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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)

The five best Lake District family walks for children and toddlers

The five best Lake District family walks for children and toddlers

Our five favourite Lake District walks to keep children happy around Windermere, Coniston, Ullswater and Buttermere

Orrest Head

(90 minutes, suitable from aged three and over, no buggies)

You can walk this from the top of Bowness town centre near Booths supermarket, it starts across fields, then goes through woodland before a brief steeper bit as you reach the summit.

The reward is amazing views over Windermere and there are benches and space at the top.

You can descend along various different routes, some on roads. An ideal first ‘summit’ to do in the Lake District.

a man looks out over Windermere from Orrest Head

The view of Windermere from Orrest Head

Tarn Hows

(45 minutes, toddler friendly)

This is man-made but it looks as if it has been part of the Lake District for thousands of years.

There are glorious views around the lake, and the entire circuit is flat and gravelled, which makes it buggy-friendly and ideal for those learning to walk.

Youngsters will enjoy crossing the small bridge at the far end and sheep spotting.

There is a National Trust car park on site with toilets and normally an ice-cream or burger van too. As a favourite spot for families it does get busy in high season so try and go either early morning or late afternoon.

Tarn Hows in the sunset

Tarn Hows is a simple walk for young children

Aira Force 

(80-minute round trip, suited to children aged three and over, but keep children close as there are steep drops)

Just above the Western edge of Ullswater is the most famous waterfall in the Lakes.

The walk starts at a large car park with visitor centre, you go up through woodland, before passing open fields and then turning right to the falls.

Pause on the bridge for pictures before heading back down. Beware – the path is very open in places with steep drops so you need to keep an eye on little ones at all times.

Stop near the end to dip a toe in the babbling river or tackle some stepping stones before returning through woodland to the car park.

a racing steam near Aira Force in the Lake District

The streams and woodland of Aira Force

Howtown

(Two-hour round trip, suitable from aged four and above)

Catch the Ullswater steamer to Howtown on the sparsely populated Eastern edge of the lake.

Turn right at the pier, follow the signs around the lake – there is a nice stony beach near the start – and then head up.

The wide fields narrow to a small rocky path as you climb up. It isn’t steep but some parts are tight and there are drops, then skirt the lake around Hallin Fell.

There are great picnic spots with amazing lake views and a fun section of exposed sandstone which children can clamber on.

You can either turn back at the sandstone for a shorter walk or head right the way around Hallin Fell and back to Howtown.

There is a lovely tea room in the small town – but don’t forget to check the steamer timetable to catch your boat back.

Ullswater on a sunny day

Enjoy great views of Ullswater on this walk

Buttermere

(Two-hour round trip, suitable from aged four and above)

In the less visited and harder to reach Western Lakes lies Buttermere.

It is a spectacular spot for a gentle round-the-lake stroll with amazing views. You can park in the village and follow the footpath to the lake.

Head for the western shore, first through Burtness Wood, which is the easiest part of the walk and gives you the chance to stop at the shore for a picnic or paddle.

When you reach the far end you can either turn back through the wood or continue around the entire lake, which is about a four mile walk.

If you’re doing the entire circuit you will have to walk along the road for a short distance and then the shore path is quite rough but there is a fun tunnel towards the end on the eastern shore which does get quite dark.

Honister Pass with a view of Buttermere

Buttermere is below the Honister Pass in the quieter Western Lakes

Do you agree with our choices? What are your family’s favourite walks? Comment below, we would love to hear from you.