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From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

Coordinates: 52°56′13″N 3°39′32″W / 52.937°N 3.659°W / 52.937; -3.659

Location of North Wales

North Wales (Welsh: Gogledd Cymru) is the northernmost unofficial region of Wales, bordered to the south by Mid Wales and to the east by England.

It comprises the island of Anglesey, the Llŷn peninsula and the Snowdonia mountain range, together with the catchments of the Rivers Conwy, Clwyd and Dee with the River Dyfi often said to form the southern boundary along part of its course.

However, northern Powys is the same distance north as south Gwynedd so that could also be classed as North Wales.



North Wales is steeped in history. In 1210, English King John invaded Gwynedd a county of North Wales, Llywelyn ap Iorwerth, one of the greatest of the medieval Welsh kings was forced to retreat to the mountainous areas to the West. When John found himself embroiled in struggles with his Barons and the Pope, Llywelyn was able to reassert his authority in North Wales. In 1216, Llywelyn went on to preside over a Welsh Parliament, a position confirmed at the Peace of Worcester in 1218, by Henry III.[1]


World Heritage Sites

North Wales is home to five of the six UNESCO World Heritage sites in Wales, including:Caernarfon Castle, Beaumaris Castle,[2] Conwy Castle, Harlech Castle[3] and Pontcysyllte aqueduct.[4]

Political divisions

Traditionally, most of North Wales was covered by the kingdom of Gwynedd.

The region is approximately made up of the following administrative areas:

Related Constituencies

North Wales was a European Parliament constituency until 1999. Currently, there is an electoral region for the National Assembly for Wales with the name (used, in parallel with the smaller constituencies, to elect top-up members under the Additional Member System), which covers the North-East of Wales (specifically the entire area of the former pre-1996 county of Clwyd) as well as the Northern-most coastal areas of north-western Wales; the rest of North Wales is covered by Mid and West Wales (National Assembly for Wales electoral region).


Llanddwyn Island's old lighthouse, with Snowdonia in background

The area is mostly rural with many mountains and valleys. This, in combination with its coast (on the Irish Sea), has ensured that tourism is the principal industry. Farming, which was once the principal economic force in the area, is now much reduced in importance. The average income per capita of the local population is the lowest in the UK and much of the region has EU Objective 1 status.[5]

The eastern part of North Wales contains the most populous areas, with more than 300,000 people living in the areas around Wrexham and Deeside. Wrexham is North Wales' largest town, with a population of 68,000 in 2005. The majority of other settlements are along the coast, including some popular resort towns, such as Rhyl, Llandudno and Pwllheli. The A55 expressway links these towns with the north of England and the port of Holyhead for ferries to Ireland; few routes connect North Wales with South Wales. There are two cathedral cities – Bangor and St. Asaph – and a number of mediaeval castles (e.g., Criccieth, Dolbadarn, Harlech, Caernarfon, Beaumaris, Conwy).


North Wales has a very diverse and complex geology with precambrian schists along the Menai Strait and the great Cambrian dome behind Harlech and underlying much of western Snowdonia. In the Ordovician period much volcanism deposited a range of minerals and rocks over the north western parts of Gwynedd whilst to the east of the River Conwy lies a large area of upland rolling hills underlain by the Silurian mud-stones and grits comprising the Denbigh and Migneint moors. To the east, around Llangollen,to the north on Halkyn mountain and the Great Orme and in eastern Anglesey are deep beds of limestone from which metals have been mines since pre-Roman times. Added to all this are the complexities posed by Parys Mountain and the outcrops of unusual minerals such as Jasper and Mona Marble which make the area of special interest to geologists.


North Wales has a distinct regional identity. Its dialect of the Welsh language differs from that of other regions such as South Wales in some ways; for example llefrith is used in most of the North instead of llaeth for "milk"; a simple sentence such as go upstairs now might be Dos i fyny'r grisiau rwan in North Wales, where it might be Cer lan y stâr nawr in South Wales. Colloquially, a person from North Wales (especially one who speaks with this dialect or accent) is known as a North Walian, or a Gog (from the Welsh gogledd, meaning "north").

Local media


In September 2008 it was announced by the Welsh Rugby Union that a development team based in North Wales would be created, with a long term goal of becoming the fifth Welsh Region in the Celtic League.[6] It was envisaged that this would both help the growth of the game in the area, and provide a larger pool of players for the Welsh national team to be selected from.[7][8] Rugby league is represented by the Wrexham based Crusaders Rugby League team who currently play in the European Super League


In 2000, The Wales Tourist Board tourist identified the top 10 most visited attractions in the region.[9] They included:

See also


External links

Travel guide

Up to date as of January 14, 2010

From Wikitravel

North Wales is in the United Kingdom.

