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The 15 best things to do in North Wales

From adrenaline-filled adventures to total tranquillity on the beach, these are the best things to do in North Wales

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Written by
Katherine Lovage
&
John Bills
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There’s loads to do in the Welsh capital of Cardiff, but wander north and you’ll discover a wealth of attractions woven among 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 ancient 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.

Done something on this list and loved it? Share it with the hashtag #TimeOutDoList and tag @TimeOutEverywhere. Find out more about how Time Out selects the very best things to do all over the world.

Best things to do in North Wales

Climb to the very top of Wales

Where is it? Yr Wyddfa, Snowdonia National Park

What is it? Only the highest mountain in all of Wales

Why go? The beating heart of Snowdonia National Park, Yr Wyddfa thrusts itself 1,085 metres into the sky, making it the highest peak in Wales and the third highest in the UK. Conquering the peak sits somewhere in between a doddle and a real challenge, although underestimate this hike at your peril. It takes anywhere between five to seven hours to climb, although the less adventurous can always take the scenic one-hour train ride to the top of Wales.

Get lost in a book at the UK’s finest residential library

Where is it? Gladstone’s Library, Hawarden, Flintshire

What is it? A national memorial to former prime minister William Gladstone and a gorgeous residential library, all in one

Why go? Gladstone’s Library is more than just a library, although it is very much a place where literature takes charge. There are more than 250,000 books here, after all, so there’s no shortage of words to get lost in, but this beautiful Grade I-listed building is also a memorial to four-time PM William Gladstone, the man who founded it way back in 1894. There is also an on-site restaurant and plenty of comfortable rooms, for when the heady mixture of history and fiction becomes too much.

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Transport yourself to a quaint Mediterranean village

Where is it? Portmeirion, Gwynedd

What is it? A tourist village constructed in the style of sleepy Italy

Why go? Sir Clough Williams-Ellis should be plenty proud of his work. Built between 1925 and 1973, Portmeirion is the brainchild of the Welsh architect, a man who wanted to show that a naturally beautiful location could be developed without spoiling it, and this gorgeous collection of architecture and atmosphere is proof that he was correct. The end result can be construed as a sort of Welsh Disney minus the kitsch, a quaint village that exists for those who come to visit and those alone: an homage to the serenity of Mediterranean fishing villages found just a couple of miles from Porthmadog in North Wales.

4. Sink a pint before walking the pier

Where is it? Bangor, Gwynedd

What is it? The second-longest pier in Wales, handily placed next to one of the finest pubs in North Wales

Why go? It might not be quite as long or as idyllic as Llandudno’s pier but Bangor’s walkway is well worth a ramble, especially as the sun edges closer to the horizon. Officially known as Garth Pier, the promenade has seen its fair share of problems over the years but is fighting back, with public support and goodwill-a-plenty. The Tap and Spile Pub is perfectly placed at the entrance to the pier and is as genuine as old pubs get, with a great beer list, better pub grub and no shortage of pub-centric activities.

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Pay the toll at Conwy Suspension Bridge
Photograph: John Bills

5. Pay the toll at Conwy Suspension Bridge

Where is it? Conwy, Clwyd

What is it? A stunning suspension bridge connecting Conwy Castle to all who enter

Why go? Conwy Suspension Bridge was constructed by Thomas Telford in the early dawns of the nineteenth century, and its picturesque compatibility with Conwy Castle is no coincidence. The bridge (one of the first road suspension bridges in the world no less) was designed with its neighbouring fortress in mind, making for a combined aesthetic that is as sumptuous as North Wales gets. The bridge is now open only to pedestrians, and walking across it before exploring charming Conwy is a must.

Sample world-beating salt

Where is it? Halen Môn, Brynsiencyn, Anglesey

What is it? An independent company producing salt that has been enjoyed by Barack Obama, among others

Why go? Salt is integral to the story of humanity, and the story is just one of the reasons why Halen Môn Anglesey Sea Salt is an absolute must-visit in North Wales. Established in 1997, the family company has since won awards and provided salt for presidents and sporting events alike, but there is a down-to-earth quality to its tours and products that is enduringly charming. Head to the on-site shop and pick up some culinary gold before trying out one of the many recipes posted on Halen Môn’s website.

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Learn about faithful Gelert in a gorgeous village
Photograph: John Bills

7. Learn about faithful Gelert in a gorgeous village

Where is it? Beddgelert, Gwynedd

What is it? A beautiful village of fewer than 500 people that is home to one of the nation’s most beloved folk tales

Why go? Beddgelert is well worth a visit in its own right: it’s a toytown village of stone buildings and verdant scenery at the confluence of the Glaslyn and Colwyn rivers. According to legend, the village is named after the folktale of the faithful hound Gelert, Llywelyn the Great’s protective dog who met a most unfortunate end. Beddgelert literally means ‘Gelert’s Grave’, although there are differing opinions on the accuracy of the town’s name. Even so, Beddgelert is packed with darling cafés and makes a great starting point for climbing nearby Moel Hebog, another peak in the Snowdon mountain chain.

