North Wales, one of Britain's oldest established tourist regions, offers an abundance of excellent holiday attractions within a relatively small area. Road signs proclaiming "Croeso i Gymru" ("Welcome to Wales") greet visitors as they enter the country and bear witness to the warm hospitality of the Welsh. The elegant little town of Llandudno is one of Britain's longest established seaside resorts, and the North Wales coast roads offer a tremendous variety of scenery, along with large open beaches and lively resorts, rugged cliffs, quaint fishing villages and countless secluded bays.
Snowdonia National Park - with Wales' highest mountain, Snowdon (3560 ft) - has for centuries attracted climbers and walkers, while the Lleyn Peninsula and the Clwydian Range are also designated as areas of outstanding natural beauty. The area also boasts many historical sites and charming little towns, deep ravines and picturesque valleys, which turn any outing into a voyage of discovery.
Snowdonia National Park
Snowdonia National Park
Snowdonia National Park covers a great deal of North Wales, extending inland from the coast between Penmaenmawr and Caernarfon by way of Bethesda all the way to Bala Lake and Llanfairfechan. Access to a beautiful part of this area, including the summit of Snowdon itself, is made easier by the wonderful Snowdon Mountain Railway, which starts in Llanberis. This wonderful park is one of the most popular hiking and climbing destinations in Britain and offers not only extremely rugged mountain scenery, but also beaches, dunes and valleys, as well as over 50 lakes and smaller pools. The park boasts a rich cultural heritage that includes Roman ruins, prehistoric circles, ancient stonewalls and traditional farms.
2 Caernarfon Castle
Caernarfon Castle was begun by Edward I in 1283 as a seat for his eldest son, Edward of Caernarfon, the first Prince of Wales. The structure took almost 37 years to complete, and the power and might of the English throne is symbolized by the great stone eagles on the Eagle Tower and the layout of the castle's walls and towers. With its 13 towers and two gates, the massive building is one of the most impressive and best-preserved medieval fortresses in Europe, and occupies the site of an earlier Norman castle by the waters of the River Seiont and the Menai Strait.
The castle has had an eventful history and has withstood many sieges. More recently, it was the scene of Prince Charles's investiture as Prince of Wales in 1969, an event marked by a special exhibition. Be sure to explore the Queen's Tower, home of the Royal Welch Fusiliers Regimental Museum.
Hours: Daily, 9:30am-5pm
Admission: Adults, £6.75; Children (under 16), £5.10; Families, £20.25
Address: Castle Ditch, Caernarfon, Gwynedd
Caernarfon Castle Map
3 Editor's Pick Llandudno
Lovely Llandudno is one of the most popular seaside resorts in Wales, with two sandy beaches (one on either side of the town) and a picture-perfect promenade. The more easterly of the two beaches, North Shore, is bounded by another headland, Little Orme. A highlight of any sightseeing visit to Llandudno should be the Great Orme Tramway, which has been taking visitors to the top of the Great Orme for its superb views over the Irish Channel since 1902. With the advent of tourism in the last century, this Victorian town became a gathering place for the new middle class, who came here from the nearby industrial regions of Liverpool and Manchester.
The town's magnificent late Victorian pier has been mercifully spared the modern fairground influences so typical of many resorts on the south coast and is a popular hangout for anglers (fishing gear is available for rent at the pier entrance). Mostyn Street, with its superb shopping arcades, is well worth a visit, and is home to a wide range of cultural events and entertainments.
Located in Tremadog Bay on a wooded peninsula between Porthmadog and Harlech, Portmeirion is famous the world over for being a replica in miniature of a picturesque Italian village. Portmeirion was the brainchild of Sir Clough Williams-Ellis (1884-1978) who dreamed of recreating an Italian village in Wales and had it built on his own private promontory, together with a mansion (now a hotel) and beautiful Gwylt Gardens. This unique property is best visited as part of an overnight stay - when the gates close guests get the whole place to themselves to explore, from its beautiful gardens, fountains and church, to the coastal paths of the lower village. The location for numerous films and TV programs, including the cult The Prisoner, Portmeirion is a must for any sightseeing visit to North Wales.
Hours: Daily, 9:30am-7.30pm
Admission: Adults, £10; Children (4-15), £6
Address: Minffordd, Penrhyndeudraeth, Gwynedd
5 Conwy Castle
Conwy Castle is a masterpiece of medieval architecture that took an estimated 2, 000 workers to build between 1283-89. And it was completed just in time, as in 1290 Edward I was besieged behind its 12-15 ft thick walls and eight towers by the Welsh. The Great Hall, 125 ft long, is now roofless, but one of the eight arches which supported it has been rebuilt to show the original beauty of the structure. Considered one of Wales' most picturesque fortresses, Conwy Castle features an excellent exhibition on the history of Edward I and his numerous Welsh castles.
Afterwards, be sure to explore the town itself. Located only a short distance from Manchester, Conwy's other highlights include well-preserved 13th century town walls with superb views of the surrounding area; Aberconwy House, a 14th century merchant's house and one of the first buildings to be built inside the town walls; the superbly preserved Elizabethan home, Plas Mawr; and what's reputedly the Smallest House in Great Britain.
Hours: Daily, 9:30am-5pm
Address: Rose Hill St, Conwy