How to enjoy a car-free break to North Wales

You can leave Manchester or Liverpool and be checking-in to the Royal Victoria Hotel in Llanberis within three hours. From Euston in London, you can be gazing up in awe at Snowdon within four hours. These times are by taking a train to Bangor and then a taxi to Llanberis – no car! No motorway! No traffic jams!

With Snowdonia, Anglesey and the Llyn Peninsula making up a relatively compact area, and Llanberis at its heart, it’s easy to leave the car at home and enjoy a fabulous break at our hotel. And by not driving, you can look through the window and fully appreciate our stunning scenery.

This article provides a brief summary of the options you have if you choose to leave your car at home.

Getting here without a car

The quickest and easiest way to get to Snowdonia is by train. Bangor is the best jumping-off point, though there’s a really scenic alternative you can take – more of which later.

From Manchester it takes about two and and a half hours. There are a couple of direct services to Bangor but most trips will involve a change at Chester. You follow the North Wales coast for long stretches, with great views of beaches and mountains along the way. The stretch from Colwyn Bay to Bangor is especially scenic, passing Conwy Castle and Snowdonia’s northern flanks.

From Liverpool you can catch regular Merseyrail services to Chester and change there. Total journey times will vary from two to three hours.

Services from Manchester are operated by Transport for Wales, with Merseyrail from Liverpool. In all cases you can optionally join the Virgin London-Holyhead service at Chester, which tends to skip a lot of stops and gets you into Bangor a little quicker.

Speaking of London, the quickest Virgin service from Euston takes just three hours and 15 minutes to get to Bangor. It stops at Milton Keynes and Crewe only before arriving at Chester, bringing North Wales within easy reach from these areas too.

National Express runs a direct coach (375) from the bus station at Liverpool One to Bangor, but there’s no direct equivalent from Manchester. Taking a coach from London’s Marble Arch involves only one change (Birmingham) but is a less attractive nine hours long!

From Bangor, a taxi will cost between £20 and £25 and take 20 minutes, or the number 85 or 86 bus will pick you up outside the railway station and 50 minutes later will drop you off within 100 yards of the Royal Victoria Hotel.

What about that scenic alternative we mentioned? You’ll need to give yourself plenty of time for this, but with some pretty special scenery on offer, you’ll want to make the journey part of your holiday anyway! Leave your train at Llandudno Junction and take the beautiful Conwy Valley line south to Betws-y-Coed (30 minutes). Here you can catch the Snowdon Sherpa Bus (S2) which takes you through Capel Curig, down windswept Dyffryn Mymbyr with its iconic views of the Snowdon Horseshoe, then up to Pen-y-Pass and through the boulder-strewn landscape of Llanberis Pass. The bus takes just 40 minutes and drops you about 100 yards from the hotel’s front door. Time it right and you could take a break at Betws-y-Coed, enjoy some lunch and a stroll over Pont-y-Pair bridge. What a way to start your break!

Exploring North West Wales without a car

Llanberis makes a great central base from which to explore northern Snowdonia, Anglesey and the Llyn Peninsula. It’s perfectly possible to enjoy day-trips to Conwy Castle and Llandudno, Pwllheli, Porthmadog and Beaumaris on Anglesey. In fact, you don’t even have to leave the village to find so many things to do.

If you want to explore further, you can. Buses 85 and 86 back to Bangor will give you access to Anglesey. Two services to look out for from Bangor are the number 42 bus which takes a circular route to Llangefni past some of the best beaches the island has to offer, Newborough/Llanddwyn and Aberffraw. At Newborough you will be faced with a good 30-minute walk to the beach, if you follow the forest road. But why do that when you can explore the forest instead? It’s a beautiful walk and should be part of your day out. Similarly, at Aberffraw you’ll have a 10 minute walk along the creek to the beach, or longer if you choose to wander the extensive sand dunes.

In the opposite direction, a bewildering array of bus numbers will bring you to Beaumaris in 40 minutes. Slightly further afield, the 62 bus follows the Anglesey coast as far as Cemaes, bringing its beach and harbour, the historic harbour at Amlwch, the pretty village of Moelfre and the sandy bay at Benllech within your reach.

Don’t forget you can hop on a train from Bangor to visit Llanfairpwllgwyngyllgogerychwyrndrobwllllantysiliogogogoch (literally the next stop after Bangor) or, a few stops further towards Holyhead, Rhosneigr and its beaches.

To explore the mountains, the Sherpa service we mentioned earlier is your best bet. The S2 gives you access to The Miners and Pyg tracks up Snowdon (as well as the Crib Goch ridge) from Pen-y-Pass. At Pen-y-Pass you can change to the S4 Sherpa which runs a service along Snowdon’s south-eastern side via Beddgelert. This service will bring you to Snowdon’s Watkin, Rhyd Ddu and Ranger Paths, and also opens up walks up Moel Hebog and onto the Nantlle Ridge. For the latter, you could enjoy the linear ridge walk from Rhyd Ddu and catch the 1N from Nantlle village back to Caernarfon.

If you want to head south and explore parts of the Llyn Peninsula, grab the 88 bus from Llanberis to Caernarfon. The number 12 is a good service to take to Pwllheli (45 minutes), and gives access to the Yr Eifl (Rival) mountains.

Meanwhile, from Caernarfon, the number 5 will take you in the opposite direction, via Bangor, to Conwy (1hr 15mins) and Llandudno (1hr 35mins), stopping at Aber (for falls, 45mins), Llanfairfechan (50mins) and Dwygyfylchi (1hr, near Penmaenmawr).

Don’t forget that you can also catch the Welsh Highland Railway from a new station near Caernarfon Castle for one of the most scenic narrow-gauge railway journeys in the UK.

With a little careful planning you can explore so much of North West Wales without a car. Make a note of Gwynedd Council’s bus timetables page as services change frequently. The Bus Times website is also a useful reference, as is this bus map for planning ahead.

Happy travels!

Image courtesy: © Copyright Stephen McKay and licensed for reuse under this Creative Commons Licence.