Comprising the counties of Conwy, Denbighshire and Flintshire, the northern coast of Wales has mostly long sandy beaches backed by a string of resorts, of which Llandudno and Rhyl are the largest. The main railway and A55 to Holyhead run along the coastal fringe close to the beaches. The mountains of Snowdonia are just a few miles inland.
Anglesey's beaches are much quieter than those on the mainland, but are not lifeguarded. The western shoreline has mostly long sandy beaches whilst the northern and eastern coast have numerous small coves. Jasper, serpentine and quartz pebbles can be found and the sea water is usually crystal clear in summer. Inland the island is picturesque, unspoilt and relatively flat with little heavy traffic. It's good for cycling, walking, wildlife and photography.
The Llyn Peninsula is an Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty. The southern shore has long sandy beaches, whilst the north side is indented with smaller sandy beaches and secluded coves. A wide variety of pebbles can be found including plenty of pure white quartz pebbles. The beaches are not lifeguarded.
The Cambrian Coast's beaches are long, west facing and sandy, but are not lifeguarded. British Rail's Cambrian Coast line runs along here and has stations near most of the beaches. Just a few miles inland the terrain becomes mountainous, with lakes, wooded valleys and plenty of camp sites.
(Pronounced 'Kerra-dig-ee-on') Ceredigion's beaches border Cardigan Bay, are mostly west facing and usually good for surfing. Seals and bottlenose dolphins can be seen and the main beaches are lifeguarded in summer. Inland the terrain is very hilly.
Most of the coastline is part of the Pembrokeshire Coast National Park, and has everything from sandy family beaches to quiet secluded coves. In summer the main beaches are lifeguarded and boat trips operate to the offshore islands of Caldey, Skomer and Ramsey.
Carmarthenshire has a relatively short coastline, with Pembrey's 7½ mile long lifeguarded sandy beach easily being the best. Inland Carmarthenshire has some fine scenery, but the poor state of its public footpaths makes it one of the most walker-unfriendly counties in the UK.
The limestone peninsula of the Gower is an Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty, and has mostly sandy bays along its southern shore and long sandy surf beaches along its western coast. Being close to Swansea, the beaches can get very busy. The roads tend to be narrow and winding and have not been improved over the years, so congestion is inevitable during busy periods. It's popular for walking, climbing, surfing and most water sports. Lifeguards patrol the main beaches in summer.
The Vale of Glamorgan comprises the east of this region and the beaches are mostly rocky with some sandy bits and backed by unstable cliffs of blue lias. Inland the Vale is scenic and relatively flat, making it popular for walking and cycling. The counties of Bridgend and Port Talbot are further west and the beaches here are sandy and backed mostly by low dunes. The sea water tends to be a muddy brown near Cardiff slowly becoming clearer towards the west. Lifeguards patrol the main beaches in summer.
The Somerset Coast borders the Bristol Channel and the beaches are nothing special. There are some long sandy stretches, but most beaches have thick mud lower down and the sea water is a muddy brown colour. Inland the county is very scenic and has plenty of idyllic villages with thatched cottages, ancient churches and tea-rooms. This county looks after its footpaths and is good walking territory.