The North Wales villages that were made for winterPublished on 19 Dec 2022 by Amy Greenwood
The villages that were made for winter: our favourite North Wales places to explore when the temperatures start to drop include breathtaking landscapes that have an almost Alpine feel.
North Wales is beautiful at any time of year, but it really comes into its own in the winter. The hills are dusted with frost and snow, and our pine forests look even more beautiful next to their newly-bare broadleaved cousins.
Despite the crisp temperatures, the atmosphere feels somehow comforting and calm. Visiting old family favourites like Betws Y Coed or Beddgelert – especially when festive lights are twinkling and there’s a whiff of wood smoke in the air – brings back so many happy memories, and sets a delightful backdrop for creating new ones, too.
Take a look around our favourite North Wales villages to explore this winter.
Betws Y Coed
The beautiful mountain village of Betws y Coed is the gateway to the mountains, forests and lakes of the Snowdonia National Park. Surrounded by the dense Gwydir Forest – much of it coniferous – it has an almost Alpine feel. A traditional North Wales stone-and-slate village, Betws is home to an assortment of independent traders, outdoor gear shops and cafés, and some very decent places to find a spot of warming lunch. You’ll also find a good number of art galleries displaying talented Welsh artists. Whatever the season, the landscapes in this part of the world are strikingly beautiful. There are countless lovely low-level walks from the village, with some great circular routes to suit all ages and fitness levels.
Beddgelert is a stunning mountain village towards the west of the Snowdonia National Park. At the confluence of the Afon Colwyn and the Afon Glaslyn, it is surrounded by dramatic mountain landscapes which are breathtakingly beautiful in the winter. Built in a similar era – and therefore with a similar stone-and-slate architectural style to Betws, Beddgelert is a beautiful place to potter about, with plenty of shops including quality Welsh gifts, food and crafts. Wrap up warm and follow the pretty trail along the river to Gelert’s grave (a legendary local hound) to find out more about the village’s history. There are ample opportunities for post winter-ramble refreshments, with some excellent local pubs. Cosy up to the fireplace with a glass of your favourite tipple at the historic Saracen’s Head.
This brilliant medieval harbour town sits on the mouth of the River Conwy looking out across a fleet of little fishing boats to the Irish Sea. The 13th century castle dominates proceedings, along with the town walls – they’re so well preserved that they’ve been listed as a UNESCO World Heritage Site. But Conwy isn’t just about its castle. The town is home to some great cafes, delis, and independent shops, as well as some unexpected gems like the smallest house in Britain, and the UK’s finest surviving Elizabethan town house. There’s no shortage of great pubs with big fireplaces and well stocked bars. One of our favourites has to be the ever-splendid Erskine Arms. Conwy is a great place for not-on-the-High-Street Christmas shopping.
Caernarfon is one of the must-see towns of North Wales. It is home to the nation’s most magnificent fortress – a UNESCO World Heritage site and one of the best-preserved medieval castles on the planet (it’s well worth paying the small entry fee to explore the castle, which becomes even more moody and atmospheric during the winter). Caernarfon is perfect for exploring for some festive cheer, with its atmospheric medieval town walls, cobbled streets, and Georgian architecture. There are plenty of interesting shops, galleries, cafés and restaurants to discover, and some great traditional pubs, too. And if you’d like to explore slightly further afield, jump on board the Welsh Highland Railway from the centre of town for a festive ride on a steam train through the stunning landscapes of Eryri (Snowdonia).
Wondering what is the prettiest town on Anglesey? Beaumaris is a strong contender. Get ready for pastel-coloured terraces, a mighty medieval castle, and soaring mountain views. An elegant waterfront town, Beaumaris sits on the shores of the Menai Strait looking back towards the mighty mountains of Eryri (Snowdonia). The location is quite simply stunning. With a well-preserved medieval fortress, as well as elegant Georgian, Edwardian and Victorian architecture, the town has plenty of character and stories to tell. It is also home to a collection of interesting boutiques, artists, galleries, hand-made Welsh gifts, restaurants and cafés. Warm up with a pot of tea in the lounge of the traditional Bulkeley Arms Hotel, with deep armchairs and soaring mountain views.
On the original Victorian steam train line, Criccieth is an easy-living coastal town that has retained all of its old school charm. It is home to a spectacular fortress which stands proud on its own rocky headland, and two beautiful beaches with dramatic wintery ocean waves. Explore the town on foot to find traditional Welsh tearooms, some great places for lunch or dinner, independent shops and some very browsable galleries and antiques. There’s even a traditional Welsh clog maker who still has his workshop in the town. Criccieth town sits on the Wales coast path, and there are plenty of quiet trails running out of the town for walking and cycling when the winter weather is right.
Harlech is a charming historic Welsh coastal town on the edge of the Snowdonia National Park in North Wales. It is a place of guts, quirk, and rather epic, timeless beauty. The town grew up around a clifftop medieval castle, and is now recognised by UNESCO as being home to one of the best-preserved medieval fortresses in the world. Flanked by the majestic mountains of Eryri (Snowdonia) to the east, with Cardigan Bay and the Irish Sea to the west, the town’s hills and winding lanes provide plenty of nooks and crannies to explore, including some great independent shops, delis, and cafés. The excellent new visitor centre at Harlech Castle is an ideal all-weather day out. Don’t miss an opportunity to enjoy some warming lunch – and stunning panoramic views – at the castle’s excellent Caffi Castell.