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All the best places to visit around Porthmadog

All the best places to visit around Porthmadog

Our guide to where to go in and around Porthmadog in North Wales

Porthmadog is a small coastal town on the Glaslyn Estuary in North Wales.

It was once a busy port for the international slate trade and its name means Madog’s Port.

There’s lots to do in and around this pretty town.

Black Rock Sands (Morfa Bychan)

Black Rock Sands is the closest major beach to Porthmadog, it’s a 10-minute drive.

It’s very accessible as you can park your car on the beach itself.

Cars parked on the beach at Black Rock Sands, near Porthmadog, Wales

Cars parked on the beach at Black Rock Sands

This is fantastic if you have loads of beach stuff to carry like chairs, blankets, boards, a picnic, buckets and spades etc.

But beware of being so distracted by having fun that you don’t realise the tide is creeping in.

On our last visit, we witnessed several owners running to rescue their cars and one even had to be pulled to safety by beach patrol.

A long, wide stretch of sand with warm, shallow waters at low tide, Black Rock Sands has good rock pools and caves at the far end towards Criccieth with view across to Criccieth Castle.

Car parking on the beach costs £5.

Steam Railway

Porthmadog Railway Station on the high street is very popular as it is a hub for three lines.

*The Welsh Highland Railway is the UK’s longest heritage railway and runs 25 miles between Porthmadog and Caernarfon.

*The Ffestiniog Railway is a vintage railway which has been running for nearly 200 years. It is 13.5 miles long and runs from Porthmadog to Blaenau Ffestiniog.

*And the Welsh Highland Heritage Railway offers a short train ride in historic narrow-gauge railway carriages to Pen-y-mount station and back.

The Ffestiniog Railway in North Wales – our review and top tips

Opposite the hotel is the railway and the estuary.

Porthmadog railway station

Harlech Beach

Harlech Beach is about a 20-minute drive from Porthmadog.

It has lovely soft sand and fun, high sand dunes to explore.

The wide bay is inviting for paddlers and swimmers.

Harlech Beach in Wales

Harlech Beach

It is a fairly long walk from the pay and display car park (about 10 minutes), which also houses the nearest toilets, along a footpath which cuts through the golf course (watch out for flying golf balls).

Harlech Castle

Harlech Castle is set on a steep hill in this small village and proves very popular with visitors.

A girl in front of Harlech Castle

Harlech Castle

The fortress, built by Edward I nearly 800 years ago, is in superb condition.

You can scale the castle walls and see stunning views across North Wales.

There are good explainer boards around the castle showing what each area was used for in the 13th century.

Entrance costs £27.50 for a family of four unless you are members of Cadw (a Welsh version of English Heritage). There is also a small shop, bustling cafe and a short video you can watch before walking across the bridge to the castle.

There aren’t many parking spaces at the castle and it’s a steep walk to other options, so it’s best to drop off children and passengers who may struggle before finding somewhere to park.

Harlech

While you are at the castle, it’s worth walking a few metres up the road to see what claims to be a Guinness World Record-breaking road.

Ffordd Pen Lech is apparently the World’s Steepest Street with a 40 per cent gradient.

Well worth a quick walk to say you’ve scaled a spot in the record books.

There are also cafes, ice cream parlours and shops on the high street in Harlech.

Porthmadog walks

Walking is a great way to explore this pretty town.

We stayed at the Premier Inn, which is in a great location, opposite the railway station – Hotel review: New Premier Inn in Porthmadog, North Wales.

(Our video of the hotel above, includes many of the attractions in this article).

You don’t have to go far from the hotel for a stunning stroll, you can head around the back of the building to a footpath which takes you around a lake. A 20-minute walk brings you back to the hotel.

If you want to head further you can walk along the harbourside and down Lombard Street to the small cove of Borth-y-Gest which has a nice, small beach.

Walks towards Snowdon

We did two brilliant walks in the hills above Porthmadog heading towards Snowdon.

Beddgelert

We walked along the Aberglasyn Gorge from the National Trust car park at Aberglasyn to the village of Beddgelert.

The walk is challenging, particularly the first mile from the car park along the side of the river. There are some steep drops and no barriers in places.

Our children aged 12 and 8 loved the adventure but younger ones will need to be watched throughout. After the first mile,the path changes to a more straightforward flat, paved walk all the way to Beddgelert.

