Things To Do In CaernarfonPublished on 2 Mar 2022 by Gwion Llwyd
Caernarfon is one of the must-see towns of North Wales. 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 is perfect for exploring on foot, with its 13th century walls, cobbled streets, and Georgian architecture. There are plenty of interesting shops, galleries, cafés and restaurants to discover too.
You can jump on board the Welsh Highland Railway from the centre of town for trips to Porthmadog, Rhyd Ddu, and Beddgelert. If you enjoy cycling or walking on your holidays, follow the traffic-free cycle track Lon Las Fenai, which is part of the Wales Coast Path. If you fancy heading slightly further afield, Anglesey is just a short hop across the Menai Bridge, around 10 miles north-east of Caernarfon. Or head to the Llŷn Peninsula, which begins around 10 miles south of Caernarfon. There are plenty of outdoor specialists in the area, and easy access to some of the region’s best adventure attractions.
Here’s a selection of our favourite things to do in Caernarfon.
Explore Caernarfon Castle
This magnificent fortress-palace on the banks of the River Seiont is grouped with Edward I’s other castles at Conwy, Beaumaris and Harlech as a UNESCO World Heritage Site. Edward and his military architect Master James of St George built the castle, the town walls and a quay all at the same time. The gigantic building project eventually took 47 years and cost a staggering £25,000. Over 700 years later, Caernarfon Castle is still Wales’s most famous – and arguably most mighty – medieval castle, recognised around the world as one of the greatest buildings of the Middle Ages. Its vast curtain walls, polygonal towers and turrets are inspired by the imperial Roman architecture of medieval Constantinople. It’s a hugely atmospheric place to explore and let your imagination roam. Don’t miss the Royal Welch Fusiliers Museum which is housed in two of the fortress’s towers.
Head to Caernarfon’s artist’s quarter at Cei Llechi
Once at the heart of Caernarfon’s thriving slate trade, Cei Llechi – which means ‘Slate Quay – has been recently redeveloped, and is now home to brilliant local artists, artisans, and craft makers. Cei Llechi also hosts regular events and markets.
Discover Caernarfon’s Roman roots
You can find out more about Caernarfon’s Roman roots at Segontium – a Roman fort on the outskirts of Caernarfon. Established nearly two millennia ago, this strategically placed fort at the edge of the Roman Empire bustled with life for more than three hundred years. Thanks to excavated coins we know the Romans stayed until about AD394 – no other fort in Wales was held so long. Segontium not only controlled access to fertile and mineral-rich Anglesey but later helped defend the Welsh coast against Irish pirates. The Roman ruins are free to visit. Less than a mile from the centre of Caernarfon.
Take a ride on a steam train
This part of the world has no shortage of heritage railways, and one of our favourites, the Welsh Highland Railway, is based in Caernarfon. If ever there were a place to sit back and enjoy the nostalgic pleasure of steam, this is it. Jump on board in the centre of town for trips to Beddgelert, Porthmadog and Rhyd Ddu, and enjoy the comfortable plush carriages, the nostalgic aroma of coal, and gentle chuff of the engine as it moves through spectacular mountain landscapes. A day out on this heritage railway is a magical way to explore the landscapes of North Wales.
Plas Newydd Stately Home near Newborough
An enchanting mansion house and gardens owned by the National Trust, just over the Menai Bridge on Anglesey. Plas Newydd has fantastic views across the Menai Strait to Snowdonia, and is home to an exhibition of works by Rex Whistler, including his famous dining room mural. The extensive gardens are beautiful all year round, with a fine spring garden and Australasian arboretum, an understorey of shrubs and wildflowers, an Italianate-style summer terrace, and massed hydrangeas. The gardens are also home to a significant red squirrel population. There is a lovely tearoom and gift shop. 10 miles from Caernarfon.
Anglesey Sea Zoo near Brynsiencyn
If you like ocean life you should make time for a trip to the excellent Anglesey Sea Zoo, which you’ll find on the Anglesey shores of the Menai Strait , almost opposite Caernarfon. It’s a unique aquarium, displaying the best of British marine wildlife including octopus, lobsters, seahorses, conger eels and jellyfish. There’s also plenty of engaging information about British marine habitats and the research and conservation work which is helping to save them. 14 miles from Caernarfon.
