North Wales has it all – beautiful beaches, stunning scenery and a rich and intriguing history. No matter who you are and what you like to do, there is a wide and versatile choice of things to do in North Wales.
Formerly referred to as the Kingdom of Gwynedd, North Wales today is best regarded for its large expanses of lush green terrain, mountainous regions, lakes, and coastlines. The landscape of North Wales ensures the perfect weekend holiday of hiking and outdoor exploring.
Besides the physical, North Wales also boasts a rich history of unique Welsh culture and language which is still ingrained in life today. Visitors are encouraged to experience not only the natural beauty that abounds, but also to immerse themselves in local customs brought on by a unique heritage.
1. Give Yourself a History Lesson at Conwy Castle
For history buffs, Conwy Castle, located just along the river, is a must. Between 1283 and 1289, construction began under the direction of Edward I. Building costs amounted to a total of £15,000 with the goal of walling in the city. Throughout history, the castle has served a vital role in many battles, including the English Civil War, which ultimately resulted in its surrender to Parliamentary armies. Yet today, UNESCO calls Castle Conway one of the most pristine examples of military architecture during the late 14th and early 13th century.
From across the water, the National Trust Conwy Suspension Bridge extends to the entryway of the castle. Eight large towers, two looming gateways, and a large bowed hall at the centre define the castle’s interior. The inside leaves nothing without thought. Rooms include the kitchen, hall, and public chambers, as well as more hidden private and royal chambers. Since 1986, Conwy Castle has been included in the Castles and Town Walls of Edward I World Heritage Site.
The site is open all year, although opening times vary from season to season. Between 1 July and 31 August, the castle opens from 9:30am until 6:00pm, with last admission thirty minutes before closing. It’s easily accessible by rail (Crewe-Llandudno Junction/Holyhead route), bus (No 5, Llandudno-Conwy-Bangor/Caernarfon) or bike (Route No.5 (150m/164yards).
To plan your next visit to Conwy, check out their website.
2. Explore the Far-Reaching Snowdonia (Snowdon)
Snowdonia gets its name from a Welsh phrase meaning, “the place of the eagles.” It’s a beautiful stretch of green landscape stretching 838 miles, and includes mountains and rocky regions (nine separate mountain ranges), as well as lake alcoves. Any trip to North Wales would be lacking without a day (or several) spent here.
The national park offers a little something for all of its visitors—all the way from the serious hiker to novice explorer. It’s the perfect place for family fun activities, like canoeing, kayaking, and even zip lining.
Snowdon offers diverse animal and plant life, including ash, hazel, and oak trees.
The parks also includes coastline, home to the Dyfi, Dwyryd, and Maywddach estuaries. Greenwood Forest Park, King Arthur’s Labyrinth, Fairbourne Miniature Railway, Electric Mountain, Cadair Idris and Anglesey Boat Trips can all be found within the Snowdonia National Park grounds.
Operating hours vary based on individual attractions, but function more or less throughout the year.
Access to the park is made easy by car, train or by plane. Accommodation on the park grounds is also possible.
Find out details about planning your next visit at Visit Snowdonia.
3. Take In The Beautiful Coastline Of North Wales
North Wales boasts some of the best beaches and coastal towns. With close proximity to Liverpool, Birmingham, and Manchester, it’s an easy weekend getaway.
Some of the most popular waterfronts are located in Prestatyn, Rhyl, and Colwyn Bay, and also include portions of Snowdonia National Park. Families can spend the day at the SeaQuarium or Welsh Mountain Zoo, and the afternoon and evening along the water nearby.
Each beach has something unique to offer.
Barmouth Beach is located just at the tip of the Mawddach Estuary and Cardigan Bay, ideal for a fun day of hiking and birdwatching.
The beach at Anglesey, a near off island, makes for a relaxing and peaceful respite.
Llandudno is a mix of seaside bliss with a serene, yet energetic atmosphere—those looking for an afternoon of arts and crafts will find themselves at home here.
To plan your next coastal holiday, take a look here.
4. Squeeze Inside the Smallest House in Britain
If you’re up for a quirky add to your itinerary, pay close attention or you just might pass right by. That is, past the Smallest House in Great Britain, 1.83 centimetres across, and just over three metres wide. If it weren’t for its bright red frontage, this must-see attraction, situated in Conway among other terraced homes, might go unnoticed.
Although the home hasn’t seen any tenants in the past hundred years, nevertheless, it has a rich history. It was once home to a fisherman nearly two meters tall, and an elderly couple prior to that.
See for yourself the practical innovation needed to live in such a tight space.
The home is open to the public from 10-6 during school summer holidays, and 10-4 at other times (they may close early in case of bad weather).
Entry is £1 for adults and 50p for children (16 or under).
For more information, check out The Smallest House.
5. Stroll Through Bodnant Gardens
Barring rainy weather, visitors to North Wales should definitely give some of their time to the Bodnant Gardens. Not only are the gardens rich with a wide variety of plant life, but have stood the test of time too.
Over 150 years ago, the McLaren family and head gardeners carried out their vision to add to an already diverse landscape, including the Carneaddau mountains of Snowdonia.
The collection welcomes daffodils, magnolias, azaleas, and Himalayan Blue poppies in the spring; roses and water lilies in the summer; seeds, berries, and late roses in autumn; and hellebores, dogwood stems, and camellias in the wintertime.
Although most visitors may spend the day or the afternoon at the gardens, Bodnant also offers residential and holiday cottages on the property.
For more information about booking your stay or spending the day at the gardens, go to Bodnant Estate.
6. Sample the Local Flavour
North Wales offers fine dining and cooking classes, but has also made a name for itself at local food festivals.
With a multitude of food festivals to choose from throughout the year, there is something for the whole family.
Take for instance the Real Ale Trail where you can use the hop on and off festival bus to travel between pubs, sampling award winning ales as you do.
Honey lovers won’t want to miss out on the Conwy Honey Fair. This historic festival dates back over 700 years and aside from honey, there’s plenty of other produce and crafts on offer.
Perhaps with the most picturesque backdrop, the Portmeirion Food Festival in Snowdonia (December), includes an evening of entertainment—live music and cooking demonstrations—with samples of local wines, fish, meats, and cheeses.
For more information on checking out one or more of these festivals for yourself, check out Visit Wales.