Few places have a closer relationship with the sea than Wales. With more than 800 miles of rugged coastline to experience, you'll find so many invigorating opportunities to dip your toes in Welsh waters and help celebrate the Year of the Sea. The waters that lap this special segment of Britain have shaped the landscape over countless centuries - not just in geography, in carving out tall cliffs, gorgeous bays and soft beaches, but in their effect on the people who live alongside the waves.
Wales is a country of coastal communities - of fishing villages and harbours, of Victorian and Edwardian resort-towns, of cities by the spray. Each has a tale to tell, and each is a welcoming destination for a splendid holiday.
And there are many ways to join in - especially if you are visiting as a holidaymaker. The Welsh seafront is an epic playground for people of all ages. Its accessibility is perhaps best summed up by the Wales Coast Path, an 870-mile marvel that covers the full length of the shore, running from Queensferry in Flintshire (a short hop from Liverpool) to Chepstow on the Severn Estuary in Monmouthshire. Since it formally opened in 2012, it has been the only footpath in the world that tracks the entirety of a national coastline.
Not that you have to hike the whole thing (the record - for running it - is an impressive 23 days). While many people do tackle the entire length, the beauty of the path is that you can take in as little - or as much - of it as you want. It's a brilliant beginning for escapades by the sea, allowing tourists and locals alike to dip into wonderful scenery and a remarkable array of visit-worthy places.
There are, of course, first-rate beaches along those 870 miles, some 230 in all, including stretches as fabulously photogenic as Rhossilli Bay on the Gower Peninsula (Which has been voted Britain's best beach in the recent past), and the more northerly Porthor on the Llyn Peninsula (a crescent of gold protected by the National Trust, whose name translates evocatively as Whistling Sands).
Then there are those beaches, carefully managed and ideal for families, which boast Blue Flag status for cleanliness and safety. Wales can claim more such beaches per mile than any other part of Britain - 47 have been granted this seal of approval for 2018. They are dotted across the country. The list includes Tenby South Beach (in Pembrokeshire on the south coast), Aberaeron Beach (in Ceredigion, mid-Wales), Abersoch Beach (in north-westerly Gwynedd), and West shore Beach in Llandudno (on the north coast, in Conwy).
FEEL THE BREEZE
Talk of these resort-towns - Tenby and Llandudno are true Welsh favourites, Abersoch and Aberaeron are a little smaller, but no less lovely for it - is a reminder that Wales is blessed with endless locations for unhurried seaside weeks and weekends. But equally, its coast is adorned with areas where you may meet only a few other souls in the course of a day. The Gower Peninsula was the first location in Britain to be designated an Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty (a place that is given conservation status due to the value of its landscape), as far back as 1956.
it has since been joined by the Llyn Peninsula and Anglesey Natural Beauty. Add in Pembrokeshire Coast National Park, which safeguards 243 square miles of seafront where Wales juts out towards Ireland, and you have a feast of options for days of wandering along cliff tops, down wooded estuaries and across rising dunes.
But the Welsh seaside is not just about the mainland. There are 50 islands where you can feel the breeze on your face. Not just Anglessey, the biggest, but Grassholm, Ramsey and Skokholm in Pembrokeshire, where you may spot Atlantic grey seals, inset, and Cardigan Island, in Cardigan Bay, where you might see porpoises.
Time in any of these places would be a salute to the Year of the sea. The main question is where to start. The answer, perhaps, is with the Wales Way - three pre-planned touring routes designed to show visitors the country at its best. In particular, The Coastal Way traces the arc of Cardigan Bay for 180 miles. Holiday heaven awaits.