Our wealth of prehistoric monuments make our medieval castles look positively youthful (well, those fortresses are fantastically well-preserved).
From Bronze Age standing stones to Victorian stately homes, copper kingdoms to slate caverns, steam railways and some of the most beautiful botanic gardens in the UK, man has been making his mark on North Wales for thousands of years.
Whether you’re holidaying on Anglesey, the Lleyn, or in Snowdonia, there’s a wealth of wonderful places to visit and things to see. These are some of our favourites.
It is one of the world’s finest examples of medieval military architecture and it’s right here on Anglesey. Designed by royal architect James of St George, this was the last of King Edward I’s ‘Iron Ring’ of fortresses which he built as part of his conquest across North Wales. Beautifully proportioned and constructed to a concentric wall design, it’s fantastically well preserved. Along with the castles of Conwy, Caernarfon and Harlech, Beaumaris is a UNESCO World Heritage Site. A must-see.
Man has been extracting metal from the rocks here for a very long time – there’s evidence to suggest it was an important mining site as long ago as the Bronze Age. The Copper Kingdom visitors centre tells the story of how copper has shaped the lives of people of Anglesey – and how it made a few of them very rich indeed.
The Din Lligwy Hut circle is an ancient settlement thought to date back to the Iron Age. You’ll find well-preserved village walls and the remains of circular dwellings that once housed a small farming community. There’s a Neolithic burial chamber or cromlech close to the site as well as a ruined 12th-century chapel.
The mountain is the highest point on Anglesey and you’ll find it on the spectacularly rugged west coast of Holy Island. Extensive nature trails wind you through gorse and heather heathland to the summit where you can look out to Snowdonia in the east and - on a clear day at least - the Wicklow Mountains of Ireland in the west. At the summit, you can have a look around Caer y Twr, a 17-acre Iron Age hillfort, as well as a Roman watchtower from the fourth century AD. The cliffs overlook South Stack Lighthouse, reached via 400 steep steps and across a narrow bridge over a deep-water channel. Tours of the lighthouse are available from April to September.
Built in 1775, Llynnon Mill is the only working windmill in Wales. Powered by the winds gusting off the Irish Sea it produces delicious organic stoneground wholemeal flour. There’s an interesting exhibition that tells the story of farming and milling on the island as well as a tea room and a shop where you can buy the freshly milled flour. You can also visit two reconstructed Iron Age roundhouses which give an insight into the settlers who lived and farmed at Llynnon 3,000 years ago.
When it opened to traffic in 1826 the Menai Suspension Bridge was the biggest suspension bridge the world had ever seen. Designed by the Scottish engineering genius Thomas Telford, it transformed transport links between Anglesey, Ireland and the rest of the UK. The bridge is an elegant and iconic part of the Anglesey landscape. You can enjoy a picnic at the base of its towers and a stroll across the short causeway to Church Island, home to a 6th-century Welsh saint and a 15th-century church.
This pair of standing stones is thought to have been erected in the Bronze Age. Three metres tall and a metre wide they are possibly the remains of a stone circle. They frame Holyhead Mountain beautifully.
An elegantly imposing mansion set on the shores of the Menai Strait which is owned and managed by the National Trust. The house is the seat of the Marquess of Anglesey and famous for its Rex Whistler mural and exhibition. Fantastic views to Snowdonia from the gardens: look out for the Italianate terraces, Australasian arboretum and red-squirrel populated woodland.
The Ucheldre Centre is a thriving visual and performing arts centre with a frequently changing programme. The 200-seat performance centre is home to concerts, drama, film and literary events, and the Ucheldre Kitchen offers an excellent ‘home-made’ menu and infamously good cakes. The bookshop specialises in Welsh literature.
