Over many centuries the footsteps of pilgrims wore a path from Bangor Cathedral along the Llŷn Peninsula to the holy isle of Bardsey. In those days, three pilgrimages to Bardsey equalled one to Rome. Today, it’s the Llŷn Coastal Path that brings modern-day pilgrims: walkers and tourists.
Walking in Snowdonia isn’t just about the mountains; don’t forget, we’ve a stunning coast, too!
At over 90 miles long, the Llyn Coastal Path leads walkers from its starting point in Caernarfon all around the Llŷn Peninsula to Porthmadog. Waymarked to help walkers stay on track, the Llŷn Coastal Path takes in many of the Llŷn Peninsula’s top beauty spots, towns and villages. Here are ten to look out for.
1. Nant Gwrtheyrn
The Llŷn Peninsula is predominantly Welsh speaking, with over 80% of the population able to converse in Welsh; so it’s fitting that Nant Gwrtheyrn, the Welsh Language and Heritage Centre, is right here on Llŷn. As well as providing Welsh lessons, from taster days to full-on residential courses, the renovated old village with its shop, visitor centre and chapel is equally famous for the warmth of its welcome – or ‘croeso’, as we call it round these parts.
The charming seaside town of Criccieth is steeped in history, thanks in part to the ancient castle that dominates views throughout this tiny town. Here, medieval stronghold meets Victorian seaside resort, with wonderful beaches and great pubs, eateries and shops; the most famous of which is undoubtedly Cadwaladers, which has been making delicious ice cream to a secret recipe since 1927.
Former British Prime Minister, David Lloyd George, spent his boyhood in Llanystumdwy, and his childhood home has been recreated to depict the late 19th century, when Lloyd George lived there. The Lloyd George Museum offers a fascinating glimpse into Victorian life through artefacts, film and photos.
Llanbedrog is home to Oriel Plas Glyn-y-Weddw, a gorgeous Victorian Gothic mansion that’s now an excellent art gallery. Even if the art exhibitions, craft workshops and other events aren’t quite your ‘thing’, you’re bound to be stopped in your tracks by the stunning house and setting, with its fantastic views out to sea.
It’s all go at Abersoch, one of Snowdonia‘s top watersports resorts. A sheltering headland separates the sandy beaches of this little village that’s evolved over the years into a major yachting centre with yacht club, hovercraft centre, pony trekking and activity park. There’s plenty of non-watery reasons to visit Abersoch, too; great shops, great food and a lively, friendly atmosphere.
6. Morfa Nefyn
Morfa Nefyn is home to one of the UK’s most famous and picturesque golf courses, which you’ll need to walk through if you want to get to the beach at Porthdinllaen. “Like playing off the deck of a battleship”, so they say. The beaches along this stretch of the Snowdonia coast are idyllic, dramatic and every bit as interesting to kids as they are to adults.
The beach, the village, and even the waterfront inn at Porthdinllaen are protected by the National Trust. Once one of North Wales’ busiest ports, it was almost chosen as the ferry crossing port to Ireland when this important matter was being decided in the 19th century. Had Porthdinllaen not lost this contest to Holyhead, the Llŷn Peninsula might be a very different place indeed today.
8. Clynnog Fawr
Once one of the most important points along the pilgrims’ trail to Bardsey, Clynnog Fawr‘s status is evident in the beautiful old church of St Beuno, which is huge compared to churches in other hamlets this tiny. The church, churchyard and ancient lychgate are well worth a visit – as is the fascinating exhibition inside the church, which illustrates St Beuno’s important role on the pilgrims’ trail.
One of this quaint little town’s greatest ‘claims to fame’ is that it hosted King Edward I’s celebrations after his 1284 conquest of Wales; tradition has it that so many people packed themselves into the celebratory feast, the floor gave way under their collective weight. These days, Nefyn is just as famous as home to one of the Llŷn Peninsula’s most celebrated daughters – the talented chart-topping pop star, Duffy.
Bardsey, Enlli, the Isle of 20,000 saints; whatever you want to call it, Bardsey has been arguably the most important part of the Llŷn Peninsula for at least 1,500 years. Quite how 20,000 saints’ bodies could be buried in such a small place is perhaps a matter of faith and one of those mysteries we’re not meant to understand. Taking that small matter out of the equation, though, you’re left with an island steeped in history, myth, atmosphere and wildlife (the whole island is a nature reserve, in fact). There are so many stories about Bardsey, this is perhaps a subject to be covered in a separate article, some other time; meanwhile, if you’d like to know more about this magical place, make Aberdaron your starting point and take a short, inexpensive pleasure cruise over to Bardsey, where you’ll be able to absorb all that atmosphere first hand as a modern-day pilgrim.
About this post
This post was inspired by an article in the 2011 Snowdonia Mountains and Coast brochure, written by Karen Price, Chief Arts Correspondent at the Western Mail newspaper. In the article, Karen combines a stay at Nant Gwrtheyrn with a tour of the Llŷn Peninsula and parts of the Llŷn Coastal Path.