The reason so many people hire a campervan to go to north Wales is the mountains and the scenery. On a nice day, it is simply stunning. The mountains are higher and sharper in north Wales, so the valleys are deeper and the villages feel more enclosed. You can’t beat a night in a Welsh pub in a small village with the fire on after a day out on the hills.
Things to do in North Wales
There are so many good things to do in north Wales, that a long weekend just wont do it justice. You can have a coffee on the beach in the moring, bounce in a cave, (see below), and then climb a mountian! Below are a few of our favorites from our campervan trips to Wales.
- Bounce Below – A trampoline and slide park inside a mountain might sound odd, but it’s seriously brilliant. This disused coal mine has been turned into a big kids’ trampoline and slide park. You can bounce from room to room on enormous nets, and all you will hear are shrieks of laughter. They are part of the Zip World attraction, so a day easily invested.
- Coed y Brenin Mountain Bike Park – Coed y Brenin was Britain’s first purpose-built mountain biking centre. The trails are well-made, clearly marked, and vary in level of complexity. There are also walking and running trails through the forest. Take your bike and spend a weekend exploring different routes.
- Velocity Zip Line – How do you fancy shooting down a mountain, then over a lake at high speed attached to a wire? Such high speed you need to wear goggles? This latest Zip World attraction is brilliant, and clearly aimed at the adrenalin junky.
- Castles – Wales used to have around 600 Castles during medieval times. Those deep valleys and villages were all defended by a nearby castle or hill fort. Today only about 100 of these castles have survived. The castles at Conwy, Caernarfon, Beaumaris, and Harlech are the most well-preserved and therefore worth visiting.
- Hill Walking – Wales is famous for its mountains, and their awe-inspiring beauty. That’s why it’s on my list of recommendations, and I have provided a more detailed description below.
For a more extensive list of things to do and see in Wales, take a look at the Visit Wales website.
Mountains to climb in Wales
If you ask most people about a mountain they want to climb in Wales, they will say Snowdon, or Yr Wyddfa as it is now called. It’s the highest (1,085 mts), it’s got a cafe at the top and a railway to take you up and down if you don’t fancy the walk. However, because everyone knows about it, on most days in the summer you will see more people walking up the same path as you than in your local high street! There are so many other great mountains to climb in Wales, including
- Pen y Fan –886 m (2,906 ft) – another popular mountain, so can get busy.
- Carnedd Llewelyn –1064 m (3,490 ft) – a majestic gem of a mountain.
- Glyder Fawr –1,000 m (3,280 ft) – The Glyders are iconic, but that’s why they are popular.
- Tryfan –917 m (3,008 ft) – not for the faint-hearted!
- Cadair Idris –893 m (2,929 ft) – a personal favorite of mine.
One of my favourit mountains to climb is Cadair Idris (893 mts) which is in the south of Snowdonia. It has a similar beautiful horseshoe shape, so can be walked in a circular loop, and has stunning views. But there and no railway or cafe, so there won’t be as many people on it!
Cadair Idris means Giant’s Chair and legend has it that the giant used the mountain as an armchair to watch the stars. You can see where the legend came from, however, the giant would clearly get a wet bum from the lake!
I last walked Cadair on late January morning, so you won’t be surprised to hear it was cold, wet, and windy. If you’re not an experienced walker, I would leave this mountain until later in the year when the weather is better and the views can be enjoyed from the top.
Routes up Cadair Idris
The gentler route approaches the mountain from the north starting from Ty-nant and follows the Pony Path onto the ridge looking down onto the lakes of Llyn y Gadair and Llyn Cau on either side. There is a little hut at the top to shelter from the weather. However, it’s cold and damp inside, so is best enjoyed if it’s blowing a hooley on the top.
For the more adventurous, you can climb the mountain from the south side up the Minffordd path. There is a pay and display car park in Minffordd at the foot of the path, however, the climb is steep almost from leaving the car park. There is a well-made path with stone steps all the way up to the lake, then it becomes more of a gentle scramble along the ridge until you reach the top.
How to get to North Wales in a Campervan
We normally end up driving to north Wales in a campervan late on a Friday evening after work. Therefore the traffic along the M1 & M6 can be slow. But by the time you reach the M54 and A5, most locals are at home so you can zip along the A5 to north Wales. Once in Wales we normally take the A458 to Mallwyd, then the A470 to Dolgellau. This is where the road gets twisty, the mountains started getting bigger and the views are stunning. You just can’t see them at 10 pm at night!
Where we camped in North Wales
There are several campsites on either side of Cadair Idris, however, they are a little basic for a winter campervan trip. If you want better facilities, try Tan-Y-Fron campsite in Dolgellau, which is the closest town to Cadair Idris. Personally, I found the facilities at Tan-Y-Fron a little too structured for my taste. However, there are nice views of the hills, and a heated toilet block, which was just what we needed after a wet day in the hills.
Dolgellau has several lovely pubs and a couple of nice restaurants, but worth booking ahead if you want to eat.
If you wanted something closer to the beach, you could drive a little further along the A496 to Barmouth. There are campsites just outside the town and the long sandy beach is the perfect place to take a stroll along the rolling cliffs of the Welsh coastline.
If you do drive to Barmouth, take the Penmaenpool bridge. It is a lovely little wooden toll bridge that charges £1/campervan. But be careful not to get talking to the ticket man if you are in a rush, as you could be there for some time!