Things to do in PorthmadogPublished on 23 Oct 2022 by Gwion Llwyd
A popular harbour town on Snowdonia’s west coast, Porthmadog is a great location for all ages and holiday preferences – there are just so many great things to do both in the town and on the doorstep. Nearby day trips include Harlech, Criccieth, and the beautiful mountain village of Beddgelert. Porthmadog has a bustling high street full of independent shops, as well as a very good selection of restaurants and cafés. You can jump on the Ffestiniog and Welsh Highland steam railways from the centre of town, and you’re just a twenty-minute drive from Zip World’s thrilling family adventures – including Bounce Below and Zip World Caverns – high in the mountains at Blaenau Ffestiniog. Portmeirion, with its much-loved Italian-style fantasy village is just a couple of miles down the road, and you’re on the right at the gateway to Pen Llŷn – the Llŷn Peninsula – home to some of the most beautiful beaches in Wales.
Here’s a selection of our favourite things to do in Porthmadog.
Jump on board the Ffestiniog and Welsh Highland Steam Railway
This part of the world has no shortage of heritage railways, but two of our favourites – the Ffestiniog Heritage Railway and Welsh Highland Railway – are right here in Porthmadog. 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 to enjoy 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 these railways is one of life’s great pleasures.
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. 2 miles from Porthmadog.
The Purple Moose Brewery
If you’re a fan of real ales, you can’t come to Porthmadog without visiting the Purple Moose micro brewery and shop – a great place to stock up on some flavoursome beers brewed right here in North Wales. Once you’re done in the shop, you can enjoy a glass of whatever takes your fancy at the brewery’s very own pub – The Australia – which you’ll find on the High Street in the centre of town.
A day out in Criccieth
The charming coastal village of Criccieth is a great day out, with its traditional Welsh tearooms, some great places to eat out, as well as some very decent fish and chips. Expect attractive 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, and a couple of beautiful beaches. Oh, and a medieval castle to watch over it all. It’s a great place to explore. 4 miles from Porthmadog.
Spend a day exploring Harlech
Harlech is a totally 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. Sitting proud on a hillside looking out to sea, Harlech is flanked by the majestic mountains of Snowdonia to the east, with Cardigan Bay and the Irish Sea to the west. Its hills and winding lanes provide plenty of nooks and crannies to explore, including some great independent shops, delis, cafés and a beautiful nearby beach. Read more about Harlech on our blog about the town. 9 miles from Porthmadog.
Visit the Church in the Sand near Llanbedr
Also worth exploring on this stretch of Welsh coast is the nearby medieval ‘church in the sand’ of St Tanwg, near the village of Llanbedr, around 12 miles from Porthmadog. Located in the sand dunes around 20 metres from the high tide mark, this ancient little chapel houses the grave of Welsh poet Sion Phillips, a contemporary of Shakespeare, who lived at nearby Shell Island. 12 miles from Porthmadog.
Play a round of golf
You’ll find Porthmadog Golf Course in nearby Morfa Bychan, just a couple of miles from the centre of town. It was established in 1905 by James Braid, the genius course designer of his day. It is a traditional links course, friendly, challenging and not to be missed. The front nine is predominantly heathland and the back nine links come with stunning views of the Cardigan Bay coastline and Snowdonia mountain range. 2 miles from Porthmadog.
Explore Pen Llŷn
Porthmadog sits right on the doorstep of Pen Llŷn – the Llŷn Peninsula – an Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty. 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 Oer and Porth Ysgo to enjoy some of the best ‘secret’ beaches in the UK. Busier beaches like Pwllheli and Abersoch are brilliant playgrounds for all sorts of watersports and have a dedicated surfer / kitesurfer following. A pint on the beach in front of the Ty Coch Inn at Porthdinllaen is an unmissable treat.
LOCAL ACTIVITIES AND ADVENTURES
Black Rock Lamas
This is a fabulously quirky place – a lama sanctuary based at Morfa Bychan, just outside Porthmadog. It’s the place to visit if you’d like to take a lama for a walk, watch them do some show jumping (AKA a rather impressive agility display), or even go lama trekking (1.5 activity, from age 7+). Book your Black Rock Lamas experience online, in advance. 2 miles from Porthmadog.
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. 6 miles from Porthmadog.
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. 9 miles from Porthmadog.
