North Wales is an adventure playground on steroids with high mountains, steep valleys, ancient forests and miles of coastline all waiting to be explored. A major draw-card is Mt Snowdon (1085m) in Snowdonia National Park, the highest mountain in England and Wales. Its distinctive summit, classic walking routes and famous mountain railway attract thousands of visitors each year. Its not all about Snowdon though, the neighbouring mountain ranges of the Glyderau and Carneddau are equally impressive and without the crowds. Away from the mountains the forests of Coed y Brenin and Coed Llandegla are a mecca for mountain biking, and paddle sports enthusiasts are spoilt for choice with Llyn Tegid, Llyn Padarn and Llyn Gwynant being amongst the most popular lakes.
Adventure highlights in North Wales include summiting Mt Snowdon via Crib Goch, Kayaking the rugged Anglesey coastline, The Beast MTB trail at Coed y Brenin, rock climbing in the Devils Kitchen, Surfing at Surf Snowdonia and the longest zip line in Europe.
North Wales Activities
Places to Visit
To help plan your trip to North Wales we’ve listed out some of the most popular places to visit.
Situated on the edge of the Berwyn mountains is the small tourist town of Llangollen. The town is abound with quaint buildings and beautiful scenery, a prominent feature being the River Dee whose grade 2-3 rapids are popular for paddle sports. Adjacent to the river close to the town centre is a promenade, with benches and views of the river. If you fancy a paddle there are rock pools (please take care) accessible close to the bandstand along the promenade. Overlooking the rapids is the Corn Mill pub, whose outdoor decked area is popular on a fine day.
Around town there are a number of interesting shops to peruse including The Market On The Fringe which sells local arts and crafts, and Harley’s Vintage Boutique which has an interesting range of products – both are on Dee Lane. For a coffee try the popular Fouzis Italian cafe or Dee Side cafe & bistro, both a stones throw from the main Dee bridge.
Over the bridge from the town centre is the Llangollen heritage railway, which offers a 10 mile steam train ride through the stunning Dee Valley. Up from the railway station is the Shropshire Union canal, you can head for a walk along the towpath or take a traditional horse drawn canal boat ride. 4.5 miles east along the towpath is the famous pontcysyllte aqueduct – the worlds highest navigable aqueduct.
Atop the conical hill high above Llangollen is Castell Dinas Bran, the ruins of a 16th century medieval castle. The steep walk of approx 1 mi/1.6 km affords immense views of the surrounding area and is well worth the effort. If you happen to land in Llangollen in early July the internationally famous Llangollen Eisteddfod music festival takes over the entire town.
Campsites in the vicinity include Wern Isaf Farm – walking distance to the town centre, Abbey Farm – a camping field (with facilities including a bar) set next to the ruins of Valle Crucis abbey, and Llyn Rhys – a more basic campsite slighty further out of Llangollen and popular with walkers and mountain bikers.
The Victorian seaside town of Llandudno is famous for its period architecture, pier and position between two prominent limestone headlands. Llandudno Bay aka the North Shore curves for approx 2 miles between the headlands of the Great Orme and the Little Orme. Its fronted by a distinctive mixed shingle and rock beach, with an adjacent promenade (including bandstand) which is host to a plethora of events and activities during the tourist season. The coast road that runs parallel to the promenade is awash with hotels, whose multi-coloured facades provide a pleasant back-drop when wandering or riding along the promenade.
Perhaps Llandudno’s biggest crowd-pleaser is its Victorian pier, which stretches 700m into the Irish Sea. Its the longest pier in Wales, with arcades at either end as well as shops and kiosks dotted along its length. Walk to the end of the pier and you will be presented with sweeping views of the North Shore and Irish Sea.
Looming over Llandudno and jutting 2 miles into the Irish Sea is the big lump of rock known as the Great Orme. Reaching a height of 207m its an attraction in its own right, and is awash with awesome coastal scenery, wildlife, walking paths and distant views of the mountains of Snowdonia. The Summit and Summit Complex can be accessed on foot via various way-marked routes (1 – 1.5 miles) starting from Prince Edward Square (close to the pier entrance on the promenade). During the summer months the summit is also accessible via the Great Orme Tramway or Llandudno Cable Car – both a short walk from the town centre or North Shore.
