Want to visit a place where history, natural beauty, and adventure converge in perfect harmony? Caernarfon, a captivating town nestled amidst the lovely landscape of North Wales, offers an abundance of experiences that will ignite your sense of wonder.
From exploring medieval fortresses to immersing yourself in nature, this guide unveils the top things to do in Caernarfon and nearby treasures that will leave you spellbound. You find out about the must-see attractions along with practical information to plan your visit.
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- Where is Caernarfon located?
- About Caernarfon
- Best Things to do in Caernarfon
- Things to Do Near Caernarfon
- When is the best time to visit Caernarfon?
- How long should you spend in Caernarfon?
- Where to Stay in Caernarfon
- Is Caernarfon worth visiting?
- Expert Tips for Your Visit to Caernarfon
Where is Caernarfon located?
Caernarfon is located in Gwynedd, a county in the northwest part of Wales. It is situated on the banks of the Menai Strait, a narrow stretch of water separating mainland Wales from the Isle of Anglesey. Snowdonia National Park is less than a 30 minute drive away.
The closest train station to Caernarfon is Bangor railway station which is approximately 10 miles away from Caernarfon. Remember to purchase your train tickets in advance to get the best price. You can check schedules and pricing here.
From Bangor, you can take a bus, taxi, or rent a car to reach Caernarfon. If you are driving, Caernarfon is located just off the A487. There are several pay and display parking lots around the town.
Caernarfon, a historic town of around 10,000 residents, is renowned for its architecture and heritage. Its origins can be traced back to Roman times when it served as the fortification known as Segontium. However, its true prominence began in the 13th century with the construction of Caernarfon Castle under the orders of King Edward I of England.
The castle was strategically built to assert English control over Wales and quell Welsh rebellions, making it a significant stronghold in the English conquest of Wales and one of Europe’s most impressive medieval castles. The town of Caernarfon grew around the castle, evolving into a vital center for administration and trade.
In more recent times, Caernarfon has experienced a resurgence in its cultural identity. The town proudly embraces its Welsh character and actively promotes Welsh culture and language, boasting the highest proportion of Welsh speakers worldwide.
Today, Caernarfon attracts numerous tourists who come to explore its array of attractions. The imposing Caernarfon Castle, the well-preserved town walls, charming shops, and traditional pubs are just some of the highlights. With its rich history, architectural splendor, and its close proximity to Snowdonia National Park, Caernarfon offers a captivating destination for visitors to immerse themselves in the town’s allure and explore its surroundings.
Best Things to do in Caernarfon
Beyond its iconic castle, the town of Caernarfon is a treasure trove of hidden gems waiting to be explored. Lose yourself in the enchanting labyrinth of narrow streets and discover the rich tapestry of history, culture, and natural beauty that awaits at every turn. Let me share my top recommendations for experiencing the true essence of Caernarfon.
#1 Explore Caernarfon Castle
Make sure to add Caernarfon Castle to your must-visit list when you’re in town. This incredible fortress, constructed by King Edward I in the 13th century, is part of the UNESCO World Heritage Site, Castles and Town Walls of King Edward I in Gwynedd.
Prepare to be awestruck by the commanding size and presence of the castle. With its numerous towers to climb, walkable walls, captivating art installations, and the fascinating Royal Welch Fusiliers Museum (which is included with your admission), there’s something for everyone.
Don’t miss the intriguing exhibition about the investiture of Charles as Prince of Wales, which took place at the castle in 1969. It includes special artifacts like the throne used by Queen Elizabeth II during the ceremony, invitations that were sent, a video of the occasion, and more. The large circular spot inside the castle marks the spot where it all took place.
While the views from the castle are truly breathtaking, keep in mind that the steps up can be narrow and steep. Take your time and proceed at a comfortable pace.
Plan to spend around three hours at Caernarfon Castle to fully explore its nooks and crannies and soak in its rich history. It’s an experience you won’t want to rush.
Get more information about visiting here.
