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Travel through Northern Wales

Hello!
Next summer, June 2024, I will be attending a wedding in Garthmyl, near Shrewbury. I would like to go from there and travel up to the Conwy/Llandudno area. I currently plan on driving. Looking on Google Maps, I'd like to go a more scenic route than going through Wrexham. So either the A5 and A470 through Welshpool or maybe the A458 and A470 on the more western side? I was wondering if someone preferred one over the other? We recently drove through Ireland and some of the roads were a little too narrow for our comfort so I'm trying to avoid that mistake while still taking us through a more scenic area. Thank you in advance! I'm in the very beginning stages of planning so any advice is welcome!! :)

Posted by
1446 posts

I would go north and spend a night and part of a day in Chester. Then you can haul a** to Conwy on the fast road. Spend the night in the area and visit local Edward Castles. You can get a castle pass at Conwy. Visit Beaumaris and Caenarfon in the next couple of days. We stayed in Betw-y-Coed and on a farm on Anglesey. Depending on how long you have, continue down the Coast and check out scenic hikes by the Sea. Look for scenic train rides up in the mountains.

Posted by
2395 posts

Garthmyl is actually between Welshpool & Newtown. The adjoining village of Berriew has some lovely black & white cottages. It is a lovely area and you must visit nearby POWIS CASTLE.

You could take a scenic train ride from Newtown or Welsh pool station to the Llandudno area with a special ticket. This ticket is only valid for a day so if you would like to stop off anywhere en-route for an overnight, it would be best to buy separate ’normal' tickets. Part of the train route involves the scenic CAMBRIAN RAILWAY. This has several lovely places to have a stop-over including Aberdovey (Aberdyfi in Welsh) and Barmouth.

However, if you were to make one stop-over - I would make it PORTHMADOG because nearby you have the fake Italian style village of PORTMEIRION. (Minffordd is the nearest station and has a station for the Cambrian Line and the narrow gauge FFESTINIOG RAILWAY. Porthmadog has the normal train station for the CAMBRIAN RAILWAY plus by the harbour, the FFESTINIOG RAILWAY and the WELSH HIGHLAND RAILWAY which goes to CAERNARFON which has a castle. For the two narrow gauge railways - see >
https://www.festrail.co.uk

The Cambrian Trains also stop at HARLECH but note that it is very steep hill up from the station to the CASTLE in the village. This is mid way between BARMOUTH and Portmeirion.

People on this website keep heading for Conwy because it is in Rick’s guidebook. Nothing wrong with Conwy/Llandudno but they seem to be missing out on southern Snowdonia = the places I have just mentioned. If you would rather drive through the areas I have just mentioned, the ‘A’ roads are all wide enough for one vehicle each way although they will be winding. The A496 coast road via Barmouth & Harlech is very scenic but you will go through some villages like Llanbedr with stone cottages close to the road. You can avoid this bit by using the faster A470 from Dolgellau northward - but I love the coast route and crawling through Barmouth. (If going from Garthmyl to Conwy in one go - suggest you use the A470.

So, you can travel through the scenic areas by road or use the trains. Buses also exist. When in the Conwy area - be sure to see BODNANT GARDENS.

I suggest that when leaving north Wales, that you visit CHESTER.

SHREWSBURY is also well worth a look and you may like to do this as a day trip from Garthmyl by train (from Welshpool or bus).

The fastest way by train from Garthmyl (Welshpool station) to Conwy is to go to Shrewsbury and change for a train going north. (These trains stop at Chester en-route).

If not using a car, consider: >https://tfw.wales/ways-to-travel/rail/ticket-types/rovers-and-rangers/north-mid-wales-pass
BUT - don’t upgrade to 1st class as most trains don’t have 1st class.

Of course, if you ask, you may get someone attending the wedding to drive you through the Snowdonia National Park. The route mentioned below via Beddgelert & Capel Curig is more scenic than the A470 route to the east.

Posted by
1821 posts

How many days are you allocating for this and where do you want to be after your North Wales ‘detour’. That will very much decide what route to take.

James has a lot of good information in his post - as long as you are prepared to do something a bit different to the usual itinerary... .

Garthmyl is very much Mid Wales and you could amble through Mid Wales heading towards Machynllech and Dolgellau and then up to Porthmadog. This takes you through some lovely scenery along less busy roads than the A5. If you want somewhere to stop, Criccieth is more attractive than Porthmadog with its ruined castle and two beaches.

If you need to be back at Chester, rather than driving back along the coast on the A55 which is always busy (which is why it is also called the North Wales Expressway) and not very scenic, think about the A4212 which takes you from the A470 through some wonderful wild scenery (and is a very good road) to Bala and then A494 to the A5. Turn left here (I know it seems as if you are going back the way you came from!) to Cerrigydruidion and pick up the B5105 (again another good road) which takes through Clocaenog Forest to Ruthin where you pick up the A494 through Mold to Chester. (Have a stop at the Clywdd Gate Motel for the views!)

If Conwy/LLandudno is non negotiable, then either take the A498 which takes you up through Beddgellert and through some of the most scenic parts of snowdonia along the flanks of Snowden to Caernarfon. Alternatively at Beddgelert take the A498 and A4086 to Capel Curig and then A5 and A470 down the Conwy Valley. The other alternative is to head to the A470 from Porthmadog which takes you through the heart of the slate mining area of Blaenau Ffestiniog before heading to Betws y Coed and the Conwy Valley.

You can take the A457 back towards Chester. This follows the route of the A55 but is less busy. It also takes you via Ruthin with its ruined Castle, to Prestatyn asnd along the coast to Holywell (do have a stop at St Winefride’s Well which has been the site of pilgrimage for over 1300 years)

You may not find these in RS or other guidebooks, but that doesn’t mean they’re not worth doing...

Posted by
4 posts

Thank you all for the great info!! There's so much to do in Wales, it's hard to narrow down exactly what we want to do. I'm all for fitting in as much as we can in a day but my partner likes to take it easier on "vacation" so I'm working on a compromise. :)

I like the idea of driving through the Snowdonia area and taking our time, possibly staying for a night or just driving through.
Then we'll relax and explore Anglesey Island for a couple days, move to Conwy/Llandudno area (definitely going to the gardens) before returning to car and taking the train back to London. I might squeeze an extra day in and stay in Chester. Everyone on the forums seems to agree that it's a great place to check out.

It's great to know the A roads are wide enough for one vehicle each way. I've tried to Google street view for most of them but it's sometimes hard to tell. We're from the Sierra Nevada's so windy roads don't bug me as long as I'm not getting hit by a lorry going the other way. :)

Thank you for the help everyone!!

Posted by
1 posts

You are in for a breathtaking trip Brittney. So unspoiled, relatively unknown , just as the locals like it. The castles at Harlech and Criccieth are dramatic. Polanski filmed the opening scenes of Macbeth on Black Rock Sands beneath the castle at Criccieth. Portmeirion has a great hotel, if a bit pricey. As you drive along the coast you will see castle after castle after castle. Beaumaris on Anglesey and stunning views of Snowdonia is particularly beautiful. You don’t need much Welsh to pass pleasantries with the locals in the hills and around Porthmadoc and I am sure it will be appreciated. As you say, don’t rent a big car for the lanes, exploring off the beaten track. Chester, the ancient border town built by the Romans, the medieval architecture and The Rows are a great way to end. A pub crawl along the Roman walls is always memorable.