Wales Coast Path
The Wales Coast Path is the longest continuous coastal path in the world, running the entire length of our coastline: all 870 miles (1,400km) of it. It’s stunningly beautiful, and every cove and clifftop comes with legends of pirates and smugglers, wreckers and saints, lost villages and sand-swamped castles – and around 230 beaches. Off the coast, 50 islands teem with birds, while the waters are home to seals, porpoises and the UK’s largest pod of dolphins.
The Welsh mountains have been mined since prehistory: copper, gold, silver, lead, iron, slate, coal, limestone, granite – they’ve all been hacked out of the hills. Steam trains hauled the cargo to the coastal ports, and several lines have been preserved for pleasure. The Ffestiniog and Welsh Highland Railways run from Porthmadog into the heart of Snowdonia. The Talyllyn Railway runs from Tywyn via woodlands and waterfalls. The Vale of Rheidol Railway runs from Aberystwyth to Devil's Bridge. And special mention to the Fairbourne Steam Railway: it originally carried bricks-and-mortar to build the resort of Fairbourne; now it carries the tourists themselves.
Coastal trains and buses
The Cambrian Coast Line is one of the best coastal trains in Britain, running all the way between Pwllheli and Aberystwyth (its Main Line is pretty special, too, running cross-country to Shrewsbury through the hills). For the rest of the coast, buses are best: the Llŷn Coastal Bus takes care of the northeast, while the Cardi Bach covers Ceredigion’s little coastal gems. The Pembrokeshire Coast Path is especially well served by a network of tourist buses that rejoice in names like the Poppit Rocket and Puffin Shuttle. The Wales Coast Path website is your best bet for a complete overview.
Fishguard: by rail and sea
Get on a train at London Paddington at breakfast, and you could be having a lunchtime pint in the Fishguard Arms (other pubs are available; we only mention this one because it’s actor Matthew Rhys' favourite. Weirdly, if you get the morning ferry from Rosslare in Ireland, it’s even quicker. The pub won’t even be open yet. But the excellent café/deli Gourmet Pig certainly will be, so that’s some consolation.
The Mawddach Trail
For a scenic family cycle, the Mawddach Trail is unbeatable. It runs for nine traffic-free miles (15km) from Dolgellau to Barmouth along an old railway line, with views of the Mawddach estuary and Cader Idris. You’ll pass two RSPB reserves along the way, before crossing the wooden railway bridge into Barmouth.