A Solo Traveller’s Guide to North Wales

North Wales offers solo travellers plenty of landscapes to explore, like Snowdonia National Park
North Wales offers solo travellers plenty of landscapes to explore, like Snowdonia National Park
Alexis James

Once known as the Kingdom of Gwynedd, North Wales is steeped in both national and natural history. You might learn of its industrial heritage via a zipline. You might snap selfies from its highest peak. Whatever you do, its majestic mountains and imposing forts manage the impressive feat of appealing to new generations while still honouring its rich past.

What’s the vibe?

Hiraeth is a Welsh word loosely translated as a deep longing for one’s home. And the misty valleys and Celtic traditions that make expats yearn for their country are also what makes Wales a memorable place for visitors, too. Backpackers and solo travellers will find few barriers to adventure in North Wales, where the people are welcoming, the history is vast, and scenery is an Instagrammer’s playground.

The scenery in North Wales is a photographer’s dream

A North Wales trip overview

The region is relatively small, so it’s not unusual for travellers to base themselves in one location – then launch daily excursions. Caernarfon, home to the most famed castle in Wales, does the trick nicely. You’ll have easy access to the rugged 140mi (225km) Coast Path on the Isle of Anglesey, via the architectural marvel that is the Menai Suspension Bridge. With a short drive or picturesque train journey east, you can reach Snowdonia with its Dark Sky Reserve that’s popular with campers and hikers. To learn more about Wales’ mining past, head an hour west to Zip World Llechwedd for an adrenaline-fuelled view of the old slate mine.

Where to stay in North Wales as a solo traveller

If aiming for Caernarfon, see our tips on places to stay in the area. North Wales is brimming with neatly located B&Bs packed with character and serving up a hearty cooked breakfast. For something quirkier, spend the night like a 13th-century royal with a bed in one of the country’s many castles. Roch Castle in Haverfordwest and Deudraeth Castle in Portmeirion are among the converted forts that now include luxury rooms. Find more places to stay around Portmeirion with our guide. Hostels tend to be the best place to meet fellow solo travellers, and it’s no different in Wales, with great backpacker-friendly YHA digs in Conwy and Snowdon. Click here for inspiration on where to stay in Snowdonia.

North Wales offers many unique and characterful places to stay

What to do in North Wales as a solo traveller

Whether you’re staying for a week or a month, such is the bevy of activities in North Wales that you’re certain to leave with a list of things to see next time. You’ll find history, culture and adventure in many forms, and as a solo traveller, you’ll discover many ways to meet others doing the same. Here’s our pick of the bunch.

Climb to the top of Wales

If you’re feeling fit and intrepid, a journey to the highest peak in Wales is a must. Such is the view from the 1,085m (3,560ft) summit of Mount Snowdon that clear days even come with a glimpse of Ireland.

For some company on the way up, join Culture Trip’s small-group adventure, Find your Wild Side in North Wales, and enjoy insight from a local guide.

Hike Mount Snowdon if you’re feeling adventurous

Take in Edward I’s castles

Prefer your history a little more human? North Wales has a clutch of superbly preserved castles to visit: more than 400 fortresses in total. To narrow that list down, look to the four Edwardian castles that have been designated as Unesco World Heritage Sites: Beaumaris, Caernarfon, Conwy and Harlech.

Take in some seaside air

For some Victorian charm, head to the pastel-coated seaside town of Llandudno. Grab an ice cream, enjoy a stroll on the pier, and take in a Punch and Judy show at this traditional British coastal town, believed to have provided some of the inspiration behind Lewis Carroll’s Alice in Wonderland. There’s also a spectacular cable car route that’ll take you from Happy Valley to the summit of the Great Orme.

Enjoy fresh sea breezes in the charming seaside town of Llandudno

Eat and drink in North Wales

You’ve probably tried products from Snowdonia Cheese Company – they’re found in farm shops all over the UK – but nothing beats tucking in to those local cheddars with a view of the mountain after which it is named. If you’re looking for sustenance while exploring, Welsh cakes make the perfect mid-hike snack. North Wales is also home to an increasing number of distilleries and vineyards. Like a single malt? Head for Aber Falls Distillery, where Welsh gin and liqueurs make potent cocktails. Arrange a tour and you’ll probably meet like-minded (solo) souls.

Getting around in North Wales as a solo traveller

With its soaring landscapes and well-kept tarmac, it is a road-tripper’s dream. A car or camper offers the most freedom for solo travellers, especially around Snowdonia, but you’ll arguably encounter more charm by rail. For unlimited access to train service in Wales, buy an Explore Wales Pass. For the ultimate throwback, try one of the Great Little Trains of Wales. These narrow gauge steam trains trundle around some of the country’s best sights, including a delightful tour of Bala Lake.

Travelling by rail is the most charming way to see Wales

Stay safe, stay happy

Do take care if driving on unfamiliar roads, particularly on winding lanes at night and during wet weather. And keep an eye out for wandering sheep. With nearly 10 million of them in Wales, they can make a surprise appearance on country roads.

Cultural need-to-knows

The Welsh are rightly proud of their own lingo (Cymraeg) – one of the oldest in Europe. And while you’ll have absolutely no problem getting around the country speaking English, the locals will love it if you come armed with a few simple words and expressions. You can never go wrong with a well-timed diolch (thank you).

Want to see North Wales with a small group of like-minded travellers? Find your wild side in North Wales on Culture Trip’s five-day adventure – you’ll climb Snowdon, go coasteering and spend a starry night in a Snowdonia National Park cabin.

This is an updated article originally written by Poppy Jacob.

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