Wales' Year of the Sea Lures Travelers with Epic Shores

Tenby, Pembrokeshire (view south with Caldey Island in background; courtesy of Visit Wales)

Welcome (or as we say in Wales, croeso) to Wales.

If you’re unfamiliar with Wales it’s a country of its own within Great Britain, 2 hours from London.

This year, 2018, Wales celebrates “The Year of the Sea.” Wales is a nation with an 870-mile coastal path, 230 pristine beaches and 50 unique and wildlife-rich islands (think, puffins!) to explore.


Courtesy: Visit Wales

In 2018, The Volvo Ocean Race will be coming to Cardiff from May 27th to June 10th as part of its visits to 12 cities on six continents. The Race Village will be situated on the Cardiff Bay Barrage and events and media will be focused on Wales’ vibrant seaside capital. For travellers and travel professionals, The Year of the Sea offers more than just beaches. It’s a celebration of all of Wales’ epic shores: everything from lakes to rivers and journeys to the sea as well as a celebration of coastal communities and culture. We’ll also be launching the Wales Way, an ambitious new family of three national scenic touring routes that cross the country’s most epic landscapes as a way of showcasing Wales’ fascinating history, coastlines and attractions.

Wales is the first country in the World to have a continuous, walkable coastal path stretching its entire length—870 miles of scenery. Wales is also surrounded by sea on three sides which means lots of clean and scenic beaches.


In 2017 Wales has been awarded a record 50 blue flag status sites, including 45 beaches, two boat tour operators and three marinas. Blue flag beaches are beaches that merit a certification by the Foundation for Environmental Education (FEE) that a beach, marina or sustainable boating tourism operator meets its stringent standards: in other words, a clean, pristine beach and crystal-clear water.

One of these beaches, Rhossili Bay, has been voted by Tripadvisor users as the 3rd best beach in the UK (The Gower beach is joined in the top UK beaches by Barafundle Beach in Pembrokeshire and Mwnt in Ceredigion) and the 11th best in Europe. The three miles of golden Rhossili Bay sand is located in the Gower, an Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty (AONB). Gower was the first place in Britain to be named an AONB. It is an unspoiled area ideal for walking and watersports, only a stone’s throw from the lively city of Swansea.

Along with awesome beaches, Wales also has some of the world’s most beautiful coastal walks.

Wales is the first country in the world to create a walking trail around its entire perimeter. The Wales Coastal Path is a long-distance footpath which follows, or runs close to, the majority of the coastline of Wales.


Dolphin & Seal Spotting Cardigan Bay Mid Wales (Courtesy: Visit Wales)

The Path runs through eleven National Nature Reserves and other nature reserves, including those managed by The Wildlife Trusts or Royal Society for the Protection of Birds. Lonely Planet rated the coast of Wales first in its Best in Travel: top 10 regions for 2012.

You can do all or part of the coastal path. Our new tourism product, The Wales Way, includes The Coastal Way, a route that runs the entire length of Cardigan Bay. It’s a 180-mile (290km) odyssey that threads between blue seas on one side and big mountains on the other. From Aberdaron to St Davids, the coast is dotted with harbour towns and resorts, fishing villages and secret coves. There are vast stretches of sand, towering cliffs, and beaches of all kinds in between. There are plenty of loops and byways to explore: the north coast of the Llŷn Peninsula, Snowdonia, Pumlumon, Preseli … endless ways to discover your own secret places.


Courtesy: Visit Wales

The Pembrokeshire coastline, a walkable coastal trail that can be combined with others or walked alone, is 186 miles (300km) long and would take around two and a half weeks to walk! It also involves more ascent than climbing Everest. Walk the Pembrokeshire coastline in part or in total for awe-inspiring sunsets, charming coastal towns, castles and more.

Along with coastal walks and gorgeous beaches, Wales is the home of charming sea-side towns. From quaint Tenby to Swansea where Dylan Thomas’s famed Welsh poetry was born (you can stay in the poet’s birth house) to Cardiff, the vibrant capital of Wales, full of fine restaurants, shopping, theatre, concerts and history, Wales sea-side towns offer travellers a warm, ocean-side welcome. Other coastal towns include Llandudno, a Victorian seaside resort with connections to Alice in Wonderland, St. Davids, the small but beautiful cathedral town that is dominated by St. Davids Cathedral and Aberystwyth, a vibrant university market town where you clients can visit the National Library’s treasure trove of exhibits, including the famed Mabinogion, a collection of some of the earliest prose tales in Britain.


