Harlech and Barmouth, in the Cardigan Bay area of Snowdonia, are popular with visitors because they’re so packed with things to do. Here are a few suggestions for your next visit.
There’s a lot going on in the Cardigan Bay area of Snowdonia if you’re interested in history.
The biggest, boldest and most popular historic attraction in the area is of course Harlech Castle, that looming monument to medieval warfare perched on a cliff that was at one time lapped by the Irish Sea (the shape of the coast has long since changed, so the cliff is inland now).
Also from the medieval period is another castle (a Welsh one this time; Harlech Castle was the work of the English king, Edward I). Castell y Bere is all ruins now, but this once-mighty stronghold of Llywelyn the Great and his descendants still oozes atmosphere. What’s more, there’s no entry fee, so if you’re on a tight budget Castell y Bere should be top of your list.
Reaching further back in time is Bryn Cader Faner, one of Britain’s most hauntingly beautiful Bronze Age sites. The cairn is just eight metres wide and under a metre in height, but what’s really striking about it are the fifteen slabs leaning outwards that loosely resemble a crown. The walk to Bryn Cader Faner is considered fairly challenging, so make sure you’re well prepared when you visit (good walking boots, suitable clothing, and a map and compass, for example).
Barmouth’s quayside is home to a collection of historic buildings that are collectively known as “On the Quay at Barmouth”. There’s Ty Crwn (a 19th century lock-up for ne’er-do-wells); Ty Gwyn (hiding place of the future Henry VII during the Wars of the Roses); The Sailors’ Institute (complete with Victorian reading room); and the RNLI museum, where you can see the Barmouth lifeboat and learn about its crew and equipment.
In the swing
If you’re keen to work on your handicap during your visit, there are two notable golf courses in the Harlech and Barmouth area.
The first is at Fairbourne, just across the Mawddach Estuary from Barmouth (while you’re in the area, you might like to check out the Fairbourne Steam Railway).
The other is pretty famous: Royal St David’s Golf Club at Harlech. One of the finest traditional links courses in the world, Royal St David’s appears in many ‘top golf course’ lists, including being at the very top of National Club Golfers Top 100 Affordable Courses list.
Walk on the wild side
There are so many great places for a walk around the Cardigan Bay area of Snowdonia, it’s hard to know where to start. But start somewhere we must, so how about the coast?
The coastline in this part of Snowdonia is stunning. The beaches at Harlech and Barmouth are fantastic, ranging from fabulous wild-looking dunes (Harlech) to the sort of traditional seaside resort any family would be happy to spend a day at (Barmouth). Either way, the beaches are big, with plenty of room for all – so get walking!
Inland, the Rhinogydd mountains are wild, rugged and challenging – Wales’ last true wilderness, some say. Again, do make sure you’re well prepared – visit the Walk Eryri website for routes and tips. The old Cwm Bychan and Cwm Nantcol drovers’ roads are also excellent for walkers, and Taith Ardudwy Way – a 24 mile route from Barmouth to Llandecwyn – enables you to explore the ancient commote (medieval administrative area) of Ardudwy. This route will treat you to some of Wales’ best coastal and mountain views and an opportunity to take in prehistoric sites and do some wildlife watching. What more could you ask from a country walk?
Messing about on the water
Whether you fancy an organised sea fishing trip or prefer to be at the helm of your own vessel, Cardigan Bay is the place to be.
Barmouth Harbour is a great place to start if you’re in the mood for an organised boat trip. Barmouth Boat Trips take bookings for both fishing and pleasure trips; dolphin watching trips are also very popular.
Prefer to be more hands-on? There’s surfing at Harlech, Aberdyfi, Tywyn and at Fairbourne, where the west-facing side of the beach is subject to strong winds that make it a great spot for windsurfing and sailing too.
There’s no business like showbusiness
It’s not all about ancient history and rugged outdoorsiness – Harlech and Barmouth both have great little theatres too, so there’s plenty for culture vultures to get their talons into.
Theatr Harlech offers an eclectic mix of events, from films and plays to exhibitions and workshops. Over at Barmouth, Theatr y Ddraig (The Dragon Theatre) hosts all sorts of events, including concerts, dances, exhibitions and film screenings.
If you find yourself in the Cardigan Bay area of Snowdonia, one thing’s for certain: you’ll never be short of things to do and see!