The Bangor, Caernarfon and Llanberis area of Snowdonia is arguably the most action-packed part of the region. Here’s our quick guide to the things you can see and do when you visit Bangor, Caernarfon and Llanberis.
It may sound like a bit of a cliché, but in the Bangor, Caernarfon and Llanberis area of Snowdonia there really is something for everyone. History, culture, shopping, outdoor activities, family fun – you’ll find all of these and much more, in this popular tourism destination.
The city of Bangor has ancient roots. You’ll find the name Deiniol crops up often in and around Bangor – he was an early Christian saint who founded the ancient city’s religious centre, which today is celebrated in Bangor Cathedral. The cathedral’s present structure is 13th/14th century with 19th century renovations – it’s a very attractive building and worth a visit.
The Gwynedd Museum and Art Gallery, close to the cathedral, exhibits some really interesting artefacts from the area’s ancient past, like an excellently preserved Roman sword which is said to be the best in Britain.
Another one for history lovers, just outside Bangor is Penrhyn Castle, a castellated mansion extending from the original medieval manor house in an extravagant display of Victorian wealth and status. Penrhyn also has a railway museum and an excellent art collection.
Firmly back in modern times, Bangor is excellent for shopping. The High Street is packed with shops, from big chains to small independents. Being a university city, Bangor has many pubs and affordable places to eat. Outside the city centre there are several retail parks and superstores.
Caernarfon Castle was built by the English king Edward I in the 13th century so that he could control the area. Looking beyond the building’s original ugly purpose, you’ll see a beautiful and very well preserved example of medieval architecture, whose striped walls are said to be a nod to Constantinople. Inside the castle, which is well worth exploring, you’ll also find the museum of the Royal Welch Fusiliers, housing a fascinating collection of warfare artefacts.
The medieval influence doesn’t stop at the castle. The town’s layout is largely medieval, as are some of the buildings; and the old town walls are still imposing. Walk through the gate in the town wall by the castle and you’ll find yourself on the quayside looking out across the Menai Strait to Anglesey. Walking along the quayside you’ll eventually find yourself at Caernarfon Marina, where you’ll be able to visit Doc Fictoria with its shops, bars and restaurants, and Galeri Caernarfon, where there’s always something interesting going on – a concert, a play, a film, an exhibition or even just a decent cup of coffee and a slice of cake.
Caernarfon’s shopping centre is not large, but there are some very interesting shops to browse. Caernarfon doesn’t go in much for the big chain stores – there are a few on the main shopping street, but the Caernarfon shopping experience is really defined by the wonderful little independents you’ll discover in the narrow back streets.
For a really special treat, head for the Welsh Highland Railway where you can take one of the most scenic train journeys in the country.
Going out of town and into the surrounding countryside, there’s plenty to see and do for all the family. GreenWood Forest Park and Gypsy Wood are both excellent attractions for children, while the woodland at Glynllifon is ideal for a family walk. There are some excellent beaches nearby, too – Dinas Dinlle, with its air museum, Iron Age hill fort, ice cream parlour and gift shops is very popular on warmer days; the beach is very clean and sandy, and the sea is good for swimming and water sports. Don’t be surprised to see dolphins frolicking in the sea – it does happen at Dinas Dinlle from time to time!
The problem with Llanberis is knowing where to start. There’s so much going on in Llanberis, you’ll need a week to fit it all in!
There’s Electric Mountain, where you can take an underground tour of the power station. The little steam railway around the lake is delightful. The National Slate Museum is fascinating. Exploring Dolbadarn Castle is a must.
Padarn Country Park is an 800-acre nature reserve and a great place to try your hand at outdoor activities like rock climbing, orienteering, scuba diving, rowing, canoeing and sailing. Set within the park there’s also the Quarry Hospital Museum, and the Ropes and Ladders treetop course.
Add to this list boating on the lake and exploring the shops, and you’ve got a really activity-packed place. And that’s without mentioning the biggest attraction of all in Llanberis, which is of course the highest mountain in Wales and England: Snowdon. Take the train up the mountain from the little station in Llanberis, or walk to the top using one of the many paths – but however you get to the top, do it safely and ensure you’re well-prepared and well-equipped; the conditions on the mountain can change very suddenly.