To the north and west is the vast expanse of the Irish Sea, to the south-west lies the Celtic Sea and to the south lies the Severn Sea (Môr Hafren), also known as the Bristol Channel.
The coastline varies greatly as you travel from one end of the country to the other – from long sandy beaches to enchanting little bays and from high cliffs to estuaries, small and wide. There are nature reserves all around the coast and the sea in the south-west is a marine nature reserve.
The Llŷn Peninsula in the north and Gower Peninsula (Bro Gŵyr) in the south are both areas of outstanding natural beauty. Wales’ third national park is situated along the coast of the south-west; this is the Pembrokeshire Coast National Park.
In the north-east the wide estuary of the River Dee is quite shallow today and is home to many seabirds. In the south-east, the Severn Sea is deep and here the sea level rises and falls dramatically twice every day. This is where the natural phenomenon called the ‘Severn Bore’ occurs.
At one time there were many busy ports along the Welsh coast carrying goods to and from Wales to all parts of the world. The docks in the capital, Cardiff (Caerdydd), are still busy and Milford Haven (Aberdaugleddau) in the south-west is an important oil port. There are ferry ports between wales and Ireland in Holyhead (Caergybi) in the north-west and Fishguard (Abergwaun) and Pembroke Dock (Doc Penfro) in the south-west.
Wales’ largest island is Angelesy (Môn), known as ‘Mam Cymru’ – the Mother of Wales. This was the centre of British druidism before the Romans came and massacred them in 60 AD. Before the 19th century the only way to cross the Menai Strait (Y Fenai) – the narrow and treacherous waters between Anglesy and the mainland – was by boat. Telford’s famous suspension bridge and Stephenson’s railway bridge still carry traffic both ways today more than 150 years after they were first built.
Many of the small islands around the coast were home to the Celtic saints between the 5th and 8th centuries. Wales’ holiest island is Bardsey Island (Ynys Enlli) off the Llyn Peninsula where, is it said, 20,000 saints lie buried. Islands such as Puffin Island (Ynys Seiriol) in the north and Skomer in the south-west are nature reserves.