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8 Top-Rated Tourist Attractions in North Wales

North Wales, one of Britain's oldest established tourist regions, offers an abundance of excellent holiday attractions within a relatively small area. Road signs proclaiming "Croeso i Gymru" ("Welcome to Wales") greet visitors as they enter the country and bear witness to the warm hospitality of the Welsh. The elegant little town of Llandudno is one of Britain's longest established seaside resorts, and the North Wales coast roads offer a tremendous variety of scenery, along with large open beaches and lively resorts, rugged cliffs, quaint fishing villages and countless secluded bays.

Snowdonia National Park - with Wales' highest mountain, Snowdon (3560 ft) - has for centuries attracted climbers and walkers, while the Lleyn Peninsula and the Clwydian Range are also designated as areas of outstanding natural beauty. The area also boasts many historical sites and charming little towns, deep ravines and picturesque valleys, which turn any outing into a voyage of discovery.

1 Snowdonia National Park

Snowdonia National ParkSnowdonia National Park

Snowdonia National Park covers a great deal of North Wales, extending inland from the coast between Penmaenmawr and Caernarfon by way of Bethesda all the way to Bala Lake and Llanfairfechan. Access to a beautiful part of this area, including the summit of Snowdon itself, is made easier by the wonderful Snowdon Mountain Railway, which starts in Llanberis. This wonderful park is one of the most popular hiking and climbing destinations in Britain and offers not only extremely rugged mountain scenery, but also beaches, dunes and valleys, as well as over 50 lakes and smaller pools. The park boasts a rich cultural heritage that includes Roman ruins, prehistoric circles, ancient stonewalls and traditional farms.

2 Caernarfon Castle

Caernarfon CastleCaernarfon Castle

Caernarfon Castle was begun by Edward I in 1283 as a seat for his eldest son, Edward of Caernarfon, the first Prince of Wales. The structure took almost 37 years to complete, and the power and might of the English throne is symbolized by the great stone eagles on the Eagle Tower and the layout of the castle's walls and towers. With its 13 towers and two gates, the massive building is one of the most impressive and best-preserved medieval fortresses in Europe, and occupies the site of an earlier Norman castle by the waters of the River Seiont and the Menai Strait.

The castle has had an eventful history and has withstood many sieges. More recently, it was the scene of Prince Charles's investiture as Prince of Wales in 1969, an event marked by a special exhibition. Be sure to explore the Queen's Tower, home of the Royal Welch Fusiliers Regimental Museum.

Hours: Daily, 9:30am-5pm

Admission: Adults, £6.75; Children (under 16), £5.10; Families, £20.25

Address: Castle Ditch, Caernarfon, Gwynedd

ENLARGE MAP PRINT MAP EMBED < > Caernarfon Castle - Floor plan map Caernarfon Castle Map

3 Llandudno Editor's Pick

Llandudno Llandudno

Lovely Llandudno is one of the most popular seaside resorts in Wales, with two sandy beaches (one on either side of the town) and a picture-perfect promenade. The more easterly of the two beaches, North Shore, is bounded by another headland, Little Orme. A highlight of any sightseeing visit to Llandudno should be the Great Orme Tramway, which has been taking visitors to the top of the Great Orme for its superb views over the Irish Channel since 1902. With the advent of tourism in the last century, this Victorian town became a gathering place for the new middle class, who came here from the nearby industrial regions of Liverpool and Manchester.

The town's magnificent late Victorian pier has been mercifully spared the modern fairground influences so typical of many resorts on the south coast and is a popular hangout for anglers (fishing gear is available for rent at the pier entrance). Mostyn Street, with its superb shopping arcades, is well worth a visit, and is home to a wide range of cultural events and entertainments.

4 Portmeirion

PortmeirionPortmeirion

Located in Tremadog Bay on a wooded peninsula between Porthmadog and Harlech, Portmeirion is famous the world over for being a replica in miniature of a picturesque Italian village. Portmeirion was the brainchild of Sir Clough Williams-Ellis (1884-1978) who dreamed of recreating an Italian village in Wales and had it built on his own private promontory, together with a mansion (now a hotel) and beautiful Gwylt Gardens. This unique property is best visited as part of an overnight stay - when the gates close guests get the whole place to themselves to explore, from its beautiful gardens, fountains and church, to the coastal paths of the lower village. The location for numerous films and TV programs, including the cult The Prisoner, Portmeirion is a must for any sightseeing visit to North Wales.