Beddgelert in Wales

Beddgelert

There are places to stop and have a paddle in the river along the way so bring a towel and some swimming gear if it is a warm day.

The walk ends at Beddgelert – the pretty village made famous by the story of the faithful dog Gelert slain by Prince Llewellyn after he mistakenly thought the dog had attacked his baby son.

You can visit Gelert’s grave under a tree and read about the tale. Beddgelert has several cafes, a busy ice cream parlour and a village shop if you need supplies for the walk back.

Gelert's grave at Beddgelert in Wales

Gelert’s grave at Beddgelert

Llyn Dinas

Further towards Snowdon into the mountains is another great walk we tried. This one starts from the National Trust site at Craflwyn. You can park there and cross the busy A498 onto a riverside footpath, which runs for just over a mile to Llyn Dinas.

The footpath goes past the Sygun Copper Mine, where you can take a self-guided tour down the mine.

If you carry on along the footpath towards Nantmor, you emerge at the stunning lake Llyn Dinas.

This is a wonderful spot for a swim on a hot day, there were lots of people out on the water on paddleboards and canoes. You can also walk around the lake on a solid, flat path. There are a few picnic tables near the small boathouse next to the main road but apart from that, no other facilities.

Llyn Dinas lake

Llyn Dinas lake

For anyone who doesn’t fancy the walk from Craflwyn, there is roadside parking alongside the lake but it gets busy quickly on a sunny day.

RELATED CONTENT: Hotel review: New Premier Inn in Porthmadog, North Wales (and our video tour)

Hotel review: New Premier Inn in Porthmadog, North Wales (and our video tour)

Hotel review: New Premier Inn in Porthmadog, North Wales (and our video tour)

We take our children to stay at this hotel in the centre of Porthmadog opposite the railway station

Name

Premier Inn Porthmadog Hotel.

Where is it?

This Premier Inn hotel is in Porthmadog in the county of Gwynedd, North Wales, a small coastal town on the Glaslyn Estuary.

It’s in a great location, opposite Porthmadog Railway Station and the estuary. The rear of the hotel has views over Snowdonia National Park.

What is it?

Premier Inn is the UK’s biggest hotel chain with over 800 hotels and this one only opened in 2022.

The rooms

Our Standard Family room had three beds – a really comfortable and cosy king size, a single and a smaller pull-out.

Our Standard Family room at Premier Inn Porthmadog

Our Standard Family room

All rooms have an en-suite bath and shower with shower curtain, tea and coffee facilities, hairdryer, desk and chair, plus free Wi-Fi and a flat screen Smart TV.

Other room options are a Standard Double, Premier Plus Double, Standard Twin and Standard Accessible which includes adjustable beds, more space and wider entry bathrooms.

A Standard Family room at Premier Inn Porthmadog

Our room

We were very grateful that the room had very effective air conditioning, as we stayed during a heat wave.

Food and drink

The hotel’s Thyme restaurant serves breakfast and evening meals.

Breakfast is self-service and includes hot options like bacon, eggs, hash browns, mushrooms and baked beans plus fruit, cereals, croissants and yoghurts.

You can toast your own bread, pancakes and crumpets. Breakfast was £9.50 per adult or £7.50 for just the continental options when we stayed.

In the evening, you can choose from a huge menu which includes reasonably-priced standard pub favourites like lasagne, steak and pizza.

Check in and the bar at Porthmadog Premier Inn, Wales

Is it family friendly?

Yes, this is a family friendly hotel, our room was a great size for the four of us.

Breakfast is free for children (up to two children eat free with a paying adult).

Also, travel cots are available at no extra cost.

Our highlights

*The location – this is a great spot to explore Porthmadog and we enjoyed several walks from the hotel.

It’s a two-minute walk to the pretty harbour and town centre.

*Spooner’s cafe bar at the railway station opposite serves good value drinks and its terrace has a nice view across the bay.

*The views – from our window at the front we could watch steam trains arriving and departing from Porthmadog Station and the estuary beyond.

Windows at the back look over a pretty pool with mountains beyond.

*The comfortable beds and the room’s air conditioning were a real bonus, as was the cleanliness and the modern fresh feel of the whole hotel.

Top tips

*Car parking is described as limited on the website.  Although the hotel was full when we visited we did manage to park on site each day. If you are keen to ensure your vehicle is left in the hotel car park, then we suggest arriving earlier as it rapidly filled up from around 5pm.

