7 secret places in North Wales

Porth Wen

Porth Wen - Credit: Daniel Start

Try these great ideas for finding excitement and getting away from the crowds in North Wales


Nantglyn - Credit: Daniel Start

Sacred trees

Nantglyn Pulpit Yew, Denbigh

Some of the yew trees of Wales are said to predate Christianity – often the 4th and 5th century missionary saints chose existing sacred yew grove sites to establish their new churches. At Nantglyn a stone pulpit and steps have been built into the yew’s hollow trunk and you can still climb up and preach, just as John Wesley, the founder of Methodism, is said to have done. The tree is said to be 2,000 years old.

* Nantglyn is three miles south west of Denbigh, and St James Church is just north of LL16 5PL.


Porth Iago

Porth Iago - Credit: Daniel Start

Secret beaches

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Porth Iago, Lleyn Peninsula

A timeless, island feel pervades this magical and often overlooked peninsula. Tiny lanes lined with wildflowers lead to empty coves and rugged cliffs. This is one of the best little beaches on the Lleyn: west facing, sheltered, with golden sands, clear waters and an ancient hill fort lookout above. You can even wild camp here, included in the parking fee. The rocks around are a good place for bass fishing – we barbecued one, spear-fished only minutes before, and scented with wild thyme.

* Type LL53 8LP into the sat nav, then take the second track on the left through Ty Mawr Farm. Parking/camping £5.


Porth Wen

Porth Wen - Credit: Daniel Start

Lost ruins

Porth Wen Brickworks, Anglesey

Anglesey is an ancient island steeped in antiquity, with Neolithic burial cairns and Iron Age villages, but you can also find more recent lost ruins. This superb hidden bay has an old harbour, vast ruined brickworks buildings and a set of fascinating beehive kilns you can explore inside. There’s a rock arch and white pebble beach too, so it’s great for wild swimming.

* First right off the A5025, two miles west of Bull Bay (before LL67 0NA) with a layby. After 800m, by a left-hand bend, find two footpath signs on the right. Take the second footpath up a track, then descend to the bay. It’s a 10 minute walk.



Wrysgan - Credit: Daniel Start

Caverns and tunnels

Wrysgan, Blaenau Ffestiniog

North Wales once roofed the world and the fascinating remains of hundreds of years of underground industry can still be found if you know where to look. On a spectacular mountain plateau overlooking Llyn Cwmorthin, this old mine is most famous for its incline railway and the tunnel that pierces through the mountainside, visible from miles around. There are old winch wheels and cables everywhere and a complex of workers accommodation in ruins, plus a vast network of interlinked caverns to explore. You can reach it by climbing the incline and entering the tunnel.

* Follow Ffordd Dolrhedyn left past bus stop after LL41 3ST, cross the bridge, turn immediately right and park. Follow a gated power station road ½ mile to the bottom of an incline, with the tunnel looming up ahead. A 20 minute walk.


Llyn Geirionydd

Llyn Geirionydd - Credit: Daniel Start

Wild swims

Llyn Geirionydd, Llanrwst

The north-eastern corner of Snowdonia is an easily accessible part of the National Park rich in forest, lakes and lost industrial heritage. Geirionydd is a particularly accessible and popular lake, with a little lane along its entire length, in beautiful scenery. There’s a slipway for canoes and dinghies, a meadow for picnics at one end and, for the adventurous, a good gorge scramble at the other down to the vast Klondyke mine ruins.

* Take the signed turning off the B5106 in Trefriw, opposite Fairy Falls Inn, turn left after ¼ mile and continue following signs to just beyond LL27 0YX.


Bryn Cader Faner

Bryn Cader Faner - Credit: Daniel Start

Ancient stones

Bryn Cader Faner, Harlech

North Wales was home to some of Britain’s first settlers and up among the heather and golden grasses of the Rhinogs are an abundance of Bronze Age sites and a prehistoric trackway – now called the Ardudwy Way – which once linked Ireland and Britain via the natural harbours of the coast. Up here you can find Bryn Cader Faner, one of the most spectacular stone circles in Britain, actually thought to be a druid prince’s burial cairn, and well over 4,000 year old. Only 18 stones remain standing, damaged by treasure hunters and by soldiers during World War Two who used them for target practice, but they still sit proud like a crown of thorns.

* Head north from Harlech on the B4573, turn right after three miles for Eisingrug (unsigned), after one mile take a dead-end mountain road right, 150m after pond. Follow, past a turning, to LL47 6YB, find parking ½ mile later at road end and follow the track up into the mountain. Bring a good map!


St Dyfnog

St Dyfnog - Credit: Daniel Start

Holy wells

St Dyfnog’s Well, Denbigh

Wales’s early saints revered water and founded some magical holy wells. Denbighshire has many; bathe in a trio of the most holy springs at St Winifred’s, Ffynnon Fair and St Dyfnog’s. At the latter, steps lead down into this sacred pool, a short woodland walk behind the church (which has a Jesse window, saved from Cromwellian destruction by being buried during his rule). Beware, the water is freezing – legend has it the saint’s penance was to stand in it!

* Off the A525, the church is opposite the King’s Head, Llanrhaeadr, LL16 4NL. At the back left of the graveyard a path leads up the stream 300m.


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Daniel Start is the author of Wild Guide Wales and the Marches (Wild Things Publishing, £16.99) and available from wildthingspublishing.com. Cheshire Life readers can receive 20% discount and free P&P, just enter the code ‘CheshireLife’ at the checkout.


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