Bristol is a great city to start a tour of Wales crossing the Severn Estuary are 2 bridges the Suspension Bridge and the newer Prince of Wales Bridge. South Wales is rich in wonderful sandy beaches and the resorts of Barry and Penarth became popular during Victorian times. The great city of Cardiff has been the capital of Wales since 1955, it was once a major coal port but is now an international city of culture and commerce.
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Cardiff Bay is Europe’s largest waterfront development and is a great place to spend the day while visiting Cardiff. One of the best ways to explore the coastline is by boat, there is something to suit everyone from leisurely water taxis to exhilarating rib rides. Don’t miss Cardiff Castle which is one of Wales’ most historic attractions. The Castle is in the centre of Cardiff surrounded by beautiful gardens and parkland. With over 2000 years of history, it was once a Roman fort, a Norman stronghold and then restored by the Marquesses of Bute to become the Victorian Gothic masterpiece that it is today.
Porthcawl, is another former coal port that reinvented itself as a seaside resort in the 20th C. The beautiful sandy beaches and elegant promenade attract holidaymakers from far afield. It is also popular with surfers and is suitable for all levels, from complete beginners to experts. The Royal Porthcawl Golf Club which was founded in 1891 has magnificent views across the Bristol Channel.
Swansea Bay with its beautiful stretch of sandy beach begins in the Welsh city of Swansea and stretches for 5 miles southwards to the headland known as The Mumbles. There are great views from the summit of Mumbles Head. The pretty seaside resort of Mumbles has a medieval castle, a Victorian pier and some very famous Welsh-Italian ice cream parlours.
Just along the coast is the start of the Gower Peninsula, this 15 mile by 8 mile peninsula is really a place apart from the rest of South Wales. The Gower Peninsula was the first place in Britain to be designated an Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty (AONB), it is a place of great scenic beauty and contrast with pretty villages, little bays and wonderful beaches. One of its most beautiful beaches is Oxwich, with pale golden sands backed by ecologically rich sand dunes and rockpools. The charming little village has thatched and whitewashed cottages that are reminiscent of those in Devon, there is a 16th C fortified manor house with fine views of the bay that is known as Oxwich Castle.
Rhossili stands at the southern end of the superb beach of Rhossili Bay, which is one of the finest stretches of flat sand in Wales. On Rhossili Downs which rises to 632ft at The Beacon, there are 14 Bronze Age burial mounds and a pair of Neolithic burial chambers. At the southern end of Rhossili Beach is the spectacular headland of Worm’s Head, which takes its name from the Old English word ‘orme’ which means dragon or serpent.
The Pembrokeshire Coast Path National Trail is a beautiful and not too challenging walk that runs for 186miles from Amroth near Tenby to St Dogmaels near Cardigan. It can be walked in short sections and is the best way to enjoy and get to know this wonderful coastline.
Pendine Sands is an 8-mile stretch of beautiful beach on the shores of Carmarthen Bay, the firm flat sands were used to race cars and motorcycles in attempts to break land speed records. In 1924 Malcolm Campbell set a world land speed record of 146.16 mph in his car Blue Bird. In 1927 in an attempt to beat Campbell’s record the Welsh man, John Parry-Thomas was killed when his car ‘Babs’ went out of control. It was also from Pendine Sands in 1933 that Amy Johnson and her husband Jim Mollison took off to fly non-stop to New York, they ran out of fuel and were forced to crash land in Bridgeport, Connecticut.
Saundersfoot is a tiny hamlet with fine golden beaches and a tiny harbour that is one of the most popular resorts on the Pembrokeshire Coast of Wales.
Tenby is a pretty seaside village in the Pembrokeshire Coast National Park, with narrow streets and medieval buildings it attracts thousands of tourists each year. With a harbour filled with sailing boats and the narrow winding streets, Tenby has the air of a Cornish village, boasting four beaches it is a great place for a family vacation. There are boat trips from Tenby to Caldey Island which is inhabited by monks who live in the modern Cistercian priory. The monks make chocolate and perfume for visitors to buy.
St Govan’s Chapel is one of the real gems of the Pembrokeshire Coast. This tiny 13th C chapel is set in a striking location and is reached by a flight of seventy-four steep worn stone steps leading down from St Govan’s Head, just south of the village of Bosherston.
Pembroke is a lovely walled town with an impressive 11th C castle which was the birthplace of King Henry II in 1457 and is one of the most complete Norman Castles in the UK. From the top of the castle there are spectacular views of the town and surrounding countryside. Pembroke Dock or The Port of Pembroke was an important Naval Dockyard in the 19th and early 20th C. Over 260 fine ships were built here, including royal yachts and men-of-war, it was also an important flying-boat base during WWII. Today in the Heritage Centre you can learn about the town’s history and connection with the flying-boats. The Centre is based in the Garrison Chapel, which was built in 1830 as a place of worship for the dockyard employees, it is the only surviving classical Georgian Church in Wales. Ferries sail from Pembroke Dock to Rosslare in Ireland.
Milford Haven is a huge natural harbour which is sheltered from Atlantic storms, with its deep water it is ideal for large takers to manoeuvre and it has become one of the leading ports in the UK handling over 30 million tonnes of cargo each year.
As well as the island of Caldey which lies of the coast of Pembrokeshire there are also the islands of Grassholm, Ramsey, Skokholm and Skomer.
Grassholm is a tiny island 11 miles off the coast, it is an RSPB reserve with over 80,000 gannets nesting here, the island has the appearance of a dome-shaped white wedding cake. Visitors are not allowed to land on the island, but boat trips are available from Martins Haven or from St Justinians to see the birds.
Ramsey Island is also an RSPB reserve, but visitors can visit the island and walk the 3 ½ mile trail to see the great diversity of birdlife and wildlife. The island is also a great place to see the seals which give birth on the island’s beaches in late summer.
Skomer is a beautiful little island that is less than 2 miles long, in the spring it is carpeted with wildflowers that are so colourful they can be seen from the mainland. The island is home to over 100,000 Manx shearwaters, the world’s largest colony of these seabirds. Skomer also is famous for its kittwakes, fulmers, puffins and seals and 25,000 rabbits.
Skokholm Island which lies just south of Skomer is a Site of Special Scientific Interest (SSSI), landing is not allowed on the island apart from specially organised day trips. This mile-long island is home to thousands of Manx shearwaters and puffins, a boat trip around the island is a great way to see the birds as well as the dolphins, porpoise and seals that live around the island.
St David’s is the smallest city in the UK and is dominated by its fine Norman cathedral which contains a shrine to St David, the patron saint of Wales. The Pembrokeshire Coast Path National Trail runs all the way around St David’s Head where there is some of the most spectacular coastal scenery.
Fishguard situated on the picturesque Cardigan Bay was once a fishing village. It is now the main ferry terminus for ferries crossing the Irish Sea to Rosslare, County Wexford.
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