Our favourite things to do in North Wales
North Wales is nothing short of stunning. Undoubtedly one of the UK’s most scenic areas, the region is home to the highest peak in England and Wales – the wonderful Snowdonia.
One of the least densely populated areas of the country, this Welsh-speaking area is dotted with traditional villages, epic hillsides and lush greenery as far as the eye can see. It doesn’t lack in history either, with the Irish Sea coast dotted with fortifications that hark back to periods of drama and strife. Whether you’re driving up here, taking the train or bringing the bikes, each mode of transport offers a different angle to an area that is waiting to be discovered. Start planning your discovery with the list of our favourite things to do in North Wales.
Conwy Castle, Conwy
Conwy Castle was built by Edward I during his conquest of Wales between 1283 and 1289. Widely renowned as one of the finest examples of the 13th-century architecture, UNESCO designated it a World Heritage site in recognition of its exterior beauty.
Strategically positioned close to where the River Conwy meets the Irish Sea, the castle can be accessed via the Conwy Suspension Bridge, an 1800s gothic structure that links both sides of the river to this day. It became a handy fortress for its founder and play a key role in the English Civil War and various other conflicts across the ages. Take a walk to Conwy town to add your experience, where you can check out The Smallest House in Great Britain and take a few distant photos of the great castle.
Great Orme Mines, Llandudno
Five miles of tunnels and passageways form the Great Orme Mines, caverns at the base of a limestone headland in the Llandudno peninsula of North Wales. Widely known as the largest prehistoric copper mine of its kind, mining here is thought to have started during the Bronze Age using the most basic of equipment. The mine’s position close to the coast is thought to have come in handy here, with materials for digging sourced from the nearby beach.
After being plundered over the years, they were covered over in the 19th-century. It wasn’t until a car park was set to be built that they were rediscovered. When bone tools and stone hammers were discovered, it became apparent that the mine was a lot older than the working assumption. It was then that it opened to the public and remains fascinating to this day. If you fancy heading upwards rather than down, a handy tram takes you to Great Orme’s peak.
Morfa Bychan - Black Rock Sands, Gwynedd
This sandy beach stretches for two miles along one of the most scenic areas of North Wales, with dunes that encompass a Site of Special Scientific Interest. Black Rock Sands stands out from its competitors with its easy access, allowing visitors to park directly on the beach and enjoy the scenery without a difficult walk that’s often associated with cliffy beaches. Cars are mostly a small dot on the landscape, such is the vastness of the surroundings here.
If you fancy a stroll, you can walk to the village itself via a scenic path that takes you past Porthmadog Golf Course. It’s great way to see the epic peak of Snowdonia in the distance, constantly teasing you to pay it a visit. Coming down here in our cars is something we love to do on any visit to North Wales.
Portmeirion mesmerises from the moment you arrive. The village is a special place that recreates a traditional Italian village in the heart of North Wales. Designed by Sir Clough Williams-Ellis, the architecture is more reminiscent of Lombardy than Llandudno. The buildings were perfected over a 50-year period between 1925 and 1975, with intricate detail a huge factor in the warmth and romance of its streets.
You’ll love the Central Piazza and the town’s Gothic Pavilion. The latter exhibits some brilliant slopes and arches. A simple stroll through the streets throws up an oasis of colour and quirky features. The beach we’ve already mentioned at Black Rock Sands is no more than a 10-minute drive away, adding to the feeling that you’re in one of Wales’ most beautiful places.
Snowdonia National Park- start at Blaenau Ffestiniog
We couldn’t write an article about things to do in North Wales without mentioning the mountain that dominates the region’s skyline. Snowdonia is never far away, regardless of which Haven park you choose to stay at along the Irish Sea coast. One of the UK’s greatest landscapes, the mountain has been accredited with National Park status and is the highest in England and Wales.
Betws-y-Coed is a village you must check out when you head here, perfect for a rest and refresh, whether you’re intending to hike up the peak or not. The area is home to over 25,000 people, half of which speak Welsh as a first language. Quiet and scenic, bring your camera with you and let the photos do the talking.
Welsh Highland Heritage Railway- starts at Porthmadog
The Welsh Highland Heritage Railway runs for an impressive 25 miles, making it the UK’s longest heritage railway. The route takes you around the edge of Snowdonia National Park from Caernarfon down to Porthmadog. Impressively, trains start from beneath Caernarfon Castle’s walls and take you along Wales’ highest peak, before following the foothills down to Beddgelert.
You’ll navigate through the astonishing Aberglaslyn Pass on to the end of the line. Narrow gauge steam locomotives take you from place to place, said to be some of the most powerful in the world. You’ll be sat in a quaint carriage with generous windows, meaning you can capture some of the fantastic scenery on your camera. A ride through the lush surroundings is something that will live long in the memory.