Dwyfor Ranch Rabbit farm and Animal Park
For over 30 years this lovely farm has welcomed visitors to interact with a wide range of farm animals, including some rare breeds. Children are allowed to handle a selection of different types of animals including rabbits, guinea pigs and puppies, as well as hand-feeding many of the larger animals such as pigmy goats, alpacas, rhea, donkeys, ponies, pigs and lambs. Check the website for opening times. 16 miles from Caernarfon.
Experience the quirky beauty of Portmeirion
Portmeirion Village was designed by Welsh Architect Clough Williams-Ellis in the early 20th century. The architectural equivalent of Willy Wonka’s chocolate factory, it is an eccentric collection of Riviera-inspired houses, ornamental gardens and colour washed villas. It is also home to the spectacular Gwyllt woodland – ten hectares of trees and ornamental shrubs, with big views over the Dwyryd Estuary towards Harlech. There are plenty of cafés and shops to browse, and fabulous Italian Gelati at Caffi’r Angel. Lunch on the lawn outside the beautiful Art Deco Hotel Portmeirion is the perfect holiday treat. Read more about a day out at Portmeirion here. 22 miles from Caernarfon.
Discover the story of slate at Llechwedd Slate Caverns
The deep mine tour at Llechwedd Slate Caverns tells the story of the men who built an industry which roofed the world – the Welsh slate industry. Experienced from the point of view of the mine workers, the tour takes you deep underground – around 500ft. – to tell the story of the slate miners’ blood and guts, determination and resilience. It’s a fascinating insight into the culture and heritage of North Wales. 30 miles from Caernarfon.
LOCAL ACTIVITIES AND ADVENTURES
Beacon Climbing Centre
Designed, built and used by people that are passionate about climbing, the Beacon Climbing Centre is the largest indoor climbing centre in North Wales. Suitable for users from age 2+, its climbing experiences are designed to cater for all levels, from first experience to elite performance. 2 miles from Caernarfon.
Greenwood Forest Park
Consistently voted Best Family Attraction in North Wales, GreenWood boasts amazing family adventure play nestled amongst the trees, including the world’s only people powered coaster. 6 miles from Caernarfon.
Head to Anglesey to take a high-speed RIB ride
Head to Anglesey and jump on board the world’s fastest rigid inflatable boat (RIB) with Rib Ride at Menai Bridge, Anglesey. This amazing piece of engineering flies up and down the Menai Strait – the body of water which separates Anglesey from mainland Wales – at speeds of up to 80 mph. It’s an exhilarating ride! Buy your tickets at the Rib Ride Office near Dylan’s restaurant in the centre of town. The ride is suitable for adults and children age 10+. 10 miles from Caernarfon.
Zip World Velocity
Prepare for a truly unique and exhilarating experience: the fastest zip line in the world! On Velocity2 in Bethesda, you will soar over Penrhyn Quarry, where you can travel at speeds of up to and over 100 mph while taking in unbeatable views of Snowdonia. 12 miles from Caernarfon.
Sygun Copper Mines
Winner of the Prince of Wales award for tourism, Sygun Copper Mine is one of the wonders of Wales – a remarkable and impressive example of how our precious industrial heritage can be reclaimed, restored and transformed into an outstanding attraction. A self-guided audiovisual tour allows you to explore the old workings with its winding tunnels and large, colorful chambers, magnificent stalactite and stalagmite formations. Above ground you can try your hand at panning for gold and enjoy a beautiful lakeside walk. The kids can let off steam at the adventure playground. 14 miles from Caernarfon.
Dragon Raiders Activity Parc
Dragon Raiders Activity Park Based in beautiful woodlands in an Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty, this family-friendly park offers quad biking, paintballing, and Segway adventure treks. Book in advance. 16 miles from Caernarfon.
The Glasfryn Parc Activity Centre offers hours – or even days – of family fun including archery, crazy golf, go-karting, wakeboarding, aquapark, kayaking, and stand up paddleboarding. 16 miles from Caernarfon.
Zip World Fforest
In a stunning woodland setting nestled in the Conwy Valley, a host of forest adventures and foodie delights await at Zip World Fforest. With adventures to keep the whole family busy all day, choose from the Fforest Coaster, the UK’s only alpine coaster of its kind, bouncing fun on Treetop Nets, or zip line and adventure courses high in the trees on Tree Hoppers or Zip Safari. If that isn’t quite enough, you could also have a go on Europe’s highest giant swing, Skyride, or take a tandem freefall jump from Plummet2. Book online in advance. 28 miles from Caernarfon.
