Discover… Caernarfon

Caernarfon is a place of contrast; bringing the rich history of a grand medieval castle, tactile stone town walls, cobbled lanes and ancient port to the modern, living Welsh town complete with great shopping, proper pubs and its fair share of adrenaline activities to boot.

This is a beautiful market town which is bursting with culture; a UNESCO World Heritage Site, the remains of a Roman fort, quirky eateries and, of course, the Welsh language. In fact, Caernarfon is proudly home to one of the highest percentages of Welsh speakers in the country!

And we can’t talk about bustling Caernarfon without mentioning its superb setting – perched on the North Wales Coast with beautiful views of the Menai Straits, encompassed by the dramatic mountains of Snowdonia and dominated by a majestic castle. It’s pretty spectacular, to say the least!

Today, Caernarfon remains a fantastic location for history-buffs, culture lovers and adventurous families alike – let’s dive a little deeper and discover all it has to offer.

walk North Wales

Things to do

1. Caernarfon Castle

It’s arguably the most famous of all Welsh castles (and we’ve got many), and for good reason, too! There’s no denying the incredible scale and imposing presence of Edward I’s Roman-inspired Caernarfon Castle.

This magnificent fortress, along with its robust town walls, was ordered by Edward back in 1283 to, basically, show the Welsh who was boss. And, he really did mean business – along with castles at Harlech and Conwy, his ‘iron ring’ cost a mighty 90% of the national English income.

It might seem like an obvious choice, but you absolutely can’t miss a trip to Caernarfon Castle. While you’ll see it whether you like it or not (it’s pretty hard to miss), it’s worth actually heading inside and having a proper explore of the impressive towers, battlements and insightful Royal Welsh Fusiliers Museum.

2. Segontium Roman Fort

Many people assume Caernarfon’s roots lie in its famous castle, but in reality, the town’s history stretches far further back than Medieval times. A few minutes outside of the town centre is Segontium, the remains of the largest excavated Roman fort in Wales.

This jaw-dropping Roman military and administrative centre survived until the fourth century. Now in the safe hands of the National Trust, a visit to the remains and on-site museum are an absolute must – if you’re lucky, you’ll be in town on the day of one of their amazing Roman reenactments.

3. Beacon Climbing Centre

You might feel that you’ve had your fair share of adventure sports for the trip after go-karting, but this is North Wales – there’s always more adrenaline activities coming your way! Beacon Climbing Centre is the largest indoor climbing centre in the area and is a great way to spend a rainy Caernarfon afternoon.

If you’re new to climbing, we’d recommend booking onto CrazyClimb – a fun and chilled-out introduction to climbing for the whole family.

4. Menai Strait Pleasure Cruises

Visiting between May and October? Don’t miss out on a trip across the beautiful Menai Strait. This family-run business (currently on the 6th generation of ship pilots) offer 40-minute boat trips on the legendary ‘Queen of the Sea’, complete with full commentary and stunning views across the Snowdonia mountain range.

Where to eat

1. Osteria

Tuscan food in North Wales? Why not! Osteria has taken Caernarfon by storm since it opened its doors just a few years ago, offering a taste of traditional Tuscany, nestled within the 13th-century town walls. The prices are reasonable, the food authentic and the staff always smiling – a great place for a laid-back evening meal.

2. Y Gegin Fach

We are in North Wales, so as well as indulging in some delicious Italian, it’d make sense to try out the local cuisine as well! Y Gegin Fach, which translates to ‘The Little Kitchen’ is definitely the place to do so. Here, you’ll find the classic Welsh rarebit, faggots and, of course, Welsh cakes, paired with the most charming atmosphere.

3. Black Boy Inn

For another taste of Wales, you have to head to the Black Boy Inn, which was awarded the ‘Welshest Restaurant and Pub in the World’ back in 2016 (yes, really!). This place dates way back to the 16th-century and is what we’d call a ‘proper’ pub – open fires, oak beams, Welsh charm, real ales and hearty dishes.

Where to shop

1. Inigo Jones Slate Works

Dating back to 1861, this historic Slate Works originally produced school writing slates. Today, however, they offer an amazing selection of domestic, craft and gift items made from 500-year-old Welsh slate. This is a great place for a wander and souvenir shopping – plus, you can even take a self-guided tour and engrave a piece of slate to take home!

2. Ty Siocled

Visitors with a sweet tooth should put this gorgeous, artisan chocolate shop is on their must-visit list! Creating seasonal sweet treats – from Valentine’s Day choccie boxes to Christmas stocking fillers – and delicious pastries and cookies, you’ll be spoilt for choice. Find it in the shadow of the castle on Palace Street.

3. Craft Cymru

Take home a memento of your visit to North Wales at this Welsh craft and souvenir shop. Inside you’ll find all sorts of gifts, ranging from handmade textiles to biscuits and even books, all produced or manufactured in Wales, naturally! This is one of five Craft Cymru stores in North Wales; you’ll find other outlets in Porthmadog, Betws-y-Coed, Conwy and Bala too.

Discover… Caernarfon

There are few places in North Wales with a prouder heritage and richer history than Caernarfon. Whether you fancy trying out your fledgling Welsh or just want to learn more about our nation’s history, this is a great place to start and you will be warmly welcomed by locals who are keen to share their majestic hometown.

If we had to pick a place in North Wales with a truly authentic Welsh vibe, it’d probably be here! Located less than half an hour from the Royal Victoria Hotel, why not visit Caernarfon during your next stay with us?

Images courtesy: Caernarfon Harbour by Steve Bryant. Aerial view of Caernarfon by © Copyright Peter Craine and licensed for reuse under this Creative Commons Licence.

