Wild and Wonderful: The Stunning Scenery of Wales
Published: Thursday 19th Jun 2014
Written by: Oliver Brooks
Wales offers an incredible choice of beautiful and stunning natural scenery, which is a big reason why a lot of people choose to spend their holidays there year after year. From breathtaking mountains and rugged coastline to huge sandy beaches and waterfalls, there is so much in Wales to satisfy visitors who love nature at its best. Wild and wonderful, here’s a brief guide to some of the most beautiful places in the country:
Snowdonia, Anglesey and Lleyn Peninsula
At the heart of the massive Snowdonia National Park, the area known as Snowdonia offers without doubt the most stunning landscapes in north Wales. With its impressive peaks, waterfalls and cliff faces, this is a Mecca for walkers and climbers – with many heading for the highest mountain in Wales, Snowdon. However, this iconic mountain does tend to get crowded – due in part to the Snowdon Mountain Railway which runs to the summit – so some of the lower mountains are recommended, such as Y Garn, Mynydd Mawr and Nantlle Ridge.
To the west of Snowdonia is the Lleyn Peninsula – an area of Outstanding Natural Beauty stretching 30 miles out into the Irish Sea and known for its wonderful beaches. The south coast of the peninsula, with its calm sea, is often called the Welsh Riviera, while the north and western coasts are more rugged with cliffs and hidden coves. Over the Menai Strait to the northwest is the island of Anglesey – also an Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty. There are beautiful beaches, dunes and bays along this coast and lakes, marshes and woods inland.
Dolgellau, Machynlleth and Aberystwyth Coast
The Aberystwyth Coast, or Cambrian Coast as it is also known, stretches from Cardigan in the south up to Harlech in the north. The southern part of this stretch of coast offers cliff-top paths and sandy coves before becoming wider sandy beaches. Further north, Machynlleth boasts both river valleys and forested mountain scenery while Dolgellau is set in the southern part of the Snowdonia National Park, at the foot of the Cader Idris mountain rangAe. To the west of Dolgellau is the wide and sandy Mawddach Estuary – a stunning stretch of water whose mouth is at Barmouth. To the north is the famous and spectacular Coed y Brenin – the first forest to be developed for mountain biking and still one of the top spots for the sport today.
Mid Wales and Brecon Beacons
By far the most popular attraction in mid Wales is the Brecon Beacons National Park, known for its stunning and diverse scenery. With green rolling countryside, waterfalls and caves, the area is a destination loved by walkers and mountain bikers who come here for the big skies and wonderful sense of open space. The park is one of the last areas where Welsh mountain ponies live and breed, and visitors can see them running wild across the rugged and remote uplands.
Pembrokeshire and West Wales
Home to Britain’s only coastal National Park, Pembrokeshire is known for its sheltered estuary waters and secluded bays which make it perfect for rock pooling, windsurfing and kayaking. To take in this amazing scenery holidaymakers can step onto a stretch of the spectacular 186 mile-long Pembrokeshire Coast National Trail, which takes walkers and cyclists through a diverse seaside landscape from cliff tops and coves to wide-open beaches. Some of the most dramatic coastline is found at St Bride’s Bay which takes in the small city of St Davids, with its wonderful cathedral. There is rare and wonderful wildlife here such grey seals and dolphins. Seabirds such as razorbills and puffins can be found at Skomer Island, which can be visited by boat from Marloes Peninsula.
Gower and Carmarthenshire in South Wales
The wonderful landscape of the Gower Peninsula, to the west of Swansea, was the first place in Britain to be designated as an Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty in 1956. Along the Gower's spectacular coastline lie more than 20 beaches, including the wide sandy expanses of places like Oxwich Bay and Rhossili Bay as well as secluded coves found in limestone cliffs. Carmarthenshire is often overlooked, but it features some of the best coastal walks in Wales while to the north it becomes more rugged and rural in areas such as the brooding Black Mountain on the border with the Brecon Beacons. Places to visit include the eight miles of golden sands at Cefn Sidan in Pembrey Country Park or the beaches at Laugharne on the edge of the River Taf estuary and Llansteffan Beach, which are both overlooked by castles.