North Wales

With Wales out of lockdown (for the time being) and the north Wales-based I’m a Celebrity in full swing, it feels as though now may be as good a time as any to finally blog about my north Wales road trip that took place over the August bank holiday weekend in 2019.

I wrote this series of posts at the beginning of lockdown, but it felt a little odd blogging about places I couldn’t visit (and that potentially look quite different now to how they were when I visited). Especially when here in Wales we’ve largely been unable to go further than five miles or out of the county borough since the pandemic began.

These posts have sat lingering in my drafts folder for the last seven months or so, but as we’re currently enjoying a reprieve from the toughest restrictions, I thought I’d start posting again while the going’s good. So here goes…

From wild, rugged mountains to golden sandy beaches and mighty medieval fortresses, north Wales has it all. It’s a breathtaking, evocative region that’s ripe for exploring.

The north-western edge is dominated by the magnificent and ethereal Snowdonia National Park (below). A land of myths and legends, it’s home to many of Wales’s tallest mountains, including the country’s highest peak, Snowdon (Yr Wyddfa in Welsh), as well as stunning lakes, ancient slate quarries and spectacular hiking trails.

Snowdonia National Park

Beautiful stretches of golden, sandy beaches can be found along the coast, while nestled in the arm pit of the Llŷn Peninsula is quirky Portmeirion. This small village, which dates back to the 1920s, was built in an Italian style by the architect Sir Clough Williams-Ellis and is best known for being the location of the 1960s TV show The Prisoner.

Inside Conwy Castle

Enormous fortresses dot the region – the most famous being the castles of Beaumaris, Caernarfon, Conwy (above) and Harlech. Built by King Edward I to consolidate his conquest of the principality, these mighty strongholds are among the most impressive in a country filled with noteworthy castles.

LlanfairPG train station

Off the north-west coast lies the Isle of Anglesey, or Ynys Môn in Welsh. It’s the largest island in Wales and home to the longest place name in the UK – Llanfairpwllgwyngyllgogerychwyrndrobwllllantysiliogogogoch or LlanfairPG as it’s known to locals. No first-time trip to the island is complete without an obligatory stop at the village train station for a photo (above).

Llandudno seafront

The north Wales coast is studded with old seaside resorts, many of which are now a shadow of their former selves, but handsome Llandudno (above) still retains its Victorian charms.

Boasting a huge beach, smart pier and lots of decent B&Bs, it’s a great place to base yourself when visiting the region. The huge chunk of limestone rock on its western edge, the Great Orme, is also home to the largest known prehistoric mines in the world.

Across the Conwy estuary is the small market town of Conwy, dominated by its imposing castle and extensive medieval town walls, it’s also the setting for the smallest house in Great Britain.

The Old Mill bridge at Bodnant Garden

Further down the valley lies the splendid Bodnant Garden (above). Owned by the National Trust, it features woodland trails, formal gardens, wildflower meadows, lily ponds and rock terraces filled with flowers. 

To the east, on the banks of the River Dee, is the small town of Llangollen. Its renowned for its International Musical Eisteddfod, a cultural festival that welcomes performers from all over the world each summer, and nearby attractions include the Llangollen steam railway and the Pontcysyllte Aqueduct. 

It’s worth noting that Welsh is widely spoken in parts of north Wales, particularly in Gwynedd and on Ynys Môn. Useful words or phrases to master include diolch (dee-ol-ch – thank you), bore da (bore-re da – good morning), pnawn da (puh-noun da – good afternoon), hwyl fawr (hoy-l vow-r – goodbye), Cymru (kuh-m-ree – Wales) and gai (guy – can I have?). 

View of the Clwyd Valley from Bodnant Gardens

So why have I just taken you on a whistle stop tour of north Wales? Because summer in 2019, I had my first holiday in the region, spending three days touring the sights, in what I dubbed “my north Wales road trip”.

Despite being Welsh, I’d never spent more than a couple of days at a time in the north (usually for work purposes). So when I was visiting our office in St Asaph just before the August bank holiday weekend, I decided to stay for a few extra days and have a proper look around.

Powis Castle and gardens

Basing myself in Llandudno, I toured Beaumaris, Plas Newydd and LlanfairPG, drove through Snowdonia National Park, climbed the Great Orme, explored Conwy Castle and ambled around Bodnant Garden. With a bonus trip to Powis Castle (above) in mid Wales tagged on during my drive back to Cardiff. Over my next few posts, I’ll be recounting the adventures of my north Wales road trip, so stay tuned…

5 thoughts on “North Wales

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  1. I grew up just across the border in Chester, and spent many a summer holiday in Conwy. A particular highlight as a kid was Greenwood Forest Park – a sustainable theme park on the edge of Snowdonia. I also remember racing my cousins down Llandudno pier one summer and counting the jellyfish in the water beneath it! Looking forward to taking a trip down memory lane over the course of your next few blogs!

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