The best ‘secret’ places are the ones you stumble across yourself. But here are some lesser-known places along The Coastal Way that we’ve discovered on our own stumblings, and we think you’ll like them.
Ynys Enlli (Bardsey Island)
Ynys Enlli (Bardsey Island) is the ‘island of 20,000 saints’, who are supposedly buried here, far outnumbering the current population of living souls (just four). Bardsey has always been a place of refuge, retreat and pilgrimage, and is the end point of the North Wales Pilgrim's Way. Ynys Enlli means ‘the island in the currents’ and it’s a great place for a day-trip. In 2023 the island became the first site in Europe to be awarded International Dark Sky Sanctuary certification. It joins 16 other sites worldwide recognised as the most remote and dark places on earth.
Or to give it its correct Welsh title, Porth Neigwl. But we can see why it got the nickname. The gaping jaws and four-mile sands face straight into the Atlantic sou’westerlies, which made it a nightmare for sailors of old - but it’s heaven for surfers today. Surf schools run daily courses here; the waves get progressively bigger as you move northwards along the beach. Local surfers reckon that Llŷn’s best barrel is next-door at Porth Ceiriad, but on big-sea days, it’s definitely best left to experts.
Ceredigion’s longest beach runs for three miles (5km) up from Borth to the sand dunes of the Dyfi National Nature Reserve, where you can find out more at the Ynyslas Visitor Centre. The ebbing tide reveals the gnarled stumps of a 5,000-year-old forest. This, according to local legend, is Cantre'r Gwaelod (the ‘lower hundred’), an ancient kingdom that was swamped when the gatekeeper Seithennyn got drunk and forgot to shut the flood gates.
Queen Victoria once owned Ynyshir Hall as her coastal retreat. Its grounds are now the RSPB Ynys-hir Nature Reserve, and the house is Ynyshir (they’ve dropped the ‘Hall’ bit), a two Michelin-starred restaurant-with-rooms. The food is extraordinary: chef-owner Gareth Ward’s intricate taster-menus mix local and international flavours with considerable panache.
Pwll y Wrach
Pwll y Wrach or the Witches’ Cauldron is one of the Pembrokeshire coast’s most startling sights: a giant crater formed by a collapsed cave, connected to the sea by a tunnel. The coast path takes you directly over the arch; kayakers (and seals) take the subterranean route to land on a shingle beach inside the crater.
There’s been a woollen mill in this little wooded valley since the 17th century, when local farmers brought their fleeces to be spun into yarn and woven into blankets. Owned by the same family since 1912, Melin Tregwynt still makes fabrics in the traditional way. So far, so quaint – but it’s their very contemporary eye for design that has made them a favourite of hip hotels and fashionistas.
Dr Beynon's Bug Farm
The entomologist, insect farmer and TV presenter Dr Sarah Beynon runs this working farm, research centre and visitor attraction just outside St Davids. The Bug Farm has plenty of serious scientific messages about ecology and sustainability, but it’s also a huge amount of fun, especially if you’ve got kids. The café’s menu includes lots of edible insects, naturally.
The Blue Lagoon
The Blue Lagoon is an old slate quarry that’s been picturesquely swamped by the sea, leaving a turquoise lagoon in its place. The Red Bull Cliff Diving world series has visited three times, but anyone can enjoy it – it’s a five-minute walk (or kayak) from the car park in Abereiddi. There are usually coasteering groups mucking around here, plucking up the courage to do the 12m leap from the top.
Coasteering without an accredited guide can be dangerous. Visit Wales has details of many accredited coasteering providers who can ensure that your coasteering adventure can be enjoyed safely.