There’s loads to do in the Welsh capital of Cardiff, but wander north and you'll discover a wealth of attractions woven amongst lush hills and valleys. Stretching from Anglesey to Gwynedd, North Wales is a tapestry of glittering coastlines, vibrant fields and plunging mines—a vista developed from past industries and Celtic heritage. Throw in some local foodie delights (Purple Moose beer, anyone?), quaint traditional transport and thrilling extreme sports and you've got a postcard-perfect destination. Here's our pick of the best things to do in North Wales. Tidy.
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Best things to do in North Wales
Where is it? Anglesey.
What is it? Daredevil camping on the vertical side of a cliff.
Why go? For a high-octane sleeping experience where you might get the best night’s sleep of your life (but probably not). After you’ve been lowered down onto the portaledge (don’t worry you’re hooked up the whole time) you'll get to relish the cliffside vista, where day slowly turns into night. After you’ve snoozed, you’ll be hauled back up to solid ground for some much-needed and well-deserved brekkie.
Where is it? Hawarden.
What is it? A stunning residential library that opened to the public in 1906.
Why go? It’s a remote grade 1 listed building where you can do so much more than read (but obviously, do that too - there’s over 250,000 books). Spend some time reflecting in a super-snug reading room or better still, use the distraction-free space to unleash your poetic juices. When you're ready to wind down, go for a cwtch in one of the simple, comfy guest rooms.
Where is it? In Snowdonia National Park.
What is it? The highest mountain in Wales.
Why go? For incredible views at the summit, which span across the hilly landscape and as far as to Anglesey. If you’re planning on climbing all 3,560ft of Snowdon, proper walking boots are a requirement (sorry, your plimsols won’t cut it here). Once you’ve made your descent, refuel on home-made chips at local, cozy caff Pete’s Eats, which made its reputation by feeding Snowdonia’s hungry (and exhausted) climbers.
Where is it? Porthmadog, Betws-Y-Coed and Criccieth.
What is it? A mouth-watering famous Welsh ice-creamery.
Why go? Wales may be pretty chilly for most of the year, but a trip to Cadwaladers is still a must. Here’s the scoop: their range includes a locally-loved vanilla (which has a top-secret recipe), fruity flavours, various chocolates and smooth sorbets. If you can only eat one item off the menu, make a beeline for the Crunchie waffle sundae - just make sure you're wearing your comfiest trousers (aka: the ones with an expandable waistband).
Where is it? Llandudno.
What is it? The only public road, cable-hauled tramway in the UK - which made its debut in 1902.
Why go? As Orme’s iconic and whimsical mode of transport climbs for an astonishing 1500 metres through Great Orme Country Park, you’ll have spectacular views that reach all the way to Blackpool and the Lake District. The wildlife is pretty impressive too - look out for Orme’s rare butterflies and the wild and shaggy Kashmiri goats who you’ll notice nibbling on juicy berries.
Where is it? On the west coast.
What is it? A romantic, Italian-style village in Gwynedd.
Why go? It may be a tourist village and not exactly the most accurate representation of Welsh culture, but Portmeirion is incredibly unique. Designed by Sir Clough Williams-Ellis between 1925 and 1976, the Mediterranean-inspired, clifftop village has lush gardens, beautiful buildings and sandy beaches. Don't miss the pet dog cemetery where one rather eccentric past resident laid several of her furry friends to rest.
Where is it? Blaenau Ffestiniog.
What is it? Extreme, subterranean bouncy-castling.
Why go? Bounce Below have set up shop with a Goonies-style kidulting adventure, in a vast cavern in Blaenau Ffestiniog. As you step inside, colourful lighting illuminates the towering slate walls. Then, you'll bounce across web-like nets and slide down six different levels - the tallest of which is comparable to two double-deckers. Good luck if you've got an aversion to heights.
Where is it? The south of Anglesey island.
What is it? A huge salt factory, whose products are world-renowned (even Barack Obama's a fan).
Why go? Lovers of the salty stuff can enjoy a Saltcote tour, where staff members walk you through the inner workings of the factory, the history of the condiment and a tasting session. When you hit the gift shop, bundle jars of delicious salted caramel spread into your basket - all of which have the Halen Môn seahorse stamp of approval. Heaven.
Where is it? On the Caernarfon waterfront.
What is it? A picturesque riverside castle erected by King Edward I.
Why go? Expect to find imposing polygonal towers, colour coded stone and glossy waters at this Welsh castle. Built in the 13th century, where a Norman motte-and-bailey castle once stood, Caernarfon is a grand world heritage site known locally as the 'legend of the sky'. Two of the stone towers now play host to the Royal Welch Fusiliers Museum.
Where is it? Conwy.
What is it? The smallest house in Great Britain, as recognised by Guinness World Records.
Why go? To get a taste of what life might have been like if you were the Welsh fisherman who lived there (and had to do all of his cooking and washing outside). Measuring at only 10ft tall, the quaint, 16th century Quay House actually has two floors, although that’s pretty hard to believe until you step inside. Tours run throughout the Summer and it’s not far from Conwy Castle - so you can experience how both halves lived.
Where is it? Anglesey island, across the straight from Bangor.
What is it? An infamous North Welsh village with the longest name in Britain.
Why go? Although the iconic name may look like a tongue-twister to those who don’t speak Welsh, it’s not easy to get your mouth around the English translation either: ‘The church of St. Mary in the hollow of white hazel trees near the rapid whirlpool by St. Tysilio's of the red cave’. Phew. When you visit, don’t forget to get your mate to take a photo next to the railway sign, one of the longest in the world - if you can get it all in one snap.
Where is it? Porthdinllaen.
What is it? A charming little inn with a big reputation.
Why go? Because it’s a local gem that's repeatedly called the best pub in Wales. You’ll have to leave your car behind though, because Tŷ Coch is literally on the beach front. After a quick jaunt across the sand, grab your favourite bevvy and take a seat outside to soak up all the seaside ambience. Sorry (not sorry), but it beats city boozers hands-down.
Where is it? Dolgarrog.
What is it? The UK’s only artificial surfing lagoon.
Why go? Dude - are you tired of your tedious treadmill and yoga combo? Switch up your exercise routine with a sweaty surfing sesh, where you’re guaranteed to catch some waves. Even if you're a complete novice, the lessons at Surf Snowdonia help you hone your tidal technique. When it's time to recoup, grab a ham sarnie at the surf-side cafe before hitting the hay in a compact glamping pod.
Where is it? Ruthin town.
What is it? An gallery-cum-studio-cum-arts-and-craft-centre.
Why go? You’ll gloss through galleries of contemporary, cutting-edge craft and get a behind-the-scenes peak into the artist studios, where clay and glass are being manipulated into masterpieces. Even the venue is impressively designed - which is why they’ve won a Dewi Prys-Thomas Award, amongst a few others.
Where is it? Just outside of Wrexham.
What is it? A world heritage site known as ‘the stream in the sky’.
Why go? Given that it took ten years to complete and build, this formidable structure is an architectural feat. Created by Thomas Telford and William Jessop in 1805, the aqueduct carries the Llangollen Canal over the River Dee and vessels still chug along it today. Hop onboard one of the daily boat trips to enjoy the awe-inspiring backdrop from 100ft in the air.