Our favourite cosy Christmas pubs

At Christmas, there’s nothing quite like enjoying your favourite tipple in front of an open fire and sharing good company with friends while the winter weather wails outside. North Wales has its fair share of cosy, characterful pubs where you can enjoy the resurgence of local real ales and good food made from local ingredients.

Where are the best places to head to after a bracing walk in Snowdonia or on Anglesey? Read on as we share with you half a dozen of our favourite winter-warmer inns.

Our pick of cosy Christmas pubs

The Ship Inn, Red Wharf Bay

A long-time favourite with yachties, visitors and locals alike, the 275-year-old Ship Inn was once known as the Little Quay as it served ale to sailors who passed through Red Wharf’s sheltered port.

Since the early 1970s, this lovely ye-olde pub has been run by the Kenneally family, who have gained a well-earned a reputation for excellent food and real ales. The main room boasts an open fire and as a result is the usually the first to fill up while serving traditional Christmas meals.

The Bull, Beaumaris

The Bull’s traditional bar area boasts two small rooms and can easily get crowded at weekends (and especially during the town’s highly regarded November 5 fireworks display), but in some ways this just adds to the convivial atmosphere of this old place, warmed by a wonderful open fire.

If you want something more substantial to eat than a packet of pork scratchings, head for The Bull’s restaurant, Coach, through doors at the bar of the bar.

Ty Coch Inn, Porthdinllaen

Wales’s poster-boy pub, Ty Coch Inn has been voted one of the top beach bars in the world, though don’t expect open-air bars and palm-leaf roofs here! Once you’ve enjoyed a bracing winter walk on Porth Nefyn and Porth Dinllaen beaches, find sanctuary in this welcoming place with its open fire and real ales.

Make sure you check opening times if you’re planning to pay a visit.

Vaynol Arms, Pentir

Just a few miles from Llanberis, set back from the A4244 between Caernarfon and Bangor, the Vaynol Arms (not to be confused with the pub of the same name in Nant Peris) is the focal point of a small hamlet of Pentir.

This no-nonsense place is extremely welcoming and is well regarded for its pub food and boasts a great open fire.

The Black Boy Inn, Caernarfon

The Black Boy Inn is one of the oldest surviving hostelries in North Wales, built in 1522.

Tucked away in Caernarfon’s medieval heart and within the town walls, this black-and-white place has plenty of charm with roaring open fires, oak beams and plenty of Welsh character. Expect to hear Welsh spoken by the locals – why not have a go?

The Black Boy Inn invariably serves award-winning real ales from breweries such as Beavertown, Cantillon, Magic Rock, Brooklyn, Darkstar and Tiny Rebel.

Pen-y-Ceunant Isaf Cafe, Llanberis

Ok, not strictly a pub, but this teeny place makes a cosy retreat after you’ve hiked up Snowdon via the Llanberis Path. Find it at the edge of the village at the start/end of the path. It welcomes hungry and thirsty hikers throughout the year and will typically boast a real fire and a lovely Christmas spirit.

Pen-y-Ceunant Isaf only serves light snacks, but the food is local and so are the drinks. As well as soft drinks, choose from Snowdon Lager, Celtica Light Ale, Welsh Black Dark Ale, Rosie’s Cider and Penderyn Welsh Single Malt Whisky.

Five breathtaking winter views in Snowdonia

You can enjoy fabulous winter views of Snowdonia’s deep valleys and craggy mountains from almost anywhere within the national park. Yet some places just find that sweet spot, where you just have to stop and catch your breath as you gaze at the landscapes before you.

Some are easy to reach by car – you can even enjoy the view through your windscreen if you wish. Others take a little effort to find, but the rewards are worth it.

We’ve listed our five favourite winter viewpoints here. Most of the time, these approaches by car and on foot are ok even when there is snow higher up, but do check the weather forecast before you set off and be prepared to abandon your journey if the weather turns.

1: Cwm Idwal from Llyn Idwal

 

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This classic alpine cwm is a natural amphitheatre of rock slabs and scree gullies. Facing north-east, its steep sides remain locked in ice and snow long after the early spring sun has melted it elsewhere. The highlights are the Idwal Slabs on your left and, across the glacial lake of Llyn Idwal, the huge gash in the cliff walls known as Devil’s Kitchen.

