Wales' tumultuous past and recent industrial history is in evidence all over the country, and the Coast Path takes you right alongside some of the most fascinating buildings and places which tell their own part of the story.
For a great castle experience, stop off in the 22 tower, walled town of Conwy. Conwy Castle was constructed by the English monarch Edward I between 1283 and 1289. It is a World Heritage Site and “incomparably the most magnificent of Edward I's Welsh fortresses”. You can visit the first of his Welsh castles at Flint. Or visit one of the smallest churches in Britain in the village of Rhos-on-Sea, near Colwyn Bay. St Trillo’s Chapel, built in the 6th Century has room for about six worshippers. It is on the site of a pre-Christian, sacred holy well, over which the altar is built.
The Coast Path passes through historic Beaumaris with its courthouse, jail and castle (a World Heritage Site). Known as the most technically perfect castle in Britain, it was another in Edward I’s massive building programme in North Wales and has classic proportions and perfect symmetry. Head out to South Stack Lighthouse and take the tour to find out about the impressive history of this important part of Wales’ maritime heritage.
Wales is spoilt for World Heritage Sites, and you’ll catch two of them – the magnificent castles of Caernarfon and Harlech - on this stretch of the Path. Or let the train take the strain and head inland from Porthmadog to Blaenau Ffestiniog to explore the slate mining history of this corner of Wales. The journey itself holds many joys and you’ll marvel at the engineering feat it took to create this fascinating train line.
In an imposing setting above Aberystwyth sits the National Library of Wales, an exciting repository of information and knowledge about Wales and the world – millions of books, manuscripts, archives, maps, pictures, photographs, films, music and electronic information – all free to use. Or explore the National Trust’s Llanerchaeron – an 18th century Welsh gentry estate with a spectacular walled garden.
Fascinating remains and evidence of different defensive systems can be discovered all along the Coast Path. They range from Iron Age promontory forts, Napoleonic and Elizabethan forts to remains from the First and Second World Wars. Explore what it might have been like to live in an Iron Age settlement at Castell Henllys and embrace your inner warrior.
Investigate Pendine Sands which was the setting for Welshman John Parry-Thomas’ attempt on the land speed record in March 1927. (His original speed record of 170mph was beaten by Sir Malcolm Campbell in his car Blue Bird.) While travelling at about 170 mph the drive chain on Thomas’ car broke causing a fatal injury. Visit the Museum of Speed in Pendine Village to see his car Babs.
The National Waterfront Museum at Swansea, housed in an original and listed waterfront warehouse linked to a new, ultra-modern slate and glass building, tells the story of industry and innovation in Wales, now and over the last 300 years. Also, look out for Whiteford Point Lighthouse, on the Gower Peninsula. Built in 1865, it is one of only two remaining cast-iron, wave-washed lighthouses in the world and the only one in the UK.
Built in 1906, the Transporter Bridge in Newport was one of only 20 similar built in the world between 1893 and 1916 and still works today. Set in a beautiful 90 acre park, the earliest surviving part of Tredegar House, Newport, dates back to the early 1500s, and is one of the best examples of a 17th century Charles II mansion in Britain. It can all be seen through tours and the regular special events held here.