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)


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

Where To Stay: Snowdonia

Settle in Snowdonia for your next holiday


A holiday spent in Snowdonia offers adventurous folks the chance to truly lose themselves in a mysteriously epic landscape  – have you considered it for your next trip?

Snowdonia National Park offers something truly unique: over 2,000 km of unspoilt landscape that comes complete with a huge array of stellar activities and experiences, not to mention some pretty individual restaurants. Whether you come to push your limits with some extreme sports or are seeking a more peaceful getaway, you’re bound to find what you’re looking for here. But before you start booking your spa days and bungee jumps it’s probably best to find a place to stay first…

Like with any good holiday destination, Snowdonia has a wide array of excellent accommodations that cater to most tastes. If you’re particularly picky or have certain requirements that need to be met, then it’s always a good idea to get in touch with the hotel directly first before booking and remember that you’ll usually be able to get cheaper rates if you book through them too.

We’ve picked out our top picks of accommodations for each type of holiday-maker, but if you don’t see one to your fancy then let us know and we’ll find something more tailored to your needs:

For the Highflyer

If you’ve got a fat wad of cash to burn then it’s worth considering The Riverside Hotel as an option. The village of Betws-y-Coed is home to a good range of hotels and B&Bs, but we believe the Riverside sits at the top of the heap.

The rooms are well decorated and the service is excellent, but its the scenic riverside location that makes this hotel truly one in a million. Follow a long driveway down to the banks of the River Conwy where you can eat and relax in true peace.

How much? Double rooms start at £65 per night (including breakfast)

For the Budget Conscious

Climbing Snowdon, Wales’ highest peak, should certainly be on your agenda if you’re thinking of spending any amount of time in Snowdonia. Unlike the ascent to its Scottish rivals (which climb much higher) Snowdon is a relatively simple peak to conquer and the best place to start your ascent is at the YHA Snowdon Pen-y-Pass.

This Youth Hostel offers some of the cheapest accommodation in the region whilst being perfectly situated for any would-be hikers. Breakfast isn’t included with the price here, but you can get 10% off whatever you do eat if you book through their website.

How much? £15 per night for a bed in a single-sex dorm (en-suite rooms are also available)

For the Happy Camper

There aren’t many campsites that can rival Gwern Gof Isaf for camping heritage. This business has been in the hands of the Williams family for a staggering eight generations with the first campers being welcomed onto the site in 1906. Explorer Sir John Hunt famously used the campsite as a base for his Everest training and it’s not hard to see why with so many fantastic hiking routes and attractions nearby. If you’d rather have a roof over your head then you can sleep in the bunkhouse, a hostel-style space affectionately known as ‘Willie’s Barn’.

How much? £6 pppn for a camping, or £14 pppn for a night in Willie’s Barn

For the Minimalist

Looking for a secluded getaway for two? Look no further. What Llety Nest might lack in luxury it more than makes up for in spectacular views and simple charm.

There’s everything a couple would need to cook a decent meal and with the nearest shop just a short drive away in Dolgellau, you’ll find no problem in gathering the ingredients you need to make a lovely meal for two. Come during the Summer to enjoy your meal in the lawned garden and make the most of excellent nearby trails and walks.

How much? £465 for a week’s stay (around £33 pppn)

Where to Stay: Porthmadog

Stay in Porthmadog to get the full experience

If you’re pushed for time you can get a whistle-stop tour of Porthmadog in half a day, but if you’ve got a few days to spare it really is best to stay for a couple of nights.

There’s so much to see and do here in the surrounding area that you’ll be kicking yourself if you choose to simply pass through – so why not book a couple of nights and use Porthmadog as a base for your North Wales adventure?

Now, we understand that all different kinds of people come to visit us here in Porthmadog, so we thought we’d put together a list of accommodation options that reflects that. Regardless of the budget that you have or the type of holiday you’re looking for, we reckon we’ve covered all of the bases.

Take a look at the list below and do let us know how your trip to Porthmadog goes…

For the Highflyer

Every town has its high-end establishment and Porthmadog’s is the Royal Sportsman Hotel, the only 3-star hotel in the area. Despite the awards and acclaim that this hotel has been given you’ll find that the service is wonderfully unstuffy. Dogs are welcome in certain rooms of the hotel and the on-site restaurant also happens to be one of the best in the area having been awarded 2 AA Rosettes. You can choose to eat in either the restaurant, bar, lounge or patio garden and take advantage of a changing menu of Modern Welsh classics.

