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