I love a short getaway. So, this Easter weekend, we decided to go on a little break and have 3 nights in North Wales. I must admit, even though we’ve lived in England for 15 years now, we’ve only ever been to Wales once (same goes for Scotland). And that was literally just popping over the Prince of Wales bridge during a weekend in Bristol. We didn’t even make it to Newport or Cardiff that day. Not sure I can even count this as visiting Wales. About time to finally rectify that.
It is a bit of a drive from London to North Wales, so it isn’t something I would consider for just one night. But since it was the Easter bank holiday weekend, this would give us 3 nights in North Wales. Making it worth the trip in my book. Although in hindsight I would have loved another night or two. But I can always come back (spoiler alert, we did enjoy our 3 nights in North Wales).
Before I tell you what we’ve been up to on our trip, let me warn you that this will not be an ultimate guide to North Wales or a full itinerary for a weekend in Wales. Instead, it will just be a little recap of our weekend in North Wales. Taking into consideration that we travelled with a dog.
3 nights in North Wales: Friday
To ensure maximum time in Wales, we left home early (as in 6am on a bank holiday early). There wasn’t much traffic, but even so the estimated drive time was just over 5 hours. It is just under 300 miles from our home to Criccieth in North Wales, where we would be staying. Once we got past Birmingham, the drive through Wales was all on smaller A and B roads rather than motorways.
Our dog is used to road trips by now, so he wasn’t too bothered about the long drive.
Since our route took us along Snowdonia National Park, we decided to stop and go for a little walk. The sun was shining (we were lucky, after days of rain back home, the weather forecast for the weekend was sunshine and half decent temperatures), so the perfect excuse to go and stretch our legs.
After a short walk through woods and along a river, we continued the drive to our final destination.
With check in at our accommodation from 4pm earliest, we parked up in Criccieth and headed straight to the beach instead. It might not quite be bathing season just yet, but we had a very water obsessed dachshund with us.
The moment he saw the beach, there was no stopping him. We had to walk a little, as parts of the beach ban dogs after April 1st. But we came prepared. To prevent another epic fail like our day trip to Southend-on-Sea, we had done our homework and checked dog beaches in the area ahead of booking the trip. After all, it would be quite annoying to spend 3 nights in North Wales and dog not being allowed a dip in the sea.
As soon as we reached the dog beach, Frank was off. Into the water, waiting for us to throw his ball. And again and again. And then some. I probably threw that ball a hundred times, but he just wouldn’t tire of it. Unlike Mr T who decided to have a little snooze on the beach instead. Whilst I was left chasing a ball and a mad dog up and down the shore…
Eventually we called it a day and headed into town instead. By now it was well past lunch time and hunger called. We found a cute little café a little off the seafront that allowed dogs. And that also had plenty of outdoor seating. Given the weather, we decided to have our first al fresco lunch of the season.
Mr T opted for a Welsh Ploughman, which was absolutely lovely, with some Welsh cheese and pork pie and locally produced pickles and chutneys. In comparison my Greek salad was a real disappointment. Actually, scrap that. It was a disappointment full stop. But it sounded like a good idea when I ordered…
And to keep the pup happy, he meanwhile feasted on a bowl of doggy ice cream. I mean, you can’t have a seaside holiday without some ice cream. Right?
Refreshed and rested (and in the case of the dog dried), our next stop was Criccieth Castle. Sitting proud above the bay, the ruins of this 13th century fortress offer magnificent views across Tremadog Bay and the beaches of Criccieth. Tickets cost 6.80GBP / adult. But unfortunately, without a ticket you won’t even be able to get up the hill.
By the time we were done with Criccieth Castle, it was late enough that we could check into our accommodation for the next 3 nights in North Wales.
Glamping in North Wales
When we were planning our trip to North Wales, I was initially looking further north around Llandudno. For no particular reason other than people telling me how pretty it was. I knew I wanted something near the sea and preferably the National parks. Obviously, it needed to be dog friendly, and we were hoping for something a bit quirky. If we then also wanted to avoid anything that would cost us close to a grand for 3 nights in North Wales, the search narrowed down considerably. In the end, we opted for a glamping pod at Llwyn Mafon farm, just outside Criccieth.
