Secret Bangor: 5 places off the tourist trail you must visit

Bangor might not be top of your must-see list on a trip to North Wales but, being only an half an hour’s drive from the hotel, it has heaps to offer for an interesting day out. This small – yet lively – Welsh university town sits on the mainland edge of the Menai Strait and boasts a busy town centre. However, venture beyond the high street and discover a side to the city many people rarely get to see.

In the second of our ‘Secret’ series (you can read our Secret Caernarfon blog here), join us for an alternative tour of Bangor and uncover some new and exciting things to see and do during Wales’ Year of Legends.

1. Storiel Gallery & Museum

Housed in the historic Bishop’s Palace, Bangor’s resident art gallery has recently undergone a huge £2.4 million revamp. The name was chosen to represent the narrative theme of the space, with stories told by the historical artefacts and exhibits of the gallery. Although small, it has an excellent selection of contemporary and historical art on show. Here you can soak up the history of Wales, and better understand its identity and heritage.

You may find it useful to check the website to find out what exhibitions are on during your visit but there’s always lots to see here, including the famous brass model of Telford’s Menai Bridge, the infamous Welsh Not and several medieval sarcophagi.

Bangor museum Storiel

Bangor’s museum of culture and history gives a fascinating insight into Welsh life.

2. The Mostyn Christ

St Deiniol’s Cathedral is the oldest cathedral foundation in Britain. Dating back to 530AD, it was founded and dedicated to Deiniol, a nobleman who became the first bishop of Bangor. Having lost his lands in England, Deiniol was given land by Maelgwn, King of Gwynedd. He set out the boundaries of his new religious house by erecting a simple fence made of sticks and branches, in Welsh called a ‘bangor‘.

Inside the cathedral, you will find one of the most iconic religious artefacts of 15th century Wales. The Mostyn Christ (so-called because it came into the possession of the aristocratic Mostyn family in the 19th century) is a wooden sculpture whose origins are shrouded in mystery.

It is a simple wooden depiction of Christ, seated and bound in the last moments before his crucifixion. Where it came from no one knows but its origins have been the subject of fierce debate over the years, with places including Gwydir Castle, Maenan Abbey and Rhuddlan Friary put forward as possible contenders.

You can visit the cathedral between 10:30am and 4:30pm Monday to Thursday, and until 1pm on Friday and Saturday.

Bangor Cathedral rood

The mysterious Mostyn Christ resides in Bangor Cathedral.

3. Menai Suspension Bridge

Travelling from Anglesey to the mainland was, for many years, a hazardous journey. Navigating the Menai Strait was difficult for even the most seasoned seafarers and boats often sunk in the strong, unpredictable currents. When Ireland joined the United Kingdom in 1800, the number of people crossing the Strait increased rapidly and often included important Irish politicians heading to London.

When Thomas Telford began his ambitious project to improve the journey in 1819, the result was that unrivalled feat of Georgian engineering, the Menai Suspension Bridge. Completed in 1826, it was at the time the largest suspension bridge in the world. The risk of travelling between the mainland and Anglesey was reduced dramatically and it cut the journey time by 9 hours!

To learn more about the history of the bridge, plus view artefacts and informative documents relating to it, visit the Thomas Telford Centre in Menai Bridge.

Menai Bridge Bangor

Telford’s feat of engineering revolutionised travel between Great Britain and Ireland.

4. Bangor Mountain

Bangor Mountain isn’t technically a mountain in the true sense; rearing dramatically up behind Bangor, its mountainous appearance belies its actual size!

It’s a must-see purely because it provides panoramic views of the city, as well as the Menai Strait and the east of Anglesey, including Beaumaris. From here, you’ll spot the buildings of Bangor University and St Deiniol’s Cathedral too. You can find a public footpath onto Bangor Mountain at the top of Ger Y Mynydd road, which is just off the high street.

bangor mountain

It’s all about the views from the top of Bangor Mountain!

5. Bangor Pier

Less well-known than its neighbour in Llandudno, the Grade-II listed Bangor Pier is no less impressive. Step back in time and experience how a typical pier looked in the Victorian era.

Designed by London-based engineer J J Webster for less than the price of a family car today (£15,000), the pier is so long (460m) it almost reaches Anglesey!

The best way to experience it is to promenade like the Victorians; take a leisurely walk and enjoy panoramic views in all directions. You’ll feel transported back in time with its traditional styled lights and wooden walkway. After you’ve taken the air, enjoy a cup of tea and a homemade cake at the Pavillion Tea Room at the end of the pier – trust us, they’re tasty!

In a Year of Legends, historic structures like Bangor Cathedral and Telford’s Suspension Bridge are more important than ever in understanding the Welsh national identity. We hope we’ve inspired you to visit these, and other, secret places in Bangor.

