The country of Wales in Southwest Great Britain boasts stunning landscapes, haunted castles, historic abbeys and modern day adventure attractions. The mountains of Snowdonia National Park showcase some of Great Britain’s most dramatic scenery, which can be explored on a scenic drive and on nature hikes. The Isle of Anglesey with its megalithic monuments, well restored lighthouses and numerous beaches holds a rich history. It also gained modern fame when Duke and Duchess of Cambridge, William and Kate, spent their first years of marriage in a quaint farmhouse on the island. Today, Northern Wales and Anglesey Island’s unique language and Celtic culture is best experienced by traveling with the locals, which we recently did while filming for Travels with Darley’s Wales TV episode.
From Europe’s fastest zipline to a luxury castle hotel to a coastal walking path, this five-day Northern Wales travel itinerary offers top experiences for your trip.
Day 1 Northern Wales & Anglesey Island
Start your trip in Northwestern Wales at a castle that’s reputed to be haunted, Bodelwyddan Castle. This Victorian castle is open to the public, showcasing over 500 years of history and art from the National Portrait Gallery, but there’s one room that may give you chills. The castle’s most haunted room is the Sculpture Room, where I even felt a bit of a chill. Learn more about the paranormal activity here during one of the castle’s ghost hunts or ghost walks or try to find the ghosts yourself using dowsing rods.
Drive about one hour towards the coast to Caernarfon Castle. Built by Edward the 1st to defend English rule against the Welsh, the castle dominates the town. It’s also where Prince Charles was invested as Prince of Wales in 1969.
The original motte-and-baily castle was replaced with the current, imposing stone structure in the 13th century by Edward I, also known as Edward Longshanks. This was a tumultuous time of English expansion into Wales and Edward I wanted no mistaking as to who was in charge. The castle today is on UNESCO’s World Heritage List. It overlooks the Menai Straits and Anglesey Island.
Continue on to another destination on Wales’ mainland, Pant Du, a family run vineyard with a café and shop. Stroll amid the vines and apple orchard, taking in epic views of the magnificent Snowdonia mountain range and panoramic views of the sea to the West. Since producing the first bottle of wine in 2010, the company has established a reputable name for producing award winning wines and high quality cider and apple juice. Enjoy cider with a toasted sandwich here.
Next, travel across the Menai Suspension Bridge to Anglesey Island. Located off the Northwest Coast of Wales, Anglesey Island is the largest of all of the Welsh islands. In addition to the island’s strong culinary, coast and Welsh culture, it also served as the first home of Prince William and Duchess Kate during his tour of duty as a search and rescue pilot starting back in 2010. In some areas of the island Welsh is still the dominant language, making it a good place to delve further into Welsh culture.
Stay at Château Rhianfa, which stands proudly amid spectacular gardens on the isle of Anglesey, with views over the Menai Straits and the peaks of Snowdonia. A Grade ll-listed French-style castle hotel, Chateau Rhianfa is a luxurious, yet comfortable, making it a great base for exploring Anglesey Island.
Try late afternoon tea at the Chateau or relax in one of the beautiful common rooms. Prepare for your next few days in Wales with a language lesson, which we warn you is difficult! The history of the Welsh language spans over 1400 years and is still used on a daily basis throughout the country. Feast on a fantastic multi-course meal in the Chateau’s restaurant for dinner tonight.
Day 2 Anglesey Island
On the island of Anglesey, visit the village with the longest place name in Europe; ‘llanfairpwllgwyngyllgogerychwyrndrobwllllantysiliogogogoch’ – or Llanfair P.G. as it is known to the locals! Check out the railway station and attempt to fit the town’s name into one photograph. This is selfie heaven.
