Winter’s a great time to visit North Wales. The roads are quieter, the best walks are a little less popular, and if you’re lucky you can have a beach all to yourself.
Here are 25 things we recommend you do in Snowdonia and North Wales this winter.
1: Walk up Snowdon
At the height of summer it’s fair to say it can be rather busy at the top of England and Wales’s highest mountain. Less so in winter. Pick your day, get the weather, and try tackling one of the six major routes to the top of this always-impressive mountain.
This website’s a great resource for planning your adventure.
2: Ride a rib boat up the Menai Strait
The best way to see Menai Suspension Bridge, Britannia Bridge and Plas Newydd country house is from the water. Book a place on a fast rib ride and – weather-permitting – enjoy an exhilarating sprint down the beautiful Menai Strait.
Rib Ride offer public trips and private charters.
3: Fly across a quarry
With Top Gun 2 due in cinemas soon, you can feel the need for speed by zooming up to 70 miles an hour along a zipwire cable across a slate quarry. The original Zip World attraction now has a sister site at Blaenau Ffestiniog, where one of the fastest is now joined by one of the longest.
4: Walk to Llanddwyn Island
Park at Newborough Beach car park (fee applies) on Anglesey and walk along a gorgeous beach to the rock-and-marram grass peninsula of Llanddwyn Island. Cut off only at high tides, the island is a mystical, windswept place with coastguard cottages and church ruins, as well as lots of little sandy coves to explore.
See our best beaches to explore.
5: See Snowdonia by train
A network of disused railways – previously used for shipping slate – have been brought back to life by charities and armies of volunteers so that you can explore the valleys of North Wales by train. Visit Festrail’s website and choose between a trip on the Welsh Highland Railway from Caernarfon to Porthmadog, or Porthmadog to Blaenau Ffestiniog.
6: Cycle into the mountains
Start from Port Penrhyn at the coast in Bangor and follow The Ogwen Trail, an off-road section of National Cycle Network’s Route 82 that follows disused railway lines, tunnels and a quiet country lane deep into Nant Ffrancon valley in Snowdonia. The distance to Ogwen Cottage at the foot of Cwm Idwal is 11 miles.
This site has information on cafe stops and slate sculptures you will find en-route.
7: Visit South Stack
Pick a windy day and feel like you’re standing at the edge of the world with spectacular coastal scenery at this renowned Anglesey beauty spot. The RSPB’s Visitor Centre is currently closed for refurbishment but that needn’t stop you spotting puffins, guillemots, kittiwakes, razorbills and even fulmars. Visit South Stack lighthouse too (count the steps as you go!)
8: Marvel at Cwm Idwal
Snow and ice lingers in Cwm Idwal, making this natural rocky amphitheatre one of Snowdonia’s most spectacular locations. A slabbed path leads from the car park at Ogwen Cottage as far as Llyn Idwal’s glacial lake. It’s a relatively gentle pull, still difficult in icy conditions, but worth it for the alpine landscape.
9: Pay respects at Gelert’s Grave
Gelert the faithful dog was accidentally killed by his master when he thought the hound had killed a child, rather than protect it from wolves. Or so the legend goes. See the grave in a gorgeous riverside setting and combine it with a river walk and visit to the chocolate-box-pretty village of Beddgelert.
10: Rollercoaster through the woods
From the makers of ZipWorld, the latest attraction is a rollercoaster through woods near Betws-y-Coed. It’s been an instant hit with adults and youngsters alike. Combine your trip with a go on the high ropes course, Skyride swing and Plummet2, a freefall “attraction” from the tree-tops. Aghhhh!
11: Be a number at Portmeirion
Made famous as the filming location of the 1960s cult TV series The Prisoner (and mysterious Number 6), a winter visit to this beautiful Italianate village is quieter in the winter months. The gardens may not be at their finest but the architecture and the location is more than enough to capture your attention.
Details on visiting Portmeirion on their website.
12: Explore a castle
Who doesn’t like visiting castles? The hard part is choosing which one. Head over to the CADW website and take your pick from Caernarfon, Beaumaris, Conwy, Harlech, Criccieth or just take a short stroll from our hotel front door and wander round the impressive tower of Dolbadarn.
