Pembrokeshire's 186-mile stretch of spectacular beaches has been hailed as one of the globe’s best coastal destinations by the world’s leading nature magazine.
The Welsh region came in joint second behind only the Avalon Peninsula in Newfoundland, Canada, tying with New Zealand’s Tutukaka Coast in the list compiled by National Geographic.
The published list of 99 worldwide locations saw Pembrokeshire beat off competition from the likes of Hawaii and Australia, which also featured in the top 10.
Panellists who compiled the list said of the Welsh coastline: “Visitors flock in droves each year to the Pembrokeshire Peninsula to take in the beauty of the castle-clad cliffs that line its coast.
“Thankfully, a very mature and established tourism industry has preserved, rather than eroded, the qualities that make this region so unique.”
Pembrokeshire Council’s cabinet member for tourism Rob Lewis said last night: “This is wonderful news from such a prestigious organisation as National Geographic. What’s more it’s not often that Wales can claim a draw against New Zealand.
“Seriously this is quite some achievement, especially when you consider that Pembrokeshire was competing against some stunning locations from all over the world.
“Apart from our world-famous 186-mile coast path and the fact that Pembrokeshire is the only coastal National Park in the UK, we also have over 50 beaches for holidaymakers to choose from.”
The National Geographic Society (NGS), headquartered in Washington DC, is one of the largest non-profit scientific and educational institutions in the world.
Its monthly published magazine has a readership of around nine million across the world.
The annual scorecard focused on 99 coastal areas, from Antarctica
to Tanzania, with a panel of 340 experts “in sustainable tourism and destination stewardship” rating the locales on environmental and ecological quality, social and cultural integrity, condition of historical buildings and archaeological sites, aesthetic appeal, quality of
tourism management and outlook for the future.
Heritage Minister Alun Ffred Jones hailed Pembrokeshire’s recognition and its importance to the country’s tourism industry.
“It’s great to see Pembrokeshire’s outstanding natural beauty being recognised on an international level,” he said. “People from different parts of Wales and all over the world come to experience this dramatic coastline for themselves every year. The beaches and countryside of Pembrokeshire therefore play a key role in our tourism industry and our own national heritage.”
Each of the featured destinations listed by the survey were marked out of 100 with Pembrokeshire recording a score of 80.
Newfoundland’s Avalon Peninsula took the number one spot, with 84 points.
The Avalon was noted for its outport villages, archaeological sites, friendly people and significant tourism potential.
But sitting proudly in second place, Pembrokeshire beat some of the world’s most picturesque places, including Bermuda, Greenland, the Seychelles and Samoa.
Making up the rest of the top 10 were the Chilean Fjords, Na Pali in Hawaii, Batinah Coast in Oman, the Gulf Islands of British Columbia, the South Shore of Nova Scotia, Broome in Australia and the Argentine Valdes Peninsula. The second-placed British entry was the Moray Firth coast in Inverness, Scotland, which came in 11th place with a score of 76.
Readers of the National Geographic, who nominated West Wales as their destination of choice, added their own comments to the published list.
They said of Pembrokeshire: “A magnificent protected coastline from both ecological and geological perspectives. Land- based and marine-based conservation tourism appeals to all ages, while current stewardship practices maintain quality and integrity.”
The article added: “Wales has done a terrific job of sustainable development, including its coastline. “The newly linked coastal walk will be one of the most scenic hiking paths in Europe. Citizens work hard at making sure that their coastal environment remains authentic and unspoiled. The seafood and food grown in the adjoining fields are culinary treats.
“A future issue will be one of getting ‘loved to death’.”