Surrounded by sea on the north, south and the west there are no great surprises that Wales has so many nautical links. In fact there’s over 750miles (1207km) of coastline, including 43 blue flag beaches where the cleanliness of the sands and waters complement the superb surroundings.
Llandudno is Wales’ largest seaside resort, located on the north Wales coast. With the Victorian Buildings that dominate the mile long bay the town has retained the 19th century ambience. At this time it was the place to stay for the Victorian ‘in-crowd’ – musicans and European royalty were regularly seen shopping along wrought iron and glass verandas on Mostyn St including the Liddell family whose daughter was the model for Alice in Alice in Wonderland. The headland known as the Great Orme dominates the Bay and there are views of Snowdonia on a good day! There’s also the only bronze age mines in Europe and rare plant species with entriguing names such as golidlocks aster and spiked speedwell.
The pastel coloured Georgian buildings above the harbour are a trademark of Tenby. Although it dates back to the time of the Norman Conquest when Pembrokeshire was invaded and colonised in 1093. Much of the medieval castle walls built to fortify the town from Welsh rebellion have survived intact to the present day and there’s the Medieval Merchants house to visit that has been furnished to recreate the atmosphere of family life in Tudor times. Today, you can wander down the narrow cobbled streets lined with an array of shops, cafés and bistro restaurants and the dockside arches are still the location for fishmongers who sell their mornings catch. www.visitllandudno.org.uk
Pembrokeshire, is the UK’s only Coastal National Park. It is possible to walk the whole 186 miles of the path, amazingly after all the ascents and descents will have climbed the equivalent of Everest (without the altitude sickness! For the less energetic there are circular walks taking part of the coastal path. Look out for puffins, seals and even dolphin’s enroute! Barafundle Bay, once the private cove of Pembrokeshire Gentry family was in 2012 named as the most beautiful in Britain, by a top travel magazine the Good Holiday Guide so it is now ranked on a par with the best beaches in the World places such as Cap Bon in Tunisia and White Bay in the British Virgin Islands.
The Welsh coastline is an excellent backdrop to enjoy a wide range of activities; much of the stunning scenery can only be appreciated from the coastal footpaths paths such as the cliffs along the Heritage Coast between Porthcawl and Llantwit Major. The Celtic Trail, just one of the cycle ways in Wales starts in St Davids, taking in the Millennium coastal path in Carmarthenshire and finishing in Cardiff. Wales’ links golf courses are a challenge even to the experienced golfer, Royal St Davids with the backdrop of Harlech Castle (professionals have described it as the World’s toughest par 69) and Nefyn and District overlooking the bay of Porthdinllaen with the whitewashed fishermans cottages and the ‘Tŷ Coch’ pub that can only be reached by the golf course or by walking along the sandy bay.
For the adrenalin junkie there’s Paraglidiing off the high land behind Rhossili, cruising at heights up to 5000km admiring the 5km wide sandy bay and behind you the highland and moorlands of the Gower Peninsular (the UK’s first designated Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty).
Coasteering was invented in Wales thanks to the rocky coastline. It’s a combination of rock climbing, scrambling, cliff jumps and swimming when there’s no rock ledge left! The routes have been graded so intrepid coasteerers have an idea of what they are letting themselves in for!
After a day enjoying the sea air, what better place to enjoy a bite to eat at one of the cosy pubs or stylist restaurants, lookout on the menu containing a Welsh seafood, including laverbread (a type of seaweed) it’s a popular delicacy enjoyed at breakfast, sewin a fish only found in Wales. www.visitpembrokeshire.com
Museums are a great place to find out the local maritime stories. A popular museum is the Nelson Museum in Monmouth. This is where Admiral Nelson carefully chose the wood for his boats from the forests and is why Monmouth is home to a magnificent collection of Nelson material. Find out about the origins of the collection, and about the life, loves, death and commemoration of the famous admiral through displays of weapons, pictures, fine ceramics, silver and glass, ship models and letters at The Nelson Museum.
Swansea, Wales’ second city and gateway to The Gower, in 2005 the new £30.8m National Waterfront Museum opened. This purpose built museum, tells the story of Wales' industrial and maritime heritage and its role in shaping today's economy and society. www.museumwales.ac.uk
Historically Cardiff Bay or Tiger Bay as it used to be called, has been known as a multi-cultural area this is a legacy from the coal industry and it’s importance as a global port as coal was exported from here to ports around the world. Today this multicultural lives on in the vast array of restaurants from Turkey, Japan, Bangladesh…and Wales too
One of the docks, has been re-named Roald Dahl Plaza after the well known children’s author who was born in Cardiff and was christened in the Norwegian Church which can be seen across Cardiff Bay and today regularly houses arts exhibitions and tea rooms.
Cardiff Bay was also where Captain Scott set sail on his ill fated voyage to the Antarctic on the ship the ‘Terra Nova’ and this is remembered today by the bar that is named after the ship located on the waterfront and the lighthouse memorial in Cardiff’s Roath Park lake. www.visitcardiffbay.info
Some of the most famous pirates are Welsh and one of the most notorious was Harry Morgan a 17th century Welsh privateer (that means that he had a paper issued by the British Government empowering him to fight the Spaniards), Harry outdid Sir Francis Drake with his swashbuckling exploits in the Caribbean and gained a reputation to invade the Spanish colonies that were rich in gold and silver. Tales of pirates and shipwrecks are brought to life in the seaside town of Tenby as regular pirate tours ‘raid’ the town, taking in the famous beaches and exploring the narrow streets!
Listen very carefully around Cardigan Bay because legend states that you may hear the bells of ‘Cantre’r Gwaelod’, often refered to as the Atlantis of Wales. There are many tales told about the flooding of Cantre’r Gwaelod, but the popular account is set against a backdrop of big storm driving the spring tide against the sea walls. Seithennin, a friend of the King and also a heavy drinker was at the Kings party and he drank so much wine and beer that he forgot to shut the sluices – the sea rushed in to flood the land of Cantref and 16 villages in the surrounding area. The King and some of his court managed to escape to the safety of Sarn Cynfelin whilst others had to make a poorer living in the hills above the Bay. This legend has been chronicled in the Black Book of Carmarthen, written in 1250 and has a series of poems and events that took place centuries earlier.