Y Garth Bangor Pier

Bangor Pier stretches 460m, almost touching the shore of Anglesey.

Images courtesy of: Storiel, Deri Tomos, via Wikimedia, 2017. Bangor Pier, © Copyright Alan Fryer and licensed for reuse under the Creative Commons Licence. Bangor Cathedral by Llewelyn2000 via Wikimedia. Menai Bridge, by Ton1959 via Flickr 2013.

Best beaches within an hour’s drive of the hotel

With our hotel located at the foot of Snowdon deep in the heart of the national park, it’s easy to forget we’re just a short drive from the spectacular North Wales coast.

We love nothing more than a bracing beach walk for the sheer contrast to our rugged alpine surroundings. With beaches regularly voted Britain’s best, we think our stunning coastal scenery will capture your heart too.

Whether you’re a walker, a biker, a photographer or just like to explore, we encourage you to take a break from the mountains and castaway to the coast. Here’s our top 5 North Wales beaches, all within an hour’s drive of the Royal Victoria Hotel.

1. Red Wharf Bay, Anglesey – 30 minutes

On the east coast of Anglesey, nestled between Pentraeth and Benllech, sits Red Wharf. Escape to this village on the bay where you’ll find 10 square miles of beach to explore if you visit at low tide.

Red Wharf is a really important natural habitat for Anglesey flora and fauna too. A part of Anglesey’s Marine Nature Reserve, it is a haven for rare plants and animals, the most famous being the pyramidal orchid.

Head over to The Ship Inn after your stroll. Weather permitting, sit outside and enjoy the fresh sea air while tucking into some good food and real ales – the perfect end to a perfect day.

Red Wharf Bay beach

Red Wharf Bay boasts over 10 miles of sandy beach at low tide.

2. Porth Nefyn, near Pwllheli – 40 minutes

Porth Nefyn is a secluded beach on the Llyn Peninsula, with breathtaking views across Caernarfon Bay and the Nefyn Headland. It’s rarely busy, with many visitors heading for its popular neighbours, Porth Dinllaen and Trefor.

Wander the two-mile long stretch of fine white sand enjoying the views and the tranquility before heading back to civilisation and lunch at the world-famous Ty Coch Inn – a waterside pub at nearby Porth Dinllaen.

Porth Nefyn Beach

Porth Nefyn on the Nefyn Headland is wild and scenic.

3. Newborough Beach, Anglesey – 45 minutes

As beaches go, we think Newborough pretty much has it all. There’s watersports for adrenaline junkies, miles of golden sand for the kids and even a touch of Celtic charm for the romantics among you.

Take a stroll along the beach to the serene shores of Llanddwyn Island. The island is famous as the home of Welsh patron saint of love, Santes Dwynwen, a 6th century princess unlucky in love.

You can walk to Llanddwyn at low tide and from here admire views across the Menai Strait towards Snowdonia and the Llyn Peninsula. The church still stands and there’s an old lighthouse and even a small museum to investigate.

Newborough Beach

Search for Saint Dwynwen at Newborough Beach.

4. Portmeirion, near Porthmadog – 45 minutes

Portmeirion is a must-see for anyone visiting North Wales but, did you know, this flamboyant Italianate village has its very own beach? Well, it should come as no surprise really. Sir Clough Williams Ellis based his design on the villages of the Italian Riviera, also known for its wonderful beaches.

Just a short walk from the village, the vast sands expand across the Dwyryd Estuary. It’s the perfect chill-out spot, far enough away from the tourists of Portmeirion and boasting jaw-dropping views of Snowdonia.

Please note: to visit the beach you’ll need to pay the entrance fee to Portmeirion Village.

Portmeirion beach

Pretty Portmeirion has its own hidden beach!

5. Abersoch – 55 minutes

You’re spoilt for choice at Abersoch, where there are not one, but three beaches to choose from!

Main Beach is the busiest in the area, with views of the mountains of West Wales and the nearby archipelago of St Tudwal’s. It’s a safe beach with little current, making it ideal for swimming and watersports. You can even rent a beach hut, so why not make a day of it?

If you’re looking for somewhere quieter, try Harbour Beach. Here you can explore the rockpools along the harbour wall which are exposed at low tide, or just sit and admire the boats as they come and go.

If you love drama, head for Hell’s Mouth. Also known as Porth Neigwl, this beach is a surfing Mecca. This wide bay takes the full force of the Atlantic swells, which conjure the massive waves that surfers love. If you fancy giving it a go, the British Surf Association run a surf school here from April to November every year. Yes, it might be time to dust off that bucket list!

Abersoch beach

Abersoch has three beaches to choose from!

Images courtesy of: © Crown copyright 2016 (Visit Wales).