The Great Orme is also home to Llandudno Ski and Snowboard Centre, a 280m long artificial slope accessed from Happy Valley (past the Grand Hotel close to the pier). Also at the centre is the exhilarating 750m long Cresta Toboggan run, the longest in Wales. The onsite Llandudno Alpine Lodge is an Austrian themed cafe/bar offering sublime views of Llandudno and beyond.
Marine drive is a 4 mile long toll road around the base of the Great Orme. The majority of the road is one-way (access from the North Shore near the Pier), and its popular with cyclists, walkers (there is a pavement beside the road) and for a scenic drive. The numerous limestone crags situated above and below Marine Drive are popular with rock climbers – contact Great Orme Vertical based in Llandudno for professional rock climbing instruction.
The main shopping street in Llandudno is Mostyn Street which runs one street back and parallel to the main coast road. Here you will find a mixture of high street shops, banks, cafes and souvenir shops. Head up Church Walks at the end of Mostyn street, and you will find the Great Orme Tramway station. Around the corner from the tram station is Fish Tram Chips, which as the name suggests serves the quintessentially British seaside staple of fish and chips! If you are looking for somewhere to eat your takeaway, Happy Valley gardens is a great place to chill with views of the pier, a cafe and access to the cable car and ski centre – its just up from the Grand Hotel which towers above the pier.
If you want to escape the hustle and bustle, West Shore is a quieter sandy beach on the River Conwy estuary offering distant views of Snowdonia. Its an approx 15 min walk via Gloddaeth Ave. Alternatively walk along the promenade towards the Little Orme which is at the opposite end of the bay. Its popular for bird watching and hiking, and if you head around to Angel Bay you may well encounter some seals.
Llandudno is connected to the main North Wales Coast train line, accessible from major UK cities including Chester and London. Parking is available along the main coast road on the North Shore, its pay and display close to the town/pier or if you are happy to park further out its free towards the Little Orme. There are a plethora of hotels and B&Bs in Llandudno, or YHA Conwy is approx 5 miles away.
Betws-y-Coed is the gateway to Snowdonia National Park and an adventure hub for the North Wales region. The pretty village is situated beside the Llugwy and Conwy rivers, and in close proximity to the big mountains and forests of Snowdonia. Gwydir forest on the doorstep of the village is a haven for Mountain Biking, with Gwydir Mawr and Penmachno MTB trails close by. For walking Mt Snowdon and the Ogwen valley are approx 11 miles away.
The village itself is intersected by the A5 road, along which you will find a smattering of outdoor gear shops and the usual array of cafes, hotels and local art/craft shops. For a great vegetarian breakfast head to Caban-Y-Pair, or the popular Hen Siop serve takeaway fish and chips by the river. For a post adventure beverage the Royal Oak Hotel beer garden is a favourite and can get particularly busy on a sunny weekend. Beics Betws located in the village offer mountain bike hire, including a fleet of electric hardtail’s.
Station Road just off the A5 leads to the visitor centre, long stay parking, railway station and adjacent retail complex. Grab a bite to eat at Hangin Pizzeria or a brew and cake at the Alpine Coffee Shop. Head onto the railway platform and you will see the Buffet Coach Cafe – accessible via the foot bridge.
If you fancy a stroll there is a scenic riverside path starting from Pont-y-Pair bridge in the village, you can head to the somewhat overrated Swallow Falls (£2 entry) some 2 miles west along the path. On the edge of the village thrill seekers can take on the zip line safari and giant swing at Zip World. For those who prefer being underground rather than above ground get in touch with Go Below for an epic adventure like no other! The latter is situated by Conwy Falls Forest Park (£1 entry).
There is a range of local accommodation in Betws-y-Coed, with budget orientated options including Rynys Farm camping site and YHA Betws-y-Coed.
Situated at the foot of Mt Snowdon is the busy village of Llanberis, a year round haven for walkers many of whom head to the summit of the highest mountain in England and Wales. The most popular route up Snowdon is the Llanberis path which begins in the village. The Snowdon Mountain Railway also departs from Llanberis, Britain’s only rack and pinion railway climbs all the way to the summit of Snowdon and the impressive Hafod Eryri visitor centre.
For riders planning the epic challenge of mountain biking Snowdon, the Llanberis path is also the default route to the summit. Llanberis is also located by the stunning lake Llyn Padarn, which is one of the most popular paddle sports locations in North Wales. The lake is the perfect place to go Stand Up Paddle boarding (SUP) or Kayaking.
