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Eight Welsh beaches feature in Conde Nast’s ‘Best in the UK’ list

29 May 2024 8 minute read
Three Cliffs Bay Gower image by Sarah Morgan Jones

Eight Welsh beaches feature in a coveted list of the ‘best beaches in the UK’ compiled by world-renowned publication, Conde Nast.

With summer just around the corner, and May half term in full swing, there’s no better time to head to the beach – and here in Wales we are spoilt for choice with our wonderful coastline, not to mention the spectacular Wales Coastal Path.

In a feature by writer, Olivia Morelli for the highly regarded American magazine and online publication, the southwest corner of Wales is given special mention owing to its enchanting stretch of coast and sandy beaches, but with eight beaches dotted around all of Wales there’s something for everyone on this list.

Or for those of us who may wish to avoid the crowds this feature might promote – it might even act as a list of places best to avoid until the autumn!

Ar Lan y Môr

First on the list is Three Cliffs Bay, Gower.

A night-time photo from Three Cliffs Bay, Gower, looking west across to Oxwich. Photo Dan Santillo

The travel publication wrote: “Three Cliffs Bay, on what is undoubtedly one of Britain’s most beautiful shorelines, is relatively quiet year-round due to the fact that scaling its dunes makes for a challenging walk – but it’s worth the hike.

“Rugged green cliffs give way to an undulating stretch of sandy coastline, home to lots of postcard-picturesque beaches.

“The bay is popular with horseback riders, who are oft-spotted galloping along the sand, as well as naturalists; lucky visitors might spot the occasional rare peregrine falcon sweeping overhead.

“It’s overlooked by the crumbling remnants of Pennard Castle, which lends the area an isolated, forgotten feel with a touch of the fantastical. According to folklore, the castle has long been the haunt of fairies.”

“Aberfforest beach from the coast path looking south” by thestubbs is licensed under CC BY-NC-SA 2.0.

Aberfforest Beach is the next Welsh mention on the coveted list.

The author writes: “A horseshoe-shaped little bay halfway between Dinas Cross and Newport, on Aberfforest Beach you are significantly more likely to spot a sunbathing seal or a passing pod of dolphins than you are a picnicking family.It’s completely unspoilt.

“The sand and smooth slate-shingle is met by cool clear still waters and steep cliffs on either side. Access is via the footpaths that hug the very edge of the coastline.

“The famous Dinas Island walk, a circular loop which climbs and falls dramatically along the rocky edge with astonishing views, brings you round to the Old Sailors pub on Fishguard Bay for a well-deserved pint of Felinfoel and a doorstep-thick crab sandwich.”

Morelli’s next choice is Llanddwyn, Anglesey.

Llanddwyn Island, Anglesey. Picture: Llinos Dafydd

She says: “We’re hoping Anglesey’s recent time in the spotlight, as the part-time home of a certain royal couple, won’t bring the hordes flocking to the island’s stunningly beautiful beaches.

“On tiny Llanddwyn Island, the three-mile-long beach is known as the ‘Beach of Romance’, thanks not to Kate and Wills but to another princess, Dwynwen, who long ago ran away to Llanddwyn after a love affair went awry and became Wales’s own St Valentine, patron saint of lovers.

“Behind the beach is the Newborough Warren National Nature Reserve, a hot spot for bird-watchers and wildlife enthusiasts. Visitors might spot the world’s second-largest species of raven, or perhaps even an elusive red squirrel. Nearby, Lligwy and Traeth Yr Ora are also home to spectacular stretches of sand.”

The ever-popular Barafundle Bay, Pembrokeshire is the next Welsh addition.

Barafundle Beach in Pembrokeshire. Photo by is licensed under CC BY 2.0.

The south-west corner of Wales has the most wonderful stretch of coast and sandy beaches, according to the publication.


Morelli writes: “Try beautiful Barafundle Bay, reached after an invigorating half-hour romp across the clifftops, which ensures it stays relatively quiet even in the height of summer.