To the side of their working farm, Llwyn Mafon farm offers three glamping pods with stunning views of the mountains and the seaside. Our dog-friendly pod was equipped with a double bed, ensuite shower room and kitchen. So pretty much everything you could possibly want for 3 nights in North Wales. Definitely my kind of ‘camping’, I am not much for communal bathrooms across the field these days. It even came with underfloor heating, which was a godsend since it was still a little chilly during the night (and our pup very quickly worked out where the hot spots were on the floor… guess where he stretched out for his nap).
The good thing about having a little kitchenette in the glamping pod? It allowed us to prepare breakfast and dinner, rather than having to go out for a meal three times a day. Much more budget friendly (and definitely a lot easier when travelling with a dog, as it can be difficult to find dog-friendly restaurants).
Talking of budget: We paid around 350GBP for the three nights, booked through Airbnb. Whilst not super cheap, it was totally worth it.
And no, this is not an ad. I did not receive any incentive to write about our stay and I paid the full amount.
3 nights in North Wales: Saturday
Although still a bit cool, we woke up to a beautifully sunny morning. We hadn’t really prepared an itinerary for our weekend in Wales. But we knew we wanted to go for a bit of a hike. Not the 20km uphill, let’s bring all the gear kind of hike, more a leisurely one with only some elevation. To our delight, we discovered a guidebook at our cabin. We picked a trail that promised to be an intermediate level and around 7.5 miles (12km). With the option of shortening it to 3 or 6.5 miles if we ran out of steam.
The Aberdaron and Land’s End trail promised ‘coastal margins, sometimes rocky, farmland, narrow lanes’. That didn’t sound too scary. Even for our short-legged dog.
After a quick breakfast at the cabin, we set off to Aberdaron at the Western end of the Llyn Peninsula. Although it was just under 30 miles from where we stayed, it ended up being almost an hour drive. On very rural winding roads.
As we arrived, we parked at the Porth y Swnt car park. Which is conveniently located in the town centre and at the start of the trail but gets super busy. Luckily, we arrived early enough for there to still be availability. As we arrived back, it was all closed off and a long queue of cars were waiting for spaces to become available.
Parking cost us 5GBP for the entire day. But entering the National Trust site itself was free of charge. As we left the guidebook back at the cabin, we picked up a map of the trail at the car park. Just in case.
Walking along the Wales Coast Trail
Starting at the car park, we headed up the path and down the steep steps to Port Simdde. If the tide is out, you could just walk along the beach and omit this first ascent. But we only found that out later. From Port Simdde, it was up the stairs again (didn’t take me long to question the decision to do this walk…. But I was still hopeful that we would now just stay at the top of the cliff for the foreseeable time). Whilst walking on top of the cliff, the trail was fairly easy. Albeit a narrow path, the ground was relatively solid and even. But just in case, we decided to keep the dog on the lead for the entire trail. He could see the sea below, but I’d rather not have him attempt to actually get to it.
Eventually we arrived at another set of stairs, leading down to Porth Meudwy.
Dog decided the stairs were too steep for him, so we ended up carrying him down (and up the other side).
If we wanted to cut our trail short, this would be the perfect opportunity. Rather than going uphill again, we could have followed the road away from the port and headed back towards Aberdaron. That would have been an easy 3-mile walk. But instead, we decided to continue.
Back on the ridge, we continued our hike along the Wales Coastal Trail, until we arrived at Pen y Cil.
The views from up here were quite something. Along the bay to Aberdaron, but also across the water to Bardsey Island and Ireland.
After a little rest on the rocks, we went back on the trail. Eventually we turned away from the coast, headed through a cow field and back towards Aberdaron via some country lanes.
All in all, we walked about 10 kilometres (6 miles) in 2.5 hours.
Back in Aberdaron, we had a little walk through town. Originally a fishing village, it is a little more touristy nowadays with a few shops, cafes and pubs. Followed by another al fresco lunch, fish & chips (and mushy peas for the pup).
All fed and watered and rested, we explored the rest of the Llyn Peninsula (including a stop at a little pottery) before heading back to Criccieth.
For the evening, our lovely host Ffion provided us with a fire pit to set up outside the cabin. So, this perfect day ended with drinks around the fire. Well, just Mr T and I. The pup decided he really needed to catch up on sleep, so he stayed inside. I guess the trail was a little more challenging for him than we noticed at the time.
