Wales offers families many great summer and fall outdoor activities. Here are four of my family’s favorites: playing on the beach in Llandudno, riding the historic Snowdon Mountain Railway, exploring the interactive displays at the Centre for Alternative Technology, and storming the ramparts of Caerphilly Castle.
Llandudno is a genteel Victorian resort town straddling the base of the Great Orme peninsula, four miles north of Conwy. With its popular mile-long seafront promenade, a Victorian-era pier, and two beaches, Llandudno is a wonderful seaside getaway for families. Two limestone headlands, the Great and Little Orme, loom gracefully over the town.
It’s a crisp fall morning when my husband Erik, our two-year-old son Finn, and I arrive in Llandudno. We head to the northeast end of town, where the promenade, the pier, and North Shore Beach are located. With a yellow plastic bucket, we play with Finn in the pebble-studded sand. Afterwards we stroll along the pier and the mile-long paved promenade, eating ice cream and enjoying the ocean views.
Twenty-seven miles southwest of Llandudno is the quiet town of Llanberis, home to the Snowdon Mountain Railway. The whole family will enjoy the scenic ride on the rack-and-pinion railway to the 3,560 ft. summit of Mt. Snowdon, the highest mountain peak in Wales. Note: Trains to the summit usually run from May to the end of October.
At Llanberis Station, Erik, Finn, and I board a green vintage steam locomotive. During the one-hour ride to the summit, we admire scenic views of viaducts, a silky waterfall, and an ancient oak forest. Soon we enter a rocky valley before ascending the final ridge to the summit. With a half hour on the summit until our train returns to Llanberis, we take in wide-angle views of the lakes and mountains below. We also spend a few minutes in Hafod Eryri, the summmit’s new visitor’s centre, browsing the souvenirs and picking up snacks for the ride back to Llanberis.
Occupying seven acres in a lovely wooded valley three miles north of Machynlleth, The Centre for Alternative Technology is loaded with adventure play areas and hands-on, family-friendly exhibits. Display topics include composting, organic gardening, environmentally friendly construction, and recycling.
From the centre’s parking lot, the three of us board the water-balanced cliff railway, which whisks us up 200 feet to the main entrance. After marveling at the massive wind turbines and solar panels, we then explore the organic gardens. I especially enjoy the Polytunnel, filled with organic leafy lettuce, fruits, and vegetables. Our two-year-old is fascinated by the underground animals in the Mole Hole.
The sprawling 30-acre medieval fortress of Caerphilly Castle holds court in the centre of the town of Caerphilly, seven miles north of Cardiff. Children will be fascinated by Caerphilly’s massive towers, lake-sized moats, and full-scale reconstruction medieval siege equipment.
We enter the castle through the South Gatehouse, emerging into the grassy South Dam Platform where we marvel at four full-scale reconstructed medieval siege engines. All are fully-functional and used regularly for reenactments. In the inner ward, we explore the restored Great Hall and the replica platforms over the north inner curtain wall.
When you go to Wales:
Best months to visit: May, June and September because it’s warmer and drier, and less crowded.
Transportation to Wales: For north Wales, Birmingham International Airport and Manchester International Airport are the closest. For south Wales, Cardiff International Airport is most convenient.
For more tourist information: Visit Wales (www.visitwales.com)
Eateries: In Llandudno, try one of the cafes or kiosks lining the Victorian pier. Or a few blocks up from the promenade, the Hambone Food Hall (01429-860084) serves a good selection of tasty sandwiches for both eat-in and takeaway. At Llanberis Station, the Llanberis Station Buffet and the Platform Grill offers savory pies, sandwiches, hamburgers, and hot dogs. If you don’t want to pack in lunches at the Centre for Alternative Technology, try the tasty organic fare at their on-site restaurant. For a bite to eat near Caerphilly Castle, Glanmors Tearooms (029-2088-8355) serves teas, cakes, and sandwiches, for eat-in or takeaway.
Best Hotels for Families in Wales
In Llandudno, The Queen’s Hotel offers family rooms, rate reductions for children under 16, and an on-site restaurant.
In Llanberis, the Legacy Royal Victoria Hotel offers 106 comfortable en-suite rooms, an on-site restaurant, and crib rentals.
In Machynlleth, the Wynnstay Hotel is the best all-around option.
In Caerphilly, the newly refurbished Premier Inn Caerphilly Crossways is located one mile from the town center and offers casual, family-friendly rooms.
Written by Carrie Uffindell for EuropeUpClose.com