I am so, so, SO lucky to live close to Wales. Truly. I know for some people Wales doesn’t seem that exciting, but for me it’s just such a gorgeous haven of majestic mountains, verdant forests, gushing waterfalls and everything else you could possibly need to see on a regular basis if you’re a city dweller like me.
I love Bristol, but sometimes I just need to see, feel and inhale somewhere a little more wild; being just a few hours away, Wales is where I escape when I get bored of laptop screens and busy pedestrians stepping on each other’s toes.
Recently, my boyfriend and I were lucky enough to take a road trip through Wales and Northern England. It felt particularly special to get out of Bristol this year, having been stuck in some variation of lockdown for most of it!
We were also exceptionally lucky to experience North Wales at its quietest. I’m not sure if this was down to this year’s circumstances or just because very few people choose to spend October in the windiest parts of the UK! Either way, it was pretty blissful to drive around and enjoy some much-needed solitude.
Because North Wales is just so magical, I’m 100% certain it’s going to become one of the UK’s next staycation hotspots. If you’re ready to buckle up and explore the delights of this hidden gem, don’t miss out on these five beautiful spots to add to your North Wales road trip (whenever it’s safe and legal to go).
I cancelled my trip to Italy this year (for obvious reasons), but I still got to wander through the enchanting streets of Portmeirion, an obscure yet charming Italian-style village in Gwynedd.
Portmeirion is a tourist village (aka you need to pay to go inside…) and I’d been warned that it gets pretty crowded in peak tourist season. However, we were lucky enough to have the place pretty much to ourselves for the first hour or so. We didn’t get there extraordinarily early, but even at about 10am on a Saturday it was still very quiet. To be honest, this is likely due to Covid-19 restrictions and the October weather!
I know that for some people, visiting tourist villages doesn’t feel very adventurous. However, Portmeirion feels so unique and entirely out of place that it seems to be one of North Wales’ most alluring spots. In fact, every person I spoke to who lived locally recommended we stop by, so I’d say it’s worth going.
It’s also really fun to walk around Portmeirion! You can grab a coffee or stop for some lunch, or simply nose around the main courtyard and marvel at the pastel-hued buildings. There are also a couple of great walks to try out. We took the coastal path, which takes you via a lighthouse and through the woods on a sightseeing route of weird and wonderful sculptures.
Newborough Nature Reserve
The Newborough Nature Reserve was my favourite – and most unexpected – North Wales road trip spot. My boyfriend and I stumbled upon this by chance – and I’m soooo glad we did!
The Newborough Nature Reserve in Angelsey is one of the few places in the UK that is still home to red squirrels, making this particular spot a place of scientific interest and very popular amongst families with young kids, photographers, nature enthusiasts and just about anyone who loves squirrels (…who doesn’t?). We, unfortunately, didn’t catch a glimpse of any furry friends, but we did enjoy winding and turning through the nature reserve’s densely-packed forest.
If you’re into forests like I am, this place is a dream. It’s so easy to wander away from the path and lose yourself in a sea of conifer trees, many of which have twisted and fallen over time, creating strange little hidey holes and dens for birds and other creatures.
While the forest here is gorgeous, it was the beach that stole the limelight for me. As you walk from the car park to the sea, you are truly spoilt for views. To the right, you’ll see the Llanddwyn Lighthouse poking out into the ocean, and to the left you’ll see mountain ranges peeking out above the horizon.
It’s a truly gorgeous beach that my boyfriend and I both agreed had to be up there with the most beautiful in the UK!
Snowdonia National Park
Climbing fells and mountains is one of my favourite hobbies, and I’m lucky to live so close to places where this is possible. Sure, I don’t live in Alaska – but Wales has its charm!
One of the most beautiful spots to do this in North Wales is, of course, Snowdonia National Park. Snowdonia is home to Wales’ tallest mountain, Snowdon, alongside a myriad of icy-cold lakes, waterfalls and forests.
Just driving though the park is a dream. It’s one of those places where you want to keep pulling over because there are new places to explore and views to drink in. Luckily, there are quite a few spots to do this!
Of course, while we were there, we also had to climb Snowdon. At 1085 metres, it’s not quite as tall as Ben Nevis (which we summited this time last year!) but this doesn’t mean it’s an easy climb. However, with Snowdon, you have quite a lot of choice when it comes to choosing a route.
As it was raining and pretty windy, we decided to summit via the Pyg Track and come back via the Miner’s Trail. These both offered gorgeous views and it was fun to switch things up a bit. However, if you decide to follow the same route, be aware that the steps/slope linking the two trails is fairly steep and rocky. When it’s raining, waterfalls flood parts of the slope which also makes it quite slippery.
Side note – if you’re climbing Snowdon in the autumn or winter months, don’t forget to pack a flask of hot coffee. It’s really, really cold at the top!
South Stack Lighthouse
I’m so glad we managed to get across to Anglesey on this road trip. If you’re in North Wales, it should absolutely be part of your itinerary! Newborough Beach (mentioned above) was our favourite Anglesey spot, but South Stack Lighthouse was a close second.
We arrived at the South Stack Lighthouse car park just as the sun was going down, and we were luckily blessed with clear, bright skies. This meant we got to watch an awesome sunset, as well as pretty special views of the lighthouse itself.
During the day, you can buy a ticket and cross the bridge to the little island that the lighthouse sits on, but by the time we arrived, there were just a few people milling around and taking photographs. We both agreed that the view from the car park and steps leading towards the lighthouse gate were 10/10 anyway, so we probably wouldn’t have bought a ticket even if we’d arrived before closing time!
I wish we’d bought a bottle of wine or picnic to watch the sun go down here. I’ll absolutely do this one day!
Mountains and forests are great, but sometimes you just need hot coffee and a stroll around a quaint town. If this is more up your street, then a trip to Beaumaris could be the one for you.
Unfortunately, we didn’t get to spend a whole lot of time in Beaumaris. We stopped to meet a friend for lunch in Menai Bridge (vegans, check out Green Olive for incredible cheesy garlic fries…) and she suggested that we drive down to Beaumaris Beach to catch the last remaining hours of daylight. We took her advice and spent a really lovely hour watching the boats bobbing up and down, strolling along the sea front and checking out the Gorsedd stone circle.
Like all of North Wales, Beaumaris is very picturesque. From the coastline, you can gaze out across the fells and hills in the distance and walk along the pebbly beach with the pier in the background.
It’s also home to Beaumaris Castle, which unfortunately we didn’t get to explore. I’ve never been particularly interested in castles but I love the look of this one, with its cobbled walls and emerald green moat. If you’ve ever wandered around Beaumaris Castle, I’d love to know what it’s like!
So, there we have it – five beautiful spots to add to your next North Wales road trip (whenever it may be!)
Do you have anywhere to add? I’d love to know your top recommendations!