3 nights in North Wales: Sunday
After a good night’s sleep, it was time to plan our itinerary for the day.
With Mount Snowdon near, I would have loved to ride the steam train up. But unfortunately, they don’t allow dogs on board. And who am I kidding, none of us was up to hiking Mount Snowdon. But riding a steam train sounded like a good plan. Good thing the Snowdon Mountain Railway wasn’t the only one around.
Instead, we headed to Porthmadog, to take the Ffestiniog & Welsh Highland Railway to Tan-y-Bwlch.
The Ffestiniog & Welsh Highland Railway offers a selection of different heritage routes, starting from Porthmadog, Blaenau Ffestiniog or Caernarfon. The ‘Woodland Wanderer’ to Tan-y-Bwlch (the one we opted for) is the shortest with 7.5 miles per way and cost us 27.50GBP / person for a return ticket. And 2GBP for the dog.
The train lines were originally built in the early 19th century to transport slate from the mountains to the harbour. In the beginning, the narrow-gauge trains were pulled by horses. By the mid 19th century, these were eventually replaced with steam trains. With the expansion of the rail network at the turn of the century, steam trains became less important for transporting Welsh slate. But by then tourism had increased and the narrow-gauge trains took tourists up to the mountains instead, especially in summer. The outbreak of WWII put a stop to all that and the train lines fell into disrepair. Eventually, volunteers started restoring the network and the heritage rail line went back into service.
Our train wasn’t due to leave until 11.10am, so we had plenty of time for a little walk through Porthmadog and along the harbour first.
The ticket stated that we should be at the station 30 minutes before departure. As we entered, our train hadn’t yet arrived, so we had a look at the other steam train and the souvenir shop whilst we waited.
Dog wasn’t too sure what was happening when the steam train arrived at the station. But he is no stranger to train travels, so he didn’t mind getting onto the train itself.
When we purchased our ticket, it did not assign us a specific seat or compartment, only the booking class (dogs aren’t allowed in the carpeted first class compartments). But even though it was just the 2 of us (and the pup), our booking was for a standard 6 seat compartment. Meaning we had an entire compartment to ourselves.
A big ‘whoop whoop’ and we set off over the Cob (the dam built to create Porthmadog harbour).
The journey to Tan-y-Bwlch took around 40 minutes, mainly uphill and through forest. There are a couple of old stations along the way, but they didn’t appear to be in service anymore.
At Tan-y-Bwlch we then had an hour to either go for a walk in the Coedydd Maentwrog National Nature Reserve. Or alternatively have coffee and cake at the station’s tearoom. Well, have a guess which one we decided on.
Eventually it was time to board the train again and go back to Porthmadog.
Back at base, we headed into town to try and find some lunch. It being Easter Sunday made it a little tricky, as loads of places were completely booked (and the others didn’t allow dogs), but we found something in the end.
Much to doggy’s delight, we ended the day with another session of ball throwing on the beach. Doesn’t take much to keep him happy.
3 nights in North Wales: Monday
Unfortunately, we had a heavy storm during the night and we woke up to rain. And to sheep outside our bathroom window. Guess they found a gap in the fence and decided to pay us a visit.
We had to check out of the cabin by 10am, so we weren’t in a rush. A relaxed breakfast first, before we packed our stuff and loaded the car.
The weather hadn’t really improved, but it was supposed to ease a bit by midday. Instead of sticking around for much longer, we headed off towards home. If the weather were to improve, we could have a little stop at Shrewsbury, since it was en route.
And we were in luck. By the time we approached Shrewsbury, the weather had changed from constant rain to grey with drizzles. So, we parked up and set off to explore Shrewsbury a little (and get some lunch).
This was our first time visiting Shrewsbury and since we didn’t plan a visit, I didn’t prepare much in terms of an itinerary. We did manage to see quite a bit in the three hours we stayed. Although the sightseeing tour was frequently disrupted by rain showers. But it was definitely enough to consider coming back for a longer stay in the future.
Eventually we called it a day and headed back home.As I mentioned at the beginning, we did enjoy our three nights in North Wales. In hindsight I would have probably enjoyed having another night or two. But I have a feeling we might come back for another stay at some point.
Tell me, have you been to North Wales? Did you enjoy it? What should we have added to our itinerary?