With the renaissance of staycations, and the fact it's now more affordable for many foreign travellers to visit, the United Kingdom is revelling in the chance to showcase some of its must-see destinations. Steeped in history and local lore, and with miles of rugged beaches, North Wales is one such highlight. The pride of the people of this region is palpable, and with so much on offer it’s not hard to see why.

Several small boats sit on the glassy water surrounding Caernarfon Castle in Wales; picturesque waterfront buildings can be seen in the background.
Caernarfon Castle is literally the stuff of legend © PayPal / Getty Images

1. Follow 'The Crown' to magnificent Caernarfon Castle

Used as a prominent filming location in series 3 of Netflix’s The Crown, Caernarfon Castle was also the real-life setting of Prince Charles’ investiture as the Prince of Wales in 1969. Built over 700 years ago by Edward I, and recognised as one of the greatest buildings of the Middle Ages, Caernarfon Castle evokes the Welsh myth of Macsen Wledig, who dreamed of “the fairest [castle] that man ever saw”. The legendary castle doesn’t disappoint. After a day of exploring the ramparts, make sure to stop by the neighbouring Anglesey Arms for a drink, where you can sit on the harbour wall to enjoy the sunset over the Menai Strait.

A view looking down to the boat-dotted bay at the busy Morfa Nefyn beach. Buildings line the beach-front, and many people are milling around on the sand outside Tŷ Coch Inn.
It's a bit of an endeavour to reach Tŷ Coch Inn, but your efforts will be rewarded © Katie Clowes / Lonely Planet

2. Visit some of the best beachside pubs

At the far end of Morfa Nefyn beach, Tŷ Coch Inn is only accessible by boat or on foot. However, for those in the know, the stroll along the beach or over the headland is well worth the effort: on a summer’s day there are few places nicer to enjoy a cold drink and a quick dip. Even on cooler days, a drink all cosied up inside is the perfect respite after a blustery walk alongside the crashing surf. Be warned that access can be restricted at high tide so always make sure to check the tides before setting off. For more blissful beach vibes but without the hassle, try The Ship Inn at Red Wharf Bay.

3. Scale the highest peak in Wales

At 1085m, Snowdon is the tallest mountain in the British Isles outside of Scotland. Yet despite its towering height, the mountain is surprisingly accessible. With six main walking routes to the summit, as well as the Snowdon Mountain Railway, there’s an option for most levels of fitness and mobility – the railway even ferries registered support dogs up the mountain. Once you’ve conquered the climb, reward yourself with a cuppa whilst admiring the dazzling views. Fun fact: refreshments have been sold at the summit since 1838, when an entrepreneurial miner started selling wares to hungry climbers. 

A small red, narrow-guage tourist train rides the rails towards Snowdon in Snowdonia National Park, as sun bathes the green peaks of the range.
If you're not able to summit Snowdon under your own steam, hop aboard the Mountain Railway instead © Dilchaspiyaan / Shutterstock

4. Fall in love at Llanddwyn island

St Dwynwen was an inspiration to independent ladies even in 465 CE. Attacked by her lover and rejected by her family for refusing to marry, St Dwynwen escaped to the island of Llanddwyn to live out her life in solitude. Rather than turning her back on love she became the patron saint of lovers and you can still ask for her blessing by making an offering to her at the wishing well on the island. 

5. The Italian Riviera of Wales

On a rural peninsula in 1926, architect Sir Clough Williams-Ellis realised his dream of an Italianate coastal village near his home in North Wales. A riot of colour, domes and arches, Portmeirion appears to have been transported from Mediterranean climes and delights visitors with its joyfully incongruous architecture and gardens. An unusually touching attraction is the Portmeirion Dog Cemetery. Established by a former tenant of the manor house, it's where Portmeirion's pets have been buried for the last century.

A park in Portmeirion; it has been planted with Mediterranean-style trees and plants, and it's surrounded by several elevated, brightly coloured buildings, giving the impression of an Italian hilltop town.
Portmeirion surprises with its Mediterranean-style architecture © Debu55y / Alamy Stock Photo

6. Hit the beach at Abersoch

With a multitude of water sports on offer, Abersoch is a fun-loving and fashionable hotspot during the summer months. Surfers, paddle-boarders, wind-surfers, kayakers and bodyboarders all ride the waves at this popular village resort and, if you’re lucky, you may well catch a glimpse of some equally excitable marine residents, as dolphins are not unfamiliar with these waters. After a day on the water, soak up the evening sun at one of the village’s bars or bistros. 

7. Be seduced by the old glamour of Llandudno

Renowned as one of the most glamorous destinations of the Victorian and Edwardian ages, Llandudno has not lost its charm and remains the largest holiday resort in Wales. Stroll the promenade to admire the splendour of the 19th-century water-front hotels before taking the Great Orme Tramway or cable cars up to the summit of Great Orme, and admire uninterrupted views of the Bay of Llandudno, Little Orme and the Conwy estuary stretching out into the Irish Sea. Round off your visit with fish and chips on the pier, but beware of the boisterous seagulls who won’t hesitate to help themselves!

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