Must-See Historical Homes & Castles

Step back into history at one of these old homes…

North Wales isn’t all about rugged landscapes and extreme sports – there are historical gems tucked away all over the region.

The upkeep of a historical home or castle is no easy matter. Gone are the day when a man’s work could be easily bought for a bowl of soup and a hunk of bread; whilst this is probably a good thing it has meant that the cost of maintaining some of the finest country homes and castles in North Wales has sky-rocketed.

In these tough financial times the ownership of many of these homes has led to them opening up their doors to the public, with some of them even choosing to turn their properties into luxury hotels and spas. Properties of this size often need to be changed or adapted in the process which can lead to huge structural and functional changes in the buildings. One home might need an entire conservatory roof replacement, whilst another could need historically accurate floors designed and built-to-size – needless to say, it can be quite an expensive undertaking!

You don’t have to worry about these details though, all you’ll need is the entry fee and maybe a packed lunch to tuck into:

Penrhyn Castle

Whilst you’ll find that domineering fortresses come a dime-a-dozen here in North Wales (thanks to King Edward’s obsession with securing his lands) Penhryn Castle is truly one of a kind. Described as a ‘fantasy castle’ by the National Trust (who have taken ownership of the building and its gardens) it’s hard not to be a little overwhelmed by the variety of features to see here, from the neo-Norman stairways to the quintessential Victorian kitchens.

How much? £13.50 for adults and £6.75 for children (including Gift Aid)

Tower

The privately-owned Tower can trace its history all the way back to 1450 making it one of the oldest buildings on this list. Throughout the years it has served a multitude of purposes and has also gone under a number of renovations, the most notable of which took place during the early 18th Century. Despite these changes Tower remains authentic in its medieval nature and makes for a good half-day visit. Although public access is granted to the Tower on select dates throughout the year (it’s best to check their site whilst planning your trip), the building’s main purpose is now a B&B and wedding venue.

How much? £5 for all on select dates

Aberconwy House

When visitors come to Conwy they expect to see the usual raft of seaside attractions and a standard High Street, which is why Aberconwy House makes for such a pleasant surprise for most.

Once the home of a medieval merchant, this 14th Century house has been kept in immaculate condition by the National Trust who have decked out each room to display what daily life might have looked like throughout it’s near six centuries of existence.

As interesting as this is there isn’t enough here to recommend it for a full day out, but thankfully this is reflected in the modest price tag.

How much? £4.60 for adults, £2.30 for children

Peace Gardens & Parks to Relax In

Not quite up to a full-blown adventure?

That’s OK! The Vale of Ffestiniog and the surrounding areas isn’t just for extreme sports fanatics and adrenaline junkies – there are acres of beautiful parks and gardens to relax in here, so you’ll never have to drive that far to find somewhere to unwind.

From its central place in Snowdonia, Blaenau Ffestiniog is a perfect starting point for your North Wales adventure and whilst it might be tempting to pack in as much high-octane activities as possible, it’s always a good idea to leave some time to put your feet up and unwind: after all it’s your holiday!

Gardens are difficult things to look after, there are so many thing to keep an eye on that many people just don’t bother. Fences need looking after, lawns need trimming and, if you’re unlucky, you might even need help getting rid of Japanese knotweed using KnotweedHelp.com! Public gardens and parks offer all the benefits of having your own garden with none of the drawbacks.

Keeping your kids entertained doesn’t have to be an impossible or expensive task either, just make sure you bring along a frisbee or a rounders set to keep them occupied, as well as enough food and drink to keep you all fed. As long as the weather holds, a day out in the park or woodlands can be a care-free relaxing experience that’s also relatively cheap.

These are our favourite green space to relax in:

Caerau Gardens

Opened by Toby and Stephanie Hickish in 1994, the garden and forest areas make for an ideal place for families to escape to for a day. As you can imagine, after nearly 25 years of developing and growing, the Hickish’s garden is quite the sight to behold but it’s also helped by it’s elevation; at over 1000ft above sea level visitors are also treated to spectacular views of the surrounding landscape. The kids can make the most of a sunken trampoline, as well as a zip-line and fort to play in. If you forget to bring a picnic there’s also a cafe onsite that serves a decent spread of food.

