Boasting dramatic landscapes, charming villages, stunning countryside and beautiful coastlines, it’s no surprise that North Wales is one of Britain’s oldest established tourist regions. Snowdonia National Park covers 823 square miles and is home to Wales’ highest mountain, Snowdon (1,085 metres). There are also three AONBs in North Wales – Clwydian Range and Dee Valley, Llyn, and Anglesey. The best way to explore these natural landscapes? Choose your favourite outdoor activity, whether it’s water-based, walking and hiking, or something a little more adventurous.
But as well as stunning scenery, there is also plenty of culture and history to explore. Discover ancient castles, visit charming seaside towns and be wowed at some of the most unique attractions in Britain.
Water activities in North Wales
Okay, so North Wales may not be the most tropical place on earth. But that doesn’t mean you should shy away from the water. The region boasts plenty of water activities which is a great way to explore the coast. The Conwy Estuary is another great spot and you’ll find tons of course providers in the nearby marina.
Fancy something a little more relaxing? Kayaking and canoeing is the perfect way to explore at your own pace. You can canoe and kayak on the many lakes including Llyn Padarn and Bala Lake.
Up for something more fast-paced? North Wales is home to some of the fastest white water in the country. The National White Water Centre offers adventures on the natural rapids of River Tryweryn in Snowdonia National Park. For something a little tamer, try the waters at Llangollen.
Land-based adventure activities
There’s also plenty of things you can get up to inland. North Wales is essentially one giant playground, so whatever you’re into, you’re bound to find it here. It goes without saying that climbing up Snowdon is not to be missed. There are six main routes up to the summit, each with its own difficulty level or perhaps you’d prefer to take in the sights using the Snowdon Mountain Railway. There are tons of low-level walks too. Head to North East Wales for some gentler routes. There’s always a coastal walk in North Wales, and Anglesey’s 125 mile coast is particularly scenic.
North Wales also happens to be a cyclist’s dream. Mountain bikers will love the original Marin trail in the forests of Gwydir, as well as Llandegla and Coed-y-Brenin for some of the best centres in the UK. The most daring could even tackle the fast downhill near Blaenau Ffestiniog. For flatter routes, the Llyn Peninsula and the Vale of Clwyd are particularly spectacular.
There are a whole range of other outdoor activities like rock climbing, sea cliff climbing and abseiling. You’ll find numerous adventure providers around the region who have skilled and friendly experts to help you, such as Anglesey Adventures, Boulder Adventures and National Mountain Sports Centre.
Seaside towns in North Wales
North Wales is home to many charming seaside towns. Llandudno is one of the best, known as the Queen of Welsh Resorts. This Victorian seaside resort has the longest pier in Wales which stretches 700m out to sea. Walk along the magnificent promenade or take a trip on the Great Orme Tramway to visit the copper mines.
Porthmadog is a bustling harbour town, once the busiest slate port in North Wales. One of the main attractions is the Ffestiniog Railway which runs to Blaenau Ffestiniog, the former ‘slate capital of the world’. This heritage railway journeys through the glorious Snowdonia National Park. The town has a picturesque harbour and plenty of shops and attractions, including the nearby Portmeirion.
The unique Portmeirion is a charming Italianate style village like no other. This tourist village was designed and built between 1925 and 1975. The village has a variety of shops, cafes, a picturesque piazza, exhibitions and displays. Explore the subtropical woodland garden, or make your way down to Dwyryd Estuary’s white sandy beaches to explore hidden caves.
Castles in North Wales
North Wales is home to some truly magnificent castles. Four of them are World Heritage Sites, all of which were built by Edward I. Conwy Castle is an impressive fortress that was built between 1283-1289. Rising high above the River Conwy with Snowdonia in the background, it’s certainly a sight to behold. The castle has 21 towers and 3 gateways to explore – also keep an eye out for the medieval reenactments that take place inside the courtyard.
Another impressive castle is Caernarfon Castle. Located on the southern end of the Menai strait, the castle has some pretty interesting architecture. Make your way round the atmospheric corridors and stairways and check out the gatehouses once used for unloading supplies off ships.
Perched on a rocky cliff top, Harlech Castle has views out to sea with the Snowdonia mountains in the background. Built between 1282-1289, you can climb up the towers and walk the walls of this ancient castle.
Last but not least, you have Beaumaris Castle. More of a vanity project, the castle was left unfinished due to Edward I’s death. The castle was restored in the 20th century and today, you can walk around the walls and enjoy the views of the Menai strait.
Unique attractions in North Wales
When it comes to unique attractions, North Wales doesn’t disappoint. One of our favourites is the Llechwedd Slate Caverns. The caverns are located near the former slate mining town of Blaenau Ffestiniog. Descend via cable railway and step into the world of a slate miner. Multimedia displays bring the harsh working conditions to life – be prepared to duck as you scramble through dark tunnels.
Often referred to as the zip wire capital of the world, North Wales is home to some of the fastest and longest zip wires in the world. What makes this attraction even more special is the breathtaking scenery of the forests and national parks surrounding you. You can even find underground zip wires, perfect for the thrill seekers among us.
Another unique attraction is Pontcysyllte Aqueduct. This UNESCO World Heritage Site is one of the most stunning sites in North Wales and an incredible engineering feat. It’s the longest aqueduct in Britain and the highest canal aqueduct in the world. Designed and built by Thomas Telford and Williams Jessop, the aqueduct carries the Llangollen Canal across the River Dee. There’s a footpath that runs along the watercourse and you can either walk across the aqueduct or take a relaxing boat ride. Either way, don’t forget your camera!