Swansea missed the cut last year when David Cameron had second thoughts about the tidal lagoon, a big hydro project. But in January, plans for the £1.3bn scheme received the backing of a government-commissioned review, so Swansea is riding the wave again.
The most desirable suburbs are those in SA3, which takes in the larger, newly built piles of Mumbles as well as traditional Gower villages. At the centre of the peninsula, six miles from the city centre, is Bishopston. Its location is almost perfect: the beauty spots of Rhossili and Port Eynon are a half-hour drive away, the surfing beaches, Langland and Caswell, are on the doorstep, and the shops and restaurants of Mumbles are 10 minutes down the road. No wonder its whitewashed cottages are being subsumed by modern semis and bungalows.
Bishopston has one of the safest bathing beaches on the Gower: Pwlldu, a former smugglers’ cove. The village has a Co-op, a post office, a surf shop, two traditional pubs and the award-winning Plough & Harrow gastropub, where you can scoff Carmarthen Bay mussels, Welsh whisky cream and fire-roasted cherry tomatoes with tarragon crumb (£16).
Add to this Bishopston Comprehensive School, judged excellent by Estyn, the Welsh equivalent of Ofsted, and the top comp in Wales in The Sunday Times Parent Power guide in 2016.
What the locals say Bacon butty with a side of cockles, please.
Why we love it Surf and turf, close to the city.
Flat £138,512 [£522 pcm]
Semi £252,141 [£865 pcm]
Detached £462,325 [£1,192 pcm]
Ten years ago, Cardigan’s remoteness — it’s an hour’s drive from the stations at Carmarthen or Aberystwyth — made the Welsh seaside town, once a booming port, the place that time forgot. Then, about a decade ago, it got its act together. Old shopfronts were redone, the quayside was rebuilt (head to Pizzatipi for a wood-fired Bogan, with chorizo) and the Norman castle was restored.
Today, there’s a sheen of desirability to the town: it has a college, a thriving arts centre with a three-screen cinema, a public library, a leisure centre, a hospital and market stalls in the arched cellar of the Guildhall. The schools are predominantly Welsh-speaking/bilingual (Ysgol Gynradd Aberteifi and Ysgol Uwchradd Aberteifi). The main street is a busy mix of chains, independents and top-notch restaurants such as the Flat Rock Bistro, Caermorgan Mansion and Brasserie Aberteifi. You’ll find Welsh wine, chocolates and cheese at Llwynhelyg Farm Shop.
Coastal scenery adds to the charm: Cardigan is on a tidal reach of the River Teifi, close to the Pembrokeshire border. With sailing, sea kayaking, the beach at Poppit Sands, dolphins and the coastal path, this is the west at its best.
What the locals say Breakfast at Belotti’s?
Why we love it Top of the regeneration game.
Flat £111,915 [£432 pcm]
Semi £152,862 [n/a]
Detached £249,995 [n/a]
The county town of Carmarthenshire once had a reputation as a one-horse, many-pubbed sort of place. Those seeking their fortune tended to leave. Yet the town that claims to be the oldest in Wales is now coming into its own. In 2015, the Royal Mail named SA31 one of the 10 most desirable postcodes in Wales. And the redevelopment plans for the outdoor velodrome, which dates from 1900, may even put it on the fast track. (It’s due to reopen in September.)
Road improvements mean Carmarthen is a 30-minute drive from Swansea and just over an hour from Cardiff. Plans to move the HQ of the Welsh TV channel S4C to the town and make it a “creative industries hub” for bright young things are gopi am ddim (good news). Its state schools — Richmond Park, the Model Church in Wales School — are good, and Llandovery College and St Michael’s, in Llanelli, are reputable independents.
Picturesque pockets include the 18th-century houses on narrow Quay Street and the 12th-century castle. The market has stalls selling fresh Welsh produce and delicacies (Carmarthen ham), while the St Catherine’s Walk shopping centre has been given a £74m makeover. Best of all, it’s within half an hour’s drive of some of the best beaches in west Wales.
What the locals say Buy before the media folk arrive.
Why we love it Town perks in lush countryside.
Flat £107,033 [£426 pcm]
Semi £146,286 [£575 pcm]
Detached £237,358 [£705 pcm]
At least one good thing has come from the migration of wealthy retirees and lifestyle buyers to rural west Wales — the quality of the shops has improved beyond recognition. At the western end of the Brecon Beacons National Park, Llandeilo is an old market town that has reinvented itself as a shopping hub. Home to the fashion brand Toast, it also has florists, an auction house, a deli and an antiques centre — niche businesses for the smart set.
The brightly painted main street has a jolly mix of Georgian and Victorian properties. The primary schools are Welsh- or English-speaking, the state secondaries are bilingual and nearby Llandovery College is a well-regarded independent.
The worst thing here is the traffic: the A483 to Swansea clogs up the town centre. But permission has been granted for a bypass, which is due to be started in 2019 and finished in 2021. This should make Llandeilo even more desirable.
What the locals say We live on Toast.
Why we love it Style in the sticks.
Flat £98,142 [£391 pcm]
Semi £160,118 [£504 pcm]
Detached £339,980 [£619 pcm]
Not for nothing is this town twinned with the foodie haven of Ludlow, in Shropshire. Walk down its main streets and you will find butchers trying to outdo their rivals’ spotless window displays (Andrew Rees & Sons was crowned meat supplier of the year at the 2016 Food Awards Wales), as well as antiques shops, boutiques and craft markets. The locals are a passionate bunch, taking over the running of the swimming pool and the library in the face of government cuts, and now fighting to save an old school building from demolition.
The population of 4,300 is spoilt for restaurants, including the Grove, where the Gidleigh Park alumnus Allister Barsby rules the roost, the Market Square Chophouse & Grill, the Peppercorn and Ultracomida, a deli and bistro that overflows with a chaos of wine, food and chatter during the school holidays.
What the locals say Save our library, have some chorizo.
Why we love it Foodie heaven with a heart of gold.
Flat £82,836 [£450 pcm]
Semi £157,932 [£565 pcm]
Detached £292,298 [£692 pcm]