If you’re looking to bring a group to North Wales, the Royal Victoria Hotel in Llanberis makes for an ideal base. With more than 100 rooms and coach- and minibus-friendly parking on site, from here you can easily visit and enjoy the best North West Wales’ attractions and activities.
In Part One we focused on visitor attractions suited to coach tours as well as smaller groups. In this, Part Two, we’re looking at activities smaller groups can experience. From roaming beautiful gardens to flying along a zipwire at dizzying speeds high above a quarry, smaller groups can experience just about any activity you can think of – and plenty more you can’t! Read on for just a taste of what you can organise for you and your group…
Group Travel Itinerary 1: Slate Adventure #1
Welsh slate is a world-famous industry. Slate from North Wales once roofed the world and this hard, dark rock from our hillsides is still regarded as the finest there is. With such a pedigree it will come as no surprise that the industry has left its mark on North Wales in more ways than one. From spectacular quarries to beautiful country manors built for the quarry owners, tracing the story of Welsh slate can make for fun and fascinating day-trips.
Penrhyn slate quarries, gouged from the mountains above the small town of Bethesda on the A5, make a great starting point for one such story. This still-working quarry now boasts the fastest zipwires in the world. On ZipWorld’s Velocity Two you can travel high above the quarry at speeds of up to 100mph over one-and-a-half kilometres. There are four lines, meaning up to four can “race” each other to the bottom. ZipWorld isn’t just about adrenaline mayhem, however, as you can also enjoy an informative tour of the quarry. There’s also a restaurant on site, where you can watch the zippers fly by.
Groups of 12 or more can attract a 10% discount.
Follow the A5 from Bethesda towards Bangor on the coast and you find Penrhyn Castle, one of the most admired mock castles in the UK. Built on the site of a fortified medieval manor house, Penrhyn Castle was the home of the Penrhyn Barons who made their fortune from slate and the slave trade. Now in the care of The National Trust, Penrhyn Castle contains a fine art collection and a fascinating railway museum, as well as plenty of historical interest. It’s set in extensive grounds, perfect for exploring and taking in the view’s of Snowdonia’s northern mountains and coast.
There are discounts for groups of 15 or more and facilities include free on-site parking, shop and cafe.
Group Travel Itinerary 1: Slate Adventure #2
Penrhyn slate is characterised by its blue colour. Around the town of Blaenau Ffestiniog to the south, it’s more green. This slate itinerary takes in a narrow gauge railway that was built to ship slate from the quarries around Blaenau Ffestiniog to the waiting ships at Porthmadog. Testament to the amount of slate that was exported from here is the small island off the harbour. It’s called Cei Ballast because the island is entirely man-made, created from ballast ships would dump before reloading their precious slate cargo and setting off round the world again.
Take a trip on the Ffestiniog Railway from Porthmadog to Blaenau, just over an hour away. All-Day Rover tickets allow passengers to break their journey at Tan-y-Bwlch, an area of woods, lakes and nature trails. Groups of 20 or more attract discounted fares and at-seat catering can be provided.
Blaenau Ffestiniog has almost remodelled itself to become adventure capital of Snowdonia. As with Penrhyn you can zipwire over slate landscapes at ZipWorld Titan, or mountain bike down a mountain at Antur Stiniog. There’s just as much adventure underground as there is above it. The Slate Caverns at Llechwedd on the hill above Blaenau features three terrific tours, one through mountain quarries and two that take you 500ft below ground and guide you through astonishing man-made caves and subterranean lakes. On these historical tours you’ll learn about the history and the people who worked the mines. For something more fun – but still underground – check out Zip World Caverns, an “assault” course involving cave traverses, zipwires and as much adventure as you can take! For more lighthearted activity, Zip World Bounce Below turns the caverns into a “bouncy castle” network of nets and tunnel slides. Crazy!
Llechwedd offers discounts for groups of 10 or more and Zip World activities for 12 or more guests. The site also features a shop, cafe and even a traditional quarrymen’s tavern!
