Top North Wales beach is 'one of the most beautiful places on earth'

Footprints in the sand at beautiful Harlech beach
Footprints in the sand at beautiful Harlech beach -Credit:Finlay Fogg

A beach often overshadowed by its more famous neighbours can be found nestled on the coast of Gwynedd. Traeth Harlech has to compete with the town’s imposing 13th castle for visitors, but the wide open beach, with golden sands and vast skies, could be edging ahead.

It has been named as the second best beach in North Wales by Tripadvisor, just being pipped to the post by Barmouth Beach. It was in first place last year, so might have lost its top spot, but it's still well up there.

Some reviewers even rate the beach as the best in Wales, and, indeed, Europe. A previous visitor described the four-mile sweep of sand as “the most peaceful, calming and beautiful place on earth”.

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A Southampton holidaymaker loved it so much that a few years ago, he proposed to his partner of 10 years there. “It was the perfect setting for us both,” he said. “It will forever hold a special place in our hearts.”

Other beaches are Insta regulars, but somehow Traeth Harlech sails beneath the radar. As a beach location, it pretty much has everything going for it - unless ice cream vans and burger bars are more your thing.

Apart from near the beach entrance, this is a place that struggles to get crowded
Apart from near the beach entrance, this is a place that struggles to get crowded -Credit:Jeff Buck/Wiki

The sand is soft and clean, perfect for sunbathing, building sandcastles or simply enjoying the stunning scenery. The beach itself stretches for miles and is bordered by rolling hills and rugged cliffs, with breathtaking views of the Eryri (Snowdonia) mountains.

The water is clear and “refreshing”, making it an ideal spot for swimming or paddling in the sea. Days can end with infinity sunsets on a horizon that goes on forever.

As the beach is so big, visitors are likely to find sections to themselves no matter how busy it gets. Even on quiet days, however, you may not be alone. Although the silky sand is clean, apart from the usual seaweed, the occasional jellyfish washes up.

“Sometimes the sea is crystal clear teeming with jellyfish,” said one mum. “And other times it is a mysterious deep blue.”

In summer, leatherback turtles migrate to this part of the coast to feed on the jellyfish. In 1988, a record-breaking 916kg leatherback was washed up on Harlech beach after becoming snared by fishing equipment.

It’s popular with water sports enthusiasts too, with opportunities for surfing and kayaking. Motorhomes gravitate towards the area as well, not just to see mighty Harlech Castle, a World Heritage Site, but also to take advantage of the town’s facilities.

“The beach is vast and empty, almost had it to ourselves,” said a couple who visited. “Back to the motorhome at the leisure centre which was only £10 overnight.”

Clouds roll in from across the Llŷn Peninsula
Clouds roll in from across the Llŷn Peninsula -Credit:Jeff Buck/Wiki

There are downsides. The main pay-and-display car park, at Ffordd Glan Mor has almost 300 spaces but it’s a good 400-metre trek through dunes to the beach. As the sand is so soft, people with mobility issues may struggle. And if you need the car park loo, you’ll need to head 400 metres back.

The dunes are another feature that makes this place special. Forming the Morfa Harlech National Nature Reserve, they are home to rare orchids and sand lizards. Its neighbour is Royal St David’s Golf Club, one of Britain’s finest links courses.

Famously, Harlech beach is not just dog-friendly, it’s dog heaven. Between April 1 and September 30, a section in front of the holiday park is off-limits but the rest of the beach is dog-accessible year round. This is a beach that’s not commercialised: for cafes, pubs and restaurants, you’ll need to head into Harlech’s charming centre. Neither is it a beach to be enjoyed just during the day.

As one reviewer said: “A vast beach which we and our dog greatly enjoy. But to be slightly different, take a picnic and enjoy the sunset; it’s quite incredible!”

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