If you're thinking of taking a break, look no further than North Wales. Easily accessible by road or rail, this region is home to some of the most beautiful scenery in the world, as well as plenty of activities and attractions to keep you busy. Whether you're a nature lover, adrenaline junkie, or are on the hunt for culture, there's something for everyone in North Wales.
1. Hiking in Eryri National Park
Drawing visitors from around the globe, Eryri National Park is the jewel in the Welsh crown. Covering an area of around 825 square miles, it includes several villages within its borders and is the largest of the three National Parks set within Wales. It is also home to the highest peak - Yr Wyddfa and the largest natural lake - Llyn Tegid, in Wales.
The charming village of Beddgelert in Eryri offers plenty of choices of accommodation and makes a good base to explore the region. Legend has it that the village was named after the faithful hound of a local lord. Returning from hunting one day, the lord, whose favourite hound had been left at home, was greeted by the dog - Gelert. His thick fur was covered in blood, and when the lord went searching for his wife and young son, he could find neither. Just an upturned cot, the nursery in disarray, and blood across the carpets. Thinking the worst, the lord took his sword and ran it straight through Gelert, killing him instantly.
As he stood to leave the room, the lord heard a cry, and from the cupboard stepped his wife and baby. She pointed under the bed where, to his horror, he saw the body of a dead wolf. Gelert had faithfully guarded the lord’s family and paid the price with his life.
In the village, a cairn marks the spot where the lord, full of remorse, buried his hound, and Beddgelert means ‘the grave of Gelert’.
Keeping watch over the village is the mighty Yr Wyddfa. Measuring 1,085 metres, many visitors are determined to reach the peak, but for the more leisurely tourist, the Mountain Railway will take you right to the summit. Allowing you to marvel at the views, without experiencing the exhaustion of the arduous climb, this is the way to travel.
- Location: Just 1 minute from Betws-y-Coed station
- Stunning views
- Perfect for nature lovers
2. Explore Conwy and its castle
Conwy is a walled market town on the north coast of Wales. Known for its impressive castle, the town is also famous for the suspension bridge, abbey and for the smallest house in Great Britain. This dwelling, measuring just 3.05 × 1.8 metres, can be found on the quay and visitors are welcome to look around.
Conwy Castle, built in the 1280s by Edward I, has UNESCO World Heritage status and towers over the town. Near the castle, copying its architectural style is the suspension bridge across the River Conwy. Designed by Thomas Telford in 1825, it follows the same successful design as the Menai Suspension Bridge, and where once road traffic crossed it, now only pedestrians are permitted by its owners, the National Trust.
People born within the city walls are known as ‘jackdaws’ after the birds that inhabit the castle walls. The rumour is that if the jackdaws leave the town, Wales will fall, but with inhabitants also known by the name, there is a greater likelihood of a jackdaw always remaining in Conwy. Visitors should always say ‘good morning’ to the birds.
- Tickets from £7.80
- Perfect for history lovers
- Conwy Castle Website
3. Enjoy an Italian adventure in Portmeirion
The North Wales country of Gwynedd is home to the unique village of Portmeirion. The vision of one man - Sir Clough Williams-Ellis, has successfully brought the Italian Riviera to Wales.
Allegedly based on the small fishing village of Portofino, Williams- Ellis claimed that he was enchanted by the Mediterranean atmosphere, and wanted Portmeirion to encapsulate that romantic charm.
Made famous by its many TV appearances, including in the cult 60s series The Prisoner, it has brought international stars of stage and screen to the north coast of Wales. These include opera singer Bryn Terfel, H.G. Wells, and Jools Holland, while Brian Epstein, manager of the Beatles, was a frequent visitor.
The pastel-painted buildings, Italianate fountains and statues gracing pavier lined plazas, and immaculate lawns make Portmeirion the perfect place to unwind and relax.
- See where the Italian Riviera meets North Wales
- Tickets: From £10
- Portmeirion Website
4. Take a trip on Porthmadog's Heritage Railway
For over 40 kms, the narrow gauge Welsh Highland Railway (WHR) winds through North Wales between Caernarfon and Porthmadog. Drawing railway enthusiasts from around the globe, this much-loved train service takes passengers through some of the best scenery Wales has to offer including the picturesque Beddgelert and the breath-taking beauty of the Aberglaslyn Pass. Once at Porthmadog, the WHR connects with the Ffestiniog Railway.
For steam train fans, a ride on this railway is a must-do while you’re in North Wales.
- See some of Wales' most stunning scenery
- Fun for all the family
- Porthmadog's Heritage Railway Website
5. Climb the Great Orme
Braving the sea off the coast of North Wales, the limestone headland known as the Great Orme is a popular destination with tourists. Close to the seaside resort of Llandudno, with a name derived from the English for ‘great worm’, much of the headland is protected as an Area of Conservation or Site of Special Scientific Interest. Llandudno itself offers numerous family friendly attractions throughout the town, and is well worth a visit.
With the summit at 207 metres, the Llandudno Cable Car is a peaceful, non-intrusive alternative to the steep climb to the top. On the way, watch out for the shaggy white Kashmiri goats that live wild on the headland. Once a gift from the Shah of Persia to Queen Victoria in 1837, the goats you see today are their descendants. Since 1884, the Royal Welsh regiment of the British Army has been permitted to take and train a member of the herd to become their regimental goat. Given the title Lance Corporal, the goat, always a male and always appropriately called Billy, takes part in displays and regimental events.
North Wales has a lot to offer as a holiday destination. It’s a land of contrasts, where wild mountains exist alongside Italian elegance, castles next to industrial innovation, and goats are trained to march. If you fancy spending time surrounded by the beauty of nature, enjoying good food and great company, head for North Wales.
- Enjoy the great outdoors
- Relax onboard the cable car to the summit
- Great Orme Country Park Website