It’s ‘The arm of Eryri (Snowdon)’. Or the ‘Land’s End of Wales’. Or the ‘Cornish-like arm which thrusts itself westward’. Whichever way you look at it, this 16-mile/26km sliver of land is a place apart, a destination that’s different even by Welsh standards.
Llŷn is a stronghold of culture and heritage. It also has a magnetic charm that never fails to seduce. Its coastline, an Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty, accommodates a dizzying variety of scenery within its relatively short length – everything from towering, wind-blown cliffs to snug, sheltered harbours, sandy beaches to traditional villages and fashionable resorts.
You can explore its heritage coast by following the Wales Coast Path. Or go surfing or sailing. Or take a wildlife cruise to its islands, including Ynys Enlli (Bardsey Island), the legendary ‘Isle of 20,000 Saints’ and nature sanctuary for over 300 species of birds. The island has also received International Dark Sky Sanctuary certification by the International Dark Skies Association (IDA). This makes Ynys Enlli the first site in Europe to achieve this status.
If you're looking for accommodation and things to see and do in the Llŷn area then click on the links below to view a list or a map. Scroll down the listing page to see what's nearby and add locations to create your own guidebook.
Nearby Boduan, a few miles from Pwllheli, plays host to Wales’s most vibrant celebration of culture and language on 5–12 August 2023. For more information on the Llŷn ac Eifionydd National Eisteddfod go to https://www.eisteddfod.cymru/llyn-ac-eifionydd-2023
There’s something unmistakeably Celtic about this little community, perched at the end of Llŷn. Maybe it’s the huddle of whitewashed houses and cottages. Or the location, overlooked by the untamed headland of Mynydd Mawr. Or the fact the Aberdaron itself overlooks storm-tossed Bardsey Sound and the Irish Sea. Or that the weather – and record-breaking winds – always seem to blow in from the west.
On-the-edge Aberdaron sums up Llŷn’s personality perfectly. Village and peninsula are a perfect fit, as you’ll discover when you visit the National Trust’s Porth y Swnt centre, where Llŷn’s cultural heritage and history are celebrated.
Around the corner from Aberdaron in one direction, overlooking the aptly named bay of Porth Neigwl (Hell’s Mouth in English) is another National Trust property – the delightful 17th-century manor house and grounds of Plas yn Rhiw (RS Thomas, the poet and one-time vicar of Aberdaron, lived in a cottage here in his retirement).
For another must-visit, head in the other direction to the 548ft/167m summit of Mynydd Mawr, which commands awesome views across the Sound to Ynys Enlli, the National Nature Reserve renowned internationally for its birdlife (and Dark Skies – it’s Europe’s first International Dark Sky Sanctuary). Pilgrims used to brave the trip across these dangerous waters to the ‘Isle of 20,000 Saints’. Nowadays, you can follow in their wake (weather permitting) on boat trips from Porth Meudwy near Aberdaron.
Back on the mainland, Porthor, 2½ miles/4km away, is a beautiful beach known also as Whistling Sands (its grains of sand are supposed to squeak or whistle underfoot).
The village, built on a hill around the River Soch, has developed into a prime destination for upscale seaside stays. Nowadays, fashionable Abersoch invariably finds its way into the ‘best coastal boltholes’ listings.
It has become a prized location for many reasons. Those of a nautical persuasion flock to its pretty harbour, which offers easy access to scenic local waters and the Irish Sea. A noted dinghy sailing centre, it hosts many regattas in the summer months.
Lovers of the finer things in life support a thriving bistro scene and high-end shopping, giving this once-humble fishing village a decidedly cosmopolitan ambience. And for those looking for the simple pleasures of sea and sand, there are two excellent sandy beaches.
Boat trips from Abersoch sail around the small islands of St Tudwal’s East and West, a short distance offshore. The latter is owned by adventurer Bear Grylls. Abersoch Golf Club’s 18-hole course is a mixture of parkland and links.
Are these the most famous beach huts in Wales, if not Britain? Probably. Llanbedrog’s candy-coloured huts are an Instagrammer’s dream, the perfect photo-opportunity. Even better, they line a sandy beach backed by green hills and woodland.
Up amongst the trees there’s Oriel Plas Glyn-y-Weddw, a grand Victorian Gothic mansion that’s home to one of Wales’s leading galleries and arts centres (its café is pretty good too). Outside, Plas Glyn-y-Weddw’s original ‘pleasure grounds’ continue to provide bucolic enjoyment thanks to its woodland trails and open-air theatre.
Head further up, to the rocky outcrop of Mynydd Tir y Cwmwd, crowned by a tangled wrought-iron statue known as the Iron Man.
The rugged, rock-strewn Yr Eifl mountains, Llŷn’s most prominent landscape feature, rise to a height of 1850ft/564m above the village of Llithfaen. Follow the path to Tre’r Ceiri (The Town of Giants), the remarkable remains of an ancient village that gives a vivid insight into the way native tribes lived during the Roman occupation of Britain.
For a completely different village experience head to the coast and Nant Gwrtheyrn. This former ‘ghost village’, abandoned by its quarrying community, has been reborn as a Welsh language and heritage centre.
Nefyn and Porthdinllaen
The one more or less merges into the other, so it’s best to cover them together. In Nefyn, the Llŷn Maritime Museum (housed in St Mary’s Church) is a treasure chest of salty artefacts – items from shipwrecks, models, anchors, flags, period photographs – from the area’s rich local maritime heritage and history. Then call into Cwrw Llŷn Brewery for tours and tastings of local craft beer hand-made in small batches.
Nefyn’s crescent-shaped beach links up with another quarter-moon strip sand at neighbouring Porthdinllaen. Ships were built at both locations in the 19th century. Visit the latter location now and you could be forgiven for thinking you’ve travelled back to those days. Porthdinllaen is a perfectly preserved National Trust hamlet of quaint houses set beside an idyllic beach. Its Tŷ Coch Inn is an international celebrity, one of the ‘top 10 beach bars in the world’.
Golfers who like a real challenge (and don’t mind losing a few balls) rave about the local course, which has been likened to playing off the top deck of an aircraft carrier.
The unofficial ‘capital of Llŷn’, Pwllheli is full of interest. Just a stone’s throw from the busy town centre there’s the unexpected sight of a long and splendid beach, lined by a wide promenade. There’s plenty of space – and sand – here to enjoy the seaside without the usual crowds.
The sea also gives Pwllheli another string to its bow. Sailing is big business here, thanks to the inviting waters of Cardigan Bay and the Irish Sea, and a snazzy modern marina, Hafan Pwllheli, with space for over 400 boats.
Plas Heli, the Welsh National Sailing Academy and Events Centre, has further enhanced Pwllheli’s reputation as a major centre for watersports. Scenic coastal cruises, visiting seal and seabird colonies (often in the company of dolphins), are also popular.
Byw’n lach Dwyfor is a well-equipped leisure centre with excellent swimming, sport and fitness facilities. For golfers, there’s Clwb Golff Pwllheli, a fine – and scenic – 18-hole course of parkland and links.
A flavour of Pwllheli’s historic role as a market town remains back amongst the narrow streets and shopping centre. The town’s weekly open-air Wednesday market on Y Maes dates back to the 14th century, when Pwllheli was awarded The Royal Charter by Edward, ‘The Black Prince’.
Pwllheli promises to be busier than ever in 2023 when the Llŷn ac Eifionydd National Eisteddfod, Wales’s largest cultural gathering, takes place at nearby Boduan in August.