Happy family holidays rely on a few essential ingredients. There’s got be plenty of things for kids (not forgetting their accompanying adults) to see and do. You need lots of fresh air and outdoor space, alongside undercover activities in case the weather isn’t playing fair. And everything should be accessible with the minimum of hassle, without costing the earth.
Though it makes up just one part of Eryri (Snowdonia), the Llŷn Peninsula, Cricieth, Porthmadog and the Vale of Ffestiniog comfortably ticks all these boxes. It’s a place where a day out can involve adventure experiences, beaches and heritage attractions that are world-class – all wrapped up in a digestible and compact package.
With such a wealth of options, you’ll be making memories from the moment you arrive. Here are a few suggestions to help you plan out a trip that will please every member of the family.
Over and under
There are adventures galore above and below ground at Zip World Llechwedd, located in Blaenau Ffestiniog’s massive former slate quarries. For a family experience you’ll never forget we recommend taking to the skies on Titan 2, Europe’s first four-person parallel zip line, which carries you together for a 0.6 mile/1km flight high above the slate-strewn ground.
This hair-raising ride kicks off with a bouncing journey in a repurposed army truck through the rocky landscape to your take-off point. It gives you a chance to take in Blaenau Ffestiniog’s rich industrial past, which played no small measure in North-west Wales gaining UNESCO World Heritage Site status for its slate landscapes.
If Titan 2 sounds a bit too extreme, you can also opt for a shorter ride on Big Red, an introduction to ziplining on a slightly smaller scale.
There’s more to be found when you venture below the earth for a deep dive (in more ways than one) into Blaenau Ffestiniog’s social and industrial heritage. Beginning with a descent on the steepest cable railway in Europe, the Deep Mine Tour takes you on an immersive journey through caverns carved out by 19th-century miners. The atmospheric underground surroundings and personal stories of life in the mine are augmented by evocative lights and sounds.
If you’re looking for something a little more action-packed, there’s Bounce Below. Featuring a brightly coloured web of nets and trampolines strung across a cavern the size of St Paul’s Cathedral, it’s a unique experience for kids and fun-loving adults alike.
Alternatively, work on your putting at Zip World’s Underground Golf, the first adventure golf course to be found in a cave 500ft/152m below ground.
Antur Stiniog bike park also makes use of Blaenau Ffestiniog’s rugged landscape, with 14 downhill trails laced through the town’s former slate quarries. While the venue has built up a reputation with seasoned riders, there’s plenty for beginners and younger cyclists to enjoy too.
The gently flowing Plug and Feathers trail is an ideal introduction to mountain biking (and links to two slightly more challenging runs you can enjoy once you’re feeling comfortable in the saddle). If you’re looking to build up your skills, you can book into a dedicated family lesson run by local coaching provider Pedal MTB.
For train-loving kids (and any grown-up who ever owned a train set) Porthmadog is a must-visit. The town’s three heritage railway lines make it the narrow-gauge capital of North Wales, transporting steam enthusiasts of all ages back to a more romantic age of rail.
The Ffestiniog and Welsh Highland Railways both run from the station on Porthmadog’s harbour (to Blaenau Ffestiniog and Caernarfon respectively). Each journey showcases a different side of Eryri, from the dramatic UNESCO-recognised North Wales Slate Landscape to the pretty village of Beddgelert and spectacular Aberglaslyn Pass.
Younger riders will thrill at travelling on a train seemingly torn from the pages of a Harry Potter book, while the slower pace provides adults with a chance to take their eyes off the road, relax and soak in the scenery. Even if you don’t plan to take the train, it’s worth a visit to the station to see the antique engines puffing in and out.
You can also opt for a journey on the Welsh Highland Heritage Railway, based just across the road from Porthmadog’s main station. This charming, largely volunteer-run narrow-gauge line carries you a short distance to Pen-y-Mount station, where you can explore the hands-on railway heritage centre and take a ride on the miniature railway.
King of the castle
Take a climb up to Cricieth Castle, standing in a commanding spot on the resort’s seafront. Though it’s been a ruin since Welsh leader Owain Glyndŵr drove its English occupiers out in 1404, its lofty location and incident-packed history still capture the imagination.
The sweeping views over Cardigan Bay and Cricieth’s rows of colourful houses make the short, steep walk up worth the effort, while young adventurers will enjoy investigating the castle’s nooks and crannies. During spring and summer the castle really comes alive, staging events like guided tours, storytelling sessions and even a Knight School, where you can get to grips with authentic medieval weaponry.
There’s more to Cricieth than its castle. Once you’re done there, you’ll be perfectly placed to enjoy time on the town’s two sandy beaches, which fan out on either side of the castle’s rocky perch.
Overlooking the beach there’s Cricieth Multi Golf, the ‘multi’ being shorthand for other family activities (including kayak, paddleboard and bike hire) as well as 9-hole pitch and putt, frisbee and footgolf. And you’ll want to treat everyone to an ice cream – Cadwaladars, of course, the famous brand that was born in Cricieth almost 100 years ago.
Come rain or shine
There’s fun to be had whatever the weather at Glasfryn Parc near Pwllheli, with its vast choice of indoor and outdoor activities. Outside you can get on target with some archery or clay pigeon shooting, race around the track on a speeding go kart or tackle a fun round of crazy golf.
You may get very wet, but you’ll want to dip your toes into Glasfryn’s great selection of (rain-proof) watersports. Climb aboard a kayak or stand-up paddleboard for self-powered aquatic adventures, throw yourself into the Aquaparc ‘crash and splash’ water assault course, or let Glasfryn’s cable-driven wakeboard system do the hard work as it propels you over the water.
If you prefer to keep completely dry, there’s ten-pin bowling and a soft play centre, plus a café serving everything from snacks and drinks to more substantial meals – the perfect place to relax as the kids tire themselves out.
Inquiring minds of all ages will find something to engage them at Porth y Swnt, the National Trust’s innovative interpretation centre in Aberdaron at Llŷn’s western tip. It tells the story of the peninsula’s nature, geography, people and culture through a selection of unique interactive exhibits.
Among its attractions are a massive glass artwork made from Ynys Enlli (Bardsey Island) lighthouse’s former optic – a gigantic lightbulb 8ft/2.4m in height. There’s also The Deep, an undersea expedition taking you past striking wooden sculptures, and Y Swnt, a fascinating interactive installation that allows you to explore and manipulate the swirling tides of Bardsey Sound.
Porth y Swnt is also packed with information on things to see and do all over Llŷn. You’ll find plenty of inspiring free activities, including nature spotting walks on the Wales Coast Path, cycle routes and days out on the peninsula’s many beautiful beaches.
A holiday wouldn’t be a holiday if your four-legged friend couldn’t come along. Luckily, dogs are welcome all over this part of Eryri. The large majority of beaches strung along the coastline are open to furry visitors (though do check local information for any seasonal exclusion zones).
Dogs – they’re part of the family, after all – are also welcome in many of our family-friendly attractions. They can join you at places like Cricieth Castle, Glasfryn Parc and Zip World (which has its own doggy day care service). Well-behaved dogs can even ride with the rest of the family on Porthmadog’s historic railway lines.