Hidden beauty: exploring the Llŷn Peninsula AONB

Tucked away beyond Snowdonia’s craggiest peaks with the Irish Sea on one side and Cardigan Bay on the other, the Llŷn has a distinctive, unspoilt character that’s all its own. Its sunny southern coast draws walkers, wakeboarders and dinghy-sailors, while the ancient pilgrimage site of Bardsey Island, at its tip, is a haven for wildlife.

Family friendly resorts 

Criccieth beach and town with a train passing through, Snowdonia

Criccieth, Snowdonia by welsh snapper

An Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty (AONB) protects around a quarter of the Llŷn including wild stretches of coast, long-extinct volcanic peaks and grassy hillsides dotted with Iron Age forts.

It’s the Llŷn’s family-friendly resorts and lovely, laidback beaches that draw most of its visitors, especially in summer. The cosy seaside towns of Criccieth, Pwllheli and Abersoch on the southern shore have such a loyal following that friendships are rekindled here year after year. 

Criccieth, with its battle-worn coastal castle and tidy Victorian terraces, makes a great base from which to explore, while Pwllheli and Abersoch are both busy sailing towns. 

Hafan Pwllheli, Pwllheli’s huge marina, has over 400 berths with access to the prime waters of Anglesey and Cardigan Bay.

The school holidays bring a festive atmosphere to this stretch of coast. In August, Abersoch holds its annual Regatta. This is a fun event, and everyone joins in – whether it’s to compete in the dinghy races or try their hand at competitive crab-catching, sandcastle-building or beachhut-decorating.

More coast and countryside attractions in Snowdonia

Follow a path through time

Hywyns Church

St Hywyn's Church, Aberdaron, Snowdonia


As well as being an Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty, much of the Llŷn is listed in the Register of Landscapes of Outstanding Historic Interest in Wales. Large swathes have never been ploughed for farming or cleared for urban development, but instead have remained unspoilt for centuries. The Llŷn’s many archaeological and architectural features tell an unbroken story which began in prehistoric times.

An 84-mile section of the Wales Coast Path runs right around the Llŷn Peninsula, walks crossing fields with hand-forged kissing gates and passing immaculate coves, cliffs, beaches, churches and forts. The Llŷn is superb destination for a walking or cycling holiday ­– fling on a backpack and you can spend several days travelling around, making overnight stops at B&Bs or campsites. If you’re just visiting for a day or two, there are plenty of short, circular routes to choose from.

Make a pilgrimage to Bardsey Island

Bardsey Island, seen from Mynydd Mawr, Snowdonia

Bardsey Island, seen from Mynydd Mawr, Snowdonia by imaginedhorizons

Hop on a boat trip from Aberdaron or Pwllheli and you can sail to Bardsey, whose Welsh name, Ynys Enlli, means the island of the currents. Christians have been travelling here since the sixth century, when St Cadfan established a monastery on the island. Visiting it three times was considered as holy an act of pilgrimage as a journey to Rome.

Only a few sacred stones remain; these days, Bardsey is a nature reserve where grey seals bask on rocks at the water’s edge and manx shearwaters, fulmars and guillemots nest each spring. If you take a boat that stops at the island rather than simply circling it, you can watch them from the island’s hides. Morning and afternoon trips visit Bardsey between Easter and October and there are also a few self-catering cottages available to rent for a peaceful, natural getaway.