Best Villages In North Wales
It’s probably best known for its castles, mountains and beaches, but there are also some amazingly beautiful villages in North Wales to explore. We’ve covered virtually every main road and back road in the region over the years, and visited so many great North Wales villages. We’ve ranged from remote mountain valleys near the English border to the tip of the Llŷn Peninsula, and from the mountains of Snowdonia to the beaches of Anglesey to seek out the best villages in North Wales. Here is our whittled-down list of the best 15 for your perusal and delectation.
There are so many things to do in Betws-y-Coed and around. It has long been the gateway to the Snowdonia National Park, situated at the confluence of three rivers and the lush green hills of the Conwy Valley. It grew from a hamlet to an artists’ colony, with painters inspired by the Picturesque ideal of the 19th century.
From there it has become hugely popular, with attractions like Conwy Castle and walled town half an hour away in one direction and the highest mountain in Wales and England, Snowdon, half an hour away in another.
The area around Betws-y-Coed is more forested than mountainous, but the Gwydir Forest holds many North Wales attractions, from the famous foaming Swallow Falls to the narrow ravine at Fairy Glen.
Unique Portmeirion is one of the most famous villages in Wales, and we rate it one of the most beautiful villages in Europe.
It’s a fantasy village created by local architect Clough Williams-Ellis, intended as a holiday village and a refuge for ‘rescued buildings’. These range from an Italian-style campanile (bell tower) to a Neoclassical colonnade and a 17th century wooden roof to a meditating Buddha. It helps that it overlooks a gorgeous estuary with views to some of the Snowdonia mountains, of course.
You can visit the village on a day ticket, but one of the best things to do in Portmeirion is to stay overnight there, whether in one of the cottages around the village Piazza, or at the Hotel Portmeirion or its sister up the hill, Castell Deudraeth.
Beddgelert, in the heart of Snowdonia, is one of the prettiest villages in Wales. It’s a lot smaller than Betws-y-Coed, but just as quirky. Its buildings are mainly quaint stone cottages, and include several pubs and restaurants.
The village sits on the river Glaslyn, just above the Aberglaslyn Pass and Gorge, through which the Welsh Highland Railway passes on. Its stunning route from Caernarfon via Porthmadog to Blaenau Ffestiniog.
The village’s name means ‘Grave of Gelert’ – the story goes that Gelert, a dog owned by Welsh prince Llywelyn the Great, was killed by his owner, who believed he had killed his baby – when he had saved the child from a wolf.
The grave is beneath a tree just to the south of the village. It’s one of the best villages in Snowdonia , close to some of the most beautiful lakes in Europe, with Llyn Dinas and Llyn Gwynant both a few minutes’ drive away.
Porth Dinllaen is one of the most picturesque villages in Wales. It’s a tiny hamlet on the north coast of the Llŷn, tucked into the leeward side of a rocky peninsula that’s part of one of the best golf courses in Wales, Nefyn & District.
There only a dozen or so buildings, including a lifeboat station and its main draw card, one of the best pubs in North Wales, the Tŷ Coch Inn, which sits right next to the beach.
In a parallel universe, Porth Dinllaen could have been the main ferry port in North Wales for Ireland. However, Holyhead (on Anglesey) was selected for that, and Porth Dinllaen has remained in blissful sort-of-obscurity ever since.
It’s only accessible on foot, either along the beach from Morfa Nefyn at low tide or along the path through the golf course and down the hill from there. Undoubtedly one of the best villages of Wales, a must-see if you’re anywhere nearby, and one to add to your Wales bucket list.
Abersoch was a small fishing village on the south coast of the Llŷn Peninsula that is very different in feel to the rest of the area.
It has become something of a chichi enclave over the last twenty years or so, with hotels and restaurants markedly more expensive than others nearby. Visit for the reason it became popular in the first place – its two beautiful beaches, one of which is lined with higgledy-piggledy painted beach huts.
It’s also well worth exploring the Wales Coast Path nearby, taking in isolated Porth Ceiriad beach and Porth Neigwl – better known by its English name, Hells Mouth – that is one of the best places to surf in North Wales.
Aberdaron is the Land’s End of North Wales. It’s located at the tip of the Llŷn Peninsula, a tiny village that, in the Middle Ages, was the departure point for pilgrims to nearby Bardsey Island (Ynys Enlli in Welsh), one of the most fascinating of all Welsh islands. It has long been one of our favourite places to visit in Wales.
You can stop by at Porth y Swnt, the new National Trust visitor centre which gives a very good introduction to the area, then call into Y Gegin Fawr (‘The Big Kitchen’), a medieval hostelry that’s now a wonderfully evocative café.
Just around the corner, medieval St Hywyn’s Church overlooks the lovely sweep of Aberdaron beach. Several other beautiful Llŷn Peninsula beaches are close by, including Porth Oer (Whistling Sands) to the north and Porth Ysgo to the east.
Harlech is a delight. Harlech Castle is one of the best castles in North Wales, occupying a commanding position on a steep rocky outcrop that was once a sea cliff, guarding the coastline and the route towards Snowdonia.
The Castle is superb, one of the masterpieces of genius military architect James of St George that comprises the Castles of Gwynedd UNESCO World Heritage Site. Seek out ‘The Graig’, a small public park just to the south for the best views.
Harlech High Street is one of the most pleasant in Wales, with several cafes, restaurants and independent shops.
