8 of the most beautiful beaches in Wales
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The coastline of Wales is the stuff of a beachgoer’s dreams. It meanders from north to south for over 1,500 miles morphing from sandy stretches to rugged cliffs, fairylike forests and calming estuaries. Its tides are some of the largest in the world behind Canada’s Bay of Fundy (53.5 feet), rising up to nearly 50 feet in the Bristol Channel’s Severn Estuary.
The Welsh coastline is where Roald Dahl chose to spend his summers, where Beatrix Potter finished Peter Rabbit and where Dylan Thomas crafted his poetry. For the modern-day traveller, it’s a refuge from the daily grind and easily accessible via car from all major English and Scottish cities. And the beaches’ remoteness means you can obey social distancing rules. Here are our top picks.
1. North and South Beach, Tenby, Pembrokeshire
It’s hard to pick a favourite around Pembrokeshire, as you’re spoilt for breathtaking beaches around the tip of the southwest, but Tenby has been a go-to for Londoners for centuries. It used to be a haven for the Victorian elite who believed the sea there held healing properties. Now, families flock to the seaside town for not just one, but two great beaches that are split by a medieval tower on a hill. The breaks are often long and soft here, which make for safe wading for all ages.
Where to stay: Coastal Cottages has hundreds of self-catering cottages for rent throughout Pembrokeshire ranging from very affordable, about £75 per night for a couple, to luxury, from £686 per night for a detached family home with an infinity pool that sleeps eight.
2. Freshwater West, Pembrokeshire
This small stretch of sand is a surfing hot spot, which makes it better for observing than swimming in. But if you’ve brought your board, you’re in luck because the southwesterly-facing beach is known for some of the best waves in the county. Beware of riptides though. There are free parking and toilet facilities. Make sure to try one of Café Mor’s famous crab sandwiches on your visit.
Where to stay: Only a 10-minute drive from the beach, get your glamping on at Warren Farm Wales, which offers chic bell tents or a cute bunkhouse for larger groups starting at £175 per night.
3. Barafundle Bay, Stackpole, Pembrokeshire
Barafundle Bay is a tranquil and remote beach that, for a long time, was a locals-only secret. In 2004, though, The Good Holiday Guide listed it as one of the top 12 beaches in the world and it was made into a Blue Flag beach. Not to say that it’s spoilt now, but it’s certainly no longer a secret. The small crescent-shaped stretch of perfect sand and crisp blue-green seawater in eastern Pembrokeshire is dotted with old ruins from the Stackpole Estate.
Where to stay: The Stackpole Inn is a quaint gastropub with clean and well-appointed rooms. Starting from £75 per night, it’s just more than a mile to the beach and includes breakfast.
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4. Llanddona Beach, Isle of Anglesey
Most of the coastline for this small island off the northwest of Wales is designated an Area Of Outstanding National Beauty by the United Kingdom conservation efforts, so you know it’s going to boast some gorgeous shoreline. While there are 27 beaches to choose from here, Llanddona is one of the most stunning. It’s really long and has a separate dog-friendly section for the summer season as well as toilets, free parking and a small café.
Where to stay: Hen Felin Cottages offers two self-catering cottages with sea views that will make you feel like you’ve transported through time. Contact the business for prices.
5. Blue Pool Bay, Gower
Just to the west of the town of Swansea sits one of the best rockpools in the country. The Blue Pool, as its aptly named, is deep and big enough to fit a dozen people in it (though, it’s more fun to get it to yourself). It’s at the top corner of a large sandy cove and at the other end, there is the Three Chimneys rock archway and some great caves and small rock pools for exploring around Spaniards Rocks — if you’re really lucky, you might find a gold coin from a Spanish shipwreck.
Where to stay: Spend the night in a luxury 17th Century village inn at King’s Head Inn starting at £135 per night.
6. Ynyslas National Nature Reserve, Borth
On the inside of a small peninsula at the mouth of an estuary lies this gorgeous stretch of sand backed by low-level dunes that are home to many protected species, including previously endangered sand lizards. During low tide, you can walk around the point to get to the other side of the beach. There are a few easy circular walks around the reserve, and the beach is accessible from a parking lot. The visitor centre has much to offer in the way of tours, information, hot and cold drinks and an ice cream stand during the summer season.
Where to stay: Ever tried a caravan park? Now might be a great time to try Searivers Caravan Park just over the road from the soft dunes and tranquil beach. Rates vary depending on caravan size but hover around the £400 range with a minimum three-night stay.
7. Barmouth Beach, Snowdonia
Barmouth is one of the most popular beach towns in southern Snowdonia. It’s situated on the estuary of the River Mawddach and Cardigan Bay. Its soft sand is perfect for basking, and the area is big enough to accommodate even the busiest of summer days. There are tons of local shops and cafes around to entertain, and the beach is easily accessible for disabled visitors.
Where to stay: You could sleep in a castle at Tyr Graig Castle just up the road for about £94 per night or you could rest beachside at Min-Y-Môr Hotel for £100 per night.
8. Harlech Beach, Gwynedd, Snowdonia
Overlooking Harlech Beach is the mighty medieval Harlech Castle, its grandness only overshadowed by the fact that this beach is huge and sprawling. It’s previously won the Green Coast Award and the Seaside Award, so you know it’s got a lot to offer. Because of the length of this beach, you can be closer to town and people and a lively family beach-going atmosphere, or you can venture to the southern end and relax near rock pools and grassy dunes.
Where to stay: Enjoy sea views a little way up from the beach at Dol Aur Bed & Breakfast. Rates start at £70 per night.
How to get there
While Cardiff International Airport (CWL) offers flights in and out of Europe and the U.K., the best way to get to and around Wales is by renting a car. The train is another option and you’ll be able to get out to even some of the more remote towns. Beware though, those local trains can be slow and infrequent. Buses are certainly an option — and the cheapest one at that.
No matter where you end up along the 1,500 miles of coastline in this small but rich country, you’re sure to find a beach that suits your needs. And when the sun comes out — which it does, don’t worry — a beach day in Wales rivals any beach holiday the world over.
Featured photo by Michael Roberts/Getty Images
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