Wales can often feel like the neglected middle child of the UK, especially North Wales which often ends up in the shadows of its southern cousins, fighting for attention with the likes of Pembrokeshire or Cardiff. Therefore, it’s time we give Wales the love and admiration it deserves! Being underestimated can work in Wales’ favour however, as a great of deal of the country’s best bits are often in uncharted territories. There’s more to Wales than sheep and miners, you just have to dig a little deeper…
With the natural landscape North Wales is blessed with, it has long been seen as a Mecca for climbing, mountain biking and kite-surfing; in fact, pretty much any outdoor activity you can think of. In recent years this has been taken to a new level. The UK’s first inland surf-lake opened in the Conwy Valley last year with surfers from around the world flying in to try out the wavegarden. The good news is complete novices are just as welcome as the pros and it’s a great way to have a taste of surfing with guaranteed waves. If you have a need for speed, head to Bethesda and the Penrhyn Quarry; home to ZipWorld – the longest zip line in Europe and the fastest in the world, where you can expect to reach speeds in excess of 100mph. For those of you who wish to indulge their inner child head to Bounce Below, which is basically full to the brim with giant trampolines, walkways, slides and tunnels suspended in a giant underground slate cavern.
For starters, a visit to the small island of Anglesey and along the Llyn Peninsula will not disappoint. From surfer’s paradise at Porth Neigwl (Hell’s Mouth) on the tip of the Llyn to Traeth yr Ora (Gold Beach) on Anglesey’s east coast – a quiet arc of (you guessed it) golden sand only reached on foot, where you can sit and watch for dolphins. While on Anglesey you can also check out our future monarchs’, Will and Kate’s, ‘quaint’ former residence and it won’t take you long to appreciate why they chose this small island as their first home. Be sure to visit the infamous village of ‘Llanfairpwllgwyngyllgogerychwrrndrobwllllantysliogogogoch’ and see how you fare with the pronunciation of the longest place name in Europe! To see how it’s done, check out this weather man killing it. If you are looking for solitude, far from the madding crowd, you will easily find a beach or cove that you can claim as your own for an hour or two.
3. Welsh Festivals
Wales is home to some of the oldest traditions in the UK, predominantly associated with the Welsh language and thus has multiple festivals annually to celebrate this. One of the most famous of these being the National Eisteddfod which dates back to the 12th century. The festival celebrates music, poetry and theatre – all with a Welsh twist! In 2017 it will be hosted on Anglesey. Though in terms of location, Festival No 6 takes the biscuit. A sophisticated mix of art, culture and music in the fantasy-land picturesque setting of Portmeirion – an Italian village on the beautiful Dwyryd estuary.
With over 600 of them, it’s no surprise that Wales’ castles are Britain’s most popular attraction with foreign visitors, according to a recent Visit Britain report. These sites include Beaumaris, Conwy, Caernarfon and Harlech castles; now collectively declared as a World Heritage Site. Their magnificence remains as imposing as ever. Given they were intentionally built ‘one day’s march apart’, it is easy to visit them all. We recommend you buy an Explorer’s Pass from CADW which will help you save on entrance fees.
5. National Parks
Wales is home to 3 national parks, which, given its small size, means that they make up a very high proportion of the country’s land mass. The biggest of the three is Snowdonia which basically covers the entirety of North West Wales and is home to the highest mountain in all of the British Isles outside of the Scottish Highlands: Mount Snowdon. Climb the 1000 metre mountain and be rewarded with spectacular views and a great sense of satisfaction. Alternatively, there is a railway that take you all the way to the top of the summit with a hot beverage at the cafe waiting for you! The Brecon Beacons and Pembrokeshire are the two remaining national parks and are located in the south of Wales, both have a rustic, wild appeal unlike what you might find across the border!
Where to stay
North Wales caters for budget-conscious campers and luxury hotel-goers, with lots in between. Self-catering holiday cottages are a great option, giving you the flexibility to cater for yourself and have a great base to return to at the end of your day exploring North Wales.
Feature image via Kosala Bandara
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