Wales: Home to One of the Ten Best Beaches in the World (Among Other Things)
Published: Thursday 14th Aug 2014
Written by: Alice de Courcy-Wheeler
For those who aren’t in the know, the fact that Rhossili Bay has been named as one of the top ten beaches in the world can come as quite a surprise. The three miles of sandy shore on the Gower peninsula is great for beach lovers, while the Atlantic waves that crash onto the shore make this a favourite for surfers too. The views across the sea and around the surrounding coastline are hypnotic, and you may even see seals and dolphins poking their heads out of the water a short way off shore.
And that’s not the only fact that will surprise you. Dig a little deeper and you’ll find that Wales was a lot more secrets under its belt …
This one probably isn’t much of a secret, but the beautiful Mount Snowdon is the UK’s highest mountain outside of Scotland, and from its peak you can see England, Scotland and Ireland if the weather is kind. There are six different routes to the summit for walkers, and a steam train runs regularly to the top if you’d prefer to do the climb in comfort.
Pembrokeshire Coast National Park is the smallest and only coastal National Park in Britain. Inside its borders is Skokholm Island, the country’s first officially designated bird reserve and the first bird observatory. It’s the home of over 500,000 breeding sea birds, and has the largest colony Manx shearwater in the world. You’ll also find St. Davids, the smallest cathedral city in the world with a population of just 2,000. It’s the only city to lie entirely within a National Park.
You don’t have to travel far in the country to see evidence of Wales’ medieval heritage. The country is believed to have more castles per square mile than anywhere else in the world, and over one hundred are still standing. Head to Gwynedd to find the Castles and Town Walls of King Edward UNESCO World Heritage Site, one of the best examples of 13th and 14th century medieval architecture. The Welsh capital also has a castle that you can visit and there are regular tours of this fascinating landmark.
Also in Cardiff is the Millennium Stadium. Home of Welsh rugby and football, it has the largest retractable roof of any sports arena in the world. A tour of this iconic building is a must if you’re a sports fan, whatever colour shirt you wear.
Wales has not one, but two trees that have claims to be the oldest living tree in Europe, if not the world. A yew in Llangernyw south of Colwyn Bay is said to be between 4,000 and 5,000 years old, while another yew tree in St Cynog’s churchyard at Defynnog close to Brecon is also said to be 5,000. Despite their age they put forth a large canopy of leaves every spring.
If you’re a nature lover then you should also try and see the world’s largest single span glasshouse at the National Botanic Garden of Wales in Llanarthne, Carmarthenshire. Visitors can see over 8,000 varieties of plants as well, including the best display of Mediterranean climate zone plants in the Northern hemisphere.
Another UNESCO World Heritage Site is in Wrexham, in the north east of the country. The Pontcysyllte Aqueduct is the longest in Britain, stretching for 307 metres, and was the first aqueduct in the world to use a cast-iron trough. And when you cross this stream in the sky, you’ll be taking the highest boat ride above land in the world. And also enjoying some spectacular views.