Heritage & culture
You’re never far from a cultural encounter while on the Wales Coast Path
North Wales Coast
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 historic 126-year-old Colwyn Bay Theatre, the oldest working cinema in the UK, the oldest civic theatre in Wales and the oldest working theatre in Wales, has had a recent makeover. Check out its shows and cinema screenings.
Isle of Anglesey
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.
Take a trip to the Welsh lover’s island, Ynys Llanddwyn, at the end of the beach near Newborough Warren, and see the ruined church of St. Dwynwen, the Welsh patron saint of lovers.
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.
For a taste of true Welsh literature, visit Cae’r Gors, the childhood home of Kate Roberts, ‘Queen of Welsh literature’, at Rhosgadfan, near Caernarfon. A multimedia exhibition brings to life the world of a writer born in 1891 who went on to became one of Wales’ most renowned authors.
Let your hair down and enjoy a weekend of music at Wakestock on the Llŷn Peninsula. It’s a wakeboarding festival so be ready to watch some superb skills on display.
Snowdonia and Ceredigion Coast
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.
Be one of the 750,000 visitors a year to the Aberystwyth Arts Centre – it’s Wales’ largest arts centre and offers a huge programme of drama, dance, music, visual arts, applied arts, film, new media, and community arts. Or visit Cardigan’sTheatr Mwldan.
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.
Visit the picturesque seaside town of Tenby in September for its thriving Arts Festival, and enjoy a programme which takes in classical music and literature, fact and fiction, poetry and jazz.
Carmarthenshire Bay & Gower
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.
For an intimate festival, try the one in Laugharne. Each April, audiences squeeze into tiny clubs, churches and halls with performers which have included Patti Smith, Ray Davies of the Kinks and Mick Jones of The Clash.
South Wales Coast & Severn Estuary Culture
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.
The Dylan Thomas Centre in Swansea’s Maritime Quarter is home to a permanent exhibition about Wales’ most celebrated poet, and hosts literary events throughout the year, including the annual Dylan Thomas Festival during October and November.
Built in 1932, the Grand Pavilion on Porthcawl seafront, with its full Ballroom sprung dance floor and stage, is a popular venue for everything from comedy and variety to theatre, pantomime and musicals. Wales Millennium Centre in Cardiff Bay opened in 2004 and has already established its reputation as one the world’s iconic arts and cultural destinations. The vision of the centre is to be an internationally significant cultural landmark and centre for the performing arts, renowned for inspirational excellence and leadership. Or try St Donats Arts Centre, set in the grounds of a medieval castle overlooking the sea.
History on your phone as you walk the WCP!
Wales is renowned for the number, and excellence, of its castles but these stunning structures are not the only sign of Wales' rich heritage. There are also plentiful examples of ancient churches and chapels waiting to be discovered and appreciated.
Remnants of our past are scattered all along the 870-mile-long Wales Coast Path. From industrial heritage to medieval churches to Bronze and Iron Age sites, the Welsh coast is littered with some magnificent and unique places.
Skilled and proud artisans have been a feature of Welsh life for centuries. Inspired by beautiful and dramatic countryside, the range of natural materials available to them, and the history all around them, those traditions thrive today.
Artists, writers and film and TV stars have all found inspiration and stunning locations in Wales, and around the Coast Path there are many locations associated with literature, paintings and films. Follow in their footsteps.