Hey ya’ll – are we tired of Wales content yet? Trick question: we’ll never tire of Wales content because Wales is perfect. Specifically though, I left my heart up north. And that’s why I wanted to create this super useful itinerary for you guys to use as a guide for three days in North Wales!
If you want to catch up on all the rest of the Wales content you can check out my definitive guide on where to visit in Wales, and my top tips for what to do and see in Tenby. Also, if you want to see all the behind the scenes goodies about how I spent three days in North Wales, check out my Instagram highlight.
- Do I need a car for three days in North Wales?
- How to spend three days in North Wales
- Day One: Get your bearings
- Day Two: Railroad excursion
- Day Three: Fall in love with another side of Criccieth
Do I need a car for three days in North Wales?
Good question! A car always makes things easier, since you’ll be on your own schedule and can choose at the last minute to check out a random village or other attraction you’ve heard of with little to no planning.
And trust me, three days in North Wales wouldn’t be nearly enough to see all the quaint and hospitable villages scattered throughout the region – so you’ll want the freedom.
If you ARE looking to bring a car along and need to rent one for your three days in North Wales, look no further than Discover Cars. I’ve always found it to be the absolute best interface for comparing prices, sorting for things like automatic transmission (sorry Europeans, I am still American!!), or weeding OUT companies I’ve never heard of.
Three Days in North Wales by Public Transport
We stayed in Criccieth for our entire three days in North Wales, and found that it was the perfect home base. Because the town is so small, it actually makes total sense to explore by public transport – which we did!
In fact, you can reach Criccieth by train from London in just about 6 and a half hours with one simple change in Birmingham. We found the train ride through central Wales and up the coast to be a GORGEOUS welcome for our three days in North Wales, and it was simple enough to do.
Criccieth itself has a train station, meaning that it’s not a breeze to arrive in town, but also to hop on a train and check out nearby towns or areas during your stay.
There’s also a bus stop in town, so if you can’t get somewhere by train, odds are you can get there by bus. Criccieth was also so lovely because it was not too crowded, but still had a pretty good amount of things to do right in town, so you don’t even have to leave if you don’t want to.
Where to Stay for Three Days in North Wales
As you an probably tell by now, I have fallen in love with Criccieth and I FULLY recommend using the town as your base for three days in North Wales as well.
On our first visit, we stayed in a hotel in the center of town, right near the train station. It was ok, but we really only chose it because there was almost no options available by the time we booked very last minute.
However, I’m going back this summer and found a few very cute places on Vrbo both in and around town:
- Check out this flat in a converted chapel completed with stained glass and beautiful arched ceilings.
- Or this terraced house with a rooftop patio perfect for sipping cocktails while you watch the later summer sunset.
- Or this adorable, recently renovated 500 year-old cottage just outside town, perfect for those who are looking for even more of an escape.
Everything in this area is just adorable, okay?!?! Don’t blame me if all you can do now is dream of three days in North Wales!!
How to spend three days in North Wales
Day One: Get your bearings
Arrive in the afternoon by train or by car
So depending where you’re traveling from, the timing will obviously vary – but you’ll likely arrive in the afternoon. Once you’ve checked in to your Airbnb or hotel, I would recommend throwing on your swimsuit and heading right down to Criccieth Beach.
On your walk down to the water, stop in to No. 46 Cafe to get some lunch to go. I would highly recommend getting the tuna melt sandwich here, it was absolutely amazing and you can easily bring it down to the beach.
Once you’ve soaked up every last ounce of sun, head back and get ready for dinner. Try to snag a reservation at Poachers. While it’s billed as a British establishment, they have a bit of everything on the menu, and it has a lovely local feel to it.
After dinner walk over to Cadwalader’s and try their famous ice cream for dessert, and treat yourself to one last walk along the beach before heading home to unwind.
Day Two: Railroad excursion
So, you’ll want to wake up early so you have plenty of time to make your bus to Porthmadog – they don’t come all that often. I recommend going to Tir a Môr for coffee and breakfast, because it was delicious – and as an added bonus it’s right near the bus stop.
Maybe you’re wondering what a “bap” even is. I certainly was. It’s basically just a bread roll, and I would highly recommend getting the one with egg and sausage, or egg, sausage , and bacon. Definitely with brown sauce.
When we visited, we drank our coffee in (it was delicious!) and got our baps to go, and ate them once we were on the railroad, which was super nice. The baps definitely got a bit soggy, but that didn’t affect the quality in our opinion.
Ffestiniog and Welsh Highlands Railways
Make sure you’ve booked a spot on the Ffestiniog Railway or the Welsh Highland Heritage Railway in advance to guarantee your spot. (Particularly during the pandemic, as individual compartments are required and limited!)
Once you’ve gotten to Porthmadog and found Harbour Station you can check out the nice cafe or the shop, or just chat to the people who work there while you wait for your train to leave.
These narrow gauge railways were originally built to move raw materials from the mountains of Snowdonia down to Porthmadog Harbour, and now they’re a fun and easy way to check out the scenery of Snowdonia. (A huge plus as I hate hiking!)
The conductors and all of the other employees were so knowledgeable and nice. I would also recommend claiming a seat as soon as possible, because the carriages are first come first served. We sat in third class, but I would have loved to snag a first class seat.
