I am not sure if there are any beaches more beautiful in this world than those along the coast of mid-Wales. They ooze character, ecological importance, rugged charm and the most magnificent scenery that includes dunes, mountains and castles.
A recent holiday to the Cardigan Bay coastline from Tywyn in the north down to the small village of Aberdyfi reminds me of what I love in a beach. It is such a very British shoreline, not in the kiss-me-quick hat and shove-penny kind of way (which I also love), but rather in the endless invasiveness of sand and the never too-far-away threat that rain is coming. I love the idea that you are never quite sure what you will get and what you will see.
Staggering through the dunes, calves burning from the effort of digging our feet in and out of the shifting sand, we come out to the glorious vista of a long, sandy beach running as far as the eye can see. The sea that rolls in before us is grey and yet so very, very wonderful. There is a long line of drying seaweed that marks the last hightide, the odd jelly fish washed in on the waves, the smell of salt in the air and hundreds of unbroken cockle shells and intricately patterned stones.
I prowl the shore for litter, but it is pristine, with only drift wood and natural flotsam to be found. It makes my heart sing.
There is wildlife everywhere, from the strangely muted seagulls (why were they so silent?), to wading oyster catchers, razor clams and random clumps of sea rocket just growing out of the sand.
A burst of sunshine and now the sea is vivid blue.
You can walk for miles but the view never gets boring.
There is hardly a sole on the beach except for a few families with their backs against the dunes for protection, building sandcastles in jumpers and shorts and dashing down to the sea’s edge to collect some water for the moat that never stays filled. We meet a couple of other dog walkers and pass some pleasantries as the dogs tear around our legs. Further on we come across a group of teenage surfers crashing in and out of the waves in black shiny wetsuits. I don’t even attempt to take my shoes off.
This is a dog-walking, ball-throwing, shell-hunting, bird-watching kind of a beach.
So that is what we do. My son throws himself into a hole in the sand and my daughter chases the dog.
I keep looking out to sea in the hope of spotting the dorsal fin of a basking or blue shark, because that would really make my day complete. My hair is windswept and tangled and I can feel my face becoming red and tingly from the salty air.
And when we are done, we go back to the hotel, sit on the terrace, play pitch-and-put, eat scones and jam and watch the sea continue to do its thing.
That is my perfect British seaside holiday.