Harlech Castle Gwynedd Mid Wales (Courtesy: Visit Wales)

Wales has more castles per square mile than any other country in Europe (over 600) and is sometimes called “the castle capital of the world.” Some of these castles have Instagram-ready ocean views. Built between 1283 and 1289 for King Edward I, and part of his famed “Iron Ring” of castles, Harlech Castle, seen from the bluff of rock to the south of the town, encompasses a panorama is truly breathtaking. Like an all-seeing sentinel, it gazes out across land and sea, keeping a watchful eye over Snowdonia.

Other castles by the sea include Beaumaris on the Island of Anglesey, Caernarfon, Conwy, Llansteffan and Laugharne. Beaumaris, Caernarfon, Conwy and Harlech are all King Edward I Iron Ring Castles and are all part of one UNESCO World Heritage Site. In all there are 14 castles you can visit along Wales 870-mile coast and if you visited all of them and walked to their peaks you’d burn a total of 40,120 calories, the equivalent of 213 mince pies!


Wales’ Year of the Sea does not ignore Wales’ spectacular inland areas which are criss-crossed by clear, clean rivers, brooks, blue-watered lakes, canals and estuaries.

Take Hay-on-Wye, for instance. This charming town situated on the River Wye, is known as a town of books with scores of antique, vintage and modern bookstores waiting for avid readers. It also hosts the annual Hay Literary Festival every May where authors from Bill Clinton to J.K. Rowling have appeared.

Another town which a river runs through is Llangollen, on the edge of the Berwyn mountains. This charming town is an idea place for travellers to hear the famed Welsh choirs at rehearsal or in performance. It’s also close to the ruins of the Valle Crucis Cistercian Abbey, the Pontcysyllte Aqueduct (a UNESCO World Heritage site where you clients can cross by canal boat for stunning views) and to Plas Newydd, a historic house and garden open for tours throughout the year.

Other river towns include Betws y Coed in North Wales. Betws y Coed is a great place to say or stop when visiting nearby Snowdonia National Park and Mount Snowdon. The Blaenau Ffestiniog narrow steam railway stops here and is a must for train lovers. Brecon within the Brecon Beacons National Park is a charming market town with picture perfect views of the park and its peak Pen y Fan, the highest point in southern Britain at 886 m (2,907 ft).


Courtesy: Visit Wales

Along with amazing beaches and coasts, Wales’ connection with the sea includes islands big and small. (The Welsh word for island is Yns). There’s the large Island of Anglesey in North Wales whose rich history goes back to the Druids. There’s the tiny island of Caldey in Pembrokeshire, whose history goes back further than 1,500 years. You can visit this island and the small community of Cistercian monks who still live here. Other residents of the island include its famed puffins! Skomer Island is another great place to see these amazing birds.


Seaside and water-side views are not just on display from castle turrets. Many of Wales three to five-star hotels are situated along the coast and by rivers, lakes or estuaries. Take St. Brides Hotel and Spa situated in Saundersfoot by the coast within the Pembrokeshire National Park.

The hotel and spa are all about relaxed elegance and you can enjoy special thallasotherapy (sea water rituals) which will relax body, mind and spirit. The famed Portmeirion Hotel overlooks an estuary of the river Dwyryd whose tide rises and falls during the day offering both land and river views. There’s also St. Davids Hotel and Spa in Cardiff, known for its Cardiff Bay views and its elegant ambiance. Foodies will want to book a stay at the Chateau Rianfa, sitting directly on the Menai Straits in Anglesey in North Wales. Its award-winning restaurant features some of the area’s best sea food.

While you’re in the area, visit Anglesey’s famed salt maker, Halen Mon where you can see these pure crystals farmed from Wales fresh clean shores.


The salt is just one aspect of food in Wales that’s connected to the sea. Tŷ Halen, their new award-winning Saltcote and Visitor Centre, is a unique £1.25m bespoke building. It is a first for Anglesey, Wales and the UK, and lies on the banks of the Menai Strait in an Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty, next door to Anglesey Sea Zoo in Brynsiencyn.

Halen Mon’s one-of-a-kind behind the scenes tour is recommended for anyone interested in salt’s place in our history, culture, and food. Led by a trained guide the tour includes a tutored salt tasting and lasts approximately 50 minutes.

From fresh cockles and mussels farmed near Swansea to fish caught out the ocean and served in one of the country’s seven Michelin-starred restaurants Wales has a wealth of amazingly fresh seafood to compliment the myriad activities planned for The Year of the Sea.