The whole of Wales in one small corner
North East Wales could be the whole of Wales in one small corner: mountains, valleys, coast and castles, all wrapped up in gorgeous rolling rural landscape. And because it’s just an hour’s drive from the Midlands and North, it’s the perfect family getaway.
It’s only when you stand on top of Moel Famau, the highest peak in the Clwydian Range, that you fully appreciate this magical, and underexplored, corner of Wales. It’s an easy enough walk – little over a mile from the nearest car parks – but the views from the broken remains of the Jubilee Tower are stunning: Merseyside, Snowdonia and the Dee Valley are all laid out before you.
Moel Famau to Vale of Clwyd, North East Wales
From this lofty perspective, it looks like the ideal location for a family getaway in the countryside. And that’s perfectly true – but it’s not the whole story. There are masses to see and do here, in the market towns, museums and castles that are hidden among the green folds of the hills.
Erddig House, Wrexham, North East Wales
Wrexham is a good place to start: the region’s biggest town, with superb shopping, and a good base from which to explore the nearby attractions, which include the fabulous upstairs-downstairs Erddig country house, and several museums dedicated to the area’s lead/coal/iron heritage.
Llangollen, North East Wales
The pretty market town of Llangollen is another great holiday base, with the Llangollen Canal, the Horseshoe Falls, Valle Crucis Abbey and Dinas Bran Castle all within walking distance of the town, and white water rafting on the River Dee. Not far away, Chirk Castle is the last of Edward I’s ‘ring of steel’ fortresses which is still lived in today, and has the area’s best formal gardens (although informal behaviour, such as rolling down the grassy banks, is strongly encouraged here). And a trip across nearby Pontcysyllte Aqueduct should be on everyone’s must-do list: the 300-metre-long ‘stream in the sky’ is a wonder of Victorian ingenuity, carrying the canal 40 metres over the valley below.
Pontcysyllte Aqueduct, Wrexham, North East Wales
Head north over the Horseshoe Pass and you soon reach the Vale of Clwyd and the town of Ruthin, another fine family base. The Times editor Simon Jenkins describes Ruthin as ‘the most charming small town in Wales,’ and who are we to argue? It’s a lovely place to stay, with a strong arty streak (the Ruthin Craft Centre is a cracker), and plenty of good places to eat. Children also enjoy a stretch in prison here – specifically, a visit to Ruthin Gaol - where you can find out what it was like in the belly of the Victorian prison system (answer: not much fun, although a day-trip certainly is).
Although the borderlands are very much the place for rural pleasures, the coast is never very far away: head on up the Vale of Clwyd through St Asaph and you soon reach the coastal resorts of North Wales, with all their bucket-n-spade charm.
More attractions in the North East Wales