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Gower Peninsula

This area was the first part of Britain to be officially designated an Area of Outstanding Beauty - for good reason. A favourite haunt of Dylan Thomas, the predominantly National Trust-owned peninsula has superb sandy beaches, beautiful cliff scenery, smugglers' coves and some great walks. Points of interest include Worm's Head and the village of Rhossili.

 
Hay-on-Wye

Hay-on-Wye has sloping lanes, Norman and Jacobean ruins, a market-town buzz and the world's largest collection of second-hand bookstores. Publicity stunts such as its 1977 declaration of independence from Britain and its vigorous self-promotion make this border market town like no other. There are more than 30 bookshops, some specialising in subjects so esoteric they can't be categorised, as well as auctions and out-of-print book search services. Not the place to go if your backpack's already gouging highways across your shoulder blades.

 
Laugharne

Lovers of poetry, romance and a good tipple won't need to be pushed in the direction of Laugharne, the most important stop on the Dylan Thomas trail. You can visit the boathouse where the befuddled bard lived and wrote, the pub where he drank (Brown's Hotel) and the churchyard where his pickled liver was buried. The house is preserved as a shrine, with photographs, manuscripts and recordings. Laugharne itself is a pleasant Georgian township, with the remains of a 12th-century castle nearby.

 
Pembrokeshire Coast National Park

Most famous for the 167-mile Pembrokeshire Coast Path, the park runs along a coastline riddled with rugged cliffs, superb sandy beaches, rocky coves and tiny fishing villages - there's some gorgeous scenery and spectacular coastal walks. Inland, the historic Preseli Hills hide ancient trade routes, hill forts, standing stones and burial chambers. Offshore, the islands of Skomer, Skokholm and Grassholm are inhabited by colonies of puffins, guillemots, razorbills, gannets and grey seals. The area is an activity-lover's paradise, with a choice of hiking, pony trekking, surfing, windsurfing, kayaking and fishing opportunities.


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