The last time we visited Wales was our first weekend away as a couple, a romantic break in a beautiful cottage in the woods, but close enough to the beach that we could hear the waves crashing at night. It was magical, and still is one of my favourite holidays memories.
So when we were invited by Visit Wales to enjoy a family mini-adventure, we jumped at the opportunity and started our trip.
Visit Wales is celebrating a Year of Adventure, challenging you to get out of your comfort zone and explore Wales with their campaign #FindYourEpic.
I have dreamed for a long time of visiting Snowdonia National Park, with its rugged landscapes, imposing mountains, and the picturesque coastal towns neighbouring it. We settled on staying in Porthmadog, a coastal town near the famous Portmeirion. It’s only 30 minutes from Caernarfon and its epic castle, and just a stone’s throw away from Snowdonia. It was the perfect location for us.
We hit the road just after lunch on the Friday, trying to make it to Wales before sundown. Alas, Friday afternoon traffic hit us hard and despite only stopping for a quick sandwich and a coffee it was pitch dark when we arrived.
Beginning our first day with a Full-English breakfast, we set out to explore this seriously beautiful National Park, with its caramel coloured grass fields, deep blue lakes and spiking high white-tipped mountains. Sheep dot the fields everywhere you look, there are no houses, no people – blissful, quiet wilderness.
Wales Tip: Don’t rely on your Sat Nav. Everyone will tell you this, but you’ll only believe it when you have no phone signal, going up a steep mountain during a snow storm at night. Lesson learnt Wales! Will bring a roadmap next time.
We arrived in Portmeirion at about 11ish, the sun playing a fun game of peek-a-boo with the white clouds, but keeping the rain at bay.
Our four year old son was a bit sceptical – going sightseeing in a village was hardly what he had thought this ‘adventure’ would entail. It took all of 3 minutes for him to get an excited smile on his face as we passed through the gates and the surreal colourful houses, quirky statues and ingenious hiding spots started to reveal themselves. It was a kids’ playland!
Portmeirion Village is the brainchild of Cough Williams-Ellis, an architect who acquired the private peninsula in 1925, building the first stage between 1925-39 and the second stage between 1954-76. It is my vision of the ideal coastal village, and it is one of the prettiest places I’ve ever visited. In the words of my 4 year old ” he must’ve been so tiiiired after building all of this!”.
We spent a few good hours just walking around the quirky and bright village, exploring every nook and cranny, and took a little walk in the woods, where we found the Chinese pagoda bridge. This is also when our little one began to threaten to roll around in a puddle he had found, unless we provided him with food, not a snack mind, a proper lunch please.
Portmeirion has several eataries, from cafés to the plush Portmeirion Hotel, where we decided to take our chances and bring a famished child. Thankfully, despite the elegant setting and décor, they offered us a kids’ menu, also known as a peace treaty for parents. It allowed us to relax a little, knowing that our little one was welcome.
The kids’ menu was fantastic, full of healthy food, and the fish and potatoes we chose was beautifully cooked, as I ended up having a little taste too. I had a dish of lightly smoked cod, served in a fragrant mussel and saffron broth which was absolutely stunning. Rob went for the Welsh Rarebit, as it’s the done thing when in Wales!
After lunch we explored the village a bit more, taking the route by the water back to the entrance where a lot more adventures were to be had! Have you ever seen a boat built into the ground, or a shell-filled tunnel like the one below?!
Entry fee: £10 pp / free for under 5s (discounted pre-purchase price £7pp)
Opening Hours: 09:30 – 19:30
Shops open: 09:30 – 17:00
Cafes open: 10.00 – 17:00
Food: We had luch at the Portmeirion Hotel, which although a tad pricey, was worth every penny!
NOTE: If you’re travelling with your dog, be aware that no dogs are allowed in the village.
CAERNARFON CASTLE & TOWN
Caernarfon Castle is probably the most well-known castle in Wales, and I can certainly see why.
As we approached the royal town, we immediately spotted the castle – a beautiful, yet imposing, structure aimed at intimidating enemies and protecting the town. Build in the 1200s by Edward I, Caernarfon Castle was both a military structure and a royal palace. In recent history, it was the place where Prince Charles ‘ investiture as Prince of Wales took place.
For us, as a family with a young child, it became the place where a mighty Welsh dragon lived, and C, the knight had to save us all from his gigantic breaths of fire. We discovered the truly beautiful castle by running through the grounds, exploring the many tunnels and hidden nooks, and hiding from suspected ‘bad guys’.
History buffs will want to explore the museum and the castle’s many great exhibitions – perfect for older children to learn about Wales’ and the castle’s past.
After visiting the castle, we went for a stroll in the town, and a spectacular drive alongside the river, overlooking Caernarfon as the sun set. Stunning.
1st March to 30th June – 09.30 – 17.00 daily
1st July – 31st August – 09.30 – 18.00 daily
1st September – 31st October – 09.30 – 17.00 daily
1st November to 28th February 10.00 – 16.00 Monday to Saturday – 11.00 – 16.00 Sunday
Closed:- 24th, 25th, 26th December, 1stJanuary
Price: Adults £6.75 / Children: £5.10
We planned our weekend so that it would end in the best way possible – by doing a high-ropes adventure course, complete with a zip line.As an adventure-loving family, we couldn’t have been more excited. Most tree-adventure courses/ziplines are for 6 and above years, leaving my adrenaline-mad son behind.
Zipworld Wales however, have a junior course for ages 4-8, which was absolutely perfect for us. There is also an adult adventure course on the site, so one parent can stay with the child, and the other can do the big course.
We arrived a little earlier than scheduled, which allowed us to enjoy a coffee and warm milk before taking on the tree course. Shortly after, we made our way to reception, and met our friendly guide, who was going to get us all set-up.
Initially, we were a bit unsure whether our little 4 year old would be able to cope with the swinging tires and rope bridges, but fearless and agile as only a child that age can be, he took it on with more bravado than myself!
Needless to say, we had the most brilliant time, and our guide was fantastic in helping us along, and as no-one else was booked in that day, we even got to go round twice! I would most definitely recommend it to anyone with small children, and also have a look at the endless amount of fantastic adrenaline and activities they offer – including an underground trampolining centre in an old mine (WOW!) and the longest zip-line in Europe! We couldn’t do it this time around, but already I’m itching to make my way back to Wales and try them out!
Thank you for VisitWales for inviting us to experience a family adventure in Wales. We felt there really was something for everyone, and it was especially family-friendly.