Could this be the scariest assault course in the world? It surely has to be a contender: Go Below’s epic subterranean trip includes a sequence of zip wires, cold-sweat-inducing bridges and traverses, and an abseil to the deepest accessible point in the UK. Boating across an atmospheric underground lake feels like a welcome reprieve. The course culminates in a 70ft jump into the abyss on the world’s only underground free fall. It’s adrenaline pumping, heart thumping, pulse jumping ‘fun’, if you like that kind of thing. Head for heights advised. You’ll emerge feeling like a hero. You’ll find Go Below just outside Betws y Coed, in the Conwy Falls Forest Park. Book in advance. 30 miles from Caernarfon.
Zip World Caverns
This underground adventure allows you to speed through the caverns of the abandoned Llechwedd slate mine on zip lines, navigating part of the course with a via ferrata, monkey bars, and a whole variety of challenging obstacles. It’s a thrilling experience! Zip World Caverns is part of the Zip World portfolio, which also boasts Europe’s largest zip zone at Blaenau, as well as the fastest zip line in the world at Penrhyn Quarry – a site that was once home to the world’s largest slate quarry. 30 miles from Caernarfon.
Zip World Caverns (see above) is where you’ll also find Bounce Below – a series of giant underground trampolines, strung across enormous underground chambers, with climbs, slides and various levels to navigate. Bounce Below is another thrilling and completely unique North Wales adventure. From age 7+. 30 miles from Caernarfon.
Set in the stunning slate mountains of Blaenau Ffestiniog, and with far-reaching views towards the Irish Sea, Antur Stiniog offers 14 fantastic gravity fed trails for all shades of rider from novice to world cup racer. The downhill trails are graded from green to black. Antur Stiniog includes a mountain uplift service, and bikes are available to hire from the site. 30 miles from Caernarfon.
Go surfing in Abersoch
Abersoch’s sandy beach is popular with swimmers, sandcastlers and paddlers – and there’s plenty of room for a game of cricket or rounders too. The town is very popular with surfers, and there’s plenty of opportunity to learn how to catch a wave with a number of surf schools near the waterfront, including Abersoch Watersports, Offaxis, and the Hell’s Mouth Surf School. 30 miles from Caernarfon.
Adventure Parc Snowdonia
As well as a world-first inland surf lagoon, Adventure Parc Snowdonia is home to trailblazing indoor and outdoor adventures at Adrenaline Indoors, a giant indoor adventure arena. Perfect for weatherproof days out in NorthWales, adventures include indoor and outdoor climbing walls, artificial caving, a ninja assault course and indoor high ropes, as well as a Soft Play zone for younger adventurers. There is also a pump track and mountain bike hire on site – handy for exploring the nearby Gwydir Mawr a Bach / Marin Trail. If you prefer your adventures to be a little more sedate, Adventure Parc Snowdonia is also home to The Wave Garden Spa – a fabulous indoor / outdoor spa. 34 miles from Caernarfon.
MOUNTAIN BIKING AND CYCLING
Cycle the Lon Las Fenai to Anglesey
If you enjoy cycling on your holidays, follow the traffic-free cycle track Lon Las Fenai, which is part of the Wales Coast Path. Starting near Caernarfon Castle, it tracks the Menai Strait (the body of water between mainland Wales and Ynys Mȏn / Anglesey) from Caernarfon to Y Felinheli, and you can follow it all the way to Bangor (9 miles) and then into the mountains of Dyffryn Ogwen, or over the Menai Bridge to Anglesey (8.5 miles).
Coed y Brenin
Coed y Brenin near Dolgellau is the UK’s first and largest dedicated mountain bike trail
centre. Hire bikes from the visitor centre (or bring your own) to explore miles of world-class mountain bike trails, with waymarked routes to suit all abilities. There is also a café, plenty of family walking trails, a nice play area and some gorgeous spots for a riverside picnic. 36 miles from Caernarfon.
Want to hire some wheels?
Head to Beics Antur Bikes in Caernarfon.
Conquer Yr Wyddfa – Snowdon
It’s a bucket list favourite for anyone visiting North Wales – do you fancy climbing Wales’s highest summit on your next trip here? Caernarfon is a short distance from the start point of one of the best routes up Yr Wyddfa – or Snowdon, the Rhyd Ddu Path (pronounced ‘rheed-thee’). This is one of the quieter ways up the great mountain, and offers some of the best views. Plan ahead by downloading the Snowdon Walks app, which covers the six main routes up, with detailed maps and a live progress tracker. You can read more about how to prepare for a walk up Snowdon, here. 10 miles from Caernarfon.
