Harlech is one of my favorite towns in Snowdonia. I might be a little biased as I went to secondary school there and still play rugby for the local side when my knees are up to it. But with it's sandy beaches, medieval castle and narrow windy streets, there's no denying the town's appeal. Here are my top tips of things to do in the town.
We're spoilt for choice in this part of Snowdonia for beaches. But Harlech beach has to be one of the nicest. Towering dunes roll down to a wide expanse of clean flat sand and the clean waters of Cardigan Bay. Turn onto Beach Road opposite the train station. Plenty of parking at the far end.
Naturally, if you're in Harlech, you have to visit the castle. It was built at the end of the 13th century by Edward I in a forlorn effort to keep the Welsh under control. Hopefully, the locals are a bit friendlier these days. Buy the slim Cadw information booklet (yellow spine) on the way in. There's not much information inside the castle so it's a handy guide. There's a bit of a drop at the top so once you scale one of the towers, make sure you keep younger children under control.
As the sign says, probably the best Ice Cream in Harlech. On the crossroads just above the castle. I like the 'cheese cake' flavor. But Louise thinks the 'belgian chocolate' is best. And. to be fair, she's eaten a lot more ice cream than me over the years.
There's a great selection of cafes in Harlech. Most of them on the high street in the upper part of the town. The Cemlyn is great for lunches, the Plas would be my choice for a cream tea with it's balcony overlooking the bay and Fraya has breathed new life into the Llew Glas, a welcoming more modern deli type cafe.
I'll put my hands up here. I don't know anything about golf. But the Royal St Davids links course is up there with the best apparently. Numerous national and international events are held here. I'll refer you to their website for more information.
Harlech Swimming Pool
The council had threatened to close the pool a couple of years ago. A travesty when you consider that our girls for example, would have had to travel an hour to the next already over subscribed pool to learn to swim. But thankfully a group of brave and dedicated local volunteers have taken over the running of the facility. With the help of a lottery grant, they have transformed the building into modern leisure centre complete with an amazing rock climbing room and a very reasonably priced café. They've ensured hundreds of local children continue to learn to swim.
The Lion Pub
I'm guessing you might want to go to the pub at some stage. The Lion would be my choice. Like in a lot of other rural towns, Harlech's pubs are finding the going tough at the moment. But the Lion remains one of the best, with a welcoming real fire and a friendly face behind the bar.
There are a couple of restaurants to choose from. The Branwen is a gastro pub type place down newr the golf club. Up town near the cross roads there's a Caribbean restaurant which is also very nice. The Castle Cottage is just round the corner is a little more expensive but well worth it. There are also a couple of take aways to choose from.
Theatr Harlech seats around 250 people and hosts a variety of events from acting and dancing workshops to professional shows and art house films. During the summer events and shows are also performed in the castle grounds. Last year we sat on the grass with a bottle of wine and some cheese watching Romeo and Juliet as the ravens circled overhead. A truly magical evening.
The hills above Harlech offer some of the best views in Wales. I'd suggest buying an OS map before parking in Bron Y Graig car park. Head south along the old Llanfair road before turning inland. There are lots of footpaths up there, but depending on the time available and your fitness, choose a loop which brings you back round and down onto the road above the Lion Pub. I guess it would be rude not to pop in for a quick shandy before heading back to the car.
By Gwion Llwyd of Dioni Self Catering Holiday Cottages