Support the oldest football team in Wales
Photograph: WikiMedia/David Powell

8. Support the oldest football team in Wales

Where is it? Wrexham, Clwyd

What is it? The third-oldest football club in the world and the oldest in the country, with new celebrity owners.

Why go? Interesting times lie ahead for long-neglected Wrexham. Once the largest town in Wales and industrial powerhouse, Wrexham has long been a town in need of some good news, but nobody would have guessed that it would come in the guise of Hollywood actors Ryan Reynolds and Rob McElhenney. The two comedians took over the oldest football club in Wales in early 2021, proving once again that anything is possible in the wacky world of professional football. Head to the Racecourse Ground for a match before stopping for lunch at the gorgeous Grade II-listed Lemon Tree hotel and restaurant.

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Conquer the Ring of Iron

Where is it? Various locations on the north coast and Anglesey

What is it? A collection of Edwardian castles that represent the beginning of English rule over Wales

Why go? The Welsh relationship with its famous castles is notoriously complex but that doesnt change the aesthetic majesty of these twelfth-century fortresses. Built by King Edward I to solidify his conquest of Wales, the castles in Conwy, Harlech, Caernarfon, Beaumaris and the rest are among the most visited and most photographed structures in the nation. The fortifications also act as a handy itinerary for exploring the best that North Wales has to offer.

Follow the White Rabbit in Llandudno
Photograph: Flickr/Peter Hughes

10. Follow the White Rabbit in Llandudno

Where is it? Llandudno, Clywyd

What is it? An Alice in Wonderland-themed way to discover a royal Victorian resort

Why go? Llandudno was where Alice Liddel spent her summer holidays, and there is plenty of speculation that family friend Charles Dodgson was inspired enough to write a book about it all. Of course, Charles Dodgson is better known as Lewis Carroll, and the book in question has become one of the most popular on the planet. The legitimacy of the connection is continually up for debate but that didn’t stop the town from making the most of it, devising a White Rabbit trail that traverses the many sights in the centre of Llandudno.

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Get the adrenaline pumping in the underworld

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. 

Learn to say ‘Llanfairpwllgwyngyllgogerychwyrndrobwllllantysiliogogogoch’

12. Learn to say ‘Llanfairpwllgwyngyllgogerychwyrndrobwllllantysiliogogogoch’

Where is it? Llanfairpwllgwyngyllgogerychwyrndrobwllllantysiliogogogoch, Anglesey

What is it? The longest town name in the UK and a popular train station photograph

Why go? There isn’t much to do in this famous Anglesey village outside of take a photo of the sign at the train station, but that doesn’t stop Llanfairpwllgwyngyllgogerychwyrndrobwllllantysiliogogogoch from being one of the most popular niche tourism destinations in Wales. For the record, the name translates as ‘St Mary’s Church in the hollow of the white hazel near a rapid whirlpool and the Church of Saint Tysilio of the red cave’, if you were wondering.

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Where is it? Pontcysyllte Aqueduct, Llangollen

What is it? An 18-arch aqueduct that deservedly joined the Unesco World Heritage list in 2009

Why go? Another piece of magic from the mind of Thomas Telford, the Pontcysyllte Aqueduct is much easier to admire than it is to pronounce (pont-kuh-sithl-tuh, or thereabouts). Opened in 1805, this 18-arch beauty is the highest navigable aqueduct in the world, a gorgeous piece of architecture that allows the Llangollen Canal to safely navigate the River Dee below. A footpath leads along one side of the canal for those after a bird’s eye view of the surrounding scenery, although the aqueduct itself is arguably best enjoyed from afar.

Explore a gorgeously isolated peninsula
Photograph: WikiMedia/skinsmoke

14. Explore a gorgeously isolated peninsula

Where is it? The LlÅ·n Peninsula

What is it? An Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty that attracts walkers, hikers and all the rest

Why go? Of the five AONB in Wales, there is something about the LlÅ·n Peninsula that draws deeper breaths than the rest. Maybe it is the serenity, the tranquillity, the unbroken peace of the place, a part of Wales that is every bit as unspoilt as the description suggests. Criccieth is the ideal base for exploring the peninsula, a rugged stretch of land best enjoyed on foot and at a leisurely pace. In great contrast, nearby Abersoch has developed itself a vibrant reputation for wakeboarding and other water-based adventures.

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