Group Travel Itinerary 3: Forest Fun
A terrific day trip from Royal Victoria Hotel in Llanberis involves a spectacular drive up the Pass of Llanberis, past famous Pen-y-Gwryd Hotel where Hillary and Tenzing stayed during their training for their conquest of Everest, and along wild and windswept Dyffryn Mymbyr (Mymbyr Valley) to Capel Curig. From here the landscape changes from open, rocky hillsides to coniferous forests. These trees hide mile after glorious mile of walking and mountain biking trails, and more besides as you’ll soon discover!
From the pretty but busy village of Betws-y-Coed you can enjoy walks to hidden lakes, including Llyn Elsi and Llyn Parc. A waymarked river trail along the Afon Llugwy will bring you to the remarkable Miners Bridge, while a little further into the hills you can explore the remains of old lead mines from where the bridge got its name.
There is free coach parking at the side of the railway near the Motor Museum and behind the visitor centre, and a dropping-off and picking-up bay near the station shopping arcade.
If you thought forests were just about walking and biking, the inventive minds behind Zip World will force you to think again. In fact the Zip World group of adventure activities started life as a high ropes course just outside Betws-y-Coed. Now, Zip World Fforest as it’s known, is home to several treetop adventure courses, a giant swing, a “controlled” free-fall jump, and a forest rollercoaster!
There is parking and a cafe on site, and as with all Zip World activities, groups of 12 or more attract discounted ticket prices.
Group Travel Itinerary 4: Gardens Galore
So far we’ve considered fairly active group itineraries, but it’s also possible to take your foot off the pedal and enjoy pristine gardens and parklands with all of North Wales’s beauty as a pretty backdrop.
Garden-lovers will not want to miss a visit to Bodnant Gardens, arguably the most famous of our horticultural wonders. Explore 80 wonderful acres of lawns, borders, a glorious laburnum arch “tunnel” (May is the best time) and a wooded dell with river and pools. Bodnant is about an hour’s drive from Royal Victoria Hotel, making it an easy day trip.
A similar distance south of the hotel, on the way to Porthmadog, Plas Brondanw‘s gardens are where Sir Clough Williams-Ellis found much of his inspiration for Portmeirion’s landscaping. Like the more famous attraction, the gardens at Plas Brondanw were conjured up by images of renaissance Italy, with designs that lead the eye to Snowdonia’s wooded hills beyond. Visitors can now explore the house and art gallery too. Booking in advance is essential.
A more recent restoration project has transformed forgotten gardens in a low valley near the small Anglesey town of Menai Bridge into a delightful landscaped retreat. Plas Cadnant‘s formal grounds and natural planting in a wooded valley have been a labour of love for the owner for decades. There’s plenty of free car parking on site for coaches but all groups must book ahead.
Group Travel Itinerary 5: On the Orme
The Great Orme, a huge limestone headland above Llandudno, packs in enough natural and man-made attractions to make it a great day out. To explore it fully would not leave you time enough time to cover Llandudno as well, so we would recommend not trying to cram the two into one day.
One of the main attractions of the Orme is in choosing how you reach the summit. Why drive when you can take the tram, or even the longest cable car in Britain (two miles)? Both bring you to a summit complex with cafe, bar and gift shop.
The tram takes you past Great Orme Copper Mine, the world’s largest prehistoric mine dating back 4,000 years. Guided tours take you through caverns excavated by hand as well as narrow passages and chambers. The informative visitor centre and gemstone shop are worth a visit, too. The Great Orme Explorer ticket combines a trip on the tram, the mines, and an environmental walk with one of the Orme’s wardens. Booking is essential.
Finally, the Marine Drive is an amazing toll road that circles the Orme, from which there are dizzying views of limestone cliffs everywhere you look. It’s one of the most spectacular driving routes in Wales.
- Another good resource for group travel is GroupsNorthWales run by North Wales Tourism. They also provide a round-up of available public coach parking.
Missed Part One of our Group Travel Itinerary suggestions? Click here for a great list of attractions to bring your coach party.
Images courtesy: The Laburnum Arch at Bodnant Garden [CC BY-SA 4.0 (https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/4.0)], from Wikimedia Commons. Great Orme Tramway © Copyright Ian Capper and licensed for reuse under this Creative Commons Licence. Penrhyn Castle, Tanya Dedyukhina [CC BY 3.0 (https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/3.0)]