5 things I love about Caernarfon in North Wales
I was excited to arrive in the harbourtown of Caernarfon, on my way around North Wales back in September. I knew little about the town and though my scheduled time in town was limited, I was curious to get a feel for this place which is dominated by the magnificent Caernarfon Castle. About 24 hours later, I could conclude that I was already looking forward to return in the future, and here are 5 reasons why…
I might as well start with the obvious – Caernarfon Castle. While Wales is famous for its many castles, the northern part of the country is home to some of the best preserved examples, and this one in Caernarfon is one of them. Together with the castles of Beaumaris, Harlech and Conwy – it is deservedly protected as UNESCO World Heritage. In other words, you shouldn’t visit Caernarfon without stepping behind the walls of this giant. In here you can inspect many different parts of the mighty structure and learn more about its history through interactive displays – as well as climb the towers for spectacular views over the town and the sea. Also very interesting is the Royal Welch Fusiliers Museum which is housed in the castle – a comprehensive insight into Welsh military history. As a “fun fact” this castle was were the investiture of Prince Charles took place, officially making him the Prince of Wales in 1969.
Set on the banks of the Menai Straight this town has a spectacular location in North Wales. For one thing, it’s found in one end of the revived Welsh Highland Railway, connecting it to Porthmadog via an amazing steam train which passes through the Snowdonia National Park. It’s a short trip away from the university town Bangor further up the coast, and a long jump from the large island of Anglesey, in the northwestern corner of the country. On top of this, literally, the famous Mount Snowdon is within reach. It just takes a short bustrip to nearby Llanberis, from where you can catch the Snowdon Mountain Railway or lace up your hiking boots for an adventure in the wild.
When I visited Caernarfon I stayed one night at Totters Independent Hostel, which is found on High Street in the walled part of the town. And honestly, you couldn’t ask for a better location, with less than a 30 second walk to the seafront and a couple of minutes to the main entrance of the castle. But more than a great location I really felt home at Totters, despite staying for just one night. The building really emphasizes the independence and feels like another house in the cobblestoned street, and I loved the livingroom-style lounge, the spacious dorms, the downstairs dining-area and the welcoming couple running this place. I was even be lucky enough to meet their cute Jack Russel puppy.
More than being “the town with the castle” – Caernarfon is just really charming. I fell for the atmosphere as soon as I stepped of the train and despite hitting a day of bad weather, I really enjoyed exploring the streets and its hidden treasures. Here you’ll find a nice selection of independent shops, pubs, galleries and restaurants. Don’t forget to visit the town’s official Tourist Information across from the main entrance to the castle, as they have set up an exhibition upstairs, which tells the story about Caernarfon and its evolution. Outside the walled part of the town you can’t miss Castle Square where Caffi Maes is a nice spot for a coffee break or a lunch. And don’t forget a walk to the marina where a few cafés and restaurants can be found as well.
On a stroll down “Hole In The Wall Street” I came by Iechyd Da!. The name (meaning good health) refers to a traditional Welsh drinking toast and drinking is what it’s all about. Because inside the shelves are stocked with hundreds of bottles with colourful lables, each carefully selected to provide a heaven of Welsh beer, ciders, artisan spirits and liqueurs – not to mention and International mix of wines and whiskies. This is like a candystore for adults and you shouldn’t leave town without a visit here. Although this lovely shop shows passion for local products, the owner is most like further from home than you, having moved to Wales all the way from Australia.
CAERNARFON WAS A PART OF MY EPIC TRAIN TOUR OF WALES
WHERE IS YOUR FAVOURITE PLACE IN WALES?
Please share in the comments below – or on Travelooney Blog’s Facebook page!