*Don’t miss out on a lovely short walk directly behind the hotel around a lake. If you follow the green railings around the back of the hotel, it looks like a dead end, but you can head out on to Cob Crwn – a short, circular stroll.

A view of the Porthmadog Premier Inn hotel from the lake behind it.

A view of the hotel from the lake behind it.

*Breakfast times were allocated at 6.30, 7.30, 8.30 or 9.30am. The area was busy around 8.30am but quietened down afterwards so we suggest if you don’t want to wait for a table, get there either before 8am or after 9.30am.

*There are six electric car charging points in the car park. However, none of them were working when we visited! The nearest charging points in Porthmadog are at the Tesco supermarket, which is a 10-minute walk away.

Nearby

Porthmadog Railway Station

Porthmadog Railway Station is opposite is a major hub with three lines – the Ffestiniog (which runs to Blaenau Ffestiniog), the Welsh Highland Railway (which goes to Caernarfon) and the Welsh Highland Heritage Railway.

Porthmadog Railway Station is opposite the Premier Inn hotel, Wales

Porthmadog Railway Station is opposite the Premier Inn

The Welsh Highland Railway is the UK’s longest heritage railway and runs 25 miles between Porthmadog and Caernarfon.

The Ffestiniog Railway is a vintage railway which has been running for nearly 200 years. It is 13.5 miles long and runs from Porthmadog to Blaenau Ffestiniog.

The Welsh Highland Heritage Railway offers a short train ride in historic narrow-gauge railway carriages to Pen-y-mount station and back.

Portmeirion

This Italian-style tourist village, built between 1925 and 1975, is two miles south east of Porthmadog.

It is famous for being The Village in the tv show The Prisoner.

Black Rock Sands (Morfa Bychan)

This big beach is two miles west of Porthmadog. It’s very accessible as you can park your vehicles on it.

Just be careful of little ones running around and also keep an eye on the tide and your car – one had to be towed out of the sea when we were there.

Cars parked on the beach at Black Rock Sands, near Porthmadog, Wales

Cars parked on the beach at Black Rock Sands

Harlech

We visited Harlech Castle and Harlech Beach, which were 20 minutes away.

Harlech Beach is large and sandy and is a fair walk from the car park.

It is overlooked by the castle, set high on the cliff.

Porthmadog

You don’t have to go far from the hotel for a stunning stroll.

The marina is very close or you can head around the back of the building to a footpath which takes you around a lake. A 20-minute walk brings you back to the hotel.

Boats at Porthmadog Harbour, Wales

Porthmadog Harbour

You can find out more about the attractions by reading our feature on what to do around Porthmadog with children here.

Address:

Premier Inn Porthmadog Hotel, Britannia Terrace, Porthmadog, Wales, LL49 9NB.

How to book:

www.PremierInn.com

The best places to holiday with children in August

The best places to holiday with children in August

Where is best for a family holiday in August – in the UK and abroad

North Wales

Temperature 18C

Dinas Dinlle beach in north Wales

Dinas Dinlle beach in north Wales

On sunny days, there are not many places that beat north Wales’ destinations like Abersoch (The 8 best beaches in and around Abersoch) and Anglesey (Anglesey review).

You can walk the length of the Welsh coastline now and summer is the best time to explore it.

Visit the sandy, unspoilt beaches of the Llyn Peninsula where there are dozens of quiet coves.

Or inland there’s Snowdonia, the mountain railway to the summit of Snowdon and the charming Ffestiniog Railway Ffestiniog Railway review and tips) in Porthmadog (Hotel review: Premier Inn in Porthmadog).

For a more bustling feel consider the seaside town of Llandudno with its pier, dry ski slope and beaches.

The Lake District

Temperature: 18C

A boat on Coniston Water

Coniston

In August, the Lakes get busy, but you can head further west to escape the crowds.

Coniston is a good option, the stony lake shore is good for setting up a picnic, the water (just) warm enough for a dip.

There is mountain biking, a high rope course and walking in nearby Grizedale Forest – or for a more leisurely stroll – the picturesque Tarn Hows is perfect for little legs.

Read our list of activities for children in Coniston.

The French Alps

Travel time from the UK: 1 hour

Temperature: 20C

The French Alps in summer

The French Alps in summer

If you want to head for Europe in high season then go high above sea level.

The French Lake District is a little cooler and quieter than the Riviera.

The snow is gone and the scenery is amazing around Lac Annecy.