Three circular pub walks for a cold winter’s day

Pub walks are a favourite way to spend our free time, especially during more bracing weather beyond the summer season. Enjoy exercise, great scenery and good company before seeking sanctuary in a welcoming hostelry with a lovely drink or meal to finish, perhaps in front of a roaring real fire. Bliss!

North Wales provides lots of opportunities for you to enjoy your own pub walk. To help you decide where to go, we’ve picked our top three circular pub walks – perfect for a crisp autumn or winter’s day.

Aberffraw’s the Crown and the Church in the Sea

This easy, mostly flat five-mile circular takes in the breathtaking dune and coastal scenery around the historic village of Aberffraw on Anglesey’s west coast. It’s hard to believe that in the Middle Ages this tiny, windswept settlement was the capital of the Kingdom of Gwynedd. To reach Aberffraw is an enjoyable 40-minute drive from the mainland bridges, passing sleepy villages with mountain and coastal views on the horizon. The walk uses a section of the Wales Coast Path.

Starting in Aberffraw at the free public car park, cross the old humpbacked bridge and follow the coastal path signs. The walk follows the coastal path along low cliffs to the church of St Cwyfan, known as the Church in the Sea. St Cwyfan stands on the walled island of Cribinau, and is easily reached across a rocky beach away from high tides.

From here, retrace your steps to the lane you passed as you reached Porth Cwyfan bay to complete the circular route back to Aberffraw. All the while you will enjoy great coastal views off the west coast of Anglesey with Snowdonia’s mountains in the distance to the south. In Aberffraw, pop into The Crown for a bite to eat and an opportunity to sample some local Welsh ales. There’s a nice beer garden too, if the weather’s good.

Visit The Crown’s website here.

Dolwyddelan Castle and Y Gwydyr

This circular walk links the riverside village of Dolwyddelan deep in Snowdonia’s Lledr valley to Dolwyddelan Castle. You’ll walk through forests and open country (wet and muddy in places in winter, so wear your walking boots). At the end, rest your feet at Y Gwydyr pub, a warm and welcoming place with food and ales.

Park the car for free at the railway station car park, signposted off the main A470 through the village. Turn left onto the road, left over the bridge and immediate left again. Then turn right onto a gravel forest track. At the fork bear right and continue down towards the river, cross the footbridge to a picnic area, then turn left along a lane. Turn right by a derelict house and follow the waymarked path steeply up the hillside, crossing a track as you climb.

At the edge of the forest cross a stile and follow the waymarked path across the moorland, before a second stile marks your descent. Turn right at a junction, bear right past a ruin and cross another stile before bearing left at a waymarker and through a gate by another ruin. Bear right on the path down a long field and follow the path downhill to a farmyard. Go through the gates, turn left in front of the farmhouse (Bertheos) and follow the path down to the main road. Cross the main road and turn right and after a few metres, turn left over a stile and follow the lane over the old bridge. Take the stile on the left and follow the path up the hillside, following the waymarker posts. This can be wet in winter. Go through a gate and turn right along the lane.

At some farm buildings, where the road bears left, turn right onto a track. Go through a gate and continue ahead over a stile/gate. Where the track forks continue ahead rather than following the more obvious track left. Go through two more gates, and over a stile. Continue ahead on the clear path, descending downhill towards the castle. Take some time to explore the castle ruins before continuing ahead to join a concrete path. Go through a gate and continue down the track to reach the A470. Turn left along the road and walk carefully back into Dolwyddelan, conveniently arriving at Y Gwydyr pub on the left. Your car is just a few yards away from here, so this is a great time for a pub stop!

Visit Y Gwydyr’s Facebook page

Cwellyn Arms and Cwm Pennant

This walk makes use of the newly created Slate Trail, a grand 83-mile route that makes use of old tramways and routes associated with Snowdonia’s slate industry. Start from the mountain village of Rhyd Ddu (park in the pay-and-display car park for the Rhyd Ddu path up Snowdon) but instead of looking to Snowdon’s peak, turn your head the other way to the hills between the Nantlle Ridge and Moel Hebog, and a mountain pass into remote Cwm Pennant. This is where you’re heading! After a good walk you’ll be rewarded with refreshment at Cwellyn Arms down in the village. So let’s go!

Cross the road and follow the newly made Slate Trail path which follows an old tramway across low ground to the north of Llyn y Gader lake. Cross a footbridge and then leave the path by turning right to follow a path back to the B4418 Nantlle road. At the road, take an immediate left and follow the well-marked path. Turn left after the second style (if you keep straight on you’ll climb onto the Nantle Ridge) and stay on this path, into Beddgelert Forest, until you reach a T-junction. Turn right and in a few yards is a sign pointing left for Dolbenmaen. Take this turning and follow the path uphill into the bwlch (pass) and onto an old railway track at the side of a disused reservoir, with Cwm Pennant coming into view ahead of you.

Back-track a little and take a path on your right that leads you through Bwlch Cwm-trwsgl and returns you downhill again into Beddgelert Forest. Follow this path until you reach an obvious junction with the Slate Trail near Hafod Ruffyd farm, close to the Welsh Highland Railway. Turn left and follow this lovely trail – well signposted – along the shores of Llyn y Gader and back to Rhyd Ddu village.

Carefully follow the main road down into the village where you’ll find Cwellyn Arms on your left, serving food and ales. Its lounges boast welcoming real fires in the winter and they are dog-friendly too.

Visit the Cwellyn Arms website here.

Images courtesy: St Cwyfan’s Church crown copyright Visit Wales, 2019. Dolwyddelan Castle by Jeff Buck [CC BY-SA 2.0 (https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/2.0)]. Cwm Pennant by © Copyright David White and licensed for reuse under this Creative Commons Licence.