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…
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 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:
- Isle of Anglesey
- Portmeirion-Blaenau Ffestiniog
- Aberystwyth – Abereiddi Blue Lagoon
Other curious and beautiful destinations in underrated, fascinating Wales, include an intriguing book town, a magical fantasy village, that place with the long name, a Welsh garden (just as lovely as an English garden), and many more. In fact, here’s the whole shebang: Wales on Sophie’s World.
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.
I’m so glad that you got to see the side of Wales that sometimes people never consider; that it’s a stunningly beautiful place from the coast, all the way to the hills. It’s got history, it’s got entertainment and I love it so much.
Can’t wait to get back to the UK to visit all those great places I visited when I was a kid.
Glad to hear it 🙂
Sounds like an awesome road trip! I think Northern Wales is so underrated – the scenery and the castles are incredible.
I agree wholeheartedly, Wales is the most underrated part of Britain.
This sounds like so much fun. I’m from North Wales so I love hearing about people visiting and loving their time there.
How cool, Monica. You’re from gorgeous country.
I’d love to visit Wales one day.
Have you heard the march “Men of Harlech”? It is beautiful and stirring. I understand it’s like an unofficial sort of national Welsh anthem, but I could be wrong. All I know is that my Welsh husband made me listen to it 🙂 They also sing it in a scene from the film Zulu with Michael Caine.
Now thanks to you I see that Harlech Castle is also beautiful and a fitting background to the song 🙂
I hadn’t, but found it on YouTube just now. Powerful, very Welsh, and you’re right, it fits very well with the stronghold.
Barmouth looks like a good place to get side tracked. How can you not when there’s a beach and sunshine, right? 🙂
We passed through and just had to stop.
That castle looks stunning. Even just from the outside you got an amazing photograph. I would love to see what the inside of that place looks like!
I’d like to explore inside too. Next time, I’ll just have to be a bit more firm with the little one 🙂
When I was 15 I spent a month cycling around England and Wales and remember Barmouth. It was my first trip overseas and everything seemed so interesting and so different.
Congrats to your daughter for getting her MA.
Wales doesn’t get a lot of press but what a lot it has to offer.