Plas Brondanw Gardens

There are no shortage of fine country houses in and around Snowdonia, although many of them have fallen into disrepair over the years. Thankfully, Plas Brondanw is not one of them. The gardens here were designed by the legendary architect Sir Clough Williams-Ellis who was given the home and land in 1902 from his Father. Although Williams-Ellis is perhaps best known for designing the iconic village of Portmeirion, it’s been said that the gardens at Plas Brondanw far surpass it in beauty. Entrance is £5 per person, making this a bit more expensive for families, but ideal for couples.

The Joys of Life Country Park

Around an hour’s drive away from Ffestiniog, the Joys of Life Country Park might sound like a rather strange place, but its peaceful seclusion and quality facilities make it an ideal place to unwind in. Ten acres of grounds include a nature trail, ideal for kids who are keen to spot the abundance of wildlife that calls its home there and there’s also a bird-watching hide for the patient ones in your group who are willing to wait for a rare sighting. On a side-note, this is a ideal place to organise a family reunion or party at. The facilities here include a handful of self-catering cottages and spaces that are ideal for hosting a big shindig.

6 Must-Eat Places Around Ffestiniog

Looking for a bite around Ffestiniog?

Although Ffestiniog lies in the heart of Snowdonia, relatively cut off from the rest of the world, you’d be surprised at the variety of food there is on offer.

Despite it’s isolated location you can find a wide range of eateries here to suit all tastes, styles and budgets. If you’re looking to save your pennies then you can make the most of a number of well-established takeaways that offer an affordable range of popular dishes.

We’ve cast our eyes over what Ffestiniog has to offer and picked out our favourites:

CellB

Many visitors do a double-take when they hear about CellB, its mission statement is more in line with an innovative London-based establishment than a cafe/bar you’d expect to find in Wales. In their words, this establish has become one of the most successful places in the region by ‘Connecting culture, drink and food with art and accommodation.’ On Friday, Saturday and Sunday you can choose from a great Breakfast and Lunch menu, from Thursdays to Sundays you can also eat dinner there.

Meirion Vaults

Decent traditional pubs are just one of many things that North Wales does well and Meirion Vaults is a great example of this. The Vaults (as its known by the locals) offers a good mix of well-known beers, as well as locally brewed ales.

Best of all, their menu of classic pub grub meals is super affordable and consistent in quality. Regular events and food deals are held each week ranging from a Burger Night (£9 for a burger and pint or glass of wine) to an innovative ‘Pay What Time You Eat’ night!

Lakeside Cafe

This dog-friendly cafe has something for everyone. Although their claim to serve the ‘best all-day breakfast in North Wales’ could be contested by a number of other excellent eateries in the area, it’s safe to say that the view you get is pretty hard to beat. The Lakeside Cafe is an ideal stop-off point for holiday-makers looking to take a break from the road or families who want to fuel up for a big day of exploration. Open from 9-8 every day, this is a highly recommended cafe to simply sit at and watch the world go by.

Y Pengwern


Just a short drive out from Y Pengwern, this community-run pub is a perfect example of what can be achieved with the power of an entire village! Situated in the heart of the sleepy village of Llan Ffestiniog, this pub has everything you’d expect from a village boozer; a cosy atmosphere, friendly locals, decent beer and a menu of absolute pub classics including: Lasagne, Pies and Lamb Hotpots. You can even stop by at 6:30pm on a Tuesday to learn a spot of Welsh!

Bryn Arms

The Bryn Arms is unique in that it’s a fairly modern building rather than a traditional inn, as a result it has a character and charm all to itself. Located in the village of Gellilydan, this is a down-to-earth pub with a distinct working man’s charm to it, but don’t let that put you off!

On a sunny day The Bryn Arms’ outside seating area is packed out with locals and tourists alike enjoying the sun and a well poured pint. The utilitarian menu offers affordable pub grub for the whole family, so everyone’s happy!