Beach holiday in the Snowdonia National Park

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As you stand on the crenelated wall-walk of Harlech Castle, imagination effortlessly transports you back to medieval Wales.

The castle was built in the 1280s as part of England’s conquest of Wales, and cost Edward I about £9,500, which in today’s money is around £50million. Other castles constructed as part of the invasion can be visited at Beaumaris, Conwy and Caernarfon. Considering their age and the violent history permeating their walls, these fortifications are incredibly well preserved.

Harlech Castle looks out over the Irish Sea, with the picturesque village of Harlech climbing the hills behind, and the mountains of Snowdonia to the north. The setting is spectacularly photogenic. The castle’s imposing walls and towers enable you to forget the sports centre and caravan park now sited below. Instead, your eyes are drawn to the sea. While still magnificent, it’s not quite the view Owain Glyndŵr—the last native-born Welshman to claim the title Prince of Wales—would have had during the brief years at the start of the 15th century when Harlech Castle was his residence and military headquarters; the sea was much closer than it is these days.

Today, you cross the moat on a modern ‘floating’ bridge and can finish your trip with lunch and a cake at the café, soaking up the mountain views as you sip a latte or local cider.

Harlech is a short drive from Away Resorts holiday park at Barmouth Bay, which is where I stayed, in one of their lodge caravans. Each caravan is just a couple of minutes from the beach so it’s easy to pop out for breakfast on the sand, or a day on your sun lounger. Because it is so close you don’t have to carry everything you might need for the day, just take what you want right now and head back if the weather changes or you’ve forgotten something.

Away Resorts has a strong ‘giving back’ ethos with a chosen charity each year and dedicated fundraising events. Plus, they have teamed-up with Surfers Against Sewerage to organise beach clean-ups and educate guests about the impact of single-use plastics on our oceans. In addition, they are offsetting some of their carbon emissions through tree planting in partnership with Creating Tomorrow’s Forests. Away Resorts is also adding wildlife gardens, increasing the number of charging points for electric cars, working with suppliers with a similar ‘giving back’ ethos, and ensuring all new resorts are designed with energy efficiency in mind. 

The park at Barmouth has a small supermarket, a fish and chip shop, a snack bar and ‘pub’, plus a kids’ adventure play area and an indoor pool (if the sea is a little chilly for you). The beach itself, at low tide, is gloriously sandy, stretching as far as the eye can see in either direction. Ideal for sandcastles, sunbathing and rolling up your trousers, in that very British way, for a paddle in the surf.

With such a perfect beach on your doorstep it would be easy to spend your holiday in the vicinity of the park, but I’d recommend taking some time out too. Talybont train station is less than a 10-minute walk and trains go direct into Barmouth town centre (just a couple of stops – Talybont is a request stop, so let the ticket collector/guard know you want to get off there). In Barmouth you can browse a range of local shops, enjoy fresh donuts or a healthy Acai Bowl, kick back with a beer at one of the pubs, eat your chips on the beach, or indulge in an evening curry. The beach at Barmouth is huge – even when the tide is in, so it’s an ideal place to take the children and the dog as you can spend the entire day on the sand and never have to move.

A short walk south out of town is Barmouth Bridge, which crosses the estuary of the Afon Mawddach. It is the longest timber viaduct in Wales and one of the oldest (completed in 1867) in regular use in Britain. You can stroll across it, alongside the single-track railway. The views across the estuary make the walk well worth it, and watching the trains come rumbling (safely) past just a few feet from you is a great photo opportunity.

A little further south—less than an hour by car from Barmouth Bay—is the Corris Craft Centre. Here, a number of local artisans have small shops displaying their unique creations. Take a moment to check out the abstractly atmospheric artwork from Sammi Wilson, the delicate designs from Delyn Glass (I love the tiny Welsh dragon sculptures in rich coloured glass), try some handmade chocolate at Chocablock or local gin at Dyfi Distillery, make your own candle at The Candle Studio or paint pottery at The Pottery Studio, then finish off your trip with a snack and a drink at the café, before heading back with a few jars of local chutneys and jams from the shop.

The Snowdonia National Park has a lot to offer, from stunning views to sandy beaches, from good food to indie shops. Hike it, cycle it, drive it, or just chill out. For me it’s one of the most beautiful areas of Britain. And if you are visiting, Away Resorts at Barmouth Bay is a handy base giving you access to many of the activities the Park has to offer.  


Away Resorts at Barmouth Bay –

Corris Craft Centre –

Harlech Castle –

Snowdonia National Park –

Away Resorts






Chantal Cooke is an award-winning journalist and broadcaster and co-founder of PASSION for the PLANET. Chantal is passionate about tourism being used as a force for good.  You can follow her adventures on Facebook and Twitter @chantalcooke and on Instagram @Chantaldcooke

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