I consider myself very lucky to live in Wales. It is one of the most beautiful countries I have ever been to. I live in the capital, Cardiff. However, whenever I feel the need to escape from the hustle and bustle of city life, I usually take a small roadtrip to Llyn Peninsula – North Wales. One of my best friends is from there, and I’ve been lucky enough that she has shown me some of the most beautiful parts of it!
The areas that I have visited have large Welsh speaking communities. Living in the capital city, hearing Welsh being used in the shops or on the streets is quite difficult to come by. But in North Wales, the majority of the local people speak Welsh as their first language. I am by far not fluent in speaking Welsh (though, I’m trying to learn through my friend!), but I find that the occasional “diolch” (thank-you) goes a long way, especially as a visitor and that only 23% of the population can speak the language. This goes for other countries too: I try to learn at least “please” and “thank-you” in the main language that is spoken at the destinations that I visit.
There are few ways you can get to that part of the country:
- You can drive
- Catch the train – takes 6 hours… and varies in price depending on the season. But the views around Cardigan Bay are beautiful as the train runs right on the coastline along the sea.
- Fly to Holyhead Airport (I’ve never done this, but it’s on the list. The views are amazing, the tickets can be cheap (around £50), and it only take an hour! ✈️)
We usually drive 🚗 and although it takes around 4.5 hours, the route is scenic and there is not a motorway in sight! It’s also really handy to have the car because once you reach the end of the train line, it’s all public transport. This area is quite rural and some places are just not convenient to get to by bus. Having the car doesn’t limit going to wherever we want to go at whatever time.
If the weather is nice, the first stop during the journey is usually the Llyn Clywedog water reservoir. It’s almost half way from the final destination and it’s a really nice place to get some fresh air, catch the sun, and of course take pictures!
Around 2-2.5 hours later, we arrive at Criccieth, a small seaside town made famous by Victorian tourism almost exactly between Porthmadog and Pwllheli. Criccieth is unknowingly famous for several things: it’s where Cadwalader’s Ice Cream was born, where David Lloyd George (Britain’s Prime Minister 1916-1922) lived nearby, and is home to Castle Fish, one of my favourite fish and chips shops 🐟🍟. The shop is located at the foot of Criccieth’s castle (hence the name) and you can choose to takeaway and sit overlooking the sea or sit in at the small cafe at the back. During peak season, the shop can be extremely busy (showing how good it is!), but it’s worth the wait.
The next destination is Llanbedrog; this is where I usually stay during my break. Llanbedrog is around a 20 minute drive away from Criccieth and is a very small village. Nonetheless, it has some small treasures that you’ll find once you start to explore.
Llanbedrog’s location is great – it’s within 15 minute walk from a beautiful beach. Overlooking the beach is a beautiful gallery called Plas Glyn Y Weddw – which hosts paintings and other handmade products from local artists. The building itself is beautiful – it has so many colourful glass windows (when the sun hits them, they create a really gorgeous light) and a grand staircase to take you up to the second floor.
The Plas was purpose built for Lady Love Jones Parry, a Victorian upper class local widow, to host her own art collection. They say that Lady Love’s ghost is occasionally seen walking the landings looking at the art pieces… 👻
The Plas has a small cafe which offers a range of food and afternoon tea. I like grabbing a coffee and a piece of cake before I start my adventure: visiting the Iron Man.
The paths up to the headland near the Plas have been improved, making the walk easier and more enjoyable. Before, you’d have to struggle over wet and slippery rocks on Llanbedrog beach to reach an incredibly steep staircase. If you follow one of the small paths, it will take you up to the top of the headland in around 25 minutes. When you reach the top, the panoramic view of will take your breath away…
On clear days, you can see Snowdon and its neighbouring Eryri mountains in the distance (somewhere I will visit on my next trip to North Wales). You’ll also be greeted by the Iron Man, an art piece which is said to represent the original figurehead from a ship that was placed there by Solomon Andrews, a wealthy Cardiff businessman.
However, if you don’t fancy going all the way to the top, you can go for a walk on Llanbedrog beach. During the summer season, they usually have these colourful beach huts along the edge of the beach that you can rent for the day. The beach is clean and has a small cafe called Aqua where you can grab all kinds of foods (my go to is usually the steak salad 🥗) and drinks. But it’s not my favourite beach in the area as it’s quite pebbly when the tide is not out. Nonetheless, it’s still a nice spot to chill!
Another place I always like to visit and find myself drawn to is Abersoch. A small seaside town popular for its beaches, water sport activities, and restaurants/cafes. Last year, I was brave enough to even swim in the sea there! The beaches are popular spots to jet ski and wakeboard. The surrounding small bays make the tides calm and not as choppy.
I particularly like strolling around the small local shops. The tasty ice cream from a shop called “Two Islands” is so good! I also like to get a coffee/food at the Zinc Restaurant overlooking the marina. Finally, there is nothing I love more than just chilling at the beach reading my favourite book until the sun sets!
Just half an hour drive away from Llanbedrog is one of my favourite beaches; Whistling Sands. As the name betrays, there is a sound the granules make underneath your feet when you walk over the sand. This is due to the unique shape and composition of the sand particles. There are only two beaches in the whole of Europe where you can experience this for yourselves!
The beach is quite big and apart from relaxing it’s a good spot to go surfing. I personally enjoy just walking across the beach and climbing on the rocks!
Aberdaron is also another seaside village which is located at almost the very tip of the Llyn Peninsula. It’s famous for being the starting point of the boat trip over to Bardsey Island. An island which is an important religious site with over 20,000 saints found to buried there. It is an attraction for pilgrims from across the world to this day! There are trips to the island which require an experienced boat driver as the crossing is quite dangerous.
The Zip World Wire & Forest Coster
If you catch yourself feeling adventurous, you should definitely visit the Zip World in Bethesda. There you will find Europe’s longest zip wire. It is an amazing experience, specifically if you share it with friends! The feeling of “flying”, the adrenaline, and the stunning views zipping over the slate quarries make this an experience that you should not miss.
TIP: You should book your tickets online in advance as it is usually fully booked!
On the other hand, if you don’t feel as adventurous but still want to try something different, try the Fforest Coaster! This is essentially a go kart on a track. It takes you through gravity driven twists, turns, and thrills through the forest! It is a unique and definitely fun experience that I enjoyed a lot! At the time, I paid £20 for 3 rounds. You can go on the coaster alone or with a friend (if the weight is under the limit).
I hope that this post will inspire and encourage you to visit and explore the natural beauties of North Wales! Next time, I hope to walk up Snowdon and maybe explore further north in Anglesey, home to the village with one of the longest names in the world: Llanfairpwllgwyngyllgogerychwyrndrobwllllantysiliogogogoch…
Until next time..