Whether you want to hit the surf, chill out on secluded beaches, savour ice-creams while strolling along Victorian piers, marvel at medieval castles, or simply soak up the sun this summer, you’ll find it all on north Wales’ gorgeous coast. It’s also the perfect location to team up with a city break in Manchester or Liverpool in north-west England, which are both around an hour’s drive from North Wales.
A unique island just off the coast of north Wales, Anglesey is surrounded by 125 miles of coastline that just begs to be explored. Bring sturdy shoes to walk the Isle of Anglesey Coast Path, or take a more laid-back approach and relax on its scores of beaches. Pack up a picnic and head to sheltered bays such as Lligwy Bay – also a popular spot for seal- and dolphin-sightings – gaze out over to the peaks of Snowdonia from Llanddwyn Island, walk for miles with your toes in the sand at Red Wharf Bay, or enjoy the crystal clear waters at Benllech. A visit here, and you’ll understand why the coastal zone of Anglesey is a designated Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty, which also incorporates the town of Holyhead, itself currently in the throes of exciting marina and leisure redevelopment with the Holyhead Waterfront regeneration.
The island is also home to Beaumaris, a pretty seaside town that’s home to architecture stretching from the medieval era to the Edwardian, cute cottages and a historic pier. Standing majestically within the town is the last of medieval King Edward I’s ‘iron ring of castles’; Beaumaris Castle is a World Heritage site and a must-see on a trip to Anglesey. And why not challenge yourself with learning how to say the name of the village that’s the longest in Europe – Llanfairpwllgwyngyllgogerychwyrndrobwllllantysiliogogogoch – it’s right here in Anglesey.
Go this summer for: Tour de Mon cycle race (19 August), Beaumaris Food Festival (1-2 September)
Where to stay:
Hotel: The French chateau-style Chateau Rhianfa combines a romantic history with stunning design, its waterside location affording awesome views over to Snowdonia’s peaks.
Historic Inn: An 18th-century inn, The Bull is found in the lovely town of Llangefni – spoil yourself and check into its Lloyd George Room with four-poster bed and roll-top bath.
B&B: Right on the promenade at Benllech Beach, Sea View House is a cute Victorian B&B with its own Pebble Bistro overlooking the beach.
Llandudno and Conwy
If you’re looking for a quintessential British seaside resort, you’ve found it at Llandudno, which has been a popular retreat since the Victoria era, thanks to its expansive, award-winning beaches – Llandudno North Shore Beach, a sheltered beach with a wide promenade and West Shore Beach, a smaller beach fringed by sand dunes. It’s here you’ll find heritage-style, British seaside activities (think Punch & Judy shows, donkey rides and live music at the bandstand) as well as a vibrant, contemporary town. Fans of Alice in Wonderland will be enchanted with the town’s Alice in Wonderland trails (the real Alice, Alice Liddell, spent time at her family’s holiday home in Llandudno) and you can stroll along Wales’ longest pier (built in 1876), which stretches 2,295ft/700 metres out to sea. Just one way to enjoy a magnificent view of the area is by heading to The Great Orme, a coastal landmark more than 200 metres above sea, which can be reached by the charming Great Orme Tramway.
Just 15 minutes’ drive away is the seaside town of Conwy – home to the spectacular medieval Conwy Castle, also built by English King Edward I; climb up to its battlements for incredible views across the sea and the town. And Conwy may possess a grand-scale castle but it’s also home to the smallest house in Britain on its quayside; this miniature red-painted house is just three metres high by 1.8 metres wide.
Go this summer for: Llandudno Jazz Festival (27-29 July), Conwy River Festival (14-15 & 20-22 July)
Where to stay:
Hotel: It’s enviable location on the coast means the luxurious rooms at St George’s Hotel overlook Llandudno’s glorious seascape, particularly from its new rooms with balconies on The Rooftop.
Townhouse: A classic townhouse on the promenade, Osborne House Hotel offers six luxurious suites elegantly furnished with antiques while right next door is the larger Empire Hotel, with its own spa, which guests at Osborne House can also use.
B&B: The modern-style Escape Boutique B&B offers nine double rooms each designed with their contemporary theme.
Abersoch and the Llyn Peninsula
Picturesque beaches, a laid-back vibe and a pleasant micro-climate mean the Llyn Peninsula has also been a popular seaside resort since the end of the 19th century. It’s a brilliant spot for surfing and sea-kayaking, thanks to the considerable swells at Hell’s Mouth (Porth Niegwl) yet it’s also the area home to family friendly beaches such as Abersoch. The waters off Abersoch are great for sailing in too – or go seal spotting on a boat trip off St Tudwal’s Island – its beaches are dotted with brightly painted beach huts, there’s a lovely harbour to stroll around and the village has a vibrant café culture.
On the other side of the peninsula are the famous Whistling Sands (Porth Oer) – where the sand squeaks as you walk on it! The sound emanates due to the stress of weight put upon the sand and this is one of only two beaches in Europe you can experience this. The beach is managed by the National Trust, as is Porth Ceiriad, a great beach for walkers, kayakers and surfers alike.
A unique coastal resort worth visiting close to the peninsula is Portmeirion; inspired by classic Italian resorts, Welsh architect Sir Clough Williams-Ellis designed and built the resort between 1925 and 1975. With its Italianesque architecture and multi-coloured cottages, it was famously used as the location for cult 1960s TV show The Prisoner.
Go this summer for: The Abersoch Regatta (August), Festival No.6 (6-9 September)
Where to stay:
Hotel: The country house-style Porth Tocyn Hotel overlooks both Cardigan Bay and out to Snowdonia and also offers a self-catering cottage in its grounds.
Historic house: Set in more than three acres of grounds in the Llyn Peninsula, The Old Rectory offers guests a stay in a Georgian house that was home to the rectors of Boduan since the early 18th century.
B&B: Five-minutes’ walk from Abersoch Beach, the Egryn Hotel is located in an Edwardian villa with most of its rooms boasting sea or mountain views.
Rhyl and Prestatyn
Sail, windsurf or simply hang out on the long stretches of golden sands at the beaches of Rhyl and Prestatyn and meet sea lions at Rhyl’s SeaQuarium, which sits on this stretch of coastline with an open seafront location. Or enjoy the coastline from a different perspective on a hike. There’s around 60 miles of sea views from the north Wales element of the Wales Coast Path and, at Prestatyn, it joins Offa’s Dyke, Britain’s longest ancient monument and a National Trail that follows the English/Welsh border for 177 miles.
In fact, this area is awash with ancient sites and historical attractions, from the well-preserved remains of the Roman Bath House outside Prestatyn, prehistoric sties such as the Gop Hill (Trelawnyd) and England’s medieval King Edward I reared his head here too by ordering the construction of the dramatic Rhuddlan Castle. And fascinating insights into what life would have been like in World War One (2018 is a poignant time to visit as this year marks the centenary of the war’s end) can be found at the 600-year old Bodelwyddan Castle and Park, which has a network of replica trenches at its World War One Trenches Experience.
Go this summer for: Mid-summer night ghost hunt at Bodelwyddan Castle (28 July)
Where to stay:
Hotel: Simple yet comfortable, Beaches Hotel’s seaside location means all of its rooms either offer views overlooking the Prestatyn Hills or Barkby Beach.
Restaurant with rooms: Located in the oldest house in Rhyl, dating back to 1672, Barratt’s at Ty’n Rhyl offers charming rooms to stay in once you’ve dined at its award-winning restaurant.
B&B: Enjoy breakfast overlooking peaceful gardens at Plas Ifan B&B, housed in a building that was built as a chapel in 1770.