North Wales is a land of epic landscapes and changing environments. It is a place alive with action and a rich, distinctive culture of its own. Amongst the transient topography, you can find some real gems that make this place one of the most immersive places to explore in Europe.
Here you can find designated World Heritage sites, explore one of the world’s oldest living languages. Navigate your way around a land steeped in history and magic. Within the regions of Conwy, Denbighshire, Flintshire, Gwynedd, Ynys Môn (the Isle of Anglesey) & Wrexham – the counties that make up what we know as North Wales – you will find these amazing places and activities to lose yourself along the way.
1. Snowdon: Find your way to the summit of the mountain, by foot or by rail
Snowdon is the highest mountain in Wales, found at an elevation of 1085 metres above sea level. It is the second-highest point in the British Isles behind the Scottish Highlands and Ben Nevis. Such is the awe of the mountain, it gives its name to the area that it touches: Snowdonia National Park.
There are many ways to climb Snowdon. Some argue that Snowdon, as an experience, is not limited to just the mountain itself. The act of reaching the summit is a prize that many aim for. And there are many routes to get there.
Many choose to walk the paths laid out. There are numerous routes around the climbs of Snowdonia. Whilst potentially countless ways to reach the summit, 6 designated and safe ways are more commonplace. These vary in the required expertise to navigate them. These would include the Llanberis Path, the Miners track, and the Pyg Track. Snowdonia is a walker’s paradise. But for the less able, there is the Snowdon Mountain Railway; a fantastic way to get to the summit and experience some history at the same time.
Trains depart from Llanberis station and begin their climb of the 1085m to the summit of Yr Wyddfa. This is a journey that over 12 million people have taken since 1896. No matter how you decide to scale the heights of Wales’ highest peak, the one thing that is for sure, and is the views will be amazing.
2. Discover the village of Portmeirion
Portmeirion is a village in North Wales like no other. A village which itself is its own little peninsula in a corner of Snowdonia, near Porthmadog. A village that sits as a living and breathing monument and tribute to somewhere else. The village town was designed by Sir Clough Williams-Ellis in 1925. Portmerion was built in pure imitation of the rustic Italian village Portofino, to “demonstrate how a naturally beautiful place could be developed without spoiling it”. Due in no small manner to its truly unique charm, Portmeirion has carved a place in popular culture for itself.
Williams-Ellis’ muse for Portmeirion – Portofino – proves a fitting tribute to the atmosphere of the Mediterranean. The town has an iconic sense of nostalgia, and when you step into the colourful bricolage and veranda-led walls you will be instantly transported. It feels like nowhere else on earth. Nowhere, except maybe Portofino itself. Such is the beauty of the juxtaposition and the jarring architecture that engulfs this tourist hotspot.
In the 1960s, the spy drama ‘The Prisoner’ found its backdrop at Portmeirion. This led to a huge increase in visitor numbers which has stayed consistently high. Today, Portmeirion is a fixed spot on any tourist map of North Wales, whether its the first time you visit or the fiftieth. Make sure you don’t miss this quirky stop on your tour of this fantastic region.
3. Find a castle: Explore some history and take it home in your heart
Wales is famous for its castles. There are more than 600 (six hundred) castles in Wales, more per square mile than anywhere in the world. For such a small country, we are a nation of castles. And North Wales has some of the finest examples. Some castles have been lived in continuously for well over a thousand years. Then there are those that are but ruins and remains. A lot of the castles are native to the Welsh landscape, but what most of them have in common is that they are usually always steeped in history.
Home to much noted of Welsh nobility or often outlying invader there are a stunning array of remaining examples of castles in North Wales. The mighty Caernarfon Castle, pictured, is just one example of the most visually alluring fortresses you’ll ever see. The castle is a 13th-century masterpiece and was built on a former Roman fort. Along with Edward I’s other castles at Beaumaris, Harlech, and Conwy, Caernarfon stands as a World Heritage Site.
No matter which castle you happen to visit, or even simply stumble across, you will find history in the stones and ruins. This history tells a story of Wales and it is one not to be missed. Make sure you pay attention.
4. Penrhyn Quarry: The fastest way to see some of North Wales
ZipWorld is located in the heart of the Snowdonia National Park and a ride on the zip lines will take you over the Penrhyn Quarry. It is home to an exhilarating adventure unlike any other. It showcases some of the most incredible views in North Wales and is a truly unique way to see some of the amazing landscape of Snowdonia.
ZipWorld is the world’s fastest zip line and Europe’s longest. Known as Velocity 2, it is Zip World’s best-known adventure. It features four parallel zip lines so that you can travel as a group and it spans one and a half kilometres over the beautiful blue water of Penrhyn Quarry lake. The beautiful waters underneath the lines is truly breathtaking. It is not uncommon to travel at speeds over the quarry of up to 100 mph. And afterwards, you can take in the scenery in a more relaxed setting in the boutique bistro setting which features local delicacies and food offerings.
It is a remarkable and unique experience in the heart of North Wales.
5. Drive through North Wales and experience the Great Orme
The Great Orme near Llandudno sets this part of the Welsh coastline aside from the rest. The coastal headland here has played an important part in Welsh coastal history.
The Great Orme headland in North Wales is a massive chunk of limestone – a mini-mountain that rises up alongside Llandudno – reaching a height of that rises 207m, coming straight out of the sea. The Vikings named it ‘The Great Orme’ which means ‘sea monster’.. mini-mountain and it’s rich in natural and man-made history.
There are a few ways in which to see The Great Orme, though it really can’t be missed. You can jump on the cable car and visit overhead, or there is also the Great Orme tramway. If you take the tram, you’ll soon find yourself at the top where you’ll find a lovely visitor centre in seasonal months. A walk is also possible, but such is the beauty and craft which has led man to build accessible roads onto it, many prefer to drive along it, taking in its beauty as they go.
Definitely one for the bucket list.
Gareth Robinson is General Manager at Quality Cottages. Quality Cottages is a leading Wales-based holiday lettings agency established in 1961.