The Oriel Ynys Mon is a fascinating museum and gallery which showcases the best of Anglesey’s art, history, culture and wildlife. It’s a pleasure to visit for adults and children alike. The gallery is a leading venue for renowned Anglesey artists like Kyffin Williams and Charles Tunnicliffe (you might recognise his work from the charming Ladybird books he illustrated). In addition to the permanent collection, there’s a changing programme of exhibitions as well as a social history and archaeology gallery. You’ll also find a rather lovely cafe and gift shop. Entrance to permanent galleries is free.
Also known as the island of 20,000 saints, Bardsey Island has been a place of pilgrimage since the early years of Christianity. Over the centuries it attracted thousands of devoted believers to its shores, and you can follow in their footsteps by walking the Pilgrim’s Trail on the Lleyn Coastal Path. On your way look out for St Beuno’s Church, St. Beuno’s Well, Clynnog Dolmen standing stones and prehistoric hut circles at Tre’r Ceiri hillfort. From Aberdaron, you can take a boat trip to visit Bardsey which, according to legend, is the final resting place of King Arthur.
Brynkir Woollen Mill is one of just a handful of woollen mills still in operation in Wales. It produces its own yarn as well as wonderful tapestries, bed covers, rugs, throws and clothes made from 100% new Welsh wool. You can enjoy a self-guided tour of the machinery and visit a shop where you can buy some of the beautiful things they produce.
Set on a commanding headland overlooking Tremadog Bay, Criccieth Castle's history is deeply entwined in the medieval conflict between Wales and England. Built by Llywelyn the Great in the 1230s it was captured by King Edward I in the late 13th century. There’s a visitor centre and bookshop where you can learn more about the castle’s turbulent past, and you can enjoy a walk around the castle walls to breathe in the history and atmosphere of the place. The far-reaching views into the wilds of the Irish Sea add to the captivating atmosphere.
This fascinating museum at Llanystumdwy, just outside of Criccieth, tells the story of one of the greatest statesmen of the 20th century. The museum brings to life Lloyd George’s childhood with a unique display of objects, a film about his life, astonishing 'talking head' speeches, a Victorian schoolroom and library. The Victorian cottage garden is a pleasure to walk around and Lloyd George’s riverside grave is just a short walk away. An enriching and absorbing day out.
A magnificent Grade II listed Victorian Gothic manor house which was built to house the art collection of the widow Lady Elizabeth Love Jones Parry in the 1850s. Now a thriving arts centre which features an ever-changing programme of exhibitions, concerts and performances. Uplifting views from gardens and tearoom to Snowdonia and Cardigan Bay.
You’ll find beautiful plants and trees from all over the world at this wonderful botanic garden in the Conwy Valley. Created by five generations of one family, the 80-acre garden is superbly located, with spectacular views across Snowdonia.
The mighty colossus of Caernarfon Castle is the biggest of Edward I’s ‘iron ring’ fortresses in Wales. It was designed not just as a military stronghold, but as a seat of government and a royal palace. It’s where King Edward and his family lived when they visited Wales. Caernarfon Castle still packs a powerful punch. You’ll find frequently changing exhibitions at the castle, as well as the Regimental Museum of the Royal Welsh Fusiliers.
Conwy Castle is a fantastically well-preserved medieval fortress which, along with the castles of Beaumaris, Caernarfon and Harlech, is listed as a UNESCO World Heritage Site. It’s easy to see why. Built on the orders of King Edward I, it’s one of the finest examples of 13th-century military architecture in Europe. It is enormously impressive and formidable. Hard to believe it was completed in just six years.
A power station in a mountain. Electric Mountain has the look and feel of a James Bond film set. Set against a magnificent backdrop of the towering mountains and dramatic scenery of Snowdonia, it’s home to the largest pumped-storage hydro-electric power station in Europe. An underground tour will show you how this mountain generates clean, green electricity.
Who can resist the romance and excitement of a day out on a steam railway? The Ffestiniog Railway is the oldest independent railway company in the world and its line runs for around 13.5 miles from the harbour at Porthmadog to the historic slate mining town of Blaenau Ffestiniog. It’s a stunning journey through beautiful Snowdonia landscapes. No one comes off the steam train without an enormous smile on their face. A magical experience whatever your age.
