North Wales Holiday Guide
Shielded by the biggest mountains outside Scotland, North Wales is proud and protective of its heritage and its language – more than 60% of its inhabitants speak the native mother tongue, the highest proportion in the country. To the delight of the hundreds of thousands of visitors who flock to the area every year, there is a tangible Welsh feeling wherever you go.
Snowdonia - the Heart of North Wales
Stretching 50 miles north to south and 35 miles east to west, Snowdonia became Wales’ first national park in 1951. Mount Snowdon itself is the focal point, with 350,000 people either walking, climbing or taking the mountain-side train the 1,085 metres to its summit each year.
The park itself, 75% of which is used for raising sheep and cattle, is full of rivers and coastal areas and is home to the biggest natural lake in Wales. Like the country’s other national parks it is very much lived in, with Bala, Dolgellau, Harlech and Betws-Y-Coed the main populated areas.
The little stone village of Betws-y-Coed has a fabulous Alpine feel and is the perfect base for exploring Snowdonia, while the charming market town of Dolgellau has the highest concentration of listed buildings in Wales. Bala is famous for its water sports and Harlech its spectacularly intimidating grey-stoned castle.
There is an incredible amount to see and do in Snowdonia so you need to spend your time there wisely. As well as Harlech Castle, must-see sights and attractions include the Gwydr Forest, the National Slate Museum in the cheery town of Llanberis and the Llechwedd Slate Caverns, where you can descend into the depths of a Victorian mine.
Out and About
To the west of Snowdonia lies the former slate port of Porthmadog, which enjoys some of the finest views in north Wales. It is also home to the quirky but fabulous Italianate folly of Portmeirion and two famous narrow-gauge steam railways.
The Ffestiniog Railway is the finest line in Wales, winding its way up 650ft over 13 stunning miles from Porthmadog to Blaenau Ffestiniog. The Welsh Highland Railway connects Porthmadog with Caernarfon, a full round trip giving you five unforgettable hours on the train.
Set at the southern entrance to the Menai Strait, Caernarfon is renowned for its incredible castle, the most impressive link in the chain of 13th Century fortresses across North Wales. When you are done there take your pick from the island of Anglesey and its handsome town of Beaumaris, cosmopolitan Bangor, Conwy and the Victorian seaside resort of Llandudno.
North Wales is home to two UNESCO World Heritage sites, the Pontcysyllte Aquaduct and Canal and, collectively, the “Castles and Town Walls of King Edward in Gwynedd”. These include those at Caernarfon, Beaumaris, Conwy and Harlech.