The Snowdon Sherpa bus service links the 6 main Snowdon paths, allowing you to start and finish your walk at different points. Why not catch a ride from the Llanberis bus interchange to Pen y Pass, and walk back to Llanberis via the Miners Path or Crib Goch!
The village itself whilst not the prettiest in Snowdonia is practical and well located for exploring the region. Fuel up for the day with a breakfast at the legendary Pete’s Eats Cafe, or head to The Peak Restaurant or Spice of Llanberis for a chilled out evening after a day of adventure. All are located on High St, where you will also find an array of outdoor gear shops and accommodation (see below).
Walking distance from Llanberis is Padarn Country Park, whose attractions include a selection of way-marked walking routes (including an 8km/5mi circuit of Llyn Padarn), the Llanberis Lake Railway, Watersports Centre, Welsh Slate Museum and Quarry Hospital Museum – the latter two providing an interesting insight into the industrial heritage of the area. If you have an interest in engineering or a spare few hours the guided tour at Electric Mountain is well worth the money.
Budget accommodation options in Llanberis include the YHA Snowdon Llanberis or for a night under the stars try the ideally located Hafod Lydan mountain farm campsite. Further accommodation options in and around Llanberis cater for the frugal to the high-end and everything in between.
Their is plenty of signed parking in Llanberis including a large car park opposite the Snowdon Mountain Railway, arrive early at weekends!
Situated in a valley surrounded by forested hills and mountains is the quaint village of Beddgelert. It may be small however its certainly worth a stop. In the centre of the village is an old stone bridge which crosses a bumbling river. From here its a short stroll to the village amenities, including a pub, cafes and gift shops. A popular short walk is to head out on the path parallel to the river (signed Gelert’s Grave from the centre of the village), for approx 0.5 mi, at which point you can cross a foot bridge and walk back on the opposite side of the river. For a longer walk simply carry on once you have crossed the foot bridge, following the path that runs by the narrow gauge West Highland Railway.
Beddgelert forest (free parking) close the village has some short way-marked walking and cycling routes – its a great place to explore and chill, with gentle terrain and some great views. For full details see Natural Resources Wales. If you fancy a more strenuous adventure grab an OS Explorer 17 map and head to the nearby Moel Hebog, whose 783m summit is visible from the village.
Cae Du campsite is walking distance from the village, or if you want a solid roof over your head there are a range of accommodation options in and around Beddgelert.
The town of Caernarfon is dominated by its World Heritage status Castle, the remarkable medieval fortress attracts tourists from afar with its impressive exterior and dramatic setting by the mouth of the river Seiont. If you like castles your in for a treat, and if you don’t like castles your also in for a treat ! The town centre is compact and in close proximity to the Castle. Castle square is a large open space surrounded by cafes, shops and pubs – the square which is open to traffic lacks road markings and can be a little tricky to navigate! For a bite to eat head to Caffi Maes, Y Gegin Fach or the ever popular Ainsworth’s for traditional fish and chips. Hole in the Wall street and Palace street are also worth a look and feature various cafes, eateries and independent shops. An approx 10 min walk from town is Ben Twthill, a 60 metre rocky protrusion whose summit offers a panoramic vista of Caernarfon including the Castle, Menai Strait and the distant mountains of Snowdonia. If the weather turns ugly Beacon climbing is situated on the edge of town, its the largest indoor climbing centre in north wales, and has the usual array of roped climbs including a self-belay wall and a number of decent bouldering areas. Experience a classic train ride from Caernarfon through the heart of Snowdonia National Park on the Welsh Highland Railway, with some stunning views along the way to the small coastal town of Porthmadog.
There is a large pay and display car park by the Castle. Alternatively limited free parking is possible along Aber Foreshore road (use postcode: LL54 5RP), which is the coastal road opposite and on the other side of the river mouth from the Castle. Access to the town from here is via a pedestrian swing bridge (which closes at night), camper van overnight parking also seems to be tolerated here.
For those on a budget try Totters hostel or if you prefer to camp Is Helen farm is walking distance from town and Riverside camping is a couple of miles out of town. Otherwise there are a plethora of accommodation options in and around Caernarfon and the surrounding area.
- Zip World is home to the fastest zip line in the world, reaching speeds in excess of 100 mph.
- Yr Wyddfa/Snowdon is the highest mountain in England and Wales at 1,085 metres above sea level.
- Snowdonia National Park covers an area of 2,130 square kilometres.