The battlements of this fortress spring out of a near-vertical cliff face overlooking the sea. Built on the orders of King Edward I, it’s one of the finest examples of 13thcentury military architecture in Europe. It took an army of 1000 skilled labourers 12 years to construct. The castle boasts two rings of walls and towers and was impregnable from almost every angle. Its secret weapon was a 200-foot long stairway which still leads from the castle to the cliff base which meant besieged inhabitants of the castle could be kept fed and watered. Along with the castles at Caernarfon, Conwy and Beaumaris, Harlech is a fantastically well-preserved medieval fortress which is listed as a UNESCO World Heritage Site. An atmospheric and memorable day out.
This is a proper workshop, rather than a museum, where you can explore the story of slate via an audio tour and a film show. The Inigo Jones Slateworks were founded in 1861 to meet the demand for school writing slates, but the product line has understandably evolved since then. In the shop, you’ll find an assorted array of architectural and craft products – all made out of the 500 million-year-old rock. Refreshments available at the on-site Welsh Rock Café.
Deep beneath the mountains of southern Snowdonia, you’ll have an unforgettable underground adventure. Sail with a mysterious hooded boatman through a magical underground waterfall – your gateway to the dark ages and a time of myth, magic, dragons, giants and King Arthur himself.
At Llechwedd Slate Caverns you get to experience life as it was for a Victorian mining family. Tours start with a ride on the UK’s steepest cable railway which will take you 100s of feet underground to explore the old mine workings. On your way, you’ll hear tales of the miners’ family life – children as young as 12 would work down in these dark caverns. They helped make North Wales the slate capital of the world in the 19th century.
This museum, in the pretty mountain village of Llanberis, tells the story of the Welsh slate industry. And what a story it is. North Wales was once the slate capital of the world and people have been quarrying slate here for over 1,800 years. It’s a story that has shaped this landscape in many different ways.
These beautiful Grade I listed gardens are a wonderful place to stroll around and enjoy an unhurried few hours. Eight miles of paths and trails wind you through 70 acres of rare trees and plant species – some of which were planted over one hundred and fifty years ago. The gardens are also a SSSI (Site of Special Scientific Interest) and are an important habitat for wildlife, including rare horseshoe and whiskered bats, otters and water voles. The gardens accompany a statuesque Regency mansion house (built in the 1830s and also Grade I listed) which was originally the seat of Lord Newborough.
Portmeirion is an iconic fantasy Italianate village located on the beautiful Dwyryd estuary, just a couple of miles south-east of Porthmadog. Designed by the visionary Welsh architect Sir Clough Williams Ellis, it’s surrounded by 70 acres of sub-tropical woodlands and gardens as well as miles of sandy beaches and wonderful coastal walks.
You’ll get a glimpse into the life of a Victorian copper miner at this award-winning heritage attraction which features a self-guided walking tour of the old mine workings. It’s a remarkable and impressive example of how our industrial heritage can be reclaimed, restored and transformed into an outstanding family attraction.
This fascinating woollen mill has been owned by the same family since 1859. You can tour the working mill museum and see the machines which transform raw Welsh wool into beautiful bedspreads, tapestries and tweeds. You can then buy some of these beautiful products in the Mill Shop.
Sister to the wonderful Ffestiniog Railway, but by no means in her shadow, the Welsh Highland Railway is the UK’s longest heritage railway. It runs 25 miles from its start next to the awe-inspiring UNESCO World Heritage Site of Caernarfon Castle. From there it steams forth into the foothills of Snowdonia passing lakes, forests and stunning mountain scenery. The journey ends at Porthmadog. The ride is an absolute joy – from the beautifully upholstered period carriages and first class Pullman luxury to the freshly-cooked food which you can have delivered to your seat. Another day out that’s guaranteed to generate big smiles.
Whether you'd like a mountain hideaway or a family-friendly beachside home, we have a cottage that's perfect for you.
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