It was seriously difficult to choose them, but here are 10 of our favourite things to do along The Coastal Way - starting from the northern tip of the route on the Llŷn peninsula, round the coastline to St Davids at the bottom.
Get out on the water at Abersoch
Tucked into a sheltered hook at the tip of the Llŷn Peninsula AONB, Abersoch has become a highly fashionable yachting resort. It’s at its busiest during the August regatta week, held since 1881, when locals and visitors turn out for sailing, raft racing, crab catching and sandcastle contests. You can also hire all kinds of boats (pedalos and paddle boards included) from local sailing clubs.
Read more: Exploring the Llŷn Peninsula
Be king (or queen) of Criccieth Castle
Criccieth is in a perfect spot for a castle: perched on a headland between two beaches with mighty views out to sea. The original was built by Llywelyn the Great, added to by Edward I, and finally set on fire by Owain Glyndŵr in his 1404 rebellion. In nearby Llanystumdwy the Lloyd George Memorial Museum celebrates the village’s most famous son, the statesman David Lloyd George.
Star in your own TV show at Portmeirion
Portmeirion’s a magical place. The exquisite Italianate Portmeirion Village, tucked neatly into a headland overlooking the River Dwyryd, made a fittingly surreal location for cult 1960s TV series The Prisoner. It’s a hugely popular daytrip – and even better if you stay overnight, because you’ll have the whole place to yourself once the day visitors have gone home. For the ultimate wildlife encounter right nearby, head to Glaslyn and watch the amazing ospreys.
Read more: Portmeirion on film
Stay a night at Harlech Castle
The sea has retreated since Harlech Castle was built in the late 1200s, which makes it look slightly marooned on its rocky plinth, but this impregnable beast is still one of the best medieval castles anywhere. A new bridge has made access easy, and connected the castle with a new visitor centre that has five luxury apartments for hire.
Enjoy the seaside at Barmouth
Continuing down the coast, Barmouth was a hard-working, ship-building, slate-exporting port until 19th century tourists took a shine to its mountains-meet-sea charms. Nowadays it’s southern Snowdonia’s most popular resort, with big beaches and splendid views up the Mawddach Estuary. All the traditional seaside draws for family fun are present and correct, including penny-push amusements and donkey rides.
Read more: 48 Hours in Barmouth and Harlech
Spot wildlife in the UNESCO Dyfi Biosphere
It’s one of only a handful of biospheres in the UK and the only one in Wales. Dyfi contains an amazing array of uniquely important habitats for rare wildlife. At the right times of year you might see all sorts of waders and geese at Ynys-hir RSPB Reserve, ospreys and beavers at the Dyfi Wildlife Centre on the Cors Dyfi Reserve and orchids and fungi among the Ynyslas dunes of the Dyfi Nature Reserve and the unique raised peat bog of Cors Fochno.
Explore the sights at Aberystwyth
Into Ceredigion now, and Aber, as we call it, is a proper pier-and-prom resort, with the added bonus of a thriving university and the Aberystwyth Arts Centre. There’s lots to do including taking the Aberystwyth Cliff Railway up Constitution Hill to gawp at the camera obscura, the priceless treasures of the National Library of Wales, Ceredigion Museum and the Vale of Rheidol Railway. When walking the prom, local custom obliges you to kick the bar at the north end.
Go dolphin spotting at New Quay
This whole stretch of coast is incredibly rich in wildlife. Britain’s biggest pod of dolphins spends the summer in Cardigan Bay, centred around New Quay. You can see them at any time of year but the best time is in summer months. Hop on a boat and head out to Aberporth, Cardigan Island or Cemaes Head. If you’re in luck they’ll pop up right beside you.
Read more: Dolphin sightseeing hot-spots
Get your cool on in Cardigan
Imagine your great-gran took up snowboarding, and turned out to be really rather good at it. Cardigan’s a bit like that. It’s an old fishing port with impeccable Welsh roots: in 1176 the first eisteddfod (a gathering of bards and musicians) was held in Cardigan Castle. But it’s also got a very modern, free-thinking streak. There’s still an annual eisteddfod, but also the festival-of-ideas DO Lectures. The fforest family also run left-field holidays/events, and make wood-fired pizza on the quayside.
Discover the history of St Davids
On the westernmost tip of Wales, St Davids is the smallest city (pop. 1,600) in Britain. Our patron saint’s cathedral is built on the site of a monastery he founded in the 6th century, and stands in a hollow alongside the picturesque ruins of the Bishop's Palace. The town’s surrounded by epic coastline on three sides, whose highlights include Whitesands (great surfing/family beach), Porthclais (tiny Roman harbour) and Ramsey Island (boat trips to and around this wildlife island sanctuary).
Read more: Exploring Britain's smallest city