Snowdonia Adventure Activities
This outdoor specialist is based in the nearby village of Llanbedr, just south of Harlech. Snowdonia Adventure Activities offers gorge walking, SUPing, canyoning, kayaking, climbing, mountain biking and rock climbing, and we reckon they’re one of the best all-round outdoor activity providers in the area. 13 miles from Porthmadog.
The Glasfryn Parc Activity Centre is a short drive from Porthmadog. It offers hours – or even days – of family fun including archery, crazy golf, go-karting, wakeboarding, aquapark, kayaking, and stand up paddleboarding. 13 miles from Porthmadog.
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. 12 miles from Porthmadog.
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+. 12 miles from Porthmadog.
Other stand out North Wales adventure attractions include Zip World Titan, Zip World Velocity, Surf Snowdonia & Adventure Parc Snowdonia, Greenwood Forest Park, Rib Ride, The Slate Caverns at Llechwedd, and Go Below.
MOUNTAIN BIKING AND CYCLING
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. 18 miles from Porthmadog.
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. 12 miles from Porthmadog.
The Mawddach Trail
The Mawddach Trail footpath and cycle route runs just shy of 10 miles along a disused railway track on the southern side of the Mawddach estuary. The trail can be joined at several points, but it runs between the picturesque market town of Dolgellau and the iconic railway bridge over the mouth of the Mawddach estuary into Barmouth. Expect stunning views across to Diffwys and the Rhinog mountains, and up the estuary to Y Garn and the Arans beyond Dolgellau. 25 miles from Porthmadog.
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? Porthmadog 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 Porthmadog.
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. 9 miles from Porthmadog.
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. 7 miles from Porthmadog.
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.
Morfa Bychan / Black Rock Sands
Morfa Bychan – aka Black Rock Sands – is a long sandy beach just two miles from Porthmadog. It is one of the few locations where you can take your car on to the beach, and it has designated boat launch areas. The sea along the beach is shallow, with a gentle gradient making it ideal for swimming and bathing. With beautiful views of Criccieth castle and wide open views of the Irish Sea, it is the perfect place for a spot of beach cricket and a picnic. 2 miles from Porthmadog.
Borth y Gest
Borth Y Gest is a beautiful little harbour village on the Glaslyn Estuary, just a mile from the centre of Porthmadog. You’ll find some lovely little cafes and shops in the village, and a sandy beach with plenty of ‘pirate’ coves to explore. Swimming is not advisable at Borth y Gest due to exceptionally strong currents, but it is a great good beach for walking and sunbathing. The Wales Coast Path runs along the edge of the beach. 1 mile from Porthmadog.
Criccieth has two excellent Blue Flag beaches separated by the town’s prominent – and still powerful – medieval fortress. Marine Beach to the west of the castle is pebbly, has views straight out to sea, and is safe for swimming. Head west towards Pwllheli and you can walk for miles either along the beach or on the beachside path above. Criccieth’s main beach to the east of the castle is a mixture of pebbles and sand. Walk east of here to find rock pools and local wildlife. There is also a nice lawned area next to the beach if you’d prefer to have a picnic by the sea without the sand. 4 miles from Porthmadog.
The coastline near Harlech is one of sandy dunes and marram grass. The beach is a great place for a picnic and a paddle, but also a bit of a hidden gem for surfing and bodyboarding. Expect consistent rolling waves and beautiful views of the Gwynedd coastline stretching to the north and south. The showstopper of the location is Harlech Castle, which towers over the beach on the cliffside nearby. 10 miles from Porthmadog.
FOOD AND DRINK
There are so many great places to enjoy good food and drink in and near Porthmadog, we couldn’t possibly list them all here. Instead, here are some of our personal favourites. Enjoy!
The Australia – High Street, Porthmadog
Siop Coffi – High Street, Porthmadog
The Eating Gorilla Vegan Café – High Street, Penryhndeudraeth
Sea View Café – Sea Terrace, Borth Y Gest
Y Sgwar, Market Square, Porthmadog
Yr Hen Fecws – Lombard Street, Porthmadog
The Moorings – Ivy Terrace, Borth y Gest
Dylan’s – Maes y Mor – seafront, Criccieth
Fish and Chips
Allport’s – Snowdon Street, Porthmadog
The Creel, High Street, Porthmadog
Cadwaladers – Criccieth and Porthmadog
Cariad Gelato – High Street, Porthmadog
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