When it comes to seaside holidays, there are few places that can compare to Criccieth. After all, where else can you find two beautiful beaches, Victorian architecture, top-class cuisine, breathtaking countryside scenery, a snow-tipped mountainous backdrop and a medieval castle? As a stop on the railway line, Criccieth functions as a fantastic jumping off point for exploring the surrounding hills, Snowdonia’s delights and the magical Llyn Peninsula, though it’s more than worth exploring in its own right.
Beginning our Mind the Gap series, we’ve picked out our top choices among the unmissable highlights of a trip to Criccieth.
Built in the early 13th century by Llywelyn ap Iorwerth (Llywelyn the Great), Criccieth is one of the UK’s most spectacular castles. Dividing the town’s two beaches, the monumental structure looks out over the coast and is a commanding presence – while you’re here, make sure to take a good walk around to get a few different views of the structure. The castle’s position on the cliff likely served three main purposes – as a show of strength, as a lookout, and to receive supplies by sea. While Llywelyn ap Iorwerth built the gatehouse and impressive stone D-shaped towers, it was his grandson Llywelyn ap Gruffudd who added two further towers and the curtain defence walls. The castle was seized by King Edward’s English forces in 1283; in response to English rule Madoc ap Llywelyn started an uprising which led to Criccieth, along with other Welsh towns being under siege. Owain Glyndwr’s 1404 rebellion brought Criccieth castle’s reign as a stronghold to an end; today as you wander the structure you might be able to spot signs of the fiery battle that raged here. As well as feasting your eyes on the historic wonders of the castle, clambering up the walls yields another treat – 360-degree views out over the sea. Take your camera!
Criccieth is known as a coastal town, so unsurprisingly offers plenty of beachfront to explore. The town’s two lovely stretches of beach (both Blue Flag certified) are separated by the castle, offering a unique coastal landscape. The eastern pebbled beach benefits from shallow waters and relatively tame waves, so is lovely for dipping a toe in for paddling. This is known as Criccieth’s main beach, and offers stunning views and a host of rock pools which, when the tide is right, are a great source of discovery and exploration for younger visitors. Wander far enough along the beach and you might reach the black rock which separates Criccieth from Black Rock Sands. The headland that juts out here provides both beaches with protection from the cutting breezes that come into the shore, making this a great place for an afternoon stroll. A promenade runs across the eastern beach, offering easier access for disabled visitors and wheelchair users.
Criccieth is home to a wealth of superb eateries, so there’s no shortage of choice when your appetite gets the best of you. If you’re in town for breakfast, you can’t go wrong with a stop at Tir a Mor, where you can sample a Traditional Welsh Breakfast, Welsh Rarebit or treat yourself to an Eggs Benedict to set up the day. There’s also Poachers Restaurant, whose weekly changing menus feature international dishes and locally sourced ingredients. If there’s local Welsh Black beef on the menu it shouldn’t be passed over! Since you’re by the sea, it would be a shame to leave without sampling some of the Cambrian Coast’s finest seafood – make time to eat at Dylan’s, which was this year named in the Michelin Guide. Now with outposts in Llandudno and Menai Bridge, the restaurant is something of an institution, with a menu heaving with top-quality seafood, grills, burgers and more.
Found in many coastal towns all around Wales, Cadwaladers is a stalwart of seaside sojourns in the area, and you shouldn’t miss the chance to visit while you’re exploring Criccieth. This is where the business began; the Cadwalader family sold their special vanilla ice cream from their general store in the town, way back in 1927. Since then, the recipe has changed a little, bit is consistently taste-tested by locals to ensure quality – talk about a dream job! Naturally, while you’re here you’ve got to have a scoop of ice cream (or two), but Cadwaladers is also beloved amongst coffee drinkers, thanks to their exclusive coffee blend. For something a little more refreshing, the menu also features frappes, iced drinks, milkshakes and smoothies, and the original Criccieth store enjoys lovely views of the main beach and the castle.
The landscapes and views around Criccieth have long inspired art – Iolo Goch, a Welsh Bard in the 14th century, was inspired by the vast castle to write poetry. Today, a visit to the lovely Golden Eagle Gallery offers visitors the chance to look through the lens of photographer Andrew Kime, whose photographs capture the magic of the local surroundings. There’s also the Castle Gallery, which showcases a wide range of works by local artists, and is the perfect way to spend a rainy afternoon.
For something a little different, try Criccieth Multi Golf. A fun day out for young visitors (and the young at heart!), here you’ll find football golf, frisbee golf, pitch & putt, pétanque and croquet. More of a water baby than a land dweller? The site also offers stand-up paddle boarding and kayaking for those keen to make the most of the coastal setting! Criccieth Multi Golf occupies an enviable spot overlooking the beach – while you’re up there, keep an eye out for any dolphins playing in the bay.
Besides these favourites, there are plenty more wonders to discover in Criccieth – a wonderful stop on the railway line and a superb day out.