How much? Double rooms start at £82 per night (including breakfast)

For the Budget Conscious

For those that would rather save their money for activities, the Queens Hotel offers unfussy bed and board at a good price. This pub has been refurbished recently, making it a great option for bargain hunters looking to save a few quid.

Reviews for this hotel are generally good across the board with many guests mentioning the polite, friendly staff as well as the relaxing bar. Breakfast is not included with the price here, but when it’s as cheap as this you can probably forgive them for this.

How much? Double rooms start at £60 per night

For the Happy Camper

Fancy spending the night under canvas with the sound of waves breaking against the beach? Well you can do just that at Black Rock Sands Touring and Camping Park. Although there are no static caravans for sale on site there are plenty of pitches to choose from starting at £10 per night per person during low season.

There are all the facilities that you’d expect from a quality camp site and you have the added bonus of being a stone’s throw away from the beach.

How much? £12.50 per night per adult during high season

For the Minimalist

To get the true locals experience there’s perhaps no better option than Tai Shan, a tidy little bungalow tucked away in a residential cul-de-sac on the edge of town. With just two bedrooms and one bathroom this property is hardly brimming with facilities but it has all you really need to get by for a weekend’s visit to Porthmadog.

Five can sleep comfortably here making it perfect for families or a group of close friends, and with shops and a pub within a few minutes walk this is a practical option for those who aren’t too fussy.

How much? Stay for 3 nights and only pay £408 (just over £80 per person for the weekend – if you fill the beds)

Fun Day Outs in Ffestiniog & Portmadog

There’s so much to do here in Ffestintog & Portmadog!

One of the reasons why North Wales is such a popular holiday destination is the wealth of fun activities on offer.

There’s something for everyone here in the Ffestinog & Portmadog area, so whether you’re travelling as a family, couple or by yourself, you’re bound to find something to get up to. Unlike many other holiday destinations, North Wales is a great place to visit the whole year round. Although the beaches we have here are undoubtedly more pleasant when the sun is shining, the surf is good regardless and the mountains and forests are fantastic to explore whatever the weather.

Beyond sports activities, there are also a number of completely unique attractions here that you won’t be able to find anywhere else in the world, so why not take a look at what North Wales has to offer before you book your trip?

These activities are mostly suitable for all types of weather, but it’s always best to check with the operators before making a booking first:

Ride the Rails

The biggest draw in the Ffestiniog area has to be the heritage railway which happens to be the oldest of its type in the world. Hop on the train at Ffestiniog then sit back and enjoy a train journey of unparalleled beauty. This scenic train journey takes around 80 minutes to reach its destination at Portmadog, in the meantime you can recline in comfortable seats aboard a piece of history. Each train now comes complete with a Pullman Observation Carriage – perfect for admiring the coastal and mountain views as they pass you by.

Go Bird-watching

Nestled in the heart of Snowdonia; Ffestiniog and Portmadog make for fantastic bird-watching bases. From these two popular tourist towns you can easily make your way to a number of secluded bird-watching sites that fanciers from the world over flock to each year. During the summer it’s best to camp out at these spots overnight so that you can make the most of the early morning sightings, with daylight hours at their longest during June, you can expect to see the most activity during during dusk and dawn.

Downhill Biking

Anyone familiar with cycling will be likely to agree that the most fun you can have is flying down hill – so why not treat yourself to a whole day of doing just that? Whilst the hills and peaks of the surrounding area can make for a challenging day of cycling, you can book ‘uplifts’ from a local bike firm Antur Stiniog taking out the bother of climbing up to the top of the trails. This company specialise in Down Hill Biking so they can take you to all the best trails and also supply you with the best bikes to fly down them with!

Spend a day at the Beach

I fall of the above sounds like a bit too intensive then why not blow them all of for a day at the beach? Black Rock Sands has been consistently praised for its excellent facilities, clear blue seas and pure white sands. There’s everything you’d need from a beach here: toilets, a shop, drinking water and plenty of parking so you can enjoy a stress-free day at the beach without having to worry about the basics.

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! 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:


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!