Snowdonia National Park is one of the most popular places in the UK to visit with a motorhome and it dominates the agenda of trips to North Wales. At the very heart of the region, covering 823 square miles, the national park is remarkably spectacular and considers itself something of an adventure sports capital, with adrenalin-fuelled activities from mountain climbing and coasteering to whitewater rafting and mountain biking. The National Mountain Sports Centre at Capel Curig is a great place to start such adventures.
If your idea of a trip to North Wales is something more sedate, why not explore a castle or two? There are plenty to choose from, including Harlech, Caernarfon, Conwy, Beaumaris and Criccieth, all defending the Welsh coastline. Then again, you may just wish to kick back and enjoy the beauty of the scenery – and you won’t be disappointed, whether you’re looking for the majesty of Mount Snowdon, glacial valleys, refreshing lakesides or golden sandy beaches, North Wales has them all.
Top five things to do in North Wales
Whether on foot or by the mountain railway, climbing Mount Snowdon is one of the must-do activities when you visit North Wales on your holidays. If you’re not up to a two-way walking trip, take the train one-way and walk the other along one of the well-trodden routes to/from the summit. The views from the top are out of this world on a clear day.
Take a trip to Bardsey Island, off the tip of the Llŷn Peninsula. The monastic island is now a nature reserve where grey seals and rare birds can be seen when nesting in spring. You can catch a boat to the island from Aberdaron and Pwllheli.
Pretend you're in Italy and be transported to the Mediterranean Coast (always with a Welsh twist, of course) at the Italianate village of Portmeirion. The brightly coloured buildings, with piazzas, Roman columns, pantiled roofs and Romanesque domes sit neatly in amongst sub-tropical gardens and woodland, all overlooking the sea.
Take an adrenalin-fuelled ride on the longest and fastest zip wire in Europe at Zipworld. 'Flying' over the Penrhyn Quarry, Snowdonia, you'll reach speeds of 100mph, 500 feet above the ground.
Visit the charming border town of Llangollen, where a walk to the Pontcysyllte Aqueduct is a must. A UNESCO World Heritage Site, the aqueduct is the world's tallest narrowboat crossing. You can walk across the aqueduct for views of the River Dee below or walk along the towpaths of the Llangollen Canal – 11 miles of the canal are also under World Heritage status.
When to visit North Wales
St David's Day is celebrated throughout Wales on 1 March, but events really kick off with the 'guarantee' of better weather. May sees the Llandudno Transport Festival, the largest such event in North Wales with thousands of motors from vintage buses and tractors to classic cars and bikes. The All Wales Boat Show, also in May, follows, celebrating all water-based activities.
July welcomes Wakestock, a large wakeboarding and music festival at Abersoch, while, further down the coast, the Barmouth Kite Festival takes place. For those feeling really fit, the International Snowdon Race, a run up and down the mountain, is something to look forward to in July.
The Anglesey County Show springs into action in August, along with the Conwy River Festival, for a week of conviviality both on and by the side of the water.
Finally, the annual International Eisteddfod, Wales' largest and most prestigious music, theatre and arts festival, swaps between North and South Wales each year.
Cheap overnight stops
You’ll find a selection of venues in our Practical Motorhome Nightstops scheme to pull up for the night for a fraction of the cost of a campsite during your holidays in Wales. Look out, for example, for the riverside setting of Riverside Guest House, where you can catch a cup of coffee in the on-site café. Or the Go Explore Motorhome Centre at Llandudno Junction, a useful stopping off point en route to Anglesey.
The Britstops scheme helps to boost the number of cheap overnight stops too with a handful of places to stay. And, if you’re a member of either The Caravan Club or The Camping and Caravanning Club, you’ll find plenty of CLs and CSs in the area too.
Motorhome access and information
You’ll have little trouble finding places to park roadside if you wish to go off for a day’s walking, or indeed pull up to admire the view, within Snowdonia National Park or around Anglesey. There are plenty of provisions.
Betws-y-Coed is one of the trickiest places to park, with the town constantly busy, although there is a very central and picturesque campsite, Riverside Touring Park, within walking distance of the centre. Llanberis also gets very busy but you’ll often find private all-day parking areas for a nominal charge (providing you are parking all day – a 10-minute stop works out to be astronomical!). Motorhomes may park at the Morfa Bach car park in Conwy.
How to get to North Wales
The A55 runs right along the north coast of Wales and up to Holyhead in Anglesey. This is the quickest and easiest route to and through North Wales. An alternative, and arguably prettier, route is the A5 from Shrewsbury, which joins up with the A55 at Bangor. The A5 passes through some of Wales' most spectacular scenery, so you really should make travelling along this route a part of your holiday. However, as it is twisty in places and is a single-carriageway road, it can be slow – great for drinking in the views, less good if you've somewhere to be.
There are no tolls on either the Britannia Bridge or Menai Bridge to Anglesey. The Briwet Bridge between the A496 and A487 (to access the southerly aspects of Snowdonia National Park and the Llŷn Peninsula) has been permanently closed; a brand new bridge is due to be completed in late 2015.