Home is Porthcawl, where I was brought up and where many members of my family still live
Some of my family members still go to my old schools, and to the church where we were all christened. There’s a lovely sense of continuity about that. One of my best friends lives in Newton village just by the Norman church. I love that area because it’s so unchanged, and reminds me very much of my childhood.
I’m lucky that I can go back to Porthcawl regularly
It’s such a beautiful place – seven beaches, no less! I love walking on the common up to Rest Bay and I think the town is stunning in the winter, when the tides are high and the sea foam splashes over the promenade. I have so many happy memories of growing up there. I was very lucky.
That’s the thing about Welsh beaches - you’re in for a treat, especially when the sun is out."
Spirit of place is vital to my work
I think it’s that feeling of community that comes from places like Barry, where much of Gavin & Stacey was set, or Ferndale where we filmed Stella. Both places have their own unique beauty. I used to love filming on Stella’s 'street' in Ferndale, partly because of the impressive view over the valley, but also because of the friendliness of the community there, and how people would often stand on their doorsteps to chat.
In Barry, I love Marco’s café and that big expanse on the seafront
It’s a bit like Porthcawl, which is so dramatic in the winter. The Knap and Barry beach are gorgeous beaches, too. One is sandy, one’s pebbly, and both are incredibly clean. We filmed the Bank Holiday episode of Gavin and Stacey on Barry beach and were blessed with the weather. That’s the thing about Welsh beaches - you’re in for a treat, especially when the sun is out. I also co-wrote a radio play several years ago called The Cyhiraeth, inspired by the haunting sound that sailors apparently heard off the coastline by Sker Point and Tusker rocks. It was meant to warn them of dangerous storms, telling them to get back to land sharpish!
The wild countryside of Wales is so inspiring
In 1996, I was in a TV period drama called Drover’s Gold on BBC – it was billed as a Welsh Western and it was the story of a cattle drove that went from West Wales to London. I loved that job. I visited places like Lampeter and Llandeilo for the first time, as well as Abergavenny and Crickhowell. I fell in love with them all. There was something so unspoilt about them, and I’ve been back several times since.
There’s no shortage of places where you can go to switch off and find peace
When I was a child I first went to Gower, to my Aunty Lynne’s caravan in Llangennith. You can’t beat looking out over Rhossili Bay and the view of Worm’s Head, whether in mid-winter or the height of summer. That’s a place I would retreat to if I needed to hide. I also have special memories from childhood holidays at South Stack lighthouse on Anglesey, and a tiny little church in Ceredigion called Mwnt. And I have to say it, because I always recommend people visit it, St Fagans National Museum of History near Cardiff is absolutely wonderful.
If I wanted to recommend one route to demonstrate the beauty of Wales, I’d start in the South
Once you've crossed the Severn Bridge, I’d advise you to take a coastal route (also known as The Coastal Way) that follows the perimeter of Wales. I’d suggest visiting all the islands, including Caldey and Thorne Island, where I spent a girls’ weekend in 1993 for my sister-in-law’s hen party – we had to access it via this tiny little fishing boat. After that, take in the joy of Aberaeron and Aberystwyth and the Llŷn Peninsula.
I'd definitely recommend a visit to Portmeirion, in North Wales too: I spent a lovely couple of days there with my dad three years ago, and was gobsmacked by it's attractive, iconic architecture.
Once I’d done the perimeter, I’d head back down South again. I’d probably follow The Cambrian Way along the A470, using my Welsh Rarebits booklet which tells you about all the lovely B&Bs and small hotels in Wales. Finally, I’d hike back up North again along Offa’s Dyke. My brother Julian did this recently – what a hero!