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North Wales & Snowdonia National Park

The further you get to North Wales (about a two-and-a-half hour train ride into North Wales from London) the more you hear the locals speaking the ancient language of Welsh. North Wales is considered the most traditional part of the country in terms of language, legends and lifestyle.  The Druids themselves made their last stand against the Romans here, on the windswept island of Anglesey and the whole of the north feels as if it is still under their spell.

On a clear day you can see forever

North Wales’ pristine and unspoiled landscape is punctuated by Wales’ tallest mountain, Mount Snowdon.  Set in its own national park, Snowdon’s 3,208 foot face is an inspiration to scale.  Once you get to the summit (considered by some to be the last resting place of King Arthur), you can see Ireland, Scotland and Liverpool’s John Lennon Airport! The shortcut is a scenic narrow gauge mountain railway that takes you to the top in about 30 minutes, where you can cheat and buy a t-shirt that says, “I climbed Mount Snowdon.”

 

In North Wales you can:

 
  • Visit the Isle of Anglesey, home of HRH Prince William of Wales and Kate Middleton, and the last outpost of the Druid culture.
  • Climb Mount Snowdon, some say the final resting place of King Arthur, and Edmund Hillary’s “baby mountain” for his Mount Everest climb.
  • Ride on a historic narrow gauge railway through the Snowdonia National Park.
  • Visit the UK town with the longest place name and have your picture taken at Llanfairpwllgwyngyllgogerychwymdrobwllllantysiliogogogoch. (click for pronunciation).
  • Have dinner with a local family and experience the ancient Welsh tradition of hospitality first-hand.
  • Enjoy a Welsh Male Voice Choir rehearsal.
  • Be the King or Queen of your own castle; explore Caernarfon, one of the finest castles in the country; or stay overnight at Ruthin Castle Hotel.
  • Visit the Victorian resort town of Llandudno and see where Alice in Wonderland spent her summer vacations.
 

Railway lovers will find paradise aboard the Ffestiniog and Welsh Highland Railways, a working narrow gauge rail system that transports riders back in time with a 40-mile route through the Snowdonia National Park in Pullman-style carriages. 

The comforts of home

The area around Snowdon is called Snowdonia.  This part of Wales is known for its tenacious adherence to time-honoured traditions.  Visitors can experience these traditions up close while having a home-cooked dinner with Welsh families (arranged by Turnstone Tours; Email: info@turnstone-tours.co.uk).  Feast on locally grown produce and famed Welsh lamb and try to wrap your tongue around a few words of Welsh in the process.  Lechyd da means “cheers!”

Fit for a prince

North Wales is also home to HRH Prince William of Wales and Kate Middleton.  The Prince lives on Anglesey, a sea-girt island at the edge of Wales’ northwest border.  William’s current job (2011) is at the Royal Air Force’s Search and Rescue Program.  Although tours are not allowed, you can still drive by the facility and watch the jets stream by—you’ll possibly see William on one of his missions.  Anglesey is also fringed with remote and pristine beaches, stone burial mounds from Druid times and a well said to be lucky for lovers, presided over by the Welsh Saint of Love, St. Dwynwyn.  Aston Kutcher and his lady love Demi Moore spent time here while Demi was filming the movie, Half Light.  Luxurious hotels and spas on the island insure that although Anglesey feels lost in time, it’s never far from creature comforts.

Castle-hopping

Four Welsh castles collectively form a UNESCO World Heritage site: Harlech, Beaumaris, Conwy and Caernarfon. Edwardian invaders left these imposing fortresses, still some of the world’s most striking examples of medieval architecture.  Follow in royal footsteps at Caernarfon Castle where Prince Charles was invested as the Prince of Wales in 1969. Or stay the night at Ruthin Castle, once owned by King Henry VIII and later by Queen Elizabeth I. Nearby, wander the atmospheric ruins of Denbigh Castle and the town’s ancient walls.

Useful North Wales links:

 

“I love the Lon Eifion cycle path which runs for miles and is a great way to see the area. Starting in Caernarfon town centre next to the harbour with its famous and imposing castle, you walk on a gentle incline towards the village of Bontnewydd, Stop off for a meal on the way back at the village pub – the Newborough Arms. After the village and several streams, you walk alongside the track of the Welsh Highland narrow gauge steam railway which will pass you occasionally sounding its whistle as it goes. Shortly after Dinas Station, where The Queen recently visited to name a new observation carriage, you will veer off onto the track bed of another old railway.

This time there are no trains, just peace and quiet as you take in views of mountains and farmland on one side and the Irish Sea and Menai Strait on the other. This pleasant walk is 12.5 miles long in its entirety. After five miles, you’ll reach the café at Inigo Jones slate works museum – an ideal stop off or turn round point. It’s open all year round 10am – 4pm.

If you fancy something a little more bracing and with a few more hills to climb, you can’t beat the coastal path walks. The views (and ice creams) are great if you walk from our local blue flag beach – Dinas Dinlle away from the car parks and through the gate into the National Trust land. Also of interest is the fact that this used to be a Roman site and more recently was used in the First World War with bunkers still very much in evidence. Slightly further round – you can walk or drive and start there is Trefor Beach. I’ve spent some magical time on the grassy hills there on a sunny day with only the sound of the lapping waves and the snorting of sea lions as they jump out of the water. Come and experience it for yourselves.”

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For more information about North Wales visit our international Visit Wales website.

 

North Wales is less than four hours’ drive from London and just two-and-a-half hours by train from London to Wrexham (or under three hours to Llandudno). You can also take a 90 minute high-speed ferry from Dublin to Holyhead, connecting your Celtic roots from Ireland to Wales. A handy air service connects Anglesey to Cardiff.

North Wales has a wealth of lodging options, from luxe large hotels to charming bed and breakfasts to clean and functional budget accommodations and even outdoor camping options. Use our accommodation searches for a list of Visit Wales and AA -approved places to stay.