We spent February half term in North Wales this year and it was super chilly but also just gorgeous! We hired a huge old house with my friends from school and various kids and husbands and friends and vagabonds and had a great time – so much so that I thought I would write a post about some things to do in and around Caernarfon with kids in tow!
We took the train from Euston which took 3.5 hours – I was dreading it but the boy was actually as good as gold. He’s used to train rides now any way as we usually get the train to the Isle of Wight (and the boat obvs, would get a bit soggy training it the whole way).
The train in itself is an experience – it’s a bit dull up until Chester, but then it hits the north coast of Wales and it’s stunning scenery time. I even spotted an otter playing in the estuary – I’m not exaggerating to say I haven’t been that delighted in a long time. An otter!! At one point the train goes underneath Conwy Castle which is awesome. Mark and Rian were in the smelly toilet at the time so I felt a bit smug about seeing it haha. I’m so mean.
We actually arrived a day before everyone else and stayed for our first night in the Premier Inn on the seafront, so we were awakened bright and early by the squawking of sea gulls (always a theme in coastal towns – the herring gulls in Caernarfon are roughly the size of chickens and twenty million times noisier). We began our exploration in Caernarfon Castle.
Who doesn’t love a castle? This one is a corker. Built in 1283 by Edward I (AKA Longshanks, mortal enemy of Mel Gibsons not at all historically accurate Braveheart) it’s a huge stone beast, and brilliant for exploring. There are towers and turrets galore, as well as exhibits on the history of the castle and of the Welsh Fusileers. There’s also a gift shop full of toy swords. You’ve been warned.
We also popped over to Anglesea and visited the town with the longest name in Europe – and the station, the name of which is even longer. Llanfairpwllgwyngyllgogerychwyrndrobwllllantysiliogogogoch is only second to Taumatawhakatangihangakoauauotamateapokaiwhenuakitanatahu in New Zealand in terms of tongue twisters of the world. It translates as “Saint Mary’s Church in a hollow of white hazel near the fierce whirlpool of the church of Saint Tysilio with a red cave”, which seems to me to be a set of directions rather than a name. (The Kiwi town is similarly poetic – “The summit where Tamatea, the man with the big knees, the climber of mountains, the land-swallower who travelled about, played his nose flute to his loved one” Nose flute?)
You really can’t go to North Wales and not do a hike somewhere. We avoided Snowdon this time, but we did do a short hike up and over and around a hill that had amazing views of said mountain (which I have actually climbed in the past. It gave me seventeen blisters. SEVENTEEN.) It’s only a short drive out of town, and well worth it for the eye candy.
If you prefer the less rugged treks for your littles, then a quick walk around the harbour and over the swing bridge behind the castle lets you either onto the beach, or into a nice little play park. The views from there aren’t bad either!
The white building in this picture is The Anglesea Arms, where we spent a few hours sheltering from a hail storm by a lovely roaring fire. There are a lot of pubs in this town, quite possibly one on every road it seemed to me. Good times.
We had a great explore of the town using a Treasure Trails map, which Rian loved. There are absolutely loads of them which you can find on their website, I think they are about £6 to download and print. I’m definitely going to do more of those – planning on visiting York in the summer and they have a few for there! Doing a treasure trail is also a good way of finding nice little cafes in which to sample your very first hot chocolate (he’s always refused before, but I don’t think I’ll be offering again too soon because he went a bit sugar-freaked after)
We didn’t have time, because it took everyone a billion years to get their stuff together (10 kids under the age of seven in one house is end times chaos) but a few of us managed to visit an amazing beach on Anglesea. They got sand blasted in the face, but what they saw before their eyeballs were savaged was beautiful.
The weather was inclement on a couple of days, but luckily we did find some indoor pursuits. One was the ominously named Fun Centre, which is an enormous multi level ‘soft’ play with 25 foot drop slides built inside a church just next to the Marina. It was terrifying but the kids (and Dads) loved it. Rian’s absolute favourite activity though was this:
Yes, that’s my six year old son 50 foot up a climbing wall. He. Is. Fearless. I felt icky just watching. This was at the Beacon Climbing Centre and he would have happily stayed all day every day if we’d let him. It’s only a short drive out of the town, and there is a bouldering room and little wall for tiddlers should one be climbing inclined like my little monkey.
We had such a lovely time in Caernarfon – thoroughly recommend!