Hours: Daily, 9:30am-7.30pm

Admission: Adults, £10; Children (4-15), £6

Address: Minffordd, Penrhyndeudraeth, Gwynedd

5 Conwy Castle

Conwy CastleConwy Castle

Conwy Castle is a masterpiece of medieval architecture that took an estimated 2,000 workers to build between 1283-89. And it was completed just in time, as in 1290 Edward I was besieged behind its 12-15 ft thick walls and eight towers by the Welsh. The Great Hall, 125 ft long, is now roofless, but one of the eight arches which supported it has been rebuilt to show the original beauty of the structure. Considered one of Wales' most picturesque fortresses, Conwy Castle features an excellent exhibition on the history of Edward I and his numerous Welsh castles.

Afterwards, be sure to explore the town itself. Located only a short distance from Manchester, Conwy's other highlights include well-preserved 13th century town walls with superb views of the surrounding area; Aberconwy House, a 14th century merchant's house and one of the first buildings to be built inside the town walls; the superbly preserved Elizabethan home, Plas Mawr; and what's reputedly the Smallest House in Great Britain.

Hours: Daily, 9:30am-5pm

Admission: Adults, £6.75; Children (under 16), £5.10; Families, £20.25

Address: Rose Hill St, Conwy

6 The Isle of Anglesey

Penmon Point, AngleseyPenmon Point, Anglesey

The Isle of Anglesey, separated from the mainland by the nearly mile-wide Menai Strait, is spanned by two imposing bridges, the most interesting of which is the Menai Suspension Bridge (1818-26). Along the coast are a series of small seaside resorts which have grown out of fishing villages, while inland you'll find five market towns and many tiny villages all linked by numerous narrow roads. In addition to its mild climate and fresh sea air, Anglesey is blessed with over a hundred miles of exceedingly attractive coastline, its rugged cliffs interrupted at intervals by picturesque sandy bays. Inland, hills provide fertile pasture for vast flocks of sheep.

Highlights include South Stack Lighthouse, the smaller Holy Island (linked to Anglesey by bridge and a popular holiday resort with two promenades, one of them 1.5 mi long), and Puffin Island at Penmon Point, popular amongst birdwatchers. Anglesey is also famous for having the world's longest place name: Llanfairpwllgwyngyllgogerychwyrndrobwllllandysiliogogogoch.

7 Porthmadog

PorthmadogPorthmadog

At the mouth of the River Glaslyn are the twin towns of Porthmadog and Tremadog, tiny industrial centers which attained international importance for the shipping of slate and which today have developed into seaside resorts. From Ynys Tywyn, near the harbor, there are wide views of the surrounding area where the poet Shelley lived for some time, as did Lawrence of Arabia who was born here. The Coed Tremadog woods, a designated nature reserve, are worth visiting and offer many great walking trails. Porthmadog is perhaps best known as the terminus for the oldest narrow-gauge railroad in the world, built in 1836 to transport slate from the mines at Blaenau Ffestiniog. Today, the wonderful Ffestiniog and Welsh Highland Railways offer visitors a chance to explore this beautiful area on over 40 mi of narrow-gauge railway.

Official site: www.porthmadog.co.uk

8 Beaumaris Castle

Beaumaris CastleBeaumaris Castle

Beaumaris Castle, a magnificent moated edifice with sturdy walls and defensive towers located on the Isle of Anglesey, is well worth including in your list of must-see Welsh fortresses. Begun in 1295, it was the last and largest of the fortresses which Edward I built in Wales (a display in the chapel tower details the story of their construction). Exterior walls some 16.5 ft thick with solid corner towers enclose the square inner courtyard, and a water-filled moat presents an impressive first-line defense outside the ring of walls.

Hours: Daily, 9:30am-5pm

Admission: Adults, £5.25; Children (under 16), £3.90; Families, £15.75

Address: Castle Street, Beaumaris, Isle of Anglesey

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