#2 See the Caernarfon Town Walls
Don’t miss the incredible Caernarfon Town Walls while exploring the town. These remarkable medieval fortifications are part of the UNESCO World Heritage Site, Castles and Town Walls of King Edward I in Gwynedd. At first glance, I thought the town walls were part of the castle due as they are made from the same stone and quite imposing.
Although walking on top of the Caernarfon town walls is no longer possible like in York, it’s still worthwhile to take a leisurely stroll around them. There are grassy areas along the walls that could serve as perfect spots for a picnic.
You’ll be amazed at how well-preserved these medieval walls are, stretching for almost half a mile and adorned with eight towers and two gates. They played a crucial role in providing security during the medieval era.
Enter the town through the East Gate and turn left to check out the charming Hole in the Wall Street. On the western side, the gate was accessible only by sea in the 13th century, giving it the name Water Gate. Walk along the Quay and you’ll enjoy unobstructed views of the scenic Menai Strait and Anglesey. Towards the northwest corner, you’ll discover St. Mary’s Church, seamlessly integrated into the wall.
#3 Visit the Segontium Roman Fort
Travel back to Roman times a short uphill walk from the walled town. Dating back almost 2,000 years, Segontium was a strategically important fort at the edge of the Roman Empire. Established in AD 77 by Agricola, it served as a stronghold for over 300 years.
Designed to house a regiment of auxiliary infantry, Segontium was connected by Roman roads to major legionary bases at Chester and Caerleon. It played a crucial role in controlling access to fertile Anglesey and defending the Welsh coast against Irish pirates.
Despite the fort’s significant historical importance, its remains were used as a source of stone for the construction of Caernarfon Castle. Today, you can still see the foundations of many buildings including a shrine, a basilica, and more.
It is free to visit the Segontium Roman Fort, although the on-site exhibition may have limited opening hours.
#4 Ride the Welsh Highland Railway
Embark on a journey through Snowdonia National Park aboard the Welsh Highland Railway from Caernarfon. This scenic steam train ride unveils picturesque landscapes, showcasing Snowdon’s majestic views and charming villages like Beddgelert, all in a nostalgic atmosphere.
Choose from three distinct train options: the Gelert Explorer, Snowdonia Star, or The Cwellyn, each offering a unique experience. Journey durations range from three to seven hours, allowing you to select the perfect adventure for your itinerary.
Get more information here.
#5 Go on a Menai Strait Cruise
You can experience the Menai Strait’s beauty with Menai Strait Cruises, a family-run business led by Emrys Jones, a sixth-generation ship pilot. Enjoy 45-minute trips showcasing stunning views of Caernarfon Castle, Snowdonia, Llanddwyn Island, and Anglesey. Opt for a two-hour special cruise to see the Britannia and Menai Suspension Bridges.
The season for these boat trips is from late-May to October, so unfortunately they weren’t running during my visit. Check their website for more information including sailing times here.
#6 Visit the Smallest Bar in Wales
It’s always nice to relax and have a drink after sightseeing. When you are in Caernarfon, you can enjoy your beverage at the smallest bar in Wales, Bar Bach.
Step into a cozy atmosphere adorned with simple furnishings, exposed stonework, and a charming small fire on cold days. Treat yourself from their large selection of beers and spirits. If you’re feeling hungry, they offer satisfying lunchtime food. You can also watch some of your favorite sports during your visit. Plus, the bar is dog-friendly.
#7 Play Golf
Golfers should take advantage of the opportunity to visit the Caernarfon Golf Club set on the shores of the Menai Strait with views of Snowdonia National Park. It was established in 1909 as a popular 9-hole course and was re-designed in 1981 to make it a bit more challenging.
Prepare to be enthralled by the 18-hole golf course, complemented by a covered four-bay driving range and comprehensive short game practice facilities. Benefit from the expertise of PGA professionals who offer their services to elevate your game. After a satisfying round, indulge in exceptional quality food and unwind at the welcoming 19th hole, where camaraderie and relaxation await.
Find out more about it here.
Things to Do Near Caernarfon
Once you have traveled to Caernarfon and seen the town, you might as well check out some of the other attractions in the surrounding area. North Wales is a treasure trove of captivating destinations, offering a wealth of experiences to satisfy every traveler’s cravings for adventure and discovery.
