The Wales Coast Path is something every visitor to Wales should experience.
Completed in May 2012, the 870-mile footpath follows Wales' coastline and takes hikers over some of the most beautiful areas of the country, letting them get a workout, enjoy nature and sample culture and history.
"You go through Swansea, Cardiff, Port Talbot, obviously industrial areas," said Quentin Grimley of Natural Resources Wales. "But most of Wales isn't like that. It's like this."
He nodded toward Langland Bay, just ahead on the path's stretch on the Gower Peninsula in southern Wales. Green hills, beaches and splashing waves as far as the eye can see.
The idea for the path was hatched in 2006 after authorities noted the positive impact of the famed Pembrokeshire Coast Path National Trail. That project was started in 2007.
"It was always stressed it was not for tourism but for local residents as well," Grimley said. Wales has invested the equivalent of $21 million in the path; In its first year it put nearly $4.8 million back into the economy. Not only do towns and established businesses benefit, but new businesses are popping up. There are now companies that book accommodations along the hike, going as far as dropping hikers off at their starting point and meeting them at a finishing point, where their bags will be waiting.
The path ranges from asphalt in urban areas to rock and dirt away from cities. The terrain and what a hiker will find varies as well. "Some places it's not flat," Grimley said. "Some places you're up and down all day. You can go through resorts where there are lots of people, but some days you can walk without seeing anyone."
There are campsites, B&Bs and hotels along the way. And hikers can do as much or as little of the path as they like.
"If you say you have 70 one-mile hikes," Grimley said, "people say, 'Oh, I think I'll do a few of those.' But if you have one massive 70-mile walk, that's too much of a challenge."firstname.lastname@example.org