Harlech, a World Heritage site, is probably best known as the home of Harlech Castle. But there’s so much more to Harlech; here are ten things you could see and do there.
The historic town of Harlech on the Gwynedd coast sits on a hillside above its medieval castle, started in 1283 by Edward I during his second Welsh campaign. But it’s not just the history at Harlech that keeps visitors coming back time after time; the beautiful surroundings, the town’s undeniable charm and the very personality of the area make Harlech a must-see when you visit Snowdonia.
1. Harlech Castle
Harlech Castle is considered one of the best examples – if not the best – of medieval British defensive architecture, and when you stand at the foot of those mighty walls you’ll understand why. Although it’s an ‘Edwardian’ castle in origin, it’s played its part in many campaigns in subsequent centuries. A long siege during the Wars of the Roses is said to be the origin of the Welsh song “Men of Harlech”.
2. Theatr Harlech
Theatr Harlech is a wonderful venue for all sorts of performances and events, from art exhibitions and plays to workshops and films – and all sorts of unusual things between! In the past, these have included sandcastle building workshops on Harlech beach and Bollywood dance lessons, while 2012 is shaping up to be an interesting year, with events like Planet Abba and a special St David’s Day concert to look forward to.
Set, as it is, among such beautiful countryside, you won’t want to miss the opportunity to do some walking when you visit Harlech. The old Cwm Bychan and Cwm Nantcol drovers’ roads are a great place to start, but in this part of the world there’s so much to explore by foot, you’ll be spoilt for choice. The Rhinogydd mountain range is another walkers’ favourite, and is known as the last true wilderness in Wales – again, easily accessible from Harlech. Find out more at Walk Eryri.
4. Underground exploration
At Llanfair Slate Caverns you can lose a few hours being fascinated by the vast caverns that were worked out of the rock by candlelight alone, over a hundred years ago. The slate in these caverns is among the oldest in the world, and tops the roofs of buildings all over Britain and Ireland. Well worth a visit!
5. Furry friends
If you’re travelling with children, pop along to Children’s Farm Park, which is back above ground by Llanfair Slate Caverns. There’s all sorts of fun here for the young adventurer, from mini tractors and air cannons to crazy golf and nature trails. And of course, lots of baby animals to coo over. The baby goats are always popular, as is bottle feeding the calves and lambs.
6. A round or two…
Golf is a big deal in Harlech. That’s because the town is home to one of the UK’s top golf courses, Royal St David’s, which draws visitors from all over the world who love to play a round or two in spectacular surroundings, in the shadow of Harlech Castle.
7. The beach
The beach at Harlech is big. Really big. And it’s the sort of beach that’s great for watersports, and exploring, and digging, and walking. And playing hide and seek in the dunes, of course. Don’t wait for the summer; Harlech beach is a joy all year round, so lace up your walking boots and head for the sand!
8. St Tanwg’s church, Llandanwg
If you’re a bit of a history buff, make sure you visit St Tanwg’s church at Llandanwg. Founded in the fifth century, this tiny church nestles in the sand dunes and is said to be one of the earliest Christian foundations in Britain. The present building is medieval, and after a period of neglect it was restored in the 19th century. An ancient gravestone bearing the inscription “Ingenuus” – a contemporary of St Patrick – sits by the altar, while the graveyard holds the remains of Sion Phillips, a contemporary of Shakespeare.
9. Bryn Cader Faner
Bryn Cader Faner is one of the most beautiful Bronze Age sites in Britain. This little cairn is only 8m wide and less than a metre high, but the fifteen slabs that lean outwards like a crown of thorns make it a thing of wonder. The walk to Bryn Cader Faner can be a bit of a challenge, but it’s well worth the effort.
You won’t find much in the way of high street chains in Harlech – phew! – but you will find plenty of gorgeous independent shops, just the way we like them here in Snowdonia. You’ll be able to shop for excellent local produce, arts and crafts, gifts and interiors; for a special treat pop into Hufenfa’r Castell for some extra-tasty ice cream.