Want to woo the one you love with a romantic day out? Look no further than Snowdonia, where romance is in the air all year round…
The landscape and historic buildings of Snowdonia are among the most beautiful in Britain. Even during seemingly endless rain, the views in this stunning part of Wales are nothing short of inspirational.
As I write this article, I’m sitting in a snug old stone-built traditional Welsh long cottage and looking out onto a rain-soaked February day on the Snowdonia coast. And although the view today – the day before Valentine’s Day, as it happens – is more reminiscent of the wet and windy moors of Wuthering Heights than of the sun-kissed tropical beaches many dream of at this time of year, there’s definitely a romance to it that other destinations, for me, can’t beat.
What is it that makes a view ‘romantic’? Well, that’s subjective, of course; you’ll have your own criteria that won’t necessarily match mine. But for me, a romantic view would have to include that ever-present greenness that is the upside to a landscape that gets more than its fair share of rain. It’s found in the colours that Mother Nature so generously gifts us; it’s in ancient mountains and woodlands, deep river valleys and newborn lambs pronking in the fields; and it’s in the man-made structures that capture and frame the visions and ambitions of their creators, from medieval warlords to twentieth century eccentrics.
Where can we find such visions of romance in Snowdonia? In every molecule, if you look hard enough; but for now, let’s stick to ten of my favourites.
1. Portmeirion Village
Portmeirion Village oozes romance. The colours – both naturally occurring and those put there by the village’s creator, Clough Williams-Ellis – speak of love and joy and peaceful existence. The layout, the planning, the way natural features and quirky buildings blend into each other with edges so blurred they could be one and the same thing, make Portmeirion one of the most romantic places in Britain to take a stroll with the one you love. It takes a very hard heart to visit Portmeirion without being overwhelmed by romance!
2. Bodnant Garden
Bodnant Garden in the Conwy Valley is a wonderful place to keep track of the changing seasons and feast the eyes on nature’s little miracles. Visit now to see snowdrops and early daffodils, hellebores, carmelias and rhododendrons, witch hazel and iris. New life in abundance; what could be more romantic than that?
Plas Brondanw is the ancestral home of Clough Williams-Ellis. Its gardens are open to the public and are every bit as charming as Portmeirion itself. With immaculate lawns and neatly clipped topiaries that could have been lifted straight from the pages of Alice in Wonderland, Plas Brondanw Gardens is a year-round romantic delight.
4. The Fairy Glen
Even The Fairy Glen‘s name is romantic, conjuring up images of graceful, winged mythical creatures flitting through the trees singing songs of love. This magical spot at Betws-y-Coed is easily reached; you’ll be so enchanted once you arrive, you’ll never want to leave.
The vast woodland at Glynllifon, a beautifully restored Regency mansion just outside Caernarfon, is another place with an almost otherworldly atmosphere. Walking routes at Glynllifon will take you past old follies, beautiful pools, a huge slate amphitheatre and even an old hermitage. And trees, of course; a stroll hand-in-hand under their canopy, through a carpet of leaves on a sunny winter’s day, is gloriously romantic.
6. Dolbadarn Castle
Take yourself back momentarily, if you will, to a time of chivalry and the fair hands of damsels waiting to be won. Alright, I admit that medieval times were brutal and Dolbadarn Castle, like most of its contemporaries, was probably the site of much bloodshed and grief. All that remains now, for the most part, is the 50ft circular tower that overlooks the lakes and mountains at the heart of Snowdonia. But for those with eyes to see it, there’s a dreamy romance to the place that’s sure to woo that special knight or maiden’s heart.
7. St Tanwg’s Church
The ancient little church of St Tanwg at Llandanwg, near Harlech, suffered unimaginable neglect for centuries; it was even used as a place for fishermen to dry their nets, for a while. But nestling there in the sand dunes this dear little church refused to give up, and it’s now been lovingly restored so that it can continue to tell its story for a few more generations. What’s romantic about it? Perhaps you need to use your imagination here. Partly it’s the building’s story, and partly its location; but if you arrive in the right frame of mind, you’re sure to find a romance of your own in every whitewashed stone.
8. Criccieth Castle
Another building to fire up the imagination, Criccieth Castle sits on a huge rocky outcrop jutting out into the sea. The views up there are outstanding. You can see for miles on a good day; mountains and coastline jostle for prominence, giving your eyes so much to do, your head will spin. The beach at Criccieth is outstanding, too. It seems to go on forever, and those views never seem to diminish. Love letters in the sand; now that’s romantic!
Aberdaron, the ancient picturesque fishing village at the tip of the Llŷn Peninsula, oozes atmosphere. You might not think it particularly romantic just from looking at a photo; but its ancient history, and association with the holy island of Bardsey where 20,000 saints are said to be buried – combined with the beauty of the old buildings that would tell a tale or two if they could speak – shouldn’t be discounted. A stroll through the village and along the beach, followed by a hot chocolate in front of a roaring fire… a simple but special way to celebrate love.
10. Coed y Brenin
More woodland, this time at Coed y Brenin in southern Snowdonia. “But isn’t that a mountain biking centre?” you might ask; “and mountain bikes aren’t very romantic!” And I’d reply that yes, it is, and no, they’re not; but there’s more to Coed y Brenin than thrill-seeking on two wheels. Just walk, and talk, and breathe in that glorious fresh air; hold hands, and laugh, and see the beauty of the landscape and the one you love. Romance doesn’t have to be about big gestures; just being somewhere, together, happy, is all it takes.