Introducing North Wales

From legendary castles and fascinating aqueducts to dazzling hikes and picturesque lighthouses, North Wales is packed full of delights for all types of traveller. Whether you are looking for an action-packed getaway or a tranquil escape, you’ll find it amid the scenic beauty of Snowdonia National Park, within the walls of the region’s vast fortresses or along its picturesque stretch of coast. If you’re thinking of planning a trip, here’s an introduction to some of the remarkable gems that North Wales has to offer.

Awe-inspiring history

North Wales comes steeped in history, with Royal fortresses, romantic castles and a pioneering aqueduct among its breath-taking sites. One of the most significant marks left on the area was the ‘Ring of Iron’, a set of impervious castles built by King Edward I during his conquest of Wales in the 13th century. History buffs can start at Caernarfon Castle, a shining example of medieval military architecture, which forms a UNESCO World Heritage Site, along with other fortresses at Conwy, Harlech and Beaumaris. Nestled on the banks of the River Seiont, the castle’s mythical towers, grand doorways and open-air interior allow you to let your imagination run wild as you envisage more than 800 years of history.

Another of King Edward I’s palatial castles was built in Conwy, a site where you can retrace military footsteps along historic battlements while taking in dramatic views of the rugged mountains and serene harbour below. The town itself is surrounded by imposing medieval walls and the quayside is home to the official ‘smallest house in Great Britain’.

Harlech castle was founded in the 13th century and stands on a hilltop. It is a UNESCO world heritage site and a sandstone construction.

Set atop a dramatic rocky outcrop and overlooking dunes on the Welsh coast, Harlech Castle is another of King Edward I’s strongholds that is must-see for lovers of history. Although once a near impenetrable fortress, modern-day explorers can enter via a ‘floating’ footbridge, making its imposing stone walls accessible for those of all ages.

From the world of medieval conquests to an remarkable relic of Britain’s industrial past – the Pontcysyllte Aqueduct. A marvel of engineering from renowned architect Thomas Telford, this extraordinary UNESCO World Heritage Site carries the Llangollen Canal across the border to England. Also known as the ‘stream in the sky’, it is 38 metres high and more than 300 metres long, making it both the longest and highest aqueduct in Britain. This unique watercourse can be explored on foot, or by canal boat, all offering fantastic views of the valley below.

Captivating coasts

A tall black and white painted lighthouse tower on the coast at Penmon Point on the Menai Strait overlooking Puffin Island. Trwyn Du Lighthouse.

In addition to North Wales’ historical monuments, the region’s bracing coastlines feature everything from picturesque lighthouses to Victorian seaside towns. Beach-loving daydreamers will relish  the tranquil fishing village of Porthdinllaen, nestled along the Llŷn Peninsula. The sheltered bay is peppered with serene sandy beaches, delicate rock pools and the chance to watch local fishermen at work.  

Boasting 125 miles of stunning shoreline, the Isle of Anglesey is another of the area’s coastal gems and is easily accessible via the Menai Bridge, the world’s first modern suspension bridge. With fantastic walks along the coastal path, as well as cycle routes and water sports, Anglesey is an ideal spot if you’re longing for an action-packed getaway. Other highlights include the South Stack Lighthouse, the breath-taking outcrop of Llanddwyn Island, a chance to spot some cliff-dwelling puffins and the opportunity to visit the town with the longest place name in Europe –Llanfairpwllgwyngyllgogerychwyrndrobwllllantysiliogogogoch.

Want to explore a classic Victorian seaside town? Then look to the wonders of Llandudno, a timeless seaside resort which mixes sandy beaches, a Victorian promenade and historic pier. There are many other coastal charms to explore here, including the Great Orme – Llandudno’s miniature mountain. It’s home to the Great Orme Tramway, a vintage tramcar system that takes you a mile up into the area’s Country Park for spectacular views and picnic spots.

Unmissable outdoor adventures

Zip World, Bangor, Gwynedd Attractions, North Wales.

From great peaks to the world’s fastest zip wire and the chance to learn about the nation’s slate industry, getting outdoors in North Wales mixes action, mindfulness and history.

No introduction to the region is complete without mentioning the jewel in its crown, Snowdonia National Park. Sprawling across 823 miles of dramatic scenery and home to the highest peak in England and Wales, there are routes for every level of hiker, from dedicated walkers to leisurely strollers. Fancy seeing Snowdon’s beauty without traversing the terrain? Future explorers can hop on the Snowdon Mountain Railway for a unique journey through the stunning scenery. The National Park is also a designated International Dark Sky Reserve, one of only 16 in the world, which is recognised for its exceptional starry skies and night-time environment.

Snowdonia National Park International Dark Sky Reserve

From a mesmerising train journey to an adrenalin-pumping trip through the air, North Wales has become a hub for breath-taking zip wire experiences. Zip World has three unique locations that you can add to their bucket list – it’s possible to top speeds of 100 miles per hour while soaring across Velocity 2 at Penrhyn Quarry, while Zip World Fforest and the area’s famous slate caverns are also home to an abundance of adventure activities. Close to the Llechwedd Slate Caverns, you can learn more about Wales’ industrial past by planning a visit to the National Slate Museum. Here you can step back in time as you wander through Victorian workshops, visit a vast quarry and explore a selection of recreated quarrymen’s homes at Fron Haul.

Tastes of North Wales

Mussels at Cardigan Bay Seafood Festival, Wales

As well as fresh air, dark skies and historic sites, visitors to North Wales can get a taste for local flavours and traditional dishes – and the region will not disappoint! A deliciously fresh catch that foodies won’t want to miss is the seafood, including hand-raked Conwy Mussels and oysters caught in the waters off Anglesey.

Another Welsh classic to look out for is Cawl, a belly-warming broth that dates back to the medieval era. Wanting to spark your passion for Welsh food prior to travelling? You can create your own traditional Cawl at home by following this recipe.

How to get here

  • The nearest international airport to North Wales is Liverpool John Lennon Airport, around  75 miles from spots such as Conwy and Llandudno.
  • Driving to North Wales takes approximately four hours from Cardiff or around five hours from London.
  • Direct train services from London Euston train station to Holyhead, the largest town on the Isle of Anglesey, take less than four hours.

You are encouraged to always check individual attraction websites for the latest information, as events and details are subject to change.

05 Jan 2021(last updated)

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