The journey doesn’t take very long, and you pass through some very quaint villages and lush greenery. To be honest, I was almost sad to get out at the top, it was so lovely.
In normal times, there are a variety of destinations and you can make a day of it! Take a morning train, perhaps bring a picnic lunch and spend the day swimming at a mountain lake, and then return later in the day.
We visited as they were just reopening after lockdown, however, so there was only one destination: Tan-y-Bwlch. As it turns out, Tan-y-Bwlch and its nearby lake, Llyn Mair, are gorgeous anyway. Once you get to the top of the mountain you can hike down to the lake and explore, or just grab a quick snack at the station cafe before hading back down to Porthmadog.
Afternoon – Choose your adventure
Now, I would imagine that the most commonly suggested piece of advice on the internet regarding what you’d want to do at this point is: go to Portmeirion. Portmeirion is a town very close to Porthmadog that was designed to look like an Italian village. And, as you can see by the pictures I’ve included, it’s definitely got the vibe down.
HOWEVER. I would not even remotely recommend you take the time to go to Portmeirion. First of all, you have to pay to enter. Second of all, there is nothing inside for you to do, which begs the question: why did I pay for this? Third of all, all of the food is complete shit. Like, it was actually really gross. Fourth, it has major Disneyland vibes, but in the “gross commercial endeavor for people who have no respect for the world around them” way, not the “most magical place on earth” way.
If you are still set on going and getting some pics for the ‘gram, I won’t judge you, but I will suggest you take a car or bus there. We walked from Porthmadog and not only did we get lost and have to cross through someones sheep field, it also took over an hour and I wanted to die by the end.
If you wish to heed my advice, I would suggest you spend the rest of your afternoon in Porthmadog. Stop into the Purple Moose Brewery if beer is your thing, or pop into the Maritime Museum for a bit of history. There are loads of little cafes and restaurants quite central, but if you ask me, I’d rather stay a while at the railroad and sit outside at their cafe so I could continue to watch the trains come in, while also taking in the beautiful view of the port.
Evening – Back to Criccieth
Once you’re back to Criccieth you’ll want to get ready for your evening dinner at Dylan’s. This art deco-style restaurant is right on the beach, and definitely the nicest place in town – so make sure you get a reservation. There is a Dylan’s drinks truck next to the restaurant as well, so you can grab a cocktail before your reservation time and just sit along the beach. Literal bliss.
I would highly recommend you get at least one of the pizzas, but the main event is obviously the seafood. We got the parmesan crusted hake with mustard leeks and it was probably one of the best seafood dishes we’ve ever had. I think you mostly can’t go wrong with the menu here, so go crazy!
Day Three: Fall in love with another side of Criccieth
Morning: a Full
Head over to Blue China for a full Welsh breakfast, and one of their massive scones. We ate at Blue China twice while were in Criccieth, once for breakfast and once at its sister restaurant Swn-y-Môr for dinner, and we were really pleased. (The desserts are amazing as well, keep that in mind).
A coastal walk to remember
The Lynn Coastal Path, a loop starting and ending in Criccieth, is really lovely – although it confusingly takes you through people’s property? I may or may not have stepped ankle deep into some very fresh cow manure. But if you aren’t a complete idiot (like me) that probably won’t happen to you. And anyway, take it from a self-proclaimed nature hater: this walk is beautiful and worth it.
The trail takes you through the more residential neighborhoods of Criccieth, past loads of sheep (even through some sheep fields), across a railway, along a beach, through some forest and about a mile or two along the most beautiful river. It’s genuinely amazing. We stopped midway through the walk and swam in the river, and I would highly recommend doing that. There’s a point in the river where you’ll see a rope swing and a clearing in the trees. That was by far the best place to get in. Also, the water made our skin so soft it was almost criminal. I want to bottle it.
Evening: a very beachy farewell
You should make it back to Criccieth in the late afternoon, so you’ll probably be quite hungry. I would suggest getting some snacks to hold you over while you relax at the beach before grabbing some famous fish and chips from Castle Fish & Chips.
Take your food and walk down to the benches that overlook the beach, and munch on the most quintessentially British summer staple. If you time it right, you’ll catch the sunset.
If you can even think of eating more, as I mentioned previously the desserts at Swn-y-Môr were amazing. I would highly recommend getting the chocolate cake or the apple tart (or both) with some vanilla ice cream. Daniel claims he’s never had better cake in the whole of the UK, and he’s pretty serious about cake.
So, how will you spend three days in North Wales?
I hope that my itinerary helps you plan your perfect long weekend! We had the most amazing time in Criccieth and I would honestly go back in a heartbeat.
As an FYI, we went during COVID times, so make sure to double check the times of everything, because as we all well know, things can change rapidly.
But on the whole, Wales impressed me so much with how they’re handling the pandemic. And in all honesty. that’s part of why I was excited to recommend Wales so strongly to everyone. I want as many people as possible to see everything that Wales has to offer, so that we can help support all the local businesses that are struggling through the pandemic. It’s important to reward places that are taking the safety of their visitors and citizens seriously, and Wales is doing just that.
Anyway, enough waxing poetic about Wales. If you take any of my suggestions be sure to tag me on Instagram, I want to live vicariously through you!