13: Touch a standing stone
Reconnect with your spiritual side and find standing stones and burial chambers across North Wales. Anglesey and the Lleyn Peninsula are dotted with ancient stones and cromlechs, all of which are free to visit – though some may take some finding.
The Megalithic Portal website is a treasure trove of information.
14: Learn to surf
You don’t need to risk life and limb in the rough seas around North Wales to learn to surf the waves. Hire a board and get lessons at Adventure Parc Snowdonia, which features an inland surf lagoon deep in Conwy Valley. The attraction now boasts a huge indoor activity centre, if you don’t fancy getting wet.
15: Watch a film or performance
Perfect for a rainy day, Pontio is Bangor University’s new arts and innovation centre. It offers an eclectic mix of entertainment seven days a week, from the latest film releases to gigs, contemporary circus and aerial theatre, cabaret shows and more.
Visit the Pontio website.
16: Be animaltastic!
Pili Palas has come a long way from its butterfly sanctuary origins. This all-weather animal attraction on Anglesey (just minutes from the bridge) is a great place for adults and children alike, with birds, bugs, farm animals…and meerkats.
17: Learn to paddleboard!
On the tranquil waters of Llyn Padarn near Llanberis, Snowdonia Watersports offers kayak and paddleboard rentals as well as instruction for first-timers and leaners. The scenery around Llyn Padarn will be enough to inspire you to get out onto the water even on colder days.
18: Scramble up Tryfan
One of the most popular scrambles in the UK is a little quieter in winter, though even more treacherous if you’re ill-equipped, inexperienced or not prepared to give in to the weather. Start from the car parks along the A5, from which the only way is up.
This scrambling website provides detail of what to expect.
19: Eat local mussels
What could be better than a steaming pot of fresh mussels and fries served on a cold winter’s day? Head for The Lobster Pot on Anglesey (follow it up with a bracing walk down to pretty Church Bay) or head for the peninsula and Pwllheli’s highly rated Twnti seafood restaurant.
20: Hit the Slate Trail
This 83-mile circular trail brings together former slate mines and quarries via a network of footpaths often using former rail or tramways. It’s a fantastic way to explore the industrial heritage of Snowdonia and get a sense of how once this wild area of North Wales help to put roofs on buildings around the world.
Find out more on the Slate Trail’s website.
21: Bike down a mountain
Unlike most mountain bike trails which make the most of uneven forest terrains, Antur Stiniog near Blaenau Ffestiniog is all about fast downhill fun. Enjoy wide open views of the Vale of Ffestiniog and the Moelwyn mountains, while taking your pick from one of seven trails, graded from blue to black. Best of all, there’s a terrific uplift service to the summit to set you on your way.
Visit the Antur Stiniog website.
22: Watch a slate-splitting demo
After a walk through the other-worldly landscapes of old Dinorwig slate quarry, visit the National Slate Museum just outside Llanberis and learn about the slate industry, the lives of people that worked it, the machinery and the skills they used. The slate-splitting demonstration is among the many impressive things you can experience – all with free entry (some special events may involve charge – check the website.)
23: Find love
Romance your loved one by celebrating the Welsh equivalent of Valentine’s Day on January 25. Known as St Dwynwen’s Day, it follows a tragic tale of lost love centred on Llanddwyn Island (see above). Enjoy a dinner at The Royal Victoria Hotel before a gentle stroll along the lakefront at Llyn Padarn.
24: Visit a Christmas Market
You don’t have to battle huge crowds in Manchester or York to enjoy a traditional Christmas market. Combine a break to North Wales with a visit to a local fair and enjoy a taste of festive spirit, Welsh style. Find events in Beaumaris, Caernarfon and Conwy among others, each with their own character and attractions (sword fighting in Conwy, for instance!)
25: Just walk on a beach
There are more than 100 beaches in North Wales, according to the Good Beach Guide. Pull on a pair of boots, stick on a woolly hat, and go for a walk. They say a walk is good for the soul!