Enjoy a short drive to take a coastal walk. You can go alone to Newborough Forest beach and Llanddwyn Island or book a tour with Eurwyn Williams of Anglesey Walking Holidays. Wales boasts the first coast path to outline an entire country, the Wales Coast Path. It’s 870 miles long, winding right along or close to the coast with many portions accessible to towns and villages and walkers seeking a day stroll or a multi-week walking adventure. Anglesey’s Coastal Path winds over 125 miles all the way around the island. On the North Coast, the path undulates with varied heathland, moorland, country lanes and interesting little villages and towns along the way.
After the beach walk, drive to The Maram Grass Café, a top rated restaurant located in an unassuming location– an old chicken shed situated in RV park. It’s also not far from the beach walking trails. Liam and Ellis Barrie, young brothers and entrepreneurs, started the restaurant in the caravan park owned by their parents. They serve up locally sourced dishes including their well known Menai mussels, small and tasty mussels harvested from the Menai Straits, the narrow stretch of water between Anglesey Island and the mainland of Wales. Both the food and the restaurant are an unlikely, awesome find.
Drive onwards to Halen Môn, a family-run company that began creating their own salt seventeen years ago. This salt is stocked throughout the UK, as well as in more than 22 countries around the world. This isn’t just any salt. Halen Mon’s salt has earned Protected Designation of Origin Status or PDO, joining the ranks of Champagne, Parma Ham and other foods, wines, oils and agricultural products that are prepared and processed in a specific geographical area. You can go behind the scenes at Halen Mon to see what makes this salt so special.
Back at Chateau Rhianfa, enjoy another nice meal and reflect on your day on the island.
Day 3 Northern Wales Zip World & Llangollen
Today, journey through the dramatic Snowdonia National Park and visit Zip World. Located in the former ‘slate capital of the World’, the area of Bethesda is now the heart of an innovative North Wales adventure. It’s less than a half hour’s drive from Chateau Rhianfa to Zip World, where travelers can experience the longest Zip Wire in Europe and the fastest in the World. Velocity is “The Nearest Thing to Flying,” taking you zipping in excess of 100 mph.
Travelers are outfitted in a special wind and water resistant suit, goggles and a helmet. You won’t look particularly good, but you need this gear. The weather conditions at the top can be tricky, and it’s not always guaranteed that you’ll be able to zip. Sometimes it’s just too windy.
You’ll start out on the little zipper with a maximum speed of around 45mph to get prepared for the big zip line experience. If heights scare you, this is probably not an adventure you should pick, but if you want a rush, this experience will give it to you.
Next, take the time to enjoy the half hour drive from Zip World to the Bodnant Welsh Food Centre. You’ll drive along the colorful Snowdonia Mountains. Take time to make stops along the way. The scenery here is dramatic, with craggy, colorful mountains and pristine waterfalls.
At the Bodnant Welsh Food Centre, you can find the best local produce that Wales has to offer in a serene location in the heart of the Conwy Valley. Enjoy lunch and a tour of the farm, which features a cooking school, dairy, deli and bakery. The onsite wine cellar has a diverse range of wines from the vineyards of Wales, as well as a premium selection of locally brewed Welsh ciders and beers, Welsh liquors and whiskies. You may want to purchase some Welsh products as gifts here and either eat in the restaurant or take something to-go for a picnic in the mountains.
It’s a little over one hour to drive to the quaint market town of Llangollen, known for its historic abbey and the nearby Pontcysyllte Aqueduct. Home of the Llangollen International Music Eisteddfod, held every summer since 1947, Llangollen is also known for its great restaurants. Enjoy dinner and wine at the Gales of Llangollen – an award-winning Georgian style Wine and Food Bar situated along one of the oldest streets in town.
The Gales of Llangollen has beckoned travelers as far back as the late 17th century. Then, it served as an inn frequented by voyagers on route from London to Dublin. Today, the Gales of Llangollen still houses an inn, but also a wine bar since the 1970’s run by Pip Gale and his dad. If you like wine, you’re in for some diverse picks and if you don’t, get the local brew, Wrexham Lager.
