The Llŷn Peninsula – or Snowdon’s Arm – is a beautiful finger of land that stretches out from Snowdonia into the Irish Sea. This dramatic 24-mile stretch of mountainous terrain has been populated for thousands of years, and remnants of its ancient past can be seen in the hill forts and burial chambers that dot the landscape.
In early times the mountains of the Llŷn Peninsula – a chain of long-extinct volcanoes – provided shelter from the elements and protection from invaders. With the passing of time the threat of invasion has passed, but the Llŷn Peninsula’s landscape and position have since provided protection for one of the region’s most valuable assets: the Welsh language. Over 80% of the Llŷn Peninsula’s population still use Welsh in everyday communication, making this region one of the most Welsh-speaking in Wales.
The language, the dramatic landscape, the myths and legends, the sense of community and ancient traditions… all these things give the Llŷn Peninsula its unique personality, a big attraction to travellers in search of the “real” Wales.
To get you started, here are ten spots on the Llŷn Peninsula that you won’t want to miss.
It’s hard to believe that this tiny village, set on a sheltered, sandy, crescent-shape beach, was once one of the busiest ports in North Wales, almost chosen as the ferry crossing port to Ireland. To get to Porthdinllaen, walk along the beach or through the golf course. Soak up the amazing views and enjoy a pint at the Tŷ Coch Inn right there on the beach.
Bypassed by the main road, Trefor – at the foot of Yr Eifl – is easy to get to but often overlooked by tourists. The quarry on the mountainside – whose granite paves streets all over the world – looks down over the village, which was purpose-built in the 1800s to house quarrymen. Trefor’s sand and pebble beach offers stunning views of the surrounding mountains, and its small harbour and slipway are ideal for launching small boats.
3. Tre’r Ceiri
On the other side of Yr Eifl, on its easternmost peak, is the Iron Age hill fort Tre’r Ceiri. “The most impressive and dramatic of all British hill forts,” says archaeologist James Dyer, who’s probably seen a few. The site is surrounded by a defensive wall, three metres high in places, protecting the remains of 150 circular stone huts. The views are amazing; on a clear day you’ll see the Preseli Hills in South Wales and the Wicklow Hills in Ireland.
Ancient fishing town which hosted King Edward I‘s celebrations after his 1284 conquest of Wales. According to tradition, there were so many revellers at the feast, the floor collapsed under their weight. The town predates Edward by several centuries, evidenced by remains of a motte-and-bailey castle and later tower, which overlook the town. Herring was once Nefyn‘s main produce; a local saying is that Nefyn herrings have backs like farmers and bellies like publicans!
5. Morfa Nefyn
Morfa Nefyn is home to one of the UK’s most famous and picturesque golf courses, which provides access to the beach at Porthdinllaen. Morfa Nefyn’s other famous feature is The Cliffs, a cliff-top restaurant renowned far and wide for its beautiful sunset views and delicious gratin of locally-caught crab.
Criccieth is a charming seaside town with medieval roots, dominated by its castle which juts out over the sea between two sandy beaches. Excellent selection of little shops, pubs and restaurants, and home to Cadwalader’s high quality ice cream that’s been made in Criccieth from a secret recipe since 1927.
This old market town was granted the Royal Charter by the Black Prince in 1355 in recognition of its trading importance. A former fishing port and shipbuilding centre, Pwllheli is now a popular seaside resort which boasts the biggest, most modern marina in Wales. Great for traditional seaside treats like chips, ice cream and amusements, but also for boat trips – look out for seals and dolphins, often seen in the waters off Pwllheli.
The sandy beaches of Abersoch – a popular watersports resort – are separated by a sheltering headland. Abersoch has risen from quiet fishing village to major yacht harbour, whose main focus is its yacht club. There’s also a hovercraft centre, pony trekking and an activity park with a maze, and the village is a base for six circular walks ranging from under a mile to over nine miles.
Historic, picturesque fishing village, the last stop for medieval pilgrims en route to Bardsey. Aberdaron has its roots in the Age of Saints, the site of the original 6th century church now occupied by its 15th century successor. One of the oldest buildings in Aberdaron is a cafe – Y Gegin Fawr – which was built around 1300 for the refreshment of pilgrims. To make your own pilgrimage to Bardsey, hop on a boat at Porth Meudwy.
The whole of Bardsey Island – Ynys Enlli in Welsh – is a nature reserve. Medieval Rome decreed that three pilgrimages to Bardsey equalled one to Rome, and it’s claimed that 20,000 saints are buried there. Bardsey’s monastery was founded in 515AD by the Breton-born missionary, Cadfan. As well as its rich variety of wildlife, Bardsey is home to the rarest apple in the world – Afal Enlli – which was grown in a monastery orchard on the island a thousand years ago.