Take a wonderful road trip through Snowdonia and the North Wales Coast
A weekend in North Wales isn't all Punch and Judy and seagulls nicking your chips. It can, in fact, be a lung-purifying hit of countryside and culture.
You'll get to see the magnificence of Snowdonia, the magic of Portmeirion and the Edwardian elegance of the front at Llandundo.
If you start from Chester, Liverpool or Manchester it's just over an hour by road before you reach breathtaking views and the peace and quiet of this wonderful region.
See below for a more detailed intinerary.
Take the A55 into North Wales ( via M56 from Manchester or M53 from Liverpool ).
This dual carriageway follows the coast. Look out for Bodellwyddan Castle on the left just past the white chyrch of St.Asaph. There are some fabulous views as you head down towards Snowdonia.
When you reach the A470 turn off towards Betws-Y-Coed, a pretty little town famous for it's waterfalls and as a centre for hikers. The best falls are at Swallow Falls, up through the town on the A5. The entrance is through a tiny turnstile opposite the Swallow Hotel.
Rejoin the A470 to leave Betws-Y-Coed and head towards Blanau Ffestiniog. This is a very lush drive, overhung with trees in Summer, a sharp contrast to the astonishing slate quarry of Blaenau Ffestiniog, which comes into view as you dip towards the town and glowers over the village like a Doctor Who set. Blaneau Ffestiniog is the terminus for the Ffestiniog steam railway line, and trains run down the valley to Portmeirion and Portmadog. You can visit the Llechwedd slate caverns here.
From Blaenau take the A487 to Portmeirion. It's a short, pretty drive that takes you down the valley towards the estuary coast. You'll pass through the village of Penrhyndeudraeth and the turn to Portmerion is signposted on your left just after Minffordd station ( one of the stops for the Ffestiniog steam railway ).
Follow the drive down to the village where you'll come to the main gate. If you're staying you'll be directed to the small car park in the village and a porter can take your bags. If you're just visiting there's a car park on the edge of the village.
Days 1 - 2
Portmeirion is a magical place and it's well worth spending a night or two so that you can explore the surrounding woods, village and magnificent beach that lies along the estuary.
If you're staying at Portmeirion for a day or two, you might visit Porthmadog and Caernarfon, perhaps even taking a trip on the Ffestiniog and Welsh Highland steam railways.If you prefer you can pass through these two destinations on your way up to Conwy and Llandudno. Take the A487, which gives lovely views of the Snowdonia National Park on your right.
The road from Portmerion to Porthmadog takes you across The Cobb which gives a view not unlike how you'd imagine a South American ranch to look. There's parking on the street in Porthmadog or car parks near the steam train station.
From Porthmadog continue up the A487 for about another 20 minutes and turn left to Caernarfon. After visiting this royal town head back on to the A487 towards Bangor where you'll join the A55 towards Llandudno. You'll reach Conwy first so perhaps stop there on your way to Llandudno.
You can reach Llandudno in about 50 minutes from Portmeirion if you don't stop on the way.
Days 2 - 3
LLandudno has a wonderfully elegant Edwardian beach front and a traditional pier. The Great Orme offers spectacular views of the region ( on a very clear day you can see as far as Morecombe Bay ).
You can either drive up or take the funicular tram. Both North and West shore have long beaches with fascinating rock pools and the kids love to catch crabs off the little jetty.
Leave llandudno and rejoin the A55 back towards England. It takes about 90 minutes to Manchester. Obviously be aware of heavier traffic in summer. If you need to to stop the Northop Hall OK Diner ( westbound access) is great and better than the other service stations. And then you're home...