We can’t call North Wales a hidden gem when it’s been a tourist haven since Victorian times. But over the past few years, the region has added some truly thrilling attractions that you might have missed. 

North Wales still has breathtaking scenery, sandy beaches, quaint villages and more castles than you can shake a lance at, but now it’s the complete package. Getting a train to North Wales couldn’t be easier. No matter where you are in the country, you’re just hours away from days to remember. Ready to take the plunge? Literally? Read on.

Adrenaline-fuelled Fun

North Wales has always attracted hillwalkers and climbers, but if you’re an active type, your options are now endless. From giggles to sheer exhilaration, here’s what’s on offer.

Zipworld, featuring Bounce Below

Among the mountains outside Blaenau Ffestiniog, some enterprising folk have created Zip World. It’s most famous as being the home to Europe’s largest zipline, which reaches 100mph and is not for the faint-hearted. But that’s not all. Over its three locations, Zip World also hosts Bounce Below (trampolining in a slate cavern) and the Fforest coaster (a 710m wheeled toboggan run) and other attractions

Surfing safari … 10km from the sea

Here’s another human-made wonder: an immense surfer’s paradise built on the site of an abandoned factory. It’s an engineering marvel, but you won’t be thinking about that when you catch the wave and whoop with delight. It’s at Adventure Parc Snowdonia, where you’ll also find climbing walls, ziplines, caving, glamping pods and much more.

Snowdonia National Park

Snowdonia dominates North Wales and boasts more than 90 peaks. The most famous, Snowdon, is the highest British peak outside Scotland and hosts half a million visitors every year. If climbing isn’t your cup of tea, there’s a steam train all the way to the top. And if crowds turn you off, pick another mountain such as Carnedd Llewelyn (Wales’s second-highest), or a gentler peak like Moel Siabod, and you may have it all to yourself.

Betws and Chill

From a riverside picnic in Betws-y-Coed to a cliffside clamber, your North Wales adventure isn’t complete without taking in some of the more pensive pursuits.

Man the ramparts!

You’re never far from a castle wherever you are in North Wales; they’re part of the fabric of the region. Towns like Conwy are built in and around ancient walls, which you can still scale straight from the pavement. Caernarfon and Beaumaris are grand affairs, looking almost like they were built yesterday. But there are ruins, partial ruins and even a few Victorian follies to discover all around the villages and countryside of North Wales.

South Stack Lighthouse

On the easternmost point of Anglesey, a few miles from Holyhead stands this historic lighthouse that’s been a tourist must-visit for decades. Part of its charm is its rugged location, which means you start at the top of a cliff, walk down 400 steps carved into the rock, then ascend 100 or so steps to get to the top of the lighthouse. On a clear day, you might see the Isle of Man, the mountains of Ireland, and perhaps some dolphins down below. Then a quick hop back up the 400 steps and you’re home and dry!

Villages, woodlands and waterfalls

While the mountains can sometimes be bleak, the towns and villages are the exact opposite - welcoming with the glow of open fires, hearty pub meals and friendly locals.

Places like Betws-y-Coed, Beddgelert, Bala and Bethesda are idyllic villages, surrounded by mountains and home to countless camping and climbing shops to get those essential gadgets and outdoor clothing.

Along the coast, expect more hospitality and great fish and chips in Conwy, Caernarfon, Bangor, Llandudno and Colwyn Bay.

Between the mountains, the landscape is often green and lush, with forest walks to enjoy and some spectacular waterfalls: Swallow Falls, Aber Falls and Pistyll Rhaeadr are stand-out examples. They’re all perfect spots to open up your picnic set and breathe in the Welsh air.

Getting there and staying there

North Wales’s rugged topography doesn’t lend itself to high-speed rail links, so the train skirts the coastline along the North then crosses the Menai Straits and heads all the way to Holyhead on the North West of Anglesey. Local train services do branch inland, however, so you can get to many of the places mentioned here by train.

If you’re staying for a week or a weekend, you’ve got options thanks to North Wales’s tourist culture. From 5-star hotels to camping at dozens of sites, you’ll always find somewhere to rest your head. 

Maybe hire a car at Llandudno, Bangor or Holyhead so you can really get exploring, but let Virgin Trains do all the heavy lifting and get you to Wales and back home while taking in some unbelievable scenery.

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