Exploring & Hiking in North Wales
North Wales is an incredible part of the world and definitely worth exploring if you live in or are visiting the UK.
We went in the midst of winter which was risky, but thankfully for us we were incredibly lucky with the weather. We had 4 full days here and it was a good amount of time to get a feel for the area and maximise all the walking.
If you are thinking of booking a hiking trip to this beautiful part of the world - my advice would be 100% do it! I hope that this post helps to inspire you to get booking!
We were coming from Newbury so had a fairly long drive (4.5 hours). I recommend if you are coming from south it's worth adding the extra bit of time on and go via South Wales - through the Brecon Beacons. It's definitely the more scenic route and you get a great feel for Wales and the changing landscape as you go.
I cannot recommend our Air Bnb enough, the loveliest little Welsh cottage based in Tanygrisiau. The best part apart it was the host Joanna who went above and beyond to help us with her local knowledge whilst we were there. A lot of this blog has, in fact come from Joanna's recommendations- so thanks Joanna! Click here to see the Air Bnb and get booking: Hikers & Explorers Escape
All Trails! This app was the best discovery of this trip and it saved the day a number of times. Download the app to have on your phone and find the walking routes you want to do before heading out so you can have them loaded on your phone in advance. Honestly - a total game changer!
Driving - there was a lot of narrow windy, hilly roads which thankfully Jason took the wheel for. Just be aware of this and be cautious.
Maps - Don't rely on just your Sat Nav or phone to get you around, there are a lot of areas with little or no signal.
Food/ Drink - there isn't loads of options and most places you will have to drive to.
Driving time - allow time to drive to places. It may look direct on the map but quite often it is a long winded route to get there.
Weather - changes so often on a lot of the more serious hikes. Be sure to check the weather beforehand and ask advice if you need to.
Wild swimming - is a real thing here and I am gutted we didn't go to one of the many wild swimming spots (sea swimming was about as wild as we went!). I am now desperate to come back in Summer to focus more on the swimming. Always have your swimmers and towel in the car just in case!
Hiking boots - goes without saying!
Hiking/ thick socks (and a spare pair is a good idea I soon learnt!)
A light waterproof jacket
A light fleece
Waterproof trousers - I lived in these sexy things the entire trip even when it wasn't raining they were great wind protection.
A good hiking bag
Water bladders (so handy!)
A warm Hat and gloves (in winter)
Thermals (in winter)
Torch (just incase)
First Aid kit (just incase)
Portable phone charger
Tissues (for loo stops and runny noses
Snacks (our go to snacks were Naked bars and Twix's!)
(A shovel! - you definitely do not need this! My dad insisted we took his just incase we got stuck in the snow!)
Areas to explore:
It's definitely worth heading to the coast when you are in North Wales, the coastline is breathtaking! Loads of walks to do, it's just a matter of picking which area you want to explore as there is so much of it!
Black Rock Sands
This is an absolute must! We were on our way back from a big walk (the Newborough walk-see below) and the sunset was looking pretty incredible and so we decided to find a beach for a bit of a sunset dip. It was quite a tricky drive down a single, narrow lane (again thanks to Jason for driving this!) and one of the best bits about this beach is that you can drive on to it. It was so special driving on to the beach as the sun was going down and then scrambling in to our wetsuits (it was December!) to get in the sea... This is exactly why it's always worth having your swimmers in the car!
Betws- Y- Coed
Really cute little town with lots of outdoor hiking shops, cute boutique shops and the best little cafe (see below). A great place to have a little potter around and a break from hiking.
Best Hikes/ Walks:
All these hikes can be found on the All Trails App.
Lyn Clwedog Circular (4.3km)
If you are driving from South Wales this is a great little stop off to stretch your legs and see some beautiful scenery. It's an easy walk and very easy to navigate. It took us just over an hour.
Devils Kitchen and Lyln Idwal Circular (6.1km)
This was the day we had the worst weather but it was our first big hike of the trip so we were raring to go in our shiny new waterproofs! I found part of this walk incredibly challenging but I think it may have been because we veered off the track a bit and ended up having to cross a waterfall a number of times in very slippery conditions! Don't let this put you off though, just stick to the track and you will be fine! The views are incredible, even in terrible weather! This took us nearly 2 hours 20 minutes (20 mins of this was possibly me attempting to cross the waterfall!)
