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Wales’ Path to Fame: Movies, “Welly-Wanging” and Royal Love Nest

Visit Britain

(Chris Hemsworth as the Huntsman and Kristen Stewart as Snow White in "Snow White and the Huntsman," shot in Wales. Photo by Alex Bailey. Courtesy of Universal Studios.)

Snow White is joining Robin Hood and Harry Potter as yet another Hollywood blockbuster showcases the dramatic coastline of Pembrokeshire, Wales.

"Snow White And the Huntsman," an action-adventure take on the Grimm classic, features Kristen Stewart ("Twilight"), Chris Hemsworth ("The Avengers") and Charlize Theron. The new film  armored Stewart up as an action heroine and sent her galloping down the area's Marloes Sands beach.

The coves, castles, rugged cliffs and gentle green hills of southwest Wales may look familiar, thanks to other hits shot in the area. The cameras rolled in 1956 for "Moby Dick," starring Gregory Peck. A dozen years later, a young Anthony Hopkins tackled his first major silver-screen role, alongside Katharine Hepburn and Peter O'Toole,  in "The Lion in Winter," featuring Marloes Sands and Pembroke Castle.

More recently, Director Ridley Scott let Russell Crowe go outlaw in the area in 2010's "Robin Hood," the same year that "Harry Potter And the Deathly Hallows" magicked up Shell Cottage in the dunes of Freshwater West.

The "Snow White" team needed no CGI tricks to improve the flower-fringed cliffs and champagne-colored sands of Marloes. But the flick did paint fairytale towers on Gateholm Island, just off the headland.

The area is more than a scenic backdrop for films, however. Lonely Planet named it 2012's best travel region. And two years ago, National Geographic Traveler celebrated it as the world's second-finest coastal destination, right behind the Avalon Peninsula in Canada's Newfoundland.

Walkers can now explore Wales' glorious seaside at length. On May 5, the first trail to cover a country's entire shoreline opened along the Welsh coast. The All Wales Coastal Path threads past harbor villages, beachy resorts popular with the "bucket-and-spade brigade" and Britain's most technically perfect castle, at Beaumaris, famed for its symmetry and classic proportions.

Among the sunniest spots in the UK, wave-sculpted Wales attracts surfers, sea kayakers and boaters eager to watch seals, dolphins and porpoises (one-hour trips from New Quay, £8 adult, £4 child). Not to mention fans of coasteering, a mash-up sport that blends rock climbing, cliff jumping and open-water swimming.  Yes, a helmet is highly recommended, along with a wetsuit and nerves of steel.

Lower-impact athletes may prefer "welly-wanging" at the National Mud Festival. Now in its 10th year, the festival is designed to remind visitors of the importance of muddy wetlands — but in the most entertaining way possible. Alongside other grubby events, competitors vie to see who can chuck a rubber Wellington boot, or "Welly," the farthest. They can also relax with pore-purging spa treatments each September at the Wetlands Centre near Llanelli.

If there's not too much mud in your eye, you might spot Kate Middleton or Prince William, who's stationed in northern Wales as an RAF search-and-rescue helicopter pilot. The royal pair have a whitewashed (but eco-green) farmhouse on the island of Anglesey.

While the exact location remains a secret, it's probably not too far from the town of Llanfairpwllgwyngyllgogerychwyrndrobwllllantysiliogogogoch, which means "the Church of St. Mary in the hollow of white hazel trees near the rapid whirlpool by St. Tysilio's of the red cave." Locals abbreviate this mouthful, the UK's longest place-name, to just "Llanfair PG." It's yet another reason to love Wales, a country as pragmatic as it is picturesque.

by Amanda Castleman

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