What kind of things can you do in North Wales? We have a closer look at some activities, unearth some little-known secrets and open the veritable treasure trove of gems to be found in this mythical and magical place.
The Land of North Wales
Although Wales is part of the British mainland, it is also a country in its own right, and not simply by the process of devolution. It is immediately obvious by the scenery that surrounds you that you are entering into a different world once you cross the border into Cymru. Geographically, the country is a place of two halves roughly split between the north and the south. The south is more populated with bustling cities and towns that are surrounded by beautiful hills and valleys. And what of the north? The north is wild, rugged, rural and completely unique. So ... what can you do there?
In one word, Snowdonia. It may sound like a winter wonderland theme park, but this is the playground of pure adventure and natural beauty. Cader Idris is a mountain that lies at the southern end of Snowdonia Park and is second only to Mount Snowdon in popularity. It possibly out-classes its rival peak and is often described as being ‘out of this world’.
Founded in 1874 by a rich, Leicestershire-born Victorian chemist who went by the name of Henry Pochin, this is now a National Trust property following five generations of development. Famed for its floral magnificence, a day spent wandering around the grounds is a day well spent. There is a café or choose from the many benches scattered around for a picnic. RHS members can enter for free and on Wednesday evenings it is open late for contemplative sunset bloom-watching, and your dog can come along too!
This is a huge expanse of beach with mountain views and soft sand underfoot. It is quite a long walk from the car park, but it is worth the trek for the astounding vista. Dogs are restricted between April and September and it is rarely crowded.
The Isle of Anglesey is worthy of a blog in its own right, but here are a couple of things that you could do on a day trip there.
Foel Farm Park
A wonderful setting on a real working farm where kids can meet and feed the animals and go on the rides for free once the very reasonable entry fee is paid. See their website for details. There is a chocolate shop where you can watch the expert chocolatier making their superb range of chocolate treats that you can then buy as presents or for the journey home.
South of the town of Amlwch in north east Anglesey is the site of a large copper mine and it is one of the island’s most popular spots. People have mined metals at this site since the bronze age and it was the largest of its kind in Europe. Now it is a weird and wonderful ‘moonscape’. The network of walks takes in the extraordinary mixture of colours and shadows that stripe the undulating hills.
If you feel the need for speed, this track has something for all petrol-heads. Whether you prefer two wheels or four, there are many driving experiences available to book including a personal ‘Stig’ experience of being driven around the track at incredibly high speed.
For an adrenalin rush of a wetter kind, surfing is a very popular pastime. You can either head for the beach or to this recent addition to North Wales' activity range that was built on the site of a former aluminium-smelting plant. After many successful decades and the growth of the nearby town of Dollgarrog, as trends changed, the plant sadly closed in 2007. An incredible vision and regeneration were then realised following herculean effort and perseverance. The Wavegarden proudly opened its doors in 2015 and it is now a successful attraction that not only supports several large charities, has boosted the local economy and job market, but is a great day out too. It has expanded its attractions to a café, shops, a soft play area and a ‘Crash and Splash Lagoon’. Entry to the park is free for spectators.
Corris Craft Centre is home to talented local designer-makers; you’ll find traditional wooden toys, pottery including the famous smoking dragons, Celtic and contemporary jewellery, hand carved candles, handmade chocolates, the Dyfi Distillery artisan gin, glass sculptures, natural handmade furniture and a range of herbal lotions and remedies. All of these items are handmade on site where you can buy them too.
It's also home to some uniquely different visitor attractions. You’ll need to venture deep in the mountains, and through a waterfall, to enter the magical world of King Arthur’s Labyrinth. Also hidden within the densely wooded mountains is an abandoned Welsh slate mine full of old relics and mining stories – you can explore it and feel it come to life with Corris Mine Explorers.
For a more sedate day out, you may want to visit this educational attraction. It is completely free to enter and tells the very special story of the Welsh slate industry. For any fans of vintage interiors, make sure you visit the workers’ cottages as they are a beautiful journey through time with some fantastic retro furnishings and décor.
Wepre Park, Connah’s Quay, Flintshire
An ancient woodland that is wildlife-rich and steeped in history. The 160 acres has a combination of features that appeal to all. A free children’s playground, a fishing pool, beautiful woodland walks, a skate park, a Visitor Centre and the mystical remains of Ewloe Castle.
Fairy Glen, Betsw-y-Coed
Staying on the mythical trail, there is a secluded gorge that enjoys dramatic scenes, waterfalls and cascades along the Conwy River. Fairy Glen in Betsw-y-Coed is not easily accessible and good hiking boots are recommended, but it is worth it for the magical experience. It is reached from the Fairy Glen Hotel beside the A470 and admission is 50p in the honesty box, plus £1 to park.
Eat mussels. Mussels are a superfood and a nutritious addition to your diet. They are high in omega-3, contain unsaturated fat, which is good for your heart, as well as vitamin C, B-12 and health-boosting minerals. The mussels from this local business are huge, tasty and fresh with colourful shells and a distinctive taste because of the local salt water. These particular mussels are unique to this area of North Wales and are traditionally hand-raked in small wooden boats. The process is completely sustainable, with minimal damage to the seabed and the cost to buy is low too.
If this has whet your appetite and you feel inspired to explore Wales, we have a veritable feast of properties in the country that includes yurts, wooden shacks and beautiful townhouses and even more ideas for things to do.