Maybe you’re visiting this wonderful corner of the country for a day or so and looking to get out and about for adventures among majestic lakes, peaks and beaches. Perhaps you’re settling in for a longer break and craving some culture and relaxation. Either way, take a look at some of the best sights and attractions in the region to help you make the most of your days out in North Wales.
With its appealing mix of coast, beautiful countryside and culture, North Wales has always been one of the world’s natural playgrounds with adventure around every corner. For booted hikers, Snowdonia National Park offers the highest peak in Wales and challenging walks in a wild landscape of crags, river gorges and waterfalls. For strollers and more casual wanderers, there are lakes linked to King Arthur’s fabled sword Excalibur and valleys to explore, plus some of the best beaches in the country.
The region is a cultural heavyweight, too. Wales is the keeper of more fortresses than any other country in Europe, with some mighty medieval castles for sightseeing. Otherwise, historic towns and villages scattering the landscape are the go-to places for farm fresh produce and local knick-knacks.
Not one to rest on its laurels though, North Wales has undergone quite a transformation in recent years. To its stall it’s added high-adrenalin attractions such as exhilarating RibRide boat trips in the Menai Strait and underground trampolining. This is also where you’ll find the world’s first inland surf lagoon and the fastest zipline on earth.
5 things to do in North Wales
1. Snowdon Mountain Railway This narrow gauge rack and pinion mountain railway does the journey up Snowdon in one hour rather than the five hours or more it takes to hike to the peak. Snowdon Mountain Railway runs from March until the end of October, starting the journey at Llanberis before trundling across viaducts, through green valleys and up the mountain, finally putting the brakes on 1,085 metres above sea level.
2. Welsh Mountain Zoo Home to lemurs, snow leopards, brown bears and Sumatran tigers alongside birds of prey, wallabies, deer, and more. A packed timetable at the Welsh Mountain Zoo gives visitors the opportunity for a meet and greet with the resident family of chimps. Timetabled displays also feature penguins, sea lions and birds of prey.
3. National Slate Museum Free to enter, the National Slate Museum tells the story of Welsh slate. The quarry here in Dinorwig closed in 1969 but the Victorian workshops, buildings and courtyard still stand and, together, with eye-opening talks and demos, help visitors understand more about the heart of Welsh industry as it once was.
4. Broughton Shopping Park You’ll find a huge selection of high street brands, everything from Accessorize through to WH Smith, at Broughton Shopping Park. As well as shopping, the centre has plenty of eateries for a pit stop, and there’s a cinema for movie-goers.
5. Welsh Highland Heritage Railway If chuffing along behind a polished steam engine is your thing, the Welsh Highland Heritage Railway doesn’t disappoint. As well as a vintage train ride, there’s a pause at the engine sheds to poke around in the cabs of the locomotives, plus opportunities for driving experiences. Trains run from April to October, departing from Porthmadog.
Explore the best beaches in North Wales
The beach scene in North Wales is one that warrants coming back to, time and again. One visit can be all about buckets and spades, another concentrating on the sea views, the next about a tasty picnic – perhaps a (sand)wich! – with ball games or snorkelling. In short, there’s a great mix of the traditional and the bustling. Wales’ largest island, Anglesey, sits just off North Wales’ west tip and offers another 125 miles of stunning coastline and Blue Flag sands.
Check out our handy rundown of the very best beaches in North Wales.
- Talacre Beach: The long, sandy beach at Talacre is unspoilt, with dunes right behind and a lighthouse that dates from the mid-18th century. The small village also has traditional amusements and a bowling alley, plus a range of eateries, including fish and chips and an American diner.
- Llandudno Beach: Llandudno is one of those great British seaside resorts that has a little of everything – shopping, a pier, cable cars, golf and a wide stretch of sand between two headlands. Llandudno North Shore Beach is sheltered with a Victorian promenade, while the quieter West Shore Beach is where Alice, childhood friend of Lewis Carroll, holidayed as a child.
