The Fast Track to Uplifting Adventures in Llŷn and Eifionydd
Though the dramatic summits of Yr Wyddfa (Snowdon) and its surrounding peaks often grab the headlines, they’re only one chapter in our story. Eryri (Snowdonia) in its entirety covers a lot of ground – over 840 square miles/2,146 sq km, in fact. It’s an area with a mountain of outdoor experiences and adventures.
Here, we take a look at the part of Eryri made up of the Llŷn Peninsula, Cricieth, Porthmadog and the Vale of Ffestiniog. It’s full of inspiring places, one-of-a-kind sights, life-affirming activities, and an abundance of nature, wildlife and culture. Best of all, the comparatively compact size of this slice of North-west Wales means you can take a deep dive into it whether you’re staying for a week or just visiting for a weekend.
Whatever your choice, you’ll max out on mini-adventures. In how many places can you ride the waves on a bodyboard in the morning and fly over the landscape on speeding ziplines in the afternoon?
Alongside a wealth of high-energy activities, there are plenty of opportunities to slow down too. Lose yourself in starry dark skies, get close to nature in the friendliest way on an eco-escape, wander deserted beaches, or simply sit by the shore with a drink in your hand and soak in the seascapes and sunsets.
Here are a few suggestions to get you going.
Thrill seekers make a bee line to Blaenau Ffestiniog. Once the heart of the slate trade, the town has been reborn as the adventure capital of North Wales – with its quarries, mines and rubble-strewn slopes now the setting for activities of all kinds.
Zip World Llechwedd offers a generous menu of action-packed activities. You can explore the rugged terrain in a repurposed army truck, climbing to a height of 1,400 ft/426m above this otherworldly industrial landscape, before strapping in for a ride on the Europe’s first four-person parallel zip line.
Alternatively, head underground to pit yourself against a challenging subterranean assault course strung with bridges and tightropes, or bounce on massive nets suspended above yawning slate caverns. If you’d prefer to keep your feet on the ground, there’s even an offbeat adventure golf course 500ft/152m below the surface.
For thrills on two wheels, head to Antur Stiniog bike park’s 14 downhill tracks winding through stony former quarries. They range from the beginner-friendly Plug and Feathers to the bone-shaking The Black, a rugged technical trail that will test even the most experienced riders. Best of all, the dedicated uplift service means you can save all your energy for those pulse-pounding descents.
Culture and heritage are also thrown into the mix. Blaenau Ffestiniog is a central part of the Slate Landscape of North Wales, one of the UK’s newest UNESCO World Heritage Sites.
The pristine waters around the Llŷn Peninsula are tailor-made for aquatic adventures. Pwllheli is home to a lively marina that’s a launch point for all kinds of marine activities from paddleboarding to powerboating. There’s also Plas Heli, the Welsh National Sailing Academy. Housed in a striking waterside building, it’s a venue for a range of exciting events both on water and shore.
As its English name of Hell’s Mouth suggests, Porth Neigwl on Llŷn’s western tip has a fearsome reputation. Over the years, the wild waves and surging currents have led to many a shipwreck here (keep your eyes peeled for maritime remains poking out of the sand).
These days, the beach is a magnet for surfers and bodyboarders for whom the powerful swell is a challenge. It’s not just for pro boarders though. Local providers like West Coast Surf in Abersoch hire out equipment and run regular lessons for beginners looking to get their feet wet.
The exciting watersport of wakeboarding (a high-speed combination of surfing and water skiing) is something of a Llŷn speciality. This is especially true at Abersoch, where a sheltered bay provides perfect conditions for both beginners and experienced riders.
If you aren’t ready to jump straight into the sea, you can get an inland taste of wakeboarding at Glasfryn Parc near Pwllheli. Its high-tech cable-driven wakeboard arena and experienced instructors allow you to find your balance and polish up your skills before hitting the waves. While you’re at Glasfryn, you can also try your hand at other water-based activities like stand-up paddleboarding and kayaking.
The Llŷn Peninsula is studded with beautiful bays and beaches, some well-known, others tucked away. Call into Cwt Tatws near Tudweiliog, a welcoming, one-of-a-kind lifestyle store, deli and café. It’s housed in eco-friendly premises above Porth Towyn beach, an idyllic crescent of sand set between grassy headlands.
A short walk from Porth Iago along the Wales Coast Path takes you to Porthor, another of the peninsula’s coastal highlights. The scenery makes an immediate impression, but that’s not even its most fascinating feature. The beach is known as ‘Whistling Sands’ thanks to the unusual structure of its granules, which squeak beneath your feet on warm days – a phenomenon you can only experience in one other place in Europe.
Everywhere you go in this part of Eryri, you’ll find a tempting selection of food and drink. Ale enthusiasts can take brewery tours at Cwrw Llŷn in Nefyn and Purple Moose in Porthmadog for a peek behind the scenes at the bubbly process of making beer. Don’t worry, you’ll also have plenty of opportunities to sample some of their tipples.
Quirky coffee stops are plentiful too. Caffi Meinir in Nant Gwrtheyrn (a former quarrying village turned language and cultural centre) serves up warming drinks and snacks in one of Llŷn’s most spectacular coastal locations.
There’s also the stunning new café at Oriel Plas Glyn-y-Weddw in Llanbedrog. This sparkling silver construction – shaped like a gargantuan sea urchin – is a suitably stylish addition to Wales’s oldest art gallery.
Night and day
Travel to the furthest reaches of Llŷn and on into the cosmos with a trip to Ynys Enlli (Bardsey Island), Europe’s first designated International Dark Sky Sanctuary. The little island sits in the sea just off the peninsula’s western tip, beneath inky black skies almost totally untouched by light pollution.
Stargazers can stay in one of the island’s cosy self-catering cottages to enjoy one of the greatest shows on (and off) Earth, as night falls and the heavens sparkle with a boundless blanket of stars.
Ynys Enlli also puts on a show during the daytime. The island is a National Nature Reserve and Site of Special Scientific Interest, thanks to its exceptional array of wildlife. It’s famous for its 20,000-strong colony of Manx shearwaters, plus a lively population of seabirds like razorbills, gannets and puffins. You might also spot Atlantic grey seals sunning themselves in the rocky bays and dolphins and porpoises leaping through the offshore waters.
Location, location, location
Tucked away on its own mini-peninsula sprouting from Llŷn’s northern side, the tiny fishing village of Porthdinllaen is an impossibly picturesque seaside spot. Only accessible on foot, this little collection of stone buildings is laid out along a golden sandy beach, perfectly placed to take in showstopping views towards Yr Eifl (the rocky range of hills on Llŷn’s north coast rising to three peaks, Tre'r Ceiri, Garn Ganol and Garn Fôr) and on to the distant summits of Eryri.
Porthdinllaen is also home to the famous Tŷ Coch Inn, a seaside tavern that serves up both pints and photo opportunities. Sitting just footsteps from the sand, it’s regularly described as one of the world’s best beach bars. Chill out with a drink as the waves wash against the shore and you’ll quickly see why.
For more insights into what makes Llŷn such a special location dip into its heritage, history and culture at Nefyn’s Maritime Museum. And, at Aberdaron on Llŷn’s tip, there’s the Porth y Swnt Visitor Centre and the nearby manor house of Plas yn Rhiw.