Master Moel Hebog
It’s Beddgelert’s own mountain: a worthy day of walking that will reward you with superb 360 views of Snowdon, Snowdonia and the North Wales coast. At 782m Moel Hebog is no lofty peak, but it shouldn’t be underestimated. A circular route covers around 9km and will take you the best part of a day. Make sure you check the weather, and that you will have enough light to finish, before you set off. You can read our guide to Moel Hebog, here. 12 miles from Caernarfon.
Where hiking meets proper mountaineering and an Everest connection. Tryfan is one of the great peaks of North Wales. This 917-metre granite peak is part of the rocky Glyderau range in Snowdonia, not too far from Capel Curig or Llanberis. Tryfan is a mountain where hiking meets mountaineering, and you will need a good level of fitness and some previous scrambling experience to take it on safely, but ropes are not necessary. All the same, be prepared for a significant level of challenge and dress appropriately: this is definitely no easy stroll. 17 miles from Caernarfon.
Take on Cnicht – aka the Welsh Matterhorn – for breathtaking mountain scenery and one of Snowdonia’s best 360-degree summit panoramas. Cnicht’s pointed summit really stands out among the rounded bumps of the neighbouring peaks. It is part of Snowdonia’s Moelwyn range, a short drive from Porthmadog. Its appearance when viewed from Porthmadog has earned it the name the ‘Welsh Matterhorn’, albeit a somewhat smaller version (689m as opposed to a whopping 4,478m). You can read our guide to Cnicht, here. 20 miles from Caernarfon.
Other local walking ideas
For some more walking inspiration, you might be interested in these websites: Mud and Routes is a great information resource for walking in the area. Simply enter where you would like to walk and it will give you some tried and tested routes. Geocaching is popular in this neck of the woods and if you love a treasure hunt, then this is a great way to while away an afternoon, especially if you’re trying to keep the kids amused too.
Just a short drive from Caernarfon, Dinas Dinlle is a popular beach with easy access. Its upper shore of small pebbles soon gives way to a vast expanse of firm, golden sand. The sense of space is overwhelming – in good weather it’s possible to see all the way along the Llŷn Peninsula and across to Llanddwyn Island on Anglesey. The beach has two slipways, so it’s popular with watersports enthusiasts, especially jet skiers, power boaters, scuba divers and windsurfers. There is a craft exclusion zone and restrictions on dogs.
Explore Pen Llŷn’s secret beaches
Caernarfon sits just a few miles from the gateway to Pen Llŷn – the Llŷn Peninsula – an Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty and a real gem of the British Isles. One of the least explored parts of Wales, Pen Llŷn is the kind of place where you can take a picnic to a ‘secret’ cove or beach and feel like you have the whole place to yourself – because you probably will. Head to Pen Llŷn’s Porth Iago, Porth Or (Whistling Sands) and Porth Ysgo to enjoy some of the best ‘secret’ beaches’ in the UK. A pint on the sandy beach in front of the Ty Coch Inn at Porthdinllaen should be an obligatory part of any holiday to Pen Llŷn.
Head to Anglesey’s Newborough Beach and Warren
Newborough is a truly enchanting place on the south western tip of Anglesey. Pine trees roll down to big sandy dunes and a fabulous golden beach with a stunning mountain backdrop. From the beach, you can walk out to Llanddwyn Island, at the west end of the beach, at low tide.
Legend has it that Llanddwyn was the 5th century home of Dwynwen, the Welsh patron saint of lovers. Newborough beach sits on the edge of Newborough Forest and Warren. The forest is famed for its thriving red squirrel population and a huge raven roost. There are loads of trails and paths to explore, and the forest is a lovely place for a day out on foot or two wheels. Animal Puzzle Trail for younger visitors, two family friendly cycle trails, a trim trail and a waymarked running trail. There is a small charge to the car park at the Warren, which has public loos and picnic benches. 17 miles from Caernarfon.
FOOD AND DRINK
There are so many great places to enjoy good food and drink in and near Caernarfon, we couldn’t possibly list them all here. Instead, here are some of our personal favourites. Enjoy!