Park the car at Ogwen Cottage on the A5. It can get busy here but please avoid leaving your car directly on the road. A signed path leaves just to the left of the kiosk serving snacks and follows a slabbed path over gushing streams and frozen pools. The path winds its way up to Llyn Idwal (about 20 minutes if you take your time – and you should).

The view from here is jaw-dropping. On a summer’s day, Snowdonia can seem fairly benign, but Cwm Idwal in winter will help you understand why Hillary and his team used this part of the world to train for his world-first ascent up Everest.

2: Snowdon from Nant Gwynant Viewpoint

 

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This is perhaps one of the most popular viewpoints in Snowdonia, but with good reason. Just a mile south of Pen-y-Gwyrd Hotel on the A489 to Beddgelert there is a small car park and viewpoint with information. It’s easy to find and practically impossible to drive past without stopping to take a look!

The view across Nant Gwynant contrasts a more gentle countryside around Llyn Gwynant lake in the valley far below with the fearsome ramparts of Snowdon’s Y Lliwedd (East Ridge) and Crib Goch (Red Ridge), forming the mountain’s legendary horseshoe. Even the presence of pipes from Cwm Dyli hydro-electric power station (the oldest in Britain) takes nothing away from the natural splendour of this spot.

If the car park is full there is a further pull-in a little further down the hill towards Beddgelert. Do take care on this road as it can be quite busy and it becomes a wide single-track at this point.

3: Dinorwig Quarry Viewpoint

 

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An abandoned slate mine may not seem like the obvious place for an incredible viewpoint. Yet the viewing platform high above Llanberis in the midst of the vertical faces and slag of the disused Dinorwig slate quarry gives vertiginous views towards Snowdon, Llyn Padarn lake and the Llanberis Pass, in the middle of an other-worldly landscape as fascinating as it is austere. Plus, you may catch a glimpse of feral goats clambering over the slate!

Follow the minor road into and through Dinorwig village and park at the bus turning point (there is plenty of room, but be mindful buses do turn here!). There is an obvious path through a gate into the slate quarry. This level walk on loose slate pieces brings you in about 10 minutes to the viewing platform, fenced off for safety. From here you enjoy a wonderful view across Llyn Padarn to the east (and Anglesey beyond) and across to Snowdon and its outlying summits Moel Eilio, Foel Goch and Moel Cynghorion.

If you continue along this path (it’s fenced for your safety) you can explore more of Dinorwig quarry and wander as far as Nant Peris. Return the way you came or make a loop using the A 4086 (there is a pavement along this stretch).

4: Pont Croesor to Cnicht and the Moelwyns

 

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This isn’t an official viewpoint, but this river crossing in the Glaslyn levels provides a wondrous vista that incorporates the triangular (Welsh Matterhorn) peak of Cnicht, Snowdon, Moel Hebog and the Moelwyns. Add in the proximity of the Welsh Highland Railway and the Glaslyn Osprey Project, and there is plenty here to keep you occupied.

Use the car park for the Pont Croesor railway halt (despite its name, the bridge crosses the Afon Glaslyn) which also serves the Osprey project charity, centre and cafe. From the bridge looking you have a grandstand view of remote Cwm Croesor, with Cnicht on the left and Moelwyn Mawr on the right.

Why not visit the Glaslyn Osprey Project via a trip on the Welsh Highland Railway – and enjoy the views on the journey to and from Pont Croesor as well as during your visit?

5: Snowdon and the Nantlle Valley

 

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Not many visitors explore the Nantlle Valley, stretching from Talysarn in the west to tiny Rhyd Ddu at the heart of Snowdonia National Park. Driving from Talysarn, the B4418 abruptly crosses the valley floor just south of Nantlle village, and in so doing provides a lovely surprise view to the right, east across placid Llyn Nantlle Uchaf lake and up the valley towards Snowdon summit, neatly cradled by the valley’s steep sides.

Sadly there is no public access to the lake shore, but you can park in a small lay-by, just before the National Park sign. Handily, there’s a wooden bench here too, so you can take a seat and just enjoy the view – if you don’t mind the odd passing car.