Holly Cave explores group friendly attractions dotted along the Wales Coast Path
The windswept Wales Coast Path launched in 2012, billing itself as the world’s longest continuous coastal path around a country. It soars from beach to cliff, from the outskirts of Chester in the north to Chepstow in the south. The path’s 870 miles wander past a huge number of group friendly attractions including a geopark, a marine nature reserve, two national parks, three Areas of Outstanding Natural Beauty, 11 national nature reserves, 14 marinas, 14 stretches of Heritage Coastline, 23 Historic Landscape Sites and 43 ‘Blue Flag’ beaches.
Distinctive waymarkers displaying a white shell with a dragon’s tail clearly mark the length of the route and with the longer, warmer summer days approaching, it’s the perfect time to schedule a group visit to this beautiful part of the UK. Here are some ideas, whether you’re determined to walk the whole thing or just explore a few miles of coastline.
TOWNS & CITIES
At the south of the trail, just over the Severn Bridge and set slightly back along the River Wye, Chepstow makes a great starting point for groups keen to tour South Wales. Consider checking in at the St Pierre Marriott Hotel & Country Club to relax before your adventure. A huge venue, this 14th century manor is great for groups and is especially popular with golfers.
The wonderful Chepstow Castle’s entrance is guarded by a stone, twintowered gatehouse, which is believed to be the oldest in Britain. As with all Cadw (the Welsh Government’s historic environment service) sites, groups of 15 or more receive a 10% discount on entry prices.
Individuals and groups spending time in Wales and keen to see a number of historic attractions might consider purchasing Cadw’s three-day or seven-day Explorer Passes. These cover dozens of sites and offer excellent value for money.
From Chepstow, you could work your way along to the charming medieval town of Newport, which is a popular holiday haunt and deservedly so.
Set on an estuary, it’s an easy wade or swim across the river to the golden beach. Alternatively, you can drive a couple of miles round the nearest bridge and park by the sands. Newport is surrounded by little coves and picturesque scenery, making it a common starting point for walks along the Wales Coast Path. The Nevern Estuary is also a top place for wildlife spotting and much of the area is wheelchair accessible.
Cardiff is a fantastic city that really knows how to have fun. Check out a concert at the copper fronted Wales Millennium Centre, browse one of the four regular farmers’ markets, or drink and dine by the water on the gentrified Mermaid Quay and Cardiff Bay. Cardiff Castle is a great attraction for groups and the team there will be happy to create a bespoke tour or experience to suit your visit. Coaches can drop passengers off right outside the castle and park nearby.
For an extra couple of quid per person, pre-booked groups of 20 or more can also take a guided tour through parts of the 2,000-year-old castle situated off the beaten track. Specialist tours are also available or groups can sign up for an evening of Welsh banqueting. Enjoy mead, a three-course dinner, wine and music from a local harpist playing English and Welsh songs.
However you decide to travel, Swansea is next on the list as you travel along the Welsh coast. This bright waterside city has so much going for it. A visit to Swansea Market – the largest covered market in Wales – is a popular choice with large groups and coach parties. There are over 100 stalls to explore, all of which are under the cover of the iconic glass domed roof, making it a weather-safe option.
The National Waterfront Museum is another Cadw destination here in Swansea.
This modern building is packed full of new and interactive interpretations of the area’s maritime history.
The National Waterfront Museum offers free entry for all and pre-booked groups can enjoy 10% off in the café and shop, and complimentary guided tours.
From here, you can wander five minutes into the city centre or explore the promenade.
Further northwards, don’t miss the quirky ambience of Portmeirion.
Famous largely for being the setting of cult 1960s series The Prisoner, this village has a Mediterranean flair and is very welcoming to groups. There’s a coach park just outside the village and free guided tours of the area can be arranged in advance. There’s a fee to enter the village, but groups that pre-book lunch at Castell Deudraeth Brasserie can enter for free. The village has five other restaurants, several shops and a 55-room hotel.
Right at the very northern edge of Wales, not far from Liverpool, the Dee Estuary wends its way in from the sea. Attractions in the area include the crumbling battlements of Flint Castle and the Iron Age hill fort on Conwy Mountain. There are fantastic RSPB bird watching centres around the estuary with hides, nature trails and on-site cafes. The beautiful sands of Talacre Beach round the headland, marked by the Point of Ayr Lighthouse. Slightly further along the coast lies Kinmel Bay, perennially popular for water sports. Hop across from Bangor to the Isle of Anglesey.
People come here to dive, relax by the beach and explore the area’s industrial heritage. Llynnon Mill was built in 1775 and is the only working windmill in Wales producing stone ground wholemeal flour using organic wheat. To the south, the Llyn Peninsula is a designated Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty. Many travel here to spot grey seals, which can be seen in the waters all year round. Pups can usually be seen from September to December. Nearby, the twin beaches of Morfa Harlech and Morfa Dyffryn with their rolling dunes are a definite must see, where public footpaths weave through the protected sand dunes to the shore.
The Pembrokeshire coast is possibly the most beautiful part of the Welsh coast, as it contains the country’s only marine nature reserve. St David’s Head boasts gorgeous views and wildflower meadows.
Call in at tiny St Govan’s Chapel, sitting pretty, tucked into the cliffs at Bosherton. Pembrokeshire’s offshore islands are packed full of wildlife and puffins are common sightings during the summer. Pembrokeshire Coast National Park now has 70 ‘Easier Access’ routes that cover more than 30 miles of path and they provide beach wheelchairs too.
Literary visitors might like to stop off at the Dylan Thomas Boathouse in Laugharne, the former home of the famous Welsh writer. Groups receive 10% off entry. Those more interested in wildlife should call in at the National Wetlands Centre near Llanelli for some amazing wildlife sightings. Groups of 12 or more benefit from reduced admission prices, free coach parking, a welcome pack upon arrival and more.
The Gower Peninsula is another Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty – the first in the UK – and is home to award-winning beaches and nature reserves. Aberavon Beach is one of the best.
Groups travelling with kids and family members with energy to burn will find activities aplenty in Wales.
Try your hand at sea-cliff rock climbing in Gwynedd and Pembrokeshire.
If water sports are more your thing, then the beaches of the Llyn Peninsula offer kite buggies, kite surfing, waterskiing and wakeboarding. Experienced
divers can explore the tricky waters of the marine nature reserve around Skomer and beginners can learn the skills they’ll need at the National Diving & Activity Centre near Chepstow. The Anglesey Sea Zoo is a lovely place to spend time. Children and adults alike will love this all-weather attraction, which showcases over 100 native species of sea creatures. Don’t miss the Lobster Hatchery & Seahorse Nursery.
Llandudno’s St Tudno Hotel offers an afternoon tea inspired by the property’s link to Lewis Carroll’s famous novel, Alice in Wonderland.
Alice Liddell, the inspiration for the book’s heroine, stayed here when visiting the area as a little girl. The hotel is happy to host large groups for their ‘Alice Afternoon Tea.’
Slightly inland from Cardiff is the unusual attraction Wernddu Alpacas, featuring a herd of 17 of these charismatic creatures that children will adore.
The site also supports thriving vineyards and wine is produced from the grapes. Groups of up to 24 people can pre-book for a guided tour of the vineyard, meet the alpacas and enjoy a wine, perry and cider tasting session. There are often activities run especially for children.
So don’t hang around, Wales is waiting.