2018 is the Year of the Sea in Wales

PUBLISHED: 00:00 15 January 2018

The sea at Portmeirion:  mysterious,  alluring  and enchanting as ever. The Year of the Sea

The sea at Portmeirion: mysterious, alluring and enchanting as ever. The Year of the Sea

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In 2018, Wales celebrates its outstanding coastline and invites visitors to discover epic experiences all around its shores. This is the Year of the Sea, writes Penny Lloyd

Year of the Sea: Walk the dog on a Welsh beach near you. Crown copyright. Image courtesy of Visit Wales Image CentreYear of the Sea: Walk the dog on a Welsh beach near you. Crown copyright. Image courtesy of Visit Wales Image Centre

There’s nothing like a beautiful beach to make your heart beat that little bit faster. And you don’t have to spend thousands of pounds on a long-haul flight to lay claim to paradise; some of the world’s finest seaside havens are right here on our doorsteps.

Okay, so the climate’s not exactly tropical, but regardless of the weather’s vagaries, Wales is set to become a premier beach holiday destination. And boasting a record-breaking 50 blue flag beaches and a 870-mile coastal path, there’s a lot to recommend it.

‘Following the success of Wales’ Year of Adventure and Year of Legends, the Year of the Sea 2018 is a continuation of our work to challenge old perceptions by promoting our world-class products, events and experiences,’ explains the new Tourism Minister, Dafydd Elis-Thomas. ‘It’s a way of showing what makes Wales a distinctive place to visit – giving people compelling reasons to come here.

‘In fact, the Year of the Sea presents us with a fantastic opportunity to promote Wales to the world as a 21st-century coastal destination — putting our communities and our shores (from coastal, to lakeside and riverside) in the limelight.’

Aberffraw beach. Crown copyright. Image courtesy of Visit WalesAberffraw beach. Crown copyright. Image courtesy of Visit Wales

One of the products which will feature strongly as part of the campaign will be the recently launched ‘The Wales Way’ initiative.

Dafydd says this is a family of three national scenic touring routes that cross the country’s best landscapes, showcasing its fascinating history, coastlines and attractions – and is the first phase of a ten-year programme.

‘The Wales Way is the umbrella name for three initial routes, celebrating key tourism products and experiences along the North Wales Way (A55), the Coastal Way (A487) and the Cambrian Way (A470). This is an excellent initiative which draws together all that Wales has to offer, encouraging people to explore more of the country. This route has the potential to be considered one of the top tourist routes in the world.”

But it doesn’t stop there. Wales has also invested heavily in its ports. The year 2017 alone saw 88 cruise ships call into the country with a total of 54,000 passengers and an economic impact of more than £5 million. And the good news is that 2018 is already showing an increase in visiting ships.

In fact, there’s a lot happening this year – from simple sandcastle competitions to major events like the Volvo Ocean Race – the ultimate round the world nautical challenge.

‘It gives us a unique opportunity to shine the international spotlight on Wales,’ adds a spokeswoman for Visit Wales. ‘The buzz in Cardiff Bay will be enormous.’

Here up North, the focus is very much on continuing the accolade of being voted the fourth best place to visit in 2017. ‘We have a lot going for us,’ says Jim Jones of North Wales Tourism.

‘From surfing in the mountains and zip wiring over what was once the biggest slate quarry in the world to experiencing white water rafting, zoos, aquariums and unique villages like Portmeirion.’

But the coastline remains one of Wales’ biggest draws. In 2016, there were more than 25m day visitors to the coast, accounting for a spend of £897 million. This amounts to 24 per cent of all tourism day visits and 22% of spend – almost doubling the proportion of Great Britain.

Thanks to its compactness, you’re never more than just an hour away from the sea – so let’s celebrate it.

7 beaches in North Wales that you should visit

Walking and dining along the Anglesey Coastal Path

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