9 Unusual Things to do in North Wales

Western Europe

Aug 26

Unusual Things to do in North Wales

When it comes to looking for unusual things to do in North Wales, the fastest way to find something special is to step away from the west and stay east instead.

Snowdon, in all its peaky glory and romantic, snowy name, pulls in the crowds so fast that northeast Wales often gets whizzed right by.

And that’s a shame.

A real shame.

Inside the Travel Lab Gold Flask

From UNESCO World Heritage Sites to beach walks and medieval market towns, here's a hand made itinerary for travel in North Wales.

UNESCO Approved

Because behind the scary-sounding Welsh names (like Pontcysyllte Aqueduct) you’ll find the country’s newest Area of Natural Beauty, an impressive 11 or so miles of UNESCO World Heritage Site, two National Trust Properties and miles and miles of coast.

See the first ever Welsh bible (more interesting and important than perhaps it sounds) and tiny churches in rugged landscapes, washed down with hot coffee in ground-breaking arts centres and medieval market towns amid rural charm.

And canals. Miles and miles of slow, beautiful canals.

So, instead of just teasing with you with this word sketch portrait, I thought I’d get right down to business and write you a list.

9 Unusual Things to do in North Wales

The itinerary and a longer, more soulful look at this part of North Wales will come later.

But if you’re in a hurry (and you’ve already booked your trip) then these are the concrete tips to help you make the most of it.

Let’s go.

Unusually Steep: The Stream in the Sky

Wow. Oh wow. This aqueduct storms across the Dee River, oblivious to gravity and the wobbly legs of its walkers.

Completed in 1805 to carry the Llangollen Canal from A to B, it crosses at a remarkable 38 metres above the river valley.

Almost as surprising is the fact that you can visit for free, including a stop at the modest visitor centre.

Cyclists and pedestrians can walk across alongside canal boats that somehow manage not to fall into the valley below.

But, well, after 200 and more years, I suppose it’s reasonable to assume it’s safe by now.


Check out this video on how to pronounce the name – and catch the Facebook live from when I stood on the Stream in the Sky.

Unusually Arty: Ruthin Craft Centre

Ruthin itself treats visitors to everything you’d expect from a beautiful Welsh market town. Half-timbered lanes, ivy tumbling down walls, a castle.

But it also has made space for an explosion of the arts.

The hub for this is the Ruthin Craft Centre, where artists, exhibitions, shops and activities for children rub shoulders alongside a brightly lit coffee and cake café.

But it’s the art trail through town that really stood out.

Pick up a map and walk back up the hill, looking out for hidden figurines and intriguing peep holes.

Inside the Travel Lab Gold Flask

From popcorn cockles to welsh cakes and laverbread, all mixed in with cawl, read about Welsh food here.

Unusually Sandy: The Beach at Rhyl

Wales is justifiably proud for being the first country to allow you to walk around its entire coast (all 870 miles of it) and one such spot is Rhyl.

The sandy flats that stretch out to sea first thing in the morning soothe the eyes.

After that, if fluorescent beach toys are your kind of thing, then you’ll be in heaven.

Parents of young children? The (free) children’s playgrounds on the seafront put the Cardiff ones to shame. Hours of fun there.

Unusually Nostalgic : Miniature Railway at Rhyl 

There’s nothing better than an unusual claim to fame and Rhyl’s claim to own Britain’s oldest miniature railway is the kind of thing that smiles are made of.

Opening in 1911, it still runs today around the grassy edges of the Marine Lake, with coal, steam, bells and whistles in abundance.

Unusually Named: Mold

It’s hard not to get swept away by the names in this part of Wales. Either you have no idea how you say them or if you do, you wonder what on earth people were thinking.

Mold, despite its name, is another pretty medieval market town, surrounded by natural beauty. Official beauty, actually, the designated Area of Natural Beauty that is the Clwydian Range.

Check it out.

Unusually Grand: Chirk Castle

It takes a lot to stand out as a castle in Wales, especially along the border.

Where Holland has mills, North Wales has castles but few manage to round up so many different experiences into one castle as Chirk.

Looking for medieval knight costumes to dress up in? Done!

Vegetable patches to stroll around ? Yes.

Forests to walk in? Stately home staircases to swirl around in? Period libraries to muse in? A café to drink coffee in? (Sorry, but I haven’t slept properly for 18 months or so now. Coffee makes it onto my hit list!)

Unusually Poignant: The First Welsh Bible

With Google translate at our fingertips, it’s hard to step back and imagine what life was like before.

But the first Welsh bible at St Asaph’s is famous not only for the power of translation but also as a way of preserving the Welsh language altogether.

Unusually Thought-Provoking

I love a bit of urban regeneration and the Ty Pawb centre at Wrexham brings thought-provoking art right into the centre of town.

It also tries to bring the diverse community together, as exhibits focus on what makes Wrexham, Wrexham and displays striking images of the few remaining possessions of refugees.

There’s also good coffee. And great play areas for kids ;-)

Unusually Tasty:  Ice Cream from a Canal Boat

Pontcysyllte may steal all the headlines, but it’s not the only aqueduct in town. There are loads of them!

And the one near Chirk sells ice cream through a canal boat window. Perfect sustenance before the short walk to England. Chocolate flakes included.

Disclosure – I travelled to north east Wales as part of a Routes to the Sea project supported by Denbighshire, Wrexham and Flintshire to highlight the positive parts of north Wales. But I had complete control to pick out which I thought they were. Otherwise, life just becomes so pointless!


About the Author

Hi, I'm Abi, a doctor turned writer who's worked with Lonely Planet, the BBC, UNESCO and more. Let's travel more and think more. Find out more.

  • Thank you for the great mentions for Ruthin Craft Centre and the Ruthin Art Trail. Just to note the Art Trail is a permanent installation, and includes secret spy holes in stone walls, little figures to encourage people to look around at the buildings, and some lovely benches and cherry trees.

    • Abi King says:

      Ah, that’s great news! We loved the art trail – it’s amazing how it made us look more closely and think in a different way. It was also interesting to see how much we’d missed when we hadn’t been actively looking for things.

  • Juan Ovalle says:

    This is so great! Bookmarking this!

    • Abi King says:

      Glad you like it! I bookmarked so many things in preparation for the trip!

  • Nice post! Thanks for sharing!

  • The miniature railways sound so adorable!

  • Kimberley says:

    I have been to Both Wales so many times and (embarrassingly!) we have not done any of these! Although a holiday aboard a canal boat going over that viaduct is on the (ever-growing) must do list.

    I found you via The Travel Hack and you are fast becoming my favourite blog! We like to seek out the unusual when we are away and I think your blog is going to be a go-to when we try somewhere new :)

    • Abi King says:

      Very kind words – very much appreciated. I think the idea of a canal boat trip through North Wales is excellent! I was a little unsteady walking across the aqueduct so I’m pretty sure I’d be holding my breath all the way across on a canal boat! An amazing story to tell after the event, though…!

  • What an amazing post of unusual things we can do when we visit North Wales, Abi! I especially love how you divided the places in a categorized manner so your readers will have a much easier time looking into the details on each place. We would love to visit North Wales next year and will definitely be putting this in our itinerary.

    • Abi King says:

      Ah, there were so many great discoveries! The bible and Pontcysyllte Aqueduct in particular, I would have thought would have been more famous then they are… but nope! Or at least, not yet. Have a wonderful trip to North Wales next year.

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