplendent charms.
Venture along craggy coastal walks
Pembrokeshire is known for Britain’s one and only coastal national park. The utterly striking coastal path is beautifully diverse, showing off an array of photogenic landscapes – think weather-worn cliffs, secluded coves and remarkable beaches. For a wild and windswept walk, head from the rich nature reserve of Stackpole Head to the infamous St Govan’s Chapel – a magical 14th-century structure built into the cliff face. En-route, encounter the magnificent curves and contours of Broadhaven Beach, a wide expanse nestled between sheltering cliffs. Another marvellous path takes you from the small fishing port town of Porthgain to the far-reaching Blue Flag shores of Whitesands Bay, passing the famous and breathtakingly beautiful Blue Lagoon of Abereiddy on the way.
Stop for a break in its charming towns
Alongside countless Blue Flag beaches, Tenby is a remarkably lovely harbour town that still retains much of its original charm. Dotted along the seafront, its pastel-coloured town houses paint an irresistibly quaint scene, and if you look out to sea, you’ll discover the landmark St Catherine’s Fort, which you can walk to when there’s a low tide. St David’s Head is Pembrokeshire’s finest headland, while the city of St David’s is the smallest in the UK, but splendid nonetheless – it’s more like a village, earning city status thanks to its imposing cathedral which sits below the city. You’ll find Neolithic tombs at St David’s Head, and in the town itself, lovely galleries and restaurants.
Explore National Trust gems
Voted one of the best beaches in the world, postcard-pretty Barafundle Bay is a revelation with its crystal-clear turquoise waters and swathes of golden sand. Surrounded by craggy coastline, rugged cliffs and grass covered dunes, this pristine and secluded haven can only be reached on foot – be prepared to experience a visual overdose of beauty. Bosherston Lakes is the crown jewel of the Stackpole Estate and famous for its pretty lily ponds. This haven of wildlife – which is home to everything from bats to herons – also leads to the sandy bay of Broadhaven Beach. Meander across the series of freshwater lakes, and witness where the estuary meets the coast. Meanwhile, Swansea’s stunning Rhossili Bay on the Gower Peninsula sprawls unapologetically for three miles within the UK’s first Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty. The unspoiled beauty and remoteness of the bay gives it a mystical allure and, come sunset, you’ll want to head here to marvel at the views across the island of Worms Head – one of Gower’s most famous landmarks.
Stroll down postcard-perfect beaches
Family-friendly Broadhaven South Beach is another Blue Flag award-winner thanks to its gorgeous sandy expanse stretching along the rugged coastline. Sitting pretty in a hidden bay, the beach is surrounded by powdery sand dunes, and on the west side of the cove, there are a number of little caves and underground springs waiting to be explored – a particularly fun activity if you’re visiting with the family. As the cherry on the cake, you’ll also witness views across St Bride’s Bay. Elsewhere, Three Cliffs Bay is Gower’s most iconic, offering a wilder experience than some of southern Wales’ other coastal jewels. Discover sandy stretches, rocky coves, a salt marsh, limestone cliffs, and a shoreline of sand dunes. And the breathtaking natural beauty doesn’t stop there; the Pennard Pill stream runs through the golden sands, while Pennard Castle’s ruins sit dramatically atop the cliffs, with a sweeping view out towards the bay.
Spot puffins and other magnificent wildlife
Well known for its extraordinary puffin population, Skomer Island is a must-visit for wildlife fans and birdwatchers, located just a mile off the wonderful Pembrokeshire Coast. There’s much more to this region than these colourful creatures: the island is also home to dolphins, seals, porpoises, shearwaters, gannets and Skomer voles. During spring, an abundance of honeysuckle, campions and other wild flowers carpets the rugged landscape in a flurry of colour. Backed by picturesque grassy cliffs and just a few miles from St David’s sits the remote, rural Abermawr Beach. Elevated behind the golden sands is an undiscovered, wildlife-rich marshland and enchanting wood; in the spring, you’ll find beautiful purple-blue bluebells and white wild garlic flowers blanketing the floor.
Get active in world-famous surfing hotspots
On the lookout for the perfect wave? Freshwater West is a surfing mecca. Backing onto the dunes, this famous National Trust stretch boasts a consistent swell and strong waves (not for the inexperienced). It’s the annual venue of the Welsh National Surfing Championships, but this isn’t the only time the beach has come under the spotlight – it featured in the filming of Robin Hood and Harry Potter films, too. As well as holding Blue Flag status, the fine golden sands of Whitesands Bay hold a reputation as one of the greatest spots to catch a surf break in the country. The beach curves round towards St David’s Head, overlooked by the impressive Carn Llidi outcrop, and on a sunny day the waters show off stunning sapphire-blue tones.