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Aber Afon Mawddach Estuary

 

The Wales Way

Just launched by Visit Wales, are three iconic routes in Wales that take you through the best that Wales has to offer. The Coastal Way which skirts Cardigan Bay from St. David’s in Pembrokeshire to Aberdaron at the far end of the Llŷn Peninsula, The Cambrian Way which goes through the heart of Wales from Cardiff to Llandudno, and The North Wales Way from Queensferry in the East to Holyhead in the West. In Gwynedd, we are lucky that all three pass through the county, with many highlights on the routes themselves, and some well worth a short detour.

The Cambrian Way – Snowdonia’s Highlights

Travelling South on The Cambrian Way, as you come over the Crimea Pass from Betws-y-Coed into Gwynedd, you are spoilt for choice for things to do at Blaenau Ffestiniog , with zip lines providing an adrenaline rush both above land at ZipWorld Titan, and below ground at Bounce Below. Antur Stiniog nearby offers seven fantastic downhill mtb trails, graded blue to black and the best mountain bike uplift service in the UK.

Antur Stiniog

If you fancy something more relaxing, take a Quarry Tour, or a Deep Mine Tour at Llechwedd Slate Caverns. There are also shops, pubs and cafés in Blaenau Ffestiniog itself.

A few miles down The Cambrian Way at Trawsfynydd is Yr Ysgwrn , the farmhouse home of tragic poet Hedd Wyn, who died in the First World War 6 weeks before being announced that he had won Wales’ highest honour for a poet, the Chair at the National Eisteddfod, which was held in 1917 at Birkenhead. At Yr Ysgwrn you can see the chair, known as The Black Chair of Birkenhead, and also learn about Hedd Wyn and his life on the farm, and the effect that the First World War had on rural communities such as Trawsfynydd.

Coed y Brenin Forest Park , a little further South, is one of the UK’s premier Mountain Biking attractions, with trails to suit all ages and abilities, waymarked walking trails, picnic and barbecue areas , and a café serving the famous Coed y Brenin venison burgers.

Parc Coed y Brenin Forest Park

At Dinas Mawddwy, as the Cambrian Way leaves Gwynedd, have a look at Pont Minllyn, an early seventeenth century narrow bridge crossing the Dyfi river.

Pont Minllyn Dinas Mawddwy

The Coastal Way – Stunning Mountains and Coast

First stop as we travel west on The Coastal Way along the Dyfi estuary from Machynlleth is Aberdyfi, a picture postcard seaside village, with boats bobbing in the harbour, quality craft shops, and restaurants serving local produce. You could also bring your golf clubs if you fancy playing on one the most picturesque 18 hole courses in Wales.

Aberdyfi

Tywyn is home to the world’s first preserved railway, the Talyllyn Railway, which is a 7 mile journey taking 55 minutes through spectacular scenery in the shadow of one of Britain’s highest mountains, Cader Idris. From Tywyn, The Coastal Way then winds north through small villages such as Llwyngwril and Arthog, and at Fairbourne, you could walk to Barmouth over the famous 150 year old landmark of Barmouth Bridge, which also carries the Network Rail Cambrian Coast line. The Coastal Way passes near to Dolgellau, a town well worth a detour to visit. From Dolgellau you could walk or cycle on the Mawddach Trail to Barmouth, there are plenty of parking spaces in Dolgellau, and bus services to bring you back to the town from Barmouth.

Llwybr Mawddach Trail

Barmouth is a classic seaside resort, with something for everyone, from donkey rides on the beach, to paddleboarding on the Mawddach Estuary. An exhilarating walk, high above Barmouth, is to Dinas Oleu (Citadel of Light), which is an old hillfort rich in history, and was the first piece of land donated to the National Trust in 1895. The views over the Mawddach Estuary, and the Llŷn Peninsula, where the Coastal Way ends, are quite simply breathtaking.

One of the must see attractions on this route is Harlech Castle , part of the UNESCO World Heritage Site of the Castles of Edward 1st. Recent refurbishments have ensured improved access via the ‘floating bridge’, which connects the castle to a brand new visitor centre and café. The castle overlooks a magnificent championship links golf course; Royal St. David’s Golf Club is internationally renowned as one of the finest traditional links courses in the world, and many packages are on offer to play this iconic course.

Clwb Golff Harlech Golf Club

As we head North, Portmeirion, the Italianate village designed by Sir Clough Williams-Ellis, stands majestically on the beautiful Dwyryd Estuary. It was made famous by the cult 1960’s television series The Prisoner, the ever popular Festival No. 6 being named in honour of the programme.

Portmeirion

The shrill whistles and unmistakeable plumes of smoke from Ffestiniog Railway fill the air, greeting you to the old port of Porthmadog, from where huge quantities of slate, brought on the railway from Blaenau Ffestiniog, were shipped to all corners of the world. The railway is the world’s oldest narrow gauge railway, and three of the original locomotives from 150 years ago are still in operation! A longer journey of 2 hours to Caernarfon on the Welsh Highland Railway can also be taken from Porthmadog.

Castell Cricieth Castle

As we head west we approach Criccieth Castle, an ancient guardian perched on the headland above the sea, a castle dripping in the history of both the Princes of Gwynedd and the English monarchs. Criccieth also has an excellent selection of restaurants, cafés and pubs to suit all tastes.

Just down the road at Llanystumdwy, you can either immerse yourself in the history of the only Welsh Prime Minister, David Lloyd George, at the Lloyd George Museum , or you can enjoy some Paintballing, Segway Riding, or a Bear Grylls Survival Course at Dragon Raiders.

Pwllheli is a busy town a few miles further on, which has a vibrant night life, quality independent shops and the Welsh National Sailing Academy located at Plas Heli.

Plas Heli

As we head to Aberdaron, there are still quite a few places of interest on the route, such as Plas Glyn y Weddw Arts Centre in Llanbedrog and the busy seaside village of Abersoch , a hit with lovers of watersports. Plas yn Rhiw, a historic Georgian house run by the National Trust, has stunning views over Hell’s Mouth Bay, a paradise for surfers. At Aberdaron, the end of the journey, Porth y Swnt is a National Trust interpretative centre showcasing the qualities that make the area unique. Most of the last part of this journey is in the Llŷn AONB (Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty). You aren’t stuck for places to eat in Aberdaron either, which boasts a couple of hotels, cafés and a bakery, and if you’re in the mood you can head even further west to Uwchmynydd to see Bardsey Island, the legendary resting place of 20,000 saints.

All along the Coastal Way there is an excellent choice of Coastal Circular Walks that you can undertake.

Ynys Enlli Bardsey Island

The North Wales Way – A Quick City Dash

The North Wales Way only travels a short distance in Gwynedd, from Abergwyngregyn in the east to Britannia Bridge in the west, but you won’t be short of things to do. The National Trust property Penrhyn Castle at Llandygai on the outskirts of Bangor was the home of the slate magnate Lord Penrhyn, who could see the source of his vast wealth at Penrhyn Quarry in Bethesda from his stately pile. Slate is still mined there, but there is now an exciting zip line 500 feet above the quarry operated by ZipWorld, a two minute adrenaline rush where you can reach speeds of 100 mph, and imagine that you’re flying.

ZipWorld Velocity Bethesda

Bangor is a university city well worth a visit, boasting several exciting recent developments. Storiel houses a museum and art gallery, and Pontio is the city’s arts centre, with a theatre, cinema and cafés. If you fancy walking halfway over to Anglesey, then take a stroll on the iconic Victorian Pier and marvel at the majestic scenery of Snowdonia’s Mountains and Coast.

Afon Menai  Bangor Menai Straits

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The Wales Way

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