Castles Culture and Heritage
Six of the best in Snowdonia Mountains and Coast
The Coastal Way in North Wales is dotted with historic sites. You’ll come across everything from mighty medieval fortresses to intimate manor houses – and a very special place that marks the birthplace of the National Trust. We’ve picked out a few highlights, listed from north to south, so that you can create your own heritage-themed journey.
Porth y Swnt and Bardsey Island
Immerse yourself in the heritage and natural history of the Llŷn Peninsula at Aberdaron’s Porth y Swnt visitor centre. An innovative exploration of this wildly beautiful part of Wales, it uses striking interactive exhibits to shed light on Llŷn’s people, places and wildlife. While you’re out at the peninsula’s western extreme, take a boat trip to Bardsey Island, where heritage and nature live in harmony – this important wildlife reserve is also known as the ‘Isle of 20,000 saints’ thanks to its profusion of ancient religious sites.
Plas yn Rhiw, near Aberdaron
It’s a horticulturalist’s heaven. This charming stone National Trust manor house overlooks the bay of Porth Neigwl. The views might be untamed (stormy Porth Neigwl is otherwise known as Hell’s Mouth, for a very good reason) but the gardens, once overgrown and unloved, are trimmed and immaculate, a collection of formal features, wildflower meadows and orchards, with a shifting palette of bright seasonal colours.
Plas Glyn-y-Weddw, Llanbedrog
Here’s a work of art both inside and out. This Grade II-listed Gothic Victorian mansion sits in 12 acres of lush gardens and woodland. It’s home to a vibrant cultural centre and gallery where you can see the best in Welsh contemporary art, explore local history and watch outdoor theatre performances.
Seaside settings don’t get much more spectacular than Criccieth Castle’s. Perched on a hilly headland overlooking Cardigan Bay, it’s easy to see why Welsh prince Llewelyn the Great, Llywelyn ap Iorwerth, chose to build a fortress here. The castle’s strategic location has seen it move violently between Welsh and English hands over the centuries – and it has the battle scars to prove it.
With impenetrable walls that seem to spring from the sheer cliff on which it stands, Harlech Castle is as imposing today as it was when completed in 1295. No wonder it’s a designated UNESCO World Heritage Site. The castle’s skyscraping towers provide a high-altitude vantage point over Snowdonia’s mountains and coast, while a new visitor centre brings the history of this influential site to life with interactive exhibits and displays.
Dinas Oleu, Barmouth
‘Mighty oaks from little acorns grow.’ The National Trust was born here, on a 4½-acre gorse-covered hillside overlooking Barmouth and the Mawddach Estuary, on 29 March 1895 when it became the organisation’s first acquisition. This inspiring ‘place to breathe’, donated by local philanthropist Fanny Talbot, is accessible by a steep path from Barmouth. As well as the stunning views, points of interest include Ty’n Ffynnon, Talbot’s former home.