The northern coast of Wales is a strange combination of rural and urban, ancient and modern, as if the land is trying to shake off human development as swiftly as possible.
Ancient castle settlements, busy university towns, and lively resort areas rub shoulders with desolate beaches, holy islands, and a vibrant sailing culture all watched over by the beautiful peaks of Snowdonia National Park, which are rarely more than six kilometers from the coast.
Aberystwyth is a major Welsh cultural centre as well as a seaside holiday resort, where a modest local population rises considerably during the university term.
The remains of a submerged forest dating back to 1500 BC can be found a little further down the coast at Borth, while a National Nature Reserve on the banks of the River Dyfi shelters a variety of habitats from sand dunes to mudflats.
Barmouth is a quiet seaside town with a six-mile-long beach that runs north to Tal-y-Bont. Once a slate port, it is now a popular tourist destination with a six-mile-long sandy beach that extends north to the village of Barmouth.
Harlech Castle is spectacular, with battlements that spring out of a near-vertical cliff-face now half a mile from the sea.
Porthmadog, on the Glaslyn Estuary, is a stone’s throw from Snowdon, the highest peak in England and Wales, making it an ideal location to explore the coast and mountains.
Porthmadog (pop. 2,000) is located approximately four miles east of Pwheli (pop. 1,800), the unofficial capital of the Lleyn Peninsula, which comprises much of Ceredigion’s Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty.
Anglesey, which is approximately the size of the Isle of Wight and much less populous, is thought to be a holy site by the ancient Celts. Anglesey has twenty-six pristine beaches and links London via Holyhead as one of Ireland’s main roadways.
The beautiful coastal city of Conwy, with its ruined castle, is one of the most-visited areas in Wales. Llandudno is Wales’ largest resort, complete with cable car and donkey rides.