Map of North Wales
Map of North Wales

Cities and Towns

North Wales has many picturesque towns. Below is a list of the most notable. For others, please see specific county articles.

  • Bala (Gwynedd) - a mecca for watersports enthusiasts with Wales' largest natural lake and the National White Water Centre
  • Blaenau Ffestiniog (Gwynedd) - Slate mining town where visitors can take a train underground at Llechwedd Caverns. Also the northern terminus of the narrow gauge Ffestiniog Railway
  • Caernarfon (Gwynedd) - dominated by it's castle and medieval town walls. A symbolic seat to represent English power in North Wales.
  • Conwy - medieval, fortified town with impressive castle and quaint shops
  • Dolgellau (Gwynedd) - picturesque market town with gold in its surrounding hills and an annual World Music Festival
  • Denbigh (Denbighshire) - is a picturesque market town and one of the most historic towns in North Wales.
  • Holyhead (Anglesey) - high-speed ferry to Dublin
  • Llandudno (Conwy) - genteel victorian seaside resort
  • Llangollen (Denbighshire) - small town in Dee valley, excellent hike to Castle ruins, Valle Crucis Abbey, canal tours, and home to an annual music festival
  • Porthmadog (Gwynedd) - port town and southern terminus of both the Ffestiniog and Welsh Highland Railways. Nearest town to the Italianate village of Portmeirion where cult TV series The Prisoner was filmed
  • Rhyl (Denbighshire) - rundown traditional British seaside resort, trying hard to improve and bring back the glory days
  • Tywyn (Gwynedd) - Popular seaside resort with miles of sandy beach. Home to the world-famous Talyllyn Railway.
  • Wrexham - a county and town

Other destinations

National Parks

  • Snowdonia National Park - great hiking territory, which includes Wales' highest mountain. Eryri (Snowdonia in Welsh) is the second largest National Park in England and Wales. This place has a link with Aurthurian legends, such as Merlin's dragons were supposedly at Dinas Emrys.

Areas of Outstanding Natural Beauty (AONB)

Three of Wales' five AONB's are in North Wales.

  • The Isle of Anglesey- has one of the most distinctive, attractive and varied landscapes in the British Isles. Anglesey was designated as an Areas of Outstanding Natural Beauty (AONBs) in 1966 in order to protect the aesthetic appeal and variety of the island's coastal landscape and habitats from inappropriate development. The AONB is predominantly a coastal designation, covering most of the island's 125 miles coastline (including Llanddwyn), it contains rocky headlands, golden beaches, dunes, heaths and fine green countryside. Some of the beaches are recognised as being amongst the best in Great Britain and Europe. The AONB supports a wealth of wildlife such as choughs, grey seals, sea lavender and silver studded blue butterflies. There are also many areas protected for their nature conservation value, such as Newborough Warren National Nature Reserve, and several Sites of Special Scientific Interest.
  • Lleyn AONB. The peninsula sticking out westwards into the Irish Sea, beyond Snowdonia, in the north-west of the country
  • Clwydian Range AONB. A range of hills running southwards from the coast at Prestatyn to Llandegla, in Denbighshire in the north-east of the country, close to the border with England. The highest and best known hill is Moel Famau, and many of the hills are the sites of Iron Age Hillforts.


North Wales is bilingual. While almost 100% of the people you meet can speak and understand English, you are also quite likely to hear Welsh being spoken, especially as you travel further west within the region. According to the census of 2005, 68.7% of the people in Gwynedd can speak Welsh. You're least likely to encounter Welsh speakers on the north coast east of Conwy.

Get in

By Rail

Mainline train services within North Wales are run by Arriva Trains Wales [1].

  • Regular ferry services operate between Holyhead and Ireland, (Dublin and Dun Laoghaire), and is provided by two carriers. Stenaline[2] and Irish Ferries[3] both offer multiple daily service between the two ports for passengers and vehicles. Bookings can be made through their respective websites.

By Air

An air service connecting RAF Valley in Anglesey to Cardiff International Airport in South Wales has recently opened charging £50 each way, and the journey takes about an hour. For flights from other destinations Manchester and Liverpool airports, across the border in England are the closest bet, or Birmingham airport for the Cambrian Coast area.

