When you think about Snowdonia, it’s likely that one of the first things to pop into your head is “mountains”. Which is fair enough – after all, Snowdonia does have a mountain or two. But what you may not know is that Snowdonia also has a glorious 300km-long coastline, crammed with just about every type of beach that you can imagine.
The clue’s in the name, as they say: we call this region “Snowdonia Mountains and Coast“, because while our mountains are famous far and wide, people are often surprised to learn that Snowdonia is also home to some of Britain’s most beautiful beaches.
You’ll find all sorts of beaches in Snowdonia. Sandy beaches, pebbly beaches, long beaches, wide beaches. Some are busy; others barely see a soul from one day to the next. Some are ideal for watersports, others for building sandcastles. And Snowdonia even has a beach where the sand squeaks.
With almost 200 miles of coastline to explore, you’d be hard pushed to fit in every one of Snowdonia’s beaches during your visit – so here are a few you won’t want to miss. Just be sure to pack your bucket and spade alongside your hiking boots and crampons…
The lively, cosmopolitan village of Abersoch has two sandy beaches, separated by a headland, which are popular with watersports enthusiasts. But they’re also great for walking, sunbathing, taking in the glorious views, and of course building sandcastles. There’s a cafe and shop right on the beach, so you won’t have to go far for provisions if you’ve forgotten to pack a picnic.
There’s also a shop and cafe on the beach at Porth Oer, or “Whistling Sands” as it’s known locally. Porth Oer’s alternate name comes from the unusual quality of the sand on the beach, which makes a squeaking noise when you walk on it. The beach here – which is owned by the National Trust – is secluded and sandy, sheltered by towering cliffs, and it’s a great spot for swimming and sunbathing.
At Morfa Bychan you’ll find the vast, sandy beach of Traeth y Graig Ddu, or “Black Rock Sands”. This beach is simply enormous – so big, you can drive your car onto it – so it’s great for flying kites or trying your hand at kitesurfing. At the rocky headland at the western end of the beach you’ll find caves and rock pools to explore, so make sure the kids pack their fishing nets.
The beach on the estuary at Portmeirion is also a favourite spot for flying kites; when the tide is out the estuary is wide and sandy, and very picturesque. The views of Portmerion Village’s colourful buildings from the estuary are simply stunning, so don’t forget your camera.
If you’re a surfer at heart you’ll love Porth Neigwl, or “Hell’s Mouth”, one of the region’s favourite surfing beaches. The beach here faces west so it gets the full brunt of the wild Atlantic and some of the best surf in Wales. But if you’d rather be on the water than in it, you won’t be disappointed with the sailing along Snowdonia’s coast. There’s an excellent choice of marinas, harbours and slipways, including Hafan Pwllheli, one of the UK’s finest yachting marinas with excellent facilities and over 400 berths. Caernarfon also has a lovely marina, surrounded by chic eateries, bars and shops, and there are also excellent marinas at Conwy, Y Felinheli and Porthmadog.
Children – and the young at heart – will love Snowdonia’s traditional seaside resorts. Like Tywyn, with its vast beach, long promenade and children’s playground, and the narrow-gauge Talyllyn Railway for picturesque trips into the surrounding hills. Or Barmouth, with its pretty harbour, big sandy beach, funfair and shipwreck museum. Dinas Dinlle is also a favourite of visitors who like a good old-fashioned day at the seaside; the beach is a mix of sand and pebbles, with plenty of rock pools, and there’s a promenade that leads to an air museum in one direction and an Iron Age hill fort in the other.
Dinas Dinlle is also a good place to start a long, vigorous walk along a stretch of beach that’s got a bit of everything; sand, pebbles, rock pools, cliffs, and streams that run off the mountains down into the sea. Keep the sea to your right and the land to your left, and head towards the three peaks of Yr Eifl, which meets the sea at the quiet village of Trefor. This is an ideal route if you like to have mile upon mile of beach to yourself, peace and tranquility, and an opportunity to watch the local wildlife. As you walk through the beaches of Pontllyfni, Aberdesach and Clynnog Fawr, keep an eye out for herons, ringed plovers and oystercatchers – and if you’re very lucky, you may even see a seal or two bobbing up and down in the waves.