“Out of season you can often have the beach to yourself, save a few surfers who brave the brisk Irish Sea all year round – although in summer the water is a very un-Irish Sea shade of blue, which has drawn comparisons with the Caribbean Sea. Take a picnic, as there’s nowhere to buy food and drink (and no loos, either).

“The nearby beach of Marloes Sands, where Snow White and the Huntsman was filmed in 2011, is similarly remote, and also highly recommended.”

The world-renowned Rhossili Bay in Gower is next under the spotlight.

Dr Who Rhossili production shot. Image: BBC

The publication says: “The Gower peninsula has one of the UK’s most picturesque coasts, with rugged little coves and large expanses of golden sand.

“At its western end, Rhossili Bay is a relatively untouched beach, a long, beautiful curve of white sand enclosed by steep limestone cliffs, with little on it other than the remains of Norwegian ship Helvetia, which was beached in 1887, sticking up out of the sand.

“It is big enough so that it never feels busy, particularly if you head for the northern stretch, down the track from the village of Llangennith, where the surfers go; and it has waves that are perfect for novice surfers and long-boarders.

“Around the village of Rhossili itself is Dylan Thomas country, popular with walkers; and not far away is the town of Mumbles.”

Harlech in Gwynedd receives glowing praise from Morelli next.


She says: “Harlech beach is huge enough that you’ll feel completely alone, despite it being easily accessible with excellent facilities including toilets, shops and parking.

“One of the beach’s major attractions is its clean golden sand, and it’s been designated a National Nature Reserve and Site of Special Scientific Interest because of its miles of rolling dunes. The clean, safe water is ideal for adults and children to swim in.”

Venturing southward on the west Wales coast, Penbryn in Ceredigion is the next Welsh location featured.

“Penbryn beach” by stevekeiretsu is licensed under CC BY-NC-ND 2.0.

Morelli writes: “Some people have the soft sands of Harbour Island or the Seychelles, but for others only the wild coastline of Ceredigion and Pembrokeshire will do.

“Not quite as balmy, perhaps; but there’s poetry flowing through its rock strata. Use Cardigan as your base. Poppit Sands is the closest beach to town – and it’s very nice, with a handy car park and a café. But further north is Penbryn, for which you have to put in a little more legwork.

“You can cove-hop all the way up here, with signposts every half mile or so pointing the way to another tucked-away shore. Penbryn lies at the end of a fern-fronded valley and is completely untouched – not a bin or Wall’s sign in sight.

“If this was Cornwall you’d barely get on the sand, but it’s rarely busy. A few surfers, perhaps, or seals out to sea, or families playing beach cricket.

“On the northern side is the black maw of a cave – a Welsh dragon’s den – for which you have to tip-toe over a few rocks to step inside and take photographs peering out. There’s so little light pollution that star-gazing walks are held in the summer.

“Despite its lack of airs, Penbryn is a film star, having appeared in Die Another Day. It stood in for North Korea, and Pierce Brosnan and Halle Berry snuggled up in a beach hut together. Perhaps there’s a beach outside Pyongyang that once stood in for West Wales?

Last, but certainly not least, Whitesands Beach, Pembrokeshire receives a strong recommendation for a visit from Morelli.

Surfing at Whitesands Bay, Pembrokeshire. Photo by Joanjo Aguar Matoses is licensed under CC BY-NC-SA 2.0.

She writes: “One of the most popular surf spots in the country come summer, the west-facing Whitesands Beach in Pembrokeshire sees its waters brimming with bodyboarders, canoeists and surfers at the northern end, all competing for the best waves.

The south end is quieter, but visitors seeking more solace might prefer to take a 15-minute walk northwest to Porthmelgan, which overlooks Ramsay Island, the home of the UK’s largest grey seal population.

“Porthmelgan’s waters are more dangerous for swimming in, but the beach serves as respite from the clamour of the crowds at Whitesands.

“Less than a 10-minute drive away is St David’s, the smallest city in Britain and popular thanks to its impressive cloistered cathedral, which bears evidence of both Romanesque and English Gothic influences.

“It’s also home to Cwtch Restaurant, widely considered the best restaurant in the area.”

Read the full list at Conde Nast Traveller.

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