By Car

The main roads into North Wales are the A55 which runs along the north coast, connecting with the M56 and M53 near Chester, and the A5, which leaves the M54 at Shrewsbury and heads west to Betws y Coed and then north-west to Bangor

Get around

By Rail

(See also Get In above for details of lines into and across North Wales)

  • The Conwy Valley Line stretches from Llandudno Junction along the Conwy Valley to Blaenau Ffestiniog, and connects with trains on both the North Wales Coast line and the Ffestiniog Railway.
  • The narrow-gauge Ffestiniog Railway connects the Cambrian Coast line at Porthmadog with the Conwy Valley line at Blaenau Ffestiniog
  • Another narrow gauge line, the Welsh Highland Railway will shortly re-open, connecting Porthmadog to Caernarfon via Beddgelert
  • Bws Gwynedd [7] services operate across Gwynedd, with longer distance services to Wrexham and Chester



There are a number of castles from the 12th and 13th centuries spread across North Wales. These date back to the time of the battles by the Welsh Princes of Gwynedd to resist the rule of King John, and more significantly, King Edward I of England. Most of the castles are in the care of Cadw[8], the historic environment service of the Welsh Assembly Government.

  • Beaumaris - at the eastern tip of Anglesey. The final part of Edward I's Ring of Steel around North Wales, provocatively located immediately across the narrow Menai Strait from Garth Celyn, the seat of the Princes of Gwynedd.
  • Caernarfon - planned seat of Edward I's power in Wales. Located in the town of Caernarfon
  • Castell y Bere - Last stronghold of the Welsh Princes, and their most impressive fortress. Stunning location in Bro Dysynni.
  • Conwy - built by Edward I to control the stategically significant town and river of the same name.
  • Criccieth - Welsh built castle near the eastern end of the Lleyn Peninsula
  • Dinas Bran - atmospheric ruin on a hilltop near Llangollen
  • Dolbadarn - Welsh built castle situated between Llyn Peris and Llyn Padarn lakes, close to the town of Llanberis
  • Dolwyddelan - Welsh castle, in the village of the same name on the main A470 road between Betws-y-Coed and Blaenau Ffestiniog. Reputed birthplace of Prince Llywelyn the Great. The Disney film Dragonslayer was filmed here.
  • Flint - Edward I's first castle in Wales, in the far north-east close to the English border in Flintshire. Part of Shakespeare's play Richard II is set within Flint Castle.
  • Harlech - Another of Edward I's "ring of steel". Looks menacingly across Tremadog Bay at Criccieth Castle.
  • Rhuddlan - in the small town of the same name, south of Rhyl. The remains of an older Motte and Bailey castle, Twtil, can still be seen in the grounds of Rhuddlan Castle.

Heritage Railways

For many visitors to North Wales, the main draw is the number of historic steam railways in the area. Some, such as the Bala Lake Railway and Llangollen Railway, run on stretches of lines that were part of the national railways network until the infamous Beeching cuts closed many lines in the 1960s. Others, including the Talyllyn and Ffestiniog Railways, were built by mine or quarry owners to transport their produce (usually slate) down to a port or to a mainline train station. Most of the railways are owned and run by societies of volunteer enthusiasts.

Standard gauge

Narrow gauge

  • Bala Lake Railway[10]
  • Corris Railway[11], near Machynlleth
  • Ffestiniog Railway[12], runs from Blaenau Ffestiniog to Porthmadog
  • Llanberis Lake Railway[13]
  • Snowdon Mountain Railway[14], runs from Llanberis all the way to the summit of Mount Snowdon, Wales' highest mountain
  • Talyllyn Railway[15], Tywyn
    • World's first heritage railway and inspiration for the Ealing comedy film The Titfield Thunderbolt. Features in the popular Railway Series of childrens books by Rev W Awdry as the "Skarloey Railway".
  • Welsh Highland Railway[16]

Miniature railways

  • Conwy Valley Railway Museum[17], Betws-y-Coed
  • Fairbourne Railway[18], south of Barmouth
  • Rhyl Miniature Railway[19]. The oldest miniature railway still running in the UK.
  • Gypsy Wood Park[20], Caernarfon - UK's largest miniature G Scale garden railway.
  • Local Adventure Activities, Bangor - A great base for enjoying local adventure activities. Why not enjoy the rugged natural surroundings by trying out some Sea Kayaking, Rock Abseiling, Cliff Jumping, Sea Level Traversing, Gorge Scrambling (all £40 per person) or even Mountain Horse Riding. Some local instructors include Shaggy Sheep Wales Activities [21] or [22].
  • Gypsy Wood Park, Caernarfon - An outdoor attraction well worth a visit on a sunny day. Its a relaxing attraction, with the UK's largest miniature G Scale garden railway and a great family day out with children who love animals.
  • Indoor Karting, Caernarfon - If the weather isn't up to much you could always visit the Redline Indoor Karting centre at Cibyn Industrial Estate.
  • Black Boy Inn, Caernarfon - Popular with both locals and tourists. It has a great locally sourced menu, and won awards for its real ales.
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