Here are some ideas for things to do near Caernarfon.
Caernarfon Airworld Aviation Museum
Located on the airfield of the former RAF Llandwrog about a 20 minute drive from the town, the Caernarfon Airworld Aviation Museum is home to an impressive collection of aircraft and aviation memorabilia. Among the notable aircraft on display are the D.H. Vampire, Hawker Hunter F1, Hawker Sea Hawk, Westland Whirlwind, and BAe Harrier, each with its own unique place in aviation history.
Step onto the museum grounds to witness these magnificent aircraft up close and learn about their remarkable stories. Marvel at the engineering prowess and design of these iconic planes that once graced the skies.
In addition to the aircraft collection, the museum showcases a range of aviation memorabilia, providing a glimpse into the rich heritage of flight. From historic photographs to artifacts that offer insights into the lives of pilots and the aviation industry, the exhibits offer a comprehensive view of the world of aviation.
Tickets do need to be booked in advance. Learn more about the museum here.
Plas Menai National Outdoor Centre
Outdoor enthusiasts and adventure seekers don’t want to miss Plas Menai, the National Outdoor Centre for Wales located on the banks of the Menai Strait. They cater to all skill levels, offering a wide array of activities to suit every taste.
You can dive into thrilling watersports such as sailing, windsurfing, powerboating, kayaking, paddleboarding, and more. But it doesn’t stop there. Plas Menai also offers an exciting range of outdoor activities beyond the water. Scale new heights with rock climbing, conquer rugged terrains with mountain biking, and embrace the spirit of adventure in a stunning natural setting.
Get more information here.
Snowdonia National Park
Snowdonia National Park, or Eryri National Park in Welsh, offers breathtaking landscapes, majestic mountains, and diverse ecosystems. The park’s crown jewel is Mount Snowdon, the highest peak in Wales, attracting hikers and climbers from around the world.
With numerous hiking trails that cater to all levels of fitness, you can explore the park’s stunning scenery, including glacial lakes, cascading waterfalls, and lush valleys. For those seeking adventure, activities such as mountain biking, rock climbing, and zip-lining are available. The park also preserves its rich cultural heritage, with historic sites like the imposing Harlech Castle and the picturesque village of Beddgelert.
National Slate Museum
A visit to the National Slate Museum in Llanberis offers a glimpse into the rich history of the Welsh slate industry. It’s one of six sites that make up the Slate Landscape of Northwest Wales UNESCO World Heritage Site.
Located in the heart of Snowdonia National Park, this museum provides a fascinating insight into the lives of the people who worked in the slate quarries and the impact of the industry on the local community. You can explore the former Dinorwig quarry workshops, witness traditional slate splitting techniques, go inside quarrymen’s houses and more. Knowledgeable guides and engaging exhibits bring the industry’s rich history to life.
It is free to visit the National Slate Museum. Get more information here.
Conwy, about a 30-minute drive from Caernarfon, offers a delightful blend of history and natural beauty. Its prominent attraction is the awe-inspiring Conwy Castle, part of the UNESCO World Heritage Site Castles and Town Walls of King Edward I in Gwynedd. This magnificent medieval fortress stands as a testament to Conwy’s past and offers panoramic views from its towering walls.
The town itself exudes a charming atmosphere with its well-preserved medieval streets, town walls, and historic buildings, such as the impressive Plas Mawr, an exquisite Elizabethan townhouse. Strolling through Conwy, visitors can explore quaint shops, traditional pubs, go up on the town walls and enjoy the scenic views of the Conwy Estuary.
Anglesey is a popular destination for tourists because of its stunning coastline and rich history.
Its beautiful beaches, including Red Wharf Bay, Newborough Beach, and Trearddur Bay, offer opportunities for relaxation and water activities. Nature lovers can explore the Anglesey Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty, which encompasses diverse landscapes ranging from rugged cliffs to rolling farmland.
The island is also home to historic landmarks like Beaumaris Castle, part of the UNESCO World Heritage Site Castles and Town Walls of King Edward I in Gwynedd, the neolithic burial chamber of Bryn Celli Ddu, and more. Anglesey also has a vibrant culinary scene, with local produce and seafood being highlights.
