Criccieth, Gwynedd – Travel Review
By Dominic Picksley, September 2023
Llywelyn the Great had the right idea in the 1200s, as we found out when we stayed in the lovely Welsh seaside town of Criccieth.
The Prince of Powys chose a rocky headland there, between two beaches, to build a twin-towered gatehouse in around 1230, with the castle providing sweeping views across Cardigan Bay in one direction, with a vista of the magical mountains of Snowdonia in the other.
Llywelyn the Great may not have had his tourism hat on when picking this particular spot over 800 years ago, but his decision to erect a stone fortress during his time in the hotseat, gives visitors to the picturesque area something else to marvel over as they head to this particular part of Gwynedd, on the Llyn Peninsula.
The two gatehouses are still standing proud. They offer terrific photo opportunities, although there’s not a great deal left of the rest of the castle. There is still plenty, to see, though, and the museum at the entrance helps to fill in the gaps and provides some excellent commentary on life at the castle hundreds of years ago.
“Fantastic sea views”
We made the town our base for a week, staying at Swn y Mor (which translates to ‘Sounds of the Sea’), one of hundreds of properties on Sykes’ burgeoning portfolio.
There were six of us and two dogs at the house, which was easily big enough to cater for us all, with an attractive open-plan living area on the ground floor, four bedrooms (one en suite) on the top floor, with a snug room below the ground floor (the house is on a hill, so has two floors at the front, but three at the back), with patio doors leading on to an enclosed, gravelled garden, complete with red telephone box, which was shipped by the owners from London a few years ago.
There are fantastic sea views to be had from the back of the house and on a clear day, you can see all the way down the Cardigan Bay coastline.
A particular highlight of the house was the snug room, which came with air hockey table, miniature pool table and an Xbox, along with some comfy seating, making those rainy days more bearable, especially with children who can ferret themselves away while the grown-ups talk rubbish upstairs.
The house is also a great location for walks to the beach (and a play among the rocks) and along the coastline, while the mountains are a short drive away, as well as other tourist hotspots in the region, along with Anglesey (home to Llanfairpwllgwyngyllgogerychwyrndrobwllllantysiliogogogoch), and the place/s for adventures, Zip World.
Zip World have several locations in the area, at Betws-y-Coed, Penryhn Quarry and Llechwedd, and offer thrill rides and cave adventures aplenty, from coasters, amazing zip lines, mine tours, underground nets and more.
The Fforest Coaster, at Betws-y-Coed was our first port of call, with my two children and myself having a go. Sat on a little cart, you are slowly pulled up a 25% gradient incline, enjoying a scenic 365m journey through the forest, watching other coasters race past you as you gradually head to the top.
And, as you reach the summit, you then head into the descent, gingerly at first, before slamming the ‘throttle’ to the floor, racing downhill around the bends, and seeing how brave you can be. ‘You don’t need to use the brake, you won’t fly off the track,’ we were told, but zooming around one tight corner, my heart was in my mouth as it felt like my cart was battling to stay on the rails and I chickened out as I slightly tugged on the brake. By the third ride (riders get three goes), all brakes were off as the confidence surged through our veins as we all hurled down the hillside.
“The place for train rides”
We also ventured over to the Llechwedd site and the three of us visited Bounce Below, where we spent an hour clambering and bouncing across nets spread across the cave openings, as well as sliding down various slides, with illuminated lights making the place seem like a bouncy nightclub.
Snowdonia is also the place for train rides and we took the Woodland Wanderer on the Ffestiniog and Welsh Highland Railway, from Porthmadog to Tan-y-Bwlch. It was cosy as all of us huddled into one compartment and it would have been a lovely ride up into the mountains but for the fact we chose the wettest day of the year… and then some.
It hammered it down all the way (and back) and our anticipated walk in the mountainous countryside had to be abandoned as every man and his dog huddled into the cafe at the station.
We ran out of time for a trek up Snowdon (often now referred to as Yr Wyddfa), instead venturing to the stunning Ceunant Mawr waterfall in Llanberis, as well as paying a visit to the Sygun Copper Mine in Beddgerlert.
Gweld chi eto Cymru, as they say in Wales.
A week’s stay at Swan y Mor, with Sykes, starts from £574
Fforest Coaster at Zip World, starts from £25
A family ticket for Criccieth Castle is £22.10
Woodland Wanderer adult ticket £27.50, children £2 and dogs £2