Drive around 30 minutes to Ruthin Castle Hotel & Spa, a castle hotel that dates back to the 13th century. This medieval fortification is nestled in acres of parkland beside the Clwydian Range in North Wales. Legend has it that King Arthur was a frequent visitor. The castle was also owned by King Henry VIII, King Edward I and Queen Elizabeth I. Across generations, it was continually expanded, and each major era of castle architecture can be seen within its walls.
Day 4 Llangollen & Pontcysyllte Aqueduct
Explore more of Llangollen today with a visit to Valle Crucis Abbey. Built in the early 13th century by Cistercian monks, Valle Crucis Abbey is one of the best preserved in Wales. The hauntingly beautiful ruins are often shrouded in the mists of the Welsh hills, and sheep graze peacefully just beyond the abbey’s dramatic arches. Amid these ruined walls, one might imagine the mythic links to the Holy Grail that have been attributed to Valle Crucis Abbey and the nearby Castell Dinas Bran.
Enjoy lunch back in town at The Corn Mill, a historic mill turned restaurant overlooking the River Dee. The Corn Mill has been grinding flour for at least seven hundred years, and was founded by the Cistercian monks of the nearby Valle Crucis Abbey. The decor is warm and cozy with wooden beams and the sounds of the water wheel turning slowly behind the bar. The decks outside are built over the rapids of the River Dee and offer a great view of this market town. The menu features high quality, fresh, and local foods including traditional Welsh favorites, cask ales and wines.
After lunch, drive about ten minutes down the road to visit the spectacular Pontcysyllte Aqueduct, a World Heritage site which holds the Llangollen canal high in the air at 126 feet. Have the chance to walk along this ‘stream in the sky’, built over the River Dee.
At a nearby school, travelers are invited to watch rehearsals for the Froncysyllte Male Voice Choir. Make sure you’ve corresponded ahead of time or booked this experience through Tenon Tours. Male voice choirs are an age-old tradition in Wales, so much so that Wales is often referred to as the ‘Land of Song’. The Fron Choir, as they are known, has been around for decades, and is considered among the best in Wales. They have won awards at the country’s National Eisteddfod and the International Eisteddfod competitions and they’ve earned their international reputation having recorded four “Voices of the Valley” CD’s and the “Voices of the Valley – Live” DVD with Universal Music between 2002 and 2009.
Day 5 Gladstone’s Library or Wrexham
Today, take your pick of relaxing at a Prime Ministerial Library, where you may want to spend a few more days, or traveling on to the town of Wrexham for a visit to Erddig House, a National Trust 18th Century country house complete with 1,200-acre Country Park with formal walled gardens, canals and avenues. Erddig is popular for its fascinating display of the upstairs-downstairs lifestyles of its inhabitants including detailed personal stories and portraits of the family servants as well as an exhibition of their quarters. Also on site are an impressive range of outbuildings includes stables, smithy, joiners’ shop and sawmill.
Gladstone’s Library, know previously as St Deiniol’s Library, is located about 40 minutes away from Llangollen in Hawarden. This is Britain’s finest residential library and only Prime Ministerial library, founded by Victorian Prime Minister, William Ewart Gladstone. Gladstone served as Prime Minister four separate times, and wanted to share his extensive collection of books after he had passed away.
The library’s main reading room is reminiscent of a Harry Potter set with beautiful wood beamed ceilings and paneling. Its ongoing program of writers in residence and speakers brings life to this cultural center of the region. There are about 250,000 books at Gladstone’s Library, of which, about 30,000 were Gladstone’s original books, and he read a staggering 22,000 of them.
Travelers visiting Gladstone’s Library may find themselves on vacation in a quiet nook with a good book or perhaps lounging by a fireplace reading. At Gladstone’s Library, you can stay onsite in simple, modern accommodations, taking a literary vacation to new heights.
End your visit in Northern Wales or continue on to England for new adventures!