The Black Boy Inn, Northgate Street
The Ship and Castle, Bangor Street
The Gors Bach Inn, Llanddeiniolen, 4 miles from Caernarfon
The Galeri café bar at Cae Llechi, Doc Victoria
Scoops Dutch Pancake Café, Palace Street
Bontà Deli, Palace Street
The Swellies Café, Y Felinheli Marina
Sheeps and Leeks, East Gate Street
Wal Restaurant, Palace Street
Ouzo and Olives Greek Restaurant, Hole in the Wall Street
Fu’s Chinese Restaurant, Doc Fitoria
The Mill Bistro, Llanberis Road, Pontrug
The Bengal Spice, Palace Street
Ainsworth Fish and Chips, Bridge Street
THE PRACTICAL STUFF
For medical help
Dial 999 to call for an ambulance if you require urgent medical attention.
You can find your nearest urgent care health services provider by searching the NHS online directory at https://www.nhs.uk/service-search/other-services/
For non-urgent medical advice dial ‘111’ to speak to an operator at the NHS telephone advice service, or visit www.111.nhs.uk
The welsh alphabet is phonetic so once you know how to say the letters, the theory is that reading the words is straightforward; you say what you see. A little time spent familiarising yourself with the alphabet will help no end when you’re trying to navigate your way around the area…
a short, as in ‘hat’, never as in ‘ball’
b as in ‘bag’. Although is there really any other way?
c always hard as in ‘cat’, never an s as in ‘precise’
ch like the ch in the Scottish word ‘loch’, but with more phlegm
d as in ‘dog’, never as in ‘djinn’
dd a buzzy ‘th’ sound, as in ‘this’. Think angry bees with a lisp
e short, as in pen
f v. This is very, very simple, and when you get really used to it, f will play hafock with your spelling
ff f. Equally, you can ffind yourselff getting too used to ff as well
g always hard as in ‘get’, never a ‘j’ sound as in the last g in garage
ng as in ‘song’, where the g isn’t hard, like in ‘gig’, but a soft glottal stop made in your throat
h as in hat, always sounded and never silent
i as in ‘pin’
j accepted now because of the loan words from English that use it, like ‘garej’
l a ‘luh’ as in ‘lava’, but never an ‘ul’ sound as in ‘milk’
ll not as hard a sound to make as some would have you think. Raise your tongue to the top of your mouth as if you were going to say ‘el’, then make the ‘ell’ sound by blowing air round the sides of your raised tongue, instead of by using your voice. You should sound like an annoyed cat
m as in ‘mithridatize’. Or as in ‘mum’, if you want to be boring
n as in ‘nanobot’
o short as in ‘hot’, not round as in ‘hotel’
p can I have a p please Bob?
ph an English f, or Welsh ff sound, as in ‘phase’
r rolled. Some people just can’t get a rolled ‘r’ – their tongues are unable to vibrate in the right way. It’s a genetic thing, apparently,
similar to being able to roll your tongue into a tube, or turn the end upside down. Honestly, some people can, but my tongue’s not that prehensile. Roll if you can, don’t if you can’t
rh hr. Make a huffy, breathy sound before your rolled ‘r’
s always soft as in ‘sit’, never a ‘z’ sound as in ‘juxtapose’
t as in ‘top’. Can it get any simpler?
th as in ‘think’, softer and less buzzy than dd
u If you had stepped in something disgusting and made a kind of ‘eugh’ noise, the vowel ‘eu’ sound would about approximate
y ok, y breaks the rule that Welsh is phonetic. As a single syllable word, y is like ‘uh’, on the last syllable of a multisyllabic word it’ an‘u’ or ‘ee’, and anywhere else it’s like the unstressed, indeterminate noise of the final e in ‘garden’ or ‘letter’. Ysbyty (hospital) is the perfect example.
How are you? Sut mae / Ti’n iawn
Good morning: Bore da
Good Afternoon: P.nawn da, prynhawn da
Good evening: Noswaith dda
Good night: Nos da
Cheers / Good Health! Iechyd da!
Do you speak welsh? Ydych chi’n siarad Cymraeg?
How do you say…. in welsh? Beth ydy….yn Cymraeg?
Thank you: Diolch
I love you: Dw i’n dy garu di
Happy Birthday: Penblwdd Hapus
and a couple of funny ones….
Microwave: popty ping
‘Might as well’: Man a man a mwnci