Dinas Dinlle Beach
Experience the allure of Dinas Dinlle Beach, just a short 13-minute drive from Caernarfon. This stunning coastal paradise offers golden sands, pristine waters, and a relaxed atmosphere.
It’s a blue flag award-winning beach so you can be assured of a clean and safe swimming environment. Take a refreshing dip in the crystal-clear waters and bask in the beauty of this idyllic setting.
For those seeking adventure, the beach provides two slipways for speedboats and jet skis, as well as opportunities for snorkeling, bass fishing, and windsurfing in suitable conditions. Embrace the thrill of water sports or simply soak up the sun on the golden shoreline.
Dinas Dinlle Beach is not only a haven for beach lovers but also a designated Site of Special Scientific Interest (SSSI) due to its rare bird species and the remnants of an ancient Iron Age hill fort in the area. Convenient free parking and a charming beachside café add to the overall appeal of Dinas Dinlle Beach.
When is the best time to visit Caernarfon?
Caernarfon is primarily a summer destination, offering the best experience when the weather is warm. Most of the attractions and activities in Caernarfon are enjoyed outdoors, so visiting during the summer months, from June to August, gives you the best chance for pleasant conditions for exploration.
However, if you prefer to avoid crowds, visiting in spring or fall can be a viable option. Keep in mind that during these shoulder seasons, some attractions may have limited hours or be closed. For example, during my visit in mid-May boat tours were not running. Therefore, it’s best to check the availability and schedules of specific attractions before planning your trip during off-peak times.
How long should you spend in Caernarfon?
While you can see Caernarfon Castle and the walled town in a day, I would encourage you to consider staying in the area longer. You could take one of the steam trains, go to Snowdonia National Park, and see other towns in the area. Trust me, you won’t be bored.
Where to Stay in Caernarfon
Want to spend a night or more in Caernarfon? Don’t worry, we’ve got the inside scoop on the best places to stay. Take a look at these fantastic options that will place you right in the heart of the town.
Victoria House B&B
Experience a touch of elegance and immerse yourself in history at Victoria House B&B, a highly-rated establishment that showcases the grandeur of a Victorian-era dwelling. Nestled near Caernarfon Castle and the picturesque waterside, this charming retreat promises an unforgettable experience.
Read more reviews on Tripadvisor here.
Check price and availability here.
Caer Menai offers a unique ambiance as it is housed within a Grade II listed building that once served as the site of the first county school, next door to Victoria House B&B. Each thoughtfully appointed bedroom boasts an en suite shower, complimentary toiletries, and modern amenities such as a flat-screen TV and tea/coffee making facilities, complete with a small refrigerator.
Read more reviews on Tripadvisor here.
Check price and availability here.
Bron Menai Guest House
If you prefer a tranquil budget-friendly retreat slightly away from the bustling town center, Bron Menai Guest House is your ideal choice. With the added convenience of free parking, this cozy establishment welcomes guests with clean and comfortable rooms. Indulge in a highly-rated breakfast to start your day off right and embark on your Caernarfon adventures with a contented spirit.
Read more reviews on Tripadvisor here.
Check price and availability here.
Whichever option you choose, rest assured that your stay in Caernarfon will be filled with comfort, convenience, and warm hospitality. Book your preferred accommodation now, hotels here fill up quickly especially during high season.
You can find more options for places to stay in Caernarfon here.
Is Caernarfon worth visiting?
Yes! Caernarfon is definitely worth a visit for its rich history, architecture, and charming atmosphere.
As you wander through the town’s quaint streets, you’ll encounter a mix of historic buildings, traditional pubs, and quaint shops, creating a picturesque setting. Still, the town’s highlight is undoubtedly Caernarfon Castle, an imposing medieval fortress that stands as a testament to its turbulent past.
Additionally, its proximity to Snowdonia National Park and other attractions in North Wales makes it an ideal base for exploring the area.
Have you been to Caernarfon? I would love to hear your experience in the comments.
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