Newborough and Ynys Llanddwn Circular (17.7km)
This is a great way to see the coastline and a very varied walk - it felt 5 walks in 1! It was nice to do this as a break from climbing mountains (got to give my calves a bit of a rest!) - it is all pretty flat and fairly straight forward. It is long though so definitely pack snacks and water. The long stretch of beach was my favourite - it went on forever and there wasn't a person in site! I would love to see what it's like in summer. Check out the tides before you go as at high tide you won't be able to get to Ynys (the little island). Also check the wind as it can get very windy there - I could barely stand up at one point on the other side of the island! This walk took 3 hours 15.
Snowdon! (so good it deserves it's own heading!)
Wow wow wow, where to even start. Firstly I must point out we got extraordinarily lucky with the weather on the day we had chosen - it was a one off rare clear day which made all the difference. It was also icy cold (apparently the chill on top of Snowdon felt like -12 degrees!) but luckily we had over prepared for the cold conditions.
If the weather isn't working in your favour to do Snowdon there are plenty of other great options for big hikes around, some say that are even more impressive than Snowdon!
Due to the snow/ ice and potentially treacherous conditions we decided to do the easiest route which was by no means easy! Llanberis Path was perfect for us. It was definitely challenging (we were actually shocked at how steep the path was straight away!) and the snow and ice at the top really added to the challenge and experience! We got to the car park before sunrise which I would recommend to make the most of the day and just incase it takes longer than you think.
We were also incredibly lucky in that we barely saw another person - this is apparently very rare, especially in summer. When we made it to the summit we were on own for a good 10 minutes which I loved and meant we could take it all in (as well as getting all the pics of course!). The views were up there with the best I've ever experienced - literally felt on top of the world!
The whole walk there and back took us 5 hours so we were done by 2pm which was unexpected!
Read through the route options beforehand and decide what you feel comfortable with, especially if it's winter. Click here to see the options.
Check the conditions online regularly before your trip - there is a guy who's job it is to climb the mountain a few times in a week and make a report on the conditions (what a cool job!?) - click here to see the latest reports.
Check the weather in advance to see what is the best and clearest day to go.
Don't be afraid to ask advice. Our Air Bnb host, Joanna was extremely helpful with all things Snowdon. Locals definitely know best.
Pack for all weather!
Pack plenty of snacks - we had welsh cakes and a thermos of Earl Grey at the top which was such a treat!
Enjoy it! It was honestly up there with one of my favourite hikes I have ever done - I hope you enjoy it as much as we did.
We actually ended up eating in a lot during our stay because it was the easiest thing after a big walk to get in to our pyjamas, put the fire on, have a glass of wine and not have to go out again! However there are a few cosy Welsh pubs around which seem to be your best bet for food and drink in the evening.
Below are some highlights of our North Wales food experience:
The Alpine Coffee Shop
This is THE place to go in North Wales to get a good cup of coffee and a yummy lunch or breakfast. This happened to be on our route to most places so was often a stop off to get our fuel ahead of a walk.
Hooton's Farm Shop
Such a cute little farm shop in Anglesey, we stopped off here in search of some lunch after a big hike and had the yummiest cheese bap and crisps, all local ingredients. I also bought some local cheeses and chutneys for Christmas.
This was one of the couple of pubs near to our AirBnb and where we treated ourselves to a massive (portions were HUGE!) dinner after Snowdon. We really enjoyed our food (there were plenty of vegetarian options) and had such a nice evening sat by the fire chatting to locals! Everyone loved that Jason was Australian!
We were kindly left a packet of Welsh Cakes from our lovely Air Bnb host and they were SO good. We had them warmed up with butter on them with a cup of tea.
I hope you enjoyed reading this blog and I hope I have inspired you to book a hiking holiday to North Wales (you will not regret it!).
Any questions about anything discussed here please get in touch - I am always more than happy to help!