The girls and I love the mysterious and misty country of Cymru, so much so that Alexandra, my oldest daughter, decided to do her MA here. She graduated from Aberystwyth University last July, and much of the ceremony was in Welsh, totally incomprehensible, totally Hogwarts – and we totally loved it. All that was missing was a fire-breathing dragon.


Since we were in Wales anyway, we decided on yet another road trip, to revisit some old favourites, and find a few new ones. We’ve already talked about Wales quite a bit here on Sophie’s World: Caernarfon, Llandudno and Conwy, magical Portmeirion, mysterious Hay-on-Wye, tongue-twisting Llanfairpwllgwyngyllgogerychwyrndrobwllllantysiliogogogoch, Tretower Court, and Powis Castle. Alex has discussed Aberystwyth a little, and nearby Devil’s Bridge.

But there’s so much more. For the next few Sundays, we’ll have more Welsh highlights for you, in a series we’ll call Family road trip Wales.

Today, we’ll leave Aberystwyth and county Ceredigion (Cardigan) and head for Harlech Castle, and a surprise discovery along the way. Next Sunday, we’ll continue northward in county Gwynnedd, to Blaenau Ffestiniog (and possibly sneak in a photo or two from Portmeirion). Next, we’ll see that it’s even more to tiny Conwy than we knew. (We might also sneak in a few more Llandudno photos, just because…) We’ll then go to the Isle of Anglesey. Finally, we’ll head back to Ceredigion to explore the area south of Aberystwyth, down to Abereiddy Blue Lagoon, across the border to Pembrokeshire.

Let’s get to it.

Family road trip Wales: Aberystwyth – Barmouth – Harlech

As we set off from Aberystwyth, Harlech Castle was our first goal. But along the way we were side-tracked…

Family road trip Wales: Aberystwyth - Barmouth - Harlech

…by Barmouth.

Lots of people out and about playing with kites on a long, inviting beach. Impossible not to stop.

Barmouth – or Abermaw, which is its proper Welsh name – is a seaside town at the estuary of the river Mawddach. Neither of us had ever heard of it before, we were just passing through and liked what we saw.

Barmouth is picturesque, with a long sea front and beach, interesting houses in the hillsides, nice cafes, restaurants and shops: a pleasant surprise and a perfect ice cream stop along the A487.


Harlech Castle

road trip wales barmouth harlech

Harlech is one of King Edward’s four fortresses (Caernaerfon, Conwy and Beaumaris are the other three) here in Northern Wales.

Cat would much rather play than explore the castle. So in the end, we didn’t enter, but we were content to wander around. Travelling with children means a few compromises now and then.

Harlech Castle is an imposing sight, with the mountains of Snowdonia on the horizon. We walked around, took photographs from every angle, and discussed which of the four castles we preferred. From down in the valley, Harlech looks dramatic, as it sits on top of a cliff, almost an extension of it.


Harlech castle practicals

We didn’t enter the castle, but you might like to:

  • Opening hours March – October: 0930 – 1700 (1800 in July and August). Shorter hours November – February.
  • Admission: £4.25, reduced rate £3.20, family ticket: £12.75 for 2 adults and up to 3 children under 16.


Here’s our family road trip in Wales:

Other curious and beautiful destinations in underrated, fascinating Wales, include an intriguing book towna magical fantasy villagethat place with the long namea Welsh garden (just as lovely as an English garden), and many more. In fact, here’s the whole shebang: Wales on Sophie’s World.


unesco logo

Harlech Castle is part of the UNESCO World Heritage site Castles and Town Walls of King Edward in Gwynedd. Here are more UNESCO World Heritage sites around the world.