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The stunning views from the ruins of Castell y Bere. Photo: Andrew Blackwell
The stunning views from the ruins of Castell y Bere. Photo: Andrew Blackwell

Places

Discover the fairytale world of North Wales

With landscapes like in Game of Thrones, Downton Abbey- style castles, a language straight out of The Hobbit and the world’s oddest road signs, North Wales should be overrun by tourists. But thank goodness it isn’t.

A castle ruin here and an old monastery there. Gentle hills, dramatic mountains, and spotless sandy beaches. Lots of sheep, narrow roads, and a succession of quaint villages. It’s amazing how much there is in such a relatively small area. And which it would seem remains undiscovered by all but a few.

So you can explore ruins that resemble something from the days of King Arthur and his Knights of the Round Table almost undisturbed. Everywhere you look there are impressive medieval fortresses, romantic ruins, and flags bearing the Welsh dragon. Many of the fortifications date back to the time when North Wales was known as the Kingdom of Gwynedd, the last independent part of Wales, which was finally conquered by England in 1284. 

Valle Crucis Abbey. Photo: Andrew Blackwell

The region is still a stronghold for the Welsh language and culture, and everywhere you look there are signs full of incomprehensible Welsh. Thanks to the accompanying English translations, however, you will become familiar surprisingly quickly with signs such as araf (slow) twmpathau (humps), cadwch oddi ar y glaswellt (please keep off the grass) and ffordd (road). North Wales can also boast Europe’s longest village name, Llanfairpwllgwyngyllgogerychwyrndrobwllllantysiliogogogoch, which has made the village an attraction in itself.

The most important thing, though, is the nature. The Welsh countryside is incredibly varied and ideal for a relaxing hiking holiday, with lots of beautiful trails through marshland, the mountainous Snowdonia National Park, and along the coasts. 

But what about the weather? The Welsh climate is changeable, but better than its reputation. It does not rain as much as you might have heard, and bad weather rarely lasts for more than a couple of days. You can even get sunburn when holidaying in Wales, so treat it like you would a vacation in Denmark and bring your factor 30 and flip flops, as well as a fleece.

Then there is only one thing left to say: Croeso i Gymru! – Welcome to Wales!

Coast:

North Wales has some impressive beaches, often flanked by fine Victorian seaside resorts. But there are also stunning pristine sandy beaches that are incredibly beautiful.

Don’t miss:

Llyn Peninsula

A spit of land extending out into the Irish Sea. Almost half of its 400 km2 is a protected Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty. It has volcanic hills, mountains, cliffs, and stunning sandy beaches. And of course its very own breed of sheep, as well as castle ruins and ancient churches dotted around the landscape.

Shell Island

Shell Island. Photo: Andrew Blackwell

A large coastal area near Llanbedr that is known for its kilometer-long sandy beach, where you can find all kinds of cockleshells, snail shells, and conch shells. The area is part of the Snowdonia National Park and during the season wild camping is permitted among the sand dunes.

Hiking at Barmouth 

Barmouth. Photo: Andrew Blackwell

The idyllic seaside resort of Barmouth looks as though it has been carved into the slate mountain and is an amazing sight as you walk towards it across an old Victorian railway bridge over the water.  The surrounding countryside is impressive, with sand dunes, sea, mountains, and marshes, while there are panoramic hiking trails to suit all levels of ability. A must.

Mountains and hills: 

Moel famau

Moel famau, at 555 meters, is the highest peak in the Clwydian Range and overlooks an extraordinary landscape of forests and moors. The site has been designated an Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty. There are lots of routes to the top of the hill, with varying lengths and levels of difficulty.

Mount Snowdon

You can see as far as to Ireland from the top of Mt. Snowdon. Photo: Andrew Blackwell

Snowdonia National Park is the jewel in the crown of North Wales and is home to the highest mountain in Wales, Mount Snowdon, at 1085 meters, which is a must-climb. The hike up and down takes the best part of a day, but you can also cheat and take the heritage train that runs through the beautiful landscape all the way to the top. Incredible views.

Cregennen Lakes

Cregennen Lakes. Photo: Andrew Blackwell

Snowdonia is a cornucopia of areas of exceptional natural beauty. A good example is Cregennan Lakes, two blue mountain lakes in the middle of the beautiful highlands. Here you can go fishing or hiking, or just sit and admire.

Castles and ruins:

Valle Crucis Abbey at Llangollen 

Impressive and photogenic monastery ruins in a valley five minutes from charming Llangollen. 

Criccieth Castle

Castle ruins on top of a hill in Criccieth on the Llyn Peninsula. Fabulous views of the coast, the Irish Sea, and Snowdonia.

Harlech Castle, Gwynedd

Massive medieval fortress built in the 13th century by the English during the conquest of Wales. The castle remains impressively intact and is on the UNESCO World Heritage List.

Harlech Castle. Photo: Coyote Graphics/flickrCC

Castell y Bere, Gwynedd:

One of most romantic ruins in Wales. Well hidden among the green valleys, grazing sheep, and gnarled oaks lie the picturesque ruins of another Welsh castle. Scenic views make it the ideal place for a sunset picnic.

Caernarfon Castle. Photo: Giborn_134/flickrCC

Caernarfon Castle

Huge castle built by the English king Edward I, conqueror of Wales. The castle was built as a royal residence that was intended to be reminiscent of the greatness of the Roman Empire, while also being a beautiful sight to behold. Also on the UNESCO World Heritage List.

Conwy Castle

Edward I was a busy man. This gigantic fortress from the 13th century also bears his signature and like the others is a UNESCO World Heritage Site.

 

Text: Lise Hannibal

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