The Plas Café has a lovely garden with a great view of the Castle. Harlech should also be visited for its stupendous beach, a massive sweep of superb sand stretching all the way to the Dwyryd estuary on which Portmeirion sits. It’s one of the best beaches in Wales, giving even mighty Rhossili Bay a run for its money.
There’s a small flower-filled field at the southern end of the beach with awesome views of the beach and Snowdonia.
Llwyngwril is probably one of the least familiar villages of Wales on our list. It’s in the southern part of Snowdonia, on the coast between Aberdovey and Barmouth. The village is incredibly pretty, with many painted cottages and flower-filled gardens. It’s fairly off the beaten path, and a great base for exploring south Snowdonia.
Llynnau Cregennen, among the most beautiful lakes in Europe, are a 15-20-minute drive away, and the Mawddach estuary, one of the most beautiful in the UK, is even closer. The beaches of Aberdovey and Tywyn are nearby, as are the Talyllyn Railway and the blissful Dysynni Valley.
There’s just one reason this small village in north-east Wales Is on. Our list – the Pontcysyllte Aqueduct, the third place in Wales to be accorded UNESCO World Heritage Site status. This remarkable ‘bridge in the sky’ was built by Thomas Telford to carry the Llangollen Canal across the Dee Valley, and was completed in 1805. The Trevor Basin just to the north of the Aqueduct has a convivial pub and café perfect for a pit stop, and you can walk across the Aqueduct or take a gentle narrowboat ride across.
The Aqueduct is 38 metres (126 feet) above the River Dee, and there’s no barrier between you and the view – so vertigo sufferers might be better off standing at the end to admire the architecture and ingenuity instead. The Aqueduct is one of the best things to do in Llangollen, a gorgeous town four miles upstream in spectacular mountain scenery.
During the Middle Ages three pilgrimages to Bardsey Island were deemed to bring the same spiritual benefits as one to Rome. The trails to Bardsey were well-trodden indeed, and several fine pilgrims’ churches can be found, mainly along the north coast of the Llŷn Peninsula. The most impressive of these is St Beuno’s Church in Clynnog Fawr, a village just off the A499 road down from Caernarfon. It’s among the finest churches North Wales has, and much of the present building dates from the 15th century, on the site of a monastery founded by Beuno in the 7th century.
Clynnog Fawr is close to one of the most beautiful stretches of the North Wales coast, with a great beach just up the road at Aberdesach. There’s also a great walk up the hill to the Clynnog Fawr dolmen, a Neolithic burial chamber overlooking the sea.
Llanbedrog has to be one of the best days out in North Wales. It’s a massive family favourite with us, with a superb beach sheltered by a headland that blocks out the prevailing winds. The beach is wondrous, a mile of soft golden sand at the bottom of a leafy lane, with a stream trickling into the sea. There’s a small bistro right on the beach, and a row of brightly painted beach huts, with a lovely old white house at the base of the cliff, reflected in the calm water.
There’s a steep stepped path up through the wood to a viewpoint at the top of Mynydd Tir-y-Cwmwd, next to the second incarnation of the Llanbedrog Iron Man sculpture. Llanbedrog village is also home to Oriel Plas Glyn-y-Weddw, one of the oldest art galleries in Wales.
Rhoscolyn is a scattered, straggling hamlet at the southern end of Holy Island (Ynys Gybi), the small island to the west of Anglesey proper and home to Holyhead port. Rhoscolyn is a world away from the busyness of the harbour. It has two wide sandy beaches, a rocky beach (Porth Saint), a holy well and some of the most varied, spectacular sections of Anglesey coast. The best section is around 1 km west of the village church, with the white sea arch, Bwa Gwyn, the highlight. At the other end of the village, The White Eagle is one of the best gastro pubs in North Wales.
Church Bay – Porth Swtan – is a tiny village on the remote north-west coast of the island. It’s named after the church of St Rhyddlad, whose spire is a local landmark. If you visit Anglesey, seek it out. The beach is one of the very best beaches in North Wales, with a great mixture of sand, scenery and rockpools to explore.
Also look out for the thatched cottage, Swtan, the last one remaining on Anglesey, which is now a small folk museum. The Lobster Pot restaurant and pub, a little further along the same street, is one of the best places to eat in North Wales.
I’ve always felt a twinge of sympathy for Llanfair PG, a small village on the isle of Anglesey that would get very few visitors but for the fact it was given (or perhaps saddled with) the longest place name in Wales. Formerly known as Llanfairpwllgwyngyll, it was extended in the 19th century to Llanfairpwllgwyngyllgogerychwyrndrobwllllantysiliogogogoch in a bid to attract tourists.
Most people visit to shoot selfies at the railway station sign or the somewhat depressing shopping centre across the car park. There are plenty of things to see around Llanfair PG, including the best viewpoint of the Menai Bridge (close to the village of the same name). You can also climb the Marquess of Anglesey’s Column on the edge of the village, visit the superb Bryn Celli Ddu Neolithic burial chamber, explore Plas Newydd, one of the finest National Trust houses in Wales, or Llanddwyn Island, one of the top places to visit in Wales and most beautiful islands in Europe.
LLANARMON DYFFRYN CEIRIOG
Llanarmon DC is hidden away in the remote hills south of Chirk Castle, close to the English border. It’s at the end of the B4500 road, and after that there’s just a minor road leading you to the hills to the south. It’s a gorgeous backwater, just the place to immerse yourself in Welsh country life for a while. It’s a tiny village which somehow has two wonderful inns, The Hand and The West Arms, which face each other across the village square. Both serve excellent food, and make wonderful rural boltholes.