North Wales is stunning and has kept our family returning year after year; whatever the season. The rugged beauty of the coastline, plethora of world-class castles and stunning mountains of Snowdonia are only a relatively short drive away from most parts of England.
All things considered, I think this makes North Wales the perfect destination for a short break for dogs and their owners, writes Paul Wojnicki.
We were originally planning to travel to Ireland in the half term holidays but changed our minds at the last moment, which is just as well because the tail end of a hurricane is battering the Irish Sea as we park near the relatively sheltered estuary that’s sandwiched between the forested edge of Snowdonia and the massive limestone rock known as the Great Orme.
1. Conwy Castle
Already Falco is itching to get out of the car, despite the relatively short drive from Yorkshire, and so are the kids, who are all in awe of the castle we’ve parked in front of.
North Wales has more than its fair share of castles, so it can be tricky to decide which ones to cram in on a short break, but this one, Conwy Castle, is probably the most unmissable of them all.
Even the most jaded of travellers would be moved by the scale and beauty of the 13th Century castle but Falco being Falco, he just wants to wee on it. Alas, he’ll have to settle for weeing on the pavement instead because dogs are not allowed inside the castle.
So we content ourselves with a walk around the 1.3km perimeter of the walls, taking in the massive castle from a variety of angles as we stroll.
The castle is stunning from every angle and there’s not even the slightest tinge of regret that dogs aren’t allowed inside. Indeed, the view is so magnificent that the whole of the town of Conwy is designated a World Heritage site.
I make a mental note that we really ought to stay nearer to Conwy the next time we visit, perhaps at Llandudno so that we can do the same walk at night and see the castle when it’s illuminated.
But, we have to move on. We have got a date with the equally impressive natural wonder next door to Conwy; that massive chunk of limestone I was telling you about earlier - the Great Orme - which separates the neighbouring towns of Conwy and Llandudno.
2. The Great Orme
It’s only a short drive away and there’s plenty of parking once we find the seafront, so we hop out and watch the huge waves breaking on the shore before heading up the Great Orme itself.
There are a variety of fun ways to get to the top, including walking and a cable car. I’m not sure Falco would appreciate us taking him on a cable car in any weather, let alone high winds, so we opt for the unique cable-hauled Great Orme Tramway, which has been plying its way from the sea up to the top of the Orme since 1902.
It’s a little windy at the top, to say the least - did I mention that hurricane? But on a clear day, you can see all the way to the Isle of Man.
I’m reliably informed by our tram driver that it’s also possible to see Blackpool illuminations on an evening too! So that’s two sets of lights we’ll miss out on by not staying overnight nearer to Conwy.
We follow Falco for half an hour or so as he sniffs his way around the summit then take refuge from the winds in the dog friendly café near the tram station.
Afterwards, the children ride down in the tram while Falco and I walk past the copper mine then down the steeply sloped streets that head back towards the pier.
As predicted, the wind and waves are starting to abate by the time we reach sea level so we decide to enjoy an hour on the pier. Dogs are allowed everywhere on the pier except the indoor amusements, so we’re able to let the kids have fun on the rides while Falco watches them with us.
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And then it’s time to make the twenty minute drive to our hotel in Bangor. We chose the Travelodge because they are, quite simply the most dog friendly chain in Britain.
All 500+ of their hotels accept dogs, with a standard charge of £20 regardless of the length of your stay. They also have family rooms in all their hotels, which means that guests are not penalised for travelling with children. I can’t tell you how hard it can be to find a hotel that accepts dogs and families of four in one room.
But with six hotels along the relatively small corridor along the North Wales coastline including Colwyn Bay, Llandudno, Anglesey, Caernarfon and Porthmadog we were spoiled for choice. We opted for their hotel in Bangor, which is out of town but has exceptionally good links to the attractions we plan to visit and as well as the fast ferry to Ireland.
3. Greenwood Forest Park
The following morning we’re up early to visit Greenwood Forest Park which - in my opinion - is the best value park in Wales, if not the UK. It’s no surprise that Greenwood has won Best Family Attraction six years in a row, but one of the best things about the park for us is that it’s also dog friendly.
There are loads of rides for younger kids and Harrison and Ella have a great time on all of them. It’s hard to say which ride they enjoy the most but for me it’s the jungle boats because it’s the one that Falco gets to ride on as well.
We all leave the park happy, especially me because not only did we get to keep Falco with us for the whole day, but a full day in the park cost us less than an hour on the pier at Llandudno!
The following morning Harrison is upset because we have to leave the Travelodge, a chain he’s grown very fond of, which is just as well as I’d struggle to pay for the Hilton on a regular basis. He cheers up though once we arrive at the foot of Mount Snowdon, which is a short drive away from the Bangor Travelodge.
We’re dismayed however to learn that dogs aren’t allowed on the mountain railway that transports passengers to the summit of the highest mountain in England and Wales. Still, the scenery here is stunning and a walk around the lake in Llanberis, followed by the easy hike up to Dolbadarn Castle is the perfect ending to our weekend away.
Where to stay in North Wales with your dog
Travelodge has hotels all across North Wales, including exceptionally good value rooms in Colwyn Bay, Llandudno, Anglesey, Caernarfon and beyond. We opted for their hotel in Bangor and stayed for two nights. We had no trouble visiting everywhere in this feature and a trip to nearby Caernarfon Castle in this short time.
With so many hotels to choose from in the region, you’ll always find one of them at a bargain price; we plan to return in mid-March and at the time of writing there were plenty of rooms available for less than £30 a night in Bangor. We plan to stay in the Llandudno Travelodge though as it’s slightly closer to Conwy Castle and we’d like to see it lit up at night.