The ski runs higher up are transformed into spectacular walks with all the infrastructure to cater for family fun.

Vancouver, Canada

Travel time from the UK: 11hours

Temperature: 22-25C

Vancouver

Vancouver

Canada’s west coast is a vibrant city with beaches, gorges and parks.

And in August, Vancouver is not too hot in the city but warm enough to go to the beach.

Some of the family attractions include the Capilano suspension bridge, Grouse Mountain cable car, Stanley Park and Kitsilano Beach.

Man-made fun can be had at the water park on Granville Island. Families can enjoy day trips to Vancouver Island as well.

Rio de Janeiro, Brazil

Travel time from the UK: 12 hours

Temperature: 22-26C

Rio de Janeiro

Rio de Janeiro

Temperatures are at their most bearable in August – Rio’s winter – but the city but remains at its bustling best.

Children will love the beaches on the touristy south side of the city, Copacabana is the most famous but Ipanema is probably the safest for families.

Must-see sights include the Christ the Redeemer statue and a trip on the cable car.

Where do you like to go in August? Comment below!

The Ffestiniog Railway in North Wales – our review and top tips

The Ffestiniog Railway in North Wales – our review and top tips

We take our children on the Ffestiniog Railway which runs through Snowdonia National Park

What is it?

The Ffestiniog Railway is a vintage railway which has been running for nearly 200 years through the beautiful Snowdonia National Park.

Where is it?

It runs between Porthmadog’s harbourside and the former slate mining town of Blaenau Ffestiniog – 13 and a half miles away.

What did we think?

This is one of the country’s best preserved vintage railways with wonderful scenery and child-friendly stops en route.

Highlights

*The steam engine. Harry Potter fans can imagine they are on the Hogwarts Express as the train starts off. The noise, smell and sensation of a steam engine is unique for children.

*Its history. The Ffestiniog Railway is the world’s oldest narrow gauge railway. This line was originally built to take slate from Snowdonia’s quarries to the harbour at Porthmadog from where it was shipped around the world.

*The carriages are original but despite their age are fairly comfortable and reasonably spacious.

A carriage on the A child points at the Ffestiniog Railway

*Table service. Attentive staff regularly come round offering drinks, snacks or guide books. They serve homemade cakes and a selection of alcoholic and soft drinks.

*The views. The journey starts along the water at Porthmadog harbour before chugging up into the mountains. It is a narrow route with some houses right by the railway. As you climb, the railway goes past rocky walls and woodland but it barely goes a few minutes without a great view of Snowdonia’s mountains, streams and valleys.

*Tan-y-Blwch walk. Getting off at Tan-y-Blwch is the best option with children. You have over an hour before the train comes back for the return journey. That is enough time to walk the 1/4 mile down through woodland to Llyn Mair and wander around the lake, possibly with a picnic, before heading back to the station.

*Tan-y-Blwch station. The station has a small but fun playground, cafe and hut showing some of the railway’s history. There is also a bridge over the railway where you can get a good view of the steam trains arriving and departing.

Our top tips

*Sit on the right hand side of the train on the way out of Porthmadog and the left on the way back for the best views.

The Ffestiniog Railway travels through the beautiful landscape

*The toilet is in the middle of the train so if you have little ones who might need to pay a visit, sit near that carriage.

*With younger children, consider riding to Tan-y-Bwlch rather than all the way to Blaenau Ffestiniog. The journey is 45 minutes each way instead of 1 hour 15 minutes. There is a playground and walk at Tan-y-Bwlch.

Ffestiniog Railway information

Food: Drinks and snacks menu served on-board. Cafes at Porthmadog and Tan-y-Blwch stations on the route serving cakes, ice creams and cooked meals.

Opening hours: For most of the season there are four trains per day. The first train leaves Porthmadog at 10.05am. Other departures are 11.25am, 1.35pm and 3.50pm with the last one getting back at 6.30pm. In the summer holidays there is also an 8.50am departure.

Cost: Adult all-day ticket £25.60, half way return to or from Tan-y-Blwch £16.50. One child free with every paying adult. All under-threes travel free.

Best for: Ages three upwards

Time needed: three hours

Access and restrictions: There are accessible toilets and baby changing facilities at all the main stations. The train itself has a toilet but it is small.

Address: Porthmadog Harbour Station, Glaslyn Bridge, LL49 9NF.

There is a small car park at Porthmadog which costs £2 per day.

Have you been, let us know what you thought?