Carmarthenshire's county town is a place of legend and ancient provenance, but it's not the kind of place you'll feel inclined to linger in. It's a handy transport and shopping hub, but there's not a lot to see. The Romans built a town here, complete with a fort and amphitheatre, and a castle followed in 1106, courtesy of Henry I.
Anglesey's prettiest town offers a winning combination of a waterfront location, ever-present views of the mountains, a romantic castle lording it over en elegant collection of mainly Georgian buildings, and a burgeoning number of boutiques, galleries, smart hotels and chic eateries.
Vale of Glamorgan
On the western flank of Cardiff, the largely rural Vale of Glamorgan is a county in its own right but often feels like an extension to the capital. Penarth is literally a stone's throw across the Ely River from Cardiff, and even shares the same telephone code, while Barry Island is more-or-less Cardiff-by-the-beach.
The Mumbles (Y Mwmbwls)
Strung out along the shoreline at the southern end of Swansea Bay, the Mumbles has been Swansea's seaside retreat since 1807, when the Oystermouth Railway was opened. Built for transporting coal, the horse-drawn carriages were soon converted for paying customers, and the now defunct Mumbles train became the first passenger railway service in the world.
Charming Beddgelert is a conservation village of dark stone cottages overlooking the River Colwyn and its ivy-covered bridge, just upstream from where it meets the River Glaslyn. Flowers festoon the village in spring and the surrounding hills are covered in a purple blaze of heather in summer, reminiscent of a Scottish glen.
Fforest Fawr & Black Mountain
The western half of Brecon Beacons National Park is sparsely inhabited and devoid of any towns of note. Fforest Fawr (Great Forest) was once a Norman hunting ground and is now a Unesco geopark (www.fforestfawrgeopark.org.uk), famed for its varied landscapes ranging from bleak moorland to flower-flecked limestone pavement and lush wooded ravines choked with moss and greenery.
Pembroke is not much more than a single street of neat Georgian and Victorian houses guarded by a whopping great castle. This mighty fortress fell only once – in 1648, following a 48-day siege by Cromwell during the English Civil War. After this, the town was stripped of its encircling walls.
Merthyr Tydfil (Merthyr Tudful)
Merthyr Tydfil (mur-thir tid-vil) occupies a spectacular site, sprawled across a bowl at the head of the Taff Valley, ringed and pocked with quarries and spoil heaps. It was even more spectacular 200 years ago when the town was at the heart of the Industrial Revolution, and this bowl was a crucible filled with the fire and smoke of the world's biggest ironworks.
St Dogmaels (Llandudoch)
Just across the River Teifi from Cardigan, this large village marks the end of the Pembrokeshire Coast Path. From as early as the 5th or 6th century there was a Celtic monastic community here, which the Normans replaced with French Tironian monks. The remains of their beautiful abbey still stand today.
Handsome little Laugharne (pronounced 'larn') sits above the tide-washed shores of the Taf Estuary, overlooked by a Norman castle. Dylan Thomas, one of Wales' greatest writers, spent the last four years of his life here, during which time he produced some of his most inspired work, including Under Milk Wood.
A workaday town rather than a tourist hot spot, Haverfordwest is Pembrokeshire's main transport and shopping hub. Though it retains some fine Georgian buildings, many are in dire need of repair and it lacks the prettiness and historic atmosphere of most of its neighbours.