- Rhyl Beach: Rhyl is the owner of around two glorious miles of sands. It’s a well-established resort with a score of attractions, among them traditional donkey rides and seafront amusement arcades.
- Rhosneigr Beach: Rhosneigr is on Anglesey’s west shore and lays claim to two of the best beaches on the island, Traeth Llydan and Traeth Crigyll. Both are large with golden sands. The waters here are popular among the surfing, kayaking and snorkelling community.
- Lligwy Beach: This wide, sandy beach on Anglesey’s east side is quiet and sheltered. It’s got a beach café and shop and connects with the Anglesey Coastal Path for seaside strolls.
Discover the best walks in North Wales
North Wales is a widescreen landscape that calls for the tread of a walking boot. Out and about, there’s no shortage of wild scenery and superb viewpoints while enjoying some of the best walks in North Wales.
The big landscapes of Snowdonia National Park and the Clwydian Range offer active adventuring and mountain hiking. As for the celebrated Wales Coast Path, it rolls out over an astonishing 870 miles, twisting and turning from the walled city of Chester, on through historic towns and villages, over clifftops, and making footsteps across beautiful beaches all the way down to Chepstow in the south.
Blue and yellow way-markers make it easy to pick up (and leave) the route at any point. Circular walks in North Wales tick off a few bite-sized chunks. The loop from Llandudno and around the Great Orme takes in the elegant Victorian seaside resort and panoramic views, while The Isle of Anglesey Coastal Path takes in farmland, woodland and beaches as it hugs the little island’s coastline.
The Wales Coast Path also links up with Offa’s Dyke Path National Trail, which traces the border between England and Wales. It runs right through the Clywdian Range, an Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty in North East Wales.
5 places to visit in North Wales
Places to visit in North Wales range from handsome market towns through to World Heritage castles and glorious gardens. Many North Wales attractions enjoy peaks, valleys and a wild coastline as their backdrop. 2019 is the country’s Year of Discoveries. Why not come and discover it all for yourselves.
1. Bodnant Gardens: There are 80 acres of hillside at Bodnant Gardens, chockful of exotic plants from around the world. The most famous is the laburnum arch, but there are also rhododendrons and Azaleas, plus formal terraces, woodland paths and water lily ponds. It truly is one of Britain’s great gardens.
2. Erddig: This is a unique family home, now under the ownership of the National Trust. Erdigg is located in Wrexham and provides an insight into life both above and below stairs 100 years ago. In the stately wings, you’ll find lavish furnishings, while in the servants’ quarters there’s a great selection of portraits of past housemaids and gamekeepers.
3. Llangollen Canal: The waterway links England and Wales and has been known as The Llangollen Canal since the 80s. It’s a popular stretch for the boating community, chiefly because of the beautiful countryside it runs through. Fishing and canoeing are other favourite activities on the water and there are some lovely canal-side paths.
4. Swallow Falls: A dramatic waterfall in Betws-y-Coed, Swallow Falls can be admired from the south bank of the river Llugwya. From the north, a narrow path leads to other viewpoints at the bottom of the falls to see the water at its most powerful.
5. Llyn Brenig: The Llyn Brenig Reservoir & Visitor Centre boasts one of the largest lakes in Wales. It’s a great spot for trout fishing and for budding yachtsmen and women to try their hand at sailing. In addition, cycle trails and footpaths weave through the forest, both short and more challenging.
Castles in North Wales to visit
High and mighty castles come thick and fast in North Wales. There are more than 20 fortresses and ruins to visit across the area, some of them part of the elite World Heritage club and many among the best-preserved stone structures in Europe.
It’s been around since the 13th century, but Conwy Castle is not easily defeated and stands as one of Europe’s best surviving examples of medieval military architecture. It’s Conwy’s biggest attraction, looming over the town with eight massive towers and high walls – all accessible.
With World Heritage status, Caernarfon Castle looks as mighty now as it did back in King Edward I’s day. This is up there among the most impressive medieval stone fortresses in Wales with octagonal towers counting among its stand-out features. Most of it is intact, with visitors free to roam around and up and down spiral staircases.