The Coastal Way: Town and Villages
Running along the entire sweep of Cardigan Bay, from Aberdaron in the north to St Davids in the south, the 180-mile/290km Coastal Way is one of three Wales Way national touring routes. Rather than a rigid set of directions, each ‘Way’ is a flexible route with plenty of opportunities to venture off the main path, following loops and detours so that you can create your very own personal journey.
This three-day itinerary leads through some of Wales’ most eye-catching coastal communities. You’ll find fascinating places with their own unique local flavours, from funky foodie hotspots and artists’ enclaves to sacred spaces with deep religious roots.
Start your journey in Aberdaron, the Llŷn Peninsula’s rugged and romantic ‘land’s end’. While it’s the beginning of your trip, it’s traditionally been the final stop for pilgrims making their way to Ynys Enlli (Bardsey Island), the holy ‘Isle of 20,000 Saints’ a few miles offshore (call into the National Trust’s Porth y Swnt visitor centre for more information).
Next, it’s down the coast to Harlech and its mighty World Heritage Site castle. Climb the skyscraping towers – which spring straight from rocky cliffs overlooking rolling dunes – for dramatic views of the sea and Snowdonia’s peaks. Continue south along the coast to Aberdyfi (cross the Mawddach at the Grade II-listed wooden toll bridge to Penmaenpool for a quick, scenic alternative to driving via Dolgellau). It’s a pretty little seaside resort and sailing centre with a sweeping sandy beach – the perfect place to watch the sun set over Cardigan Bay.
Suggested overnight: Aberdyfi
Begin the day in Aberystwyth. Stroll along the promenade from the harbour past the castle and the Victorian pier before riding the cliff railway up the steep slope of Constitution Hill for a bird’s eye view of Cardigan Bay, then call into the lively Aberystwyth Arts Centre for its vast collection of over 60,000 objects. Your next stop is Aberaeron, where candy-coloured cottages flank a picture-perfect harbour packed with fantastic food and drink (everything from super-fresh Cardigan Bay seafood to delicious ice cream made with local honey). If you need to work off some calories, it’s also a great base for exploring the Wales Coast Path. End your day in historic, castle-crowned Cardigan, where centuries of heritage mingle with a vibrant, artsy atmosphere of galleries, independent shops and tempting places to eat.
Suggested overnight: Cardigan
Make your first stop of the day in Newport, a seemingly sleepy little village that’s built a big reputation as one of Wales’s most desirable holiday destinations. Find out why as you browse works by local artists in the Newport Collective gallery, explore antique shops full of unique items and refresh in funky coffee shops and cafés.
Foodies will also find plenty to enjoy in Fishguard, a few miles further down the road. Freshly baked bread, local artisan cheeses and Pembrokeshire-brewed ale are all on the menu – ideal for a waterfront picnic as you watch boats bobbing in the harbour. Finish your trip in St Davids, the UK’s smallest city and journey’s end for pilgrims throughout the centuries. While the 12th-century cathedral still exerts a powerful pull, the mini-city’s stylish selection of galleries, shops, cafés are another big draw for visitors. Make time to visit Oriel y Parc Gallery which showcases the collections of National Museum Wales. The ever changing exhibitions reflect the Pembrokeshire landscape and how it has influenced world renowned artists such as Graham Sutherland.
Suggested overnight: St Davids.