Harlech, a 35 minute drive from Capel Soar, is a delightful town nestled along the scenic coast of North Wales. Harlech offers visitors a perfect blend of history, natural beauty, and coastal charm. From the imposing Harlech Castle, a UNESCO World Heritage site, to the pristine sandy beach and golden sand dunes that stretch along the coast, there's plenty to explore and discover in Harlech.
Whether you're interested in exploring the castle, enjoying outdoor activities, or simply soaking in the serene surroundings, our guide will provide you with all the information you need to make the most of your visit to Harlech.
Harlech Castle, Wales
[between ca. 1890 and ca. 1900].
Harlech Castle is unmatched among Edward I's coastal fortresses, as it sits atop a sheer rocky crag overlooking the distant sea and surrounding dunes. Its setting is further enhanced by the rugged peaks of Eryri (Snowdonia) in the backdrop. Edward I built several major castles in Wales after conquering most of the country, including Caernarfon, Conwy, and Harlech Castle. It cost £8184 to construct, a third cheaper than Caernarfon or Conwy, using local stone to save on transportation costs.
Master James of St George, a talented architect, oversaw the castle's completion from ground to battlements in just seven years. Its "walls within walls" design takes advantage of the natural fortifications of the area. Even during the Madog ap Llewelyn rebellion, when the castle was completely cut off, the "Way from the Sea" ensured that the defenders were supplied via a path of 108 steep steps leading to the rock face.
During the 17th century, Harlech Castle gradually fell into a state of disrepair, but its picturesque ruins continued to inspire artists such as J.M.W. Turner (1775-1851). In the 20th century, the Office of Works began major restoration work on the castle. As of 1986, Harlech Castle, along with three other Welsh castles built by Edward I, has been recognised as a World Heritage Site.
Today, Harlech Castle is much easier to conquer, as an incredible "floating" footbridge allows visitors to enter the castle as intended by Master James. You can book your visit here. There is also a visitor centre with cafe and toilet facilities.
Harlech Beach is a magnificent two-mile stretch of golden sands, offering stunning views of the Irish Sea and the Snowdonia mountains.
A 440 yard/400m path from the car park near the railway line crossing provides easy access to the beach, which is not just a flat expanse of sand but boasts beautiful sand dunes, a coveted characteristic that led to the area's recognition as a National Nature Reserve and Site of Special Scientific Interest.
The beach is an excellent location for children to play and an even better spot for adults to unwind and enjoy the scenery.
For those who enjoy golf, the internationally renowned Royal St David's Golf Club is located near the beach, offering golfers a chance to experience one of the finest links courses in Britain.
The nearby Children's Farm Park is the perfect destination for young animal lovers. Here, children can visit Floss the donkey, pigs, rabbits, calves, ducks, hens, and even small pygmy goats.
Llanfair Slate Caverns, located near Harlech, are about a 30 minute drive from Capel Soar. The slate extracted from this mine is considered one of the oldest in the world, found in veins between layers of ancient Pre-Cambrian rocks. It was extensively used for roofing in many industrial towns throughout Britain and Ireland. Visitors can explore the tunnels and chambers by descending Jacobs Ladder, and observe the old drilling holes and a rock formation resembling a human face in the impressive no. 6 cavern. Upon exiting the caverns, visitors are greeted by a panoramic view of Cardigan Bay, extending from the Preseli Mountains in the south to the Llŷn peninsula.
Royal St David's Golf Club
From this vantage point, Shell Island and the Artro estuary can be seen below and, during low tide, one can trace the natural fourteen-mile causeway of St. Patrick.
If it's raining outside or you're searching for an evening activity, consider indoor climbing at The Rock. With over 400m² of diverse climbing surfaces, including overhangs, pillar blocks, chimneys and slabs, climbers of all levels will find a suitable challenge.
Walks in Snowdonia
Experience Meirion's Story through the five special storytelling chairs in Harlech. The story lasts an hour, but the journey is longer, covering a 2-mile route with steep hills and rough terrain. You don't have to visit all five chairs to enjoy the story - you can customize your journey and choose to walk only part of the route. Get directions to any of the chairs and make your own adventure.
For a moderately challenging walk try out Bryn Cader Faner. This 5.1 km trail in Eryri National Park's (Snowdonia) Rhinogydd mountain range. As you ascend towards Bryn Cader Faner, a remarkable Bronze Age cairn, you'll pass through a significant archaeological landscape featuring prehistoric
settlements and ritual structures.
Alternatively, take the fantastic 1-1.5 hour Zig Zags beach path starting from Harlech beach boardwalk. Walk left along the beach until you reach the end, where you'll find stairs leading up to a steep natural staircase in the rocks. Follow the stairs to the top, turn left onto the road, and follow it back into Harlech. On the way back, you'll spot some benches and large rocks to your left, known as Slippery Rock, offering incredible views and a perfect spot to take a break and admire the scenery.
Llew Glas Interiors is a family-owned gift shop that's been in business since 2001. Located on the cobbled courtyard of Blue Lion Square, the shop offers a range of antiques, reupholstered chairs and sofas, lighting, accessories, and giftware. In addition, Castle Gift Shop has been a family-run business since 1956, specializing in Welsh gifts and souvenirs sourced locally whenever possible. Cae Du Designs, run by Dee Bentham for 25 years, offers a vast selection of fabrics and throws at attractive prices, with a full design and making-up service also available.
Harlech Cheese Market is home to the best Welsh cheeses, milk, yogurt, butter, bacon, sausages, cured meats, salamis, smoked fish, dressed crab, beers, ciders, wine, Bara Brith, Welsh cakes, crisps, seaweed snacks, preserves, jams, sauces, marinades, and gin and tonic, all inspired by the world and made in Wales. Freshly baked bread is available daily, and pasties, pies, and sausage rolls are available from midday, with a pre-order option available.
Y Groser Harlech is an independent grocery store and delicatessen that prides itself on selling the best of Welsh produce. The store, located on Harlech High Street, just two minutes from the castle, offers award-winning artisan cheeses, smoked meats, local preserves and condiments, fresh bread and sweet pastries baked daily in-store, Welsh coffee, wines, ales and spirits, fresh fruits and vegetables, butchery, and all your everyday larder essentials.
Finally, Pwts Harlech offers a curated selection of sustainable homeware, including glassware, rustic chopping boards, sheepskin rugs, and cotton quilts. Open all year round, the store's hours vary with the seasons, so check social media for the latest information.
Food and Drinks
Caffi Castell , located across from the iconic Harlech Castle and atop one of the world's steepest streets, offers panoramic views from the sea to Snowdon. You can enjoy a coffee and homemade cake while taking in the scenery.
Hufenfa Ice-cream serves award-winning artisanal ice cream, sorbet, and chocolate truffles. Open from April 1st to October 30th, you can find them opposite the castle. Their handmade, all-natural flavours are a hit with the locals and visitors alike.
Harlech Fish and Chips is a classic, no-frills fish and chip shop that offers some of the tastiest fish and chips around.
The Plas in Harlech is a comfortable dining spot located on the town's High Street. The restaurant offers lovely views of Royal St. David's Golf Course and the Llyn Peninsula from its conservatory and terrace.