HOSTELS IN NORTH WALES, SNOWDONIA, CAERNARFON

INTRODUCTION

North Wales is hilly and green, and the Snowdonia mountains have scenes as beautiful and impressive as any in Britain, with magnificent walks ranging from gentle forest trails to exciting knife-edge ridges. There are also beautiful beaches and several interesting towns with imposing castles.

North Wales is conveniently placed on the way to Ireland, so if you are trying to see as many areas as possible, take it in after Chester or Shrewsbury and before Ireland.

Many scenes in North Wales are just as nice as in the Lake District, and the mountains are more impressive than in the Lakes, but the beauty is not so consistent or concentrated. The best way is to choose one or two spots, and take walks or excursions from there. We will describe spots based on hostels.

Brief visit
If you are restricted to a brief visit, our suggestion is: Either: spend 2 nights at Bangor, Conwy, Caernarfon or Porthmadog and take a day trip into Snowdonia; Or: stay at one of the hostels in the heart of Snowdonia for at least one night.

Weather
The weather in the hills is usually worse than in England. If the coast is sunny, the valleys may be cloudy and there'll be drizzle on the mountains; or cloud in England turns to drizzle in the lowlands and driving rain on the heights. Fairly often, though, the tables are turned and the west coast can have glorious weather; the north coast often has fine weather when the mountains are shrouded in cloud.

Transport to the area
Trains: frequent trains run from Chester (good connections from Liverpool and Manchester) along the north coast, stopping at Conwy and Bangor, to Holyhead where they connect with boats to Dublin. Many trains have a connection to Llandudno.

Express buses: There are 2 buses a day from London and Birmingham, and one a day from Hull, Leeds, Manchester and Liverpool. These will take you to Conwy, Bangor, Caernarfon & Porthmadog. There is one bus a day from Cardiff & Swansea to Caernarfon & Bangor.

Transport within the area
An excellent printed timetable is available from Tourist Information Centres and most hostels in the area, or visit www.gwynedd.gov.uk . A useful day Rover ticket is the Red Rover for £4.80 (2002), valid on most buses in Snowdonia and south to Aberystwyth; buy it on the first bus of the day.

Hostels
The hostels on the North Coast at Conwy, Bangor and Caernarfon, and on the south side at Porthmadog, are easily accessible and are suitable bases, so if you want to walk in the mountains, allow 2 nights here. Better is to allow an extra day and stay at one of the hostels in Snowdonia itself.

Best to book well in advance (ie weeks). If you contact hostels a day or two in advance, you should find one or two with spare beds, but if you don't have a car they may not be ideally placed to get to. But most of the hostels are nicer than almost any in London. Many of the hostels are called bunkhouses, which may be of hostel standard or may be cheaper with self-catering only and you bring your own sleeping bag or pay for bedding.

NORTH COAST

The rail and bus routes along the north coast are impressive and varied. By train you pass through the resorts of Prestatyn, Rhyl, Colwyn Bay and Llandudno, starting tacky and ending up more tasteful. Llandudno is the pleasantest of these resorts, with a high-standard hostel:

LLANDUDNO Hostel

Address: 14 Charlton St
Tel: 01492-877430

Email: info + AT + llandudnohostel.co.uk

Facilities: Lounge w lg TV, dining room, high-quality dorms w bedlights, no kitchen but microwave & kettle.

UK Trail opinions: High standard hostel in attractive mature building, very clean. No kitchen but you can eat take-aways in dining room..

Reviewers' comments: All say really friendly staff who look after you well, comfortable and quiet hostel. Several note the lack of a kitchen. One said breakfast was served a bit late and stopped them making the most of the day.

 
 

A good place to stay on this approach to Wales is Conwy with its imposing castle and town wall. Conwy hostel is 10 mins uphill from the town with great views and hill walks from the hostel door, although if you are short of days you are likely to just use this as a staging post.

CONWY YHA

Address: Larkhill, Sychnant Pass Road

Email: conwy + AT + yha.org.uk

Facilities: Superbly equipped, lg kitchen, outdoor tables, giant dining room, lounge areas, TV lounge, small dorms w showers.

UK Trail opinions: Excellent hostel but rather too large to be sociable, popular with families.

 
 

An alternative place to stay near here, in real peace, is the small homely hostel at Rowen. You can get there by a 5-mile walk from Conwy over hills, or you can take a bus (hourly) then walk a mile up a very steep hill, but you are rewarded with fine views:

ROWEN YHA (near Rowen)

Address: Rhiw Farm
Tel: 0870-7706012

Email: reservations + AT + yha.org.uk

Facilities: Large kitchen and sociable common/dining room, sitting room, grounds with seats and amazing view of valley & estuary, self-catering only, friendly volunteer wardens, hiking tracks to mountains from door. Book on YHA web site..

UK Trail opinions: Small hostel, excellent sociable common room, very good kitchen. Very steep hill to get there, cramped parking.

A little farther down the broad Conwy valley (frequent buses from Conwy, rail station near) is a bunkhouse on a farm:

CONWY VALLEY BackpackersBarn (Tal-y-Bont)

Address: Pyllau Gloewon Farm
Tel: 01492-660504

Facilities: On working organic-style farm. Equipped kitchen, log fires, bike storage. Outdoor activities..

UK Trail opinions: Pleasant country location, regular bus access. We have not seen inside..

Continuing along the coast, you reach the small university city of Bangor, with a hostel on the edge of town:

BANGOR YHA

Address: Tan-y-Bryn

Email: bangor + AT + yha.org.uk

Facilities: Comfortable hostel, lounge, kitchen, meals, in pleasant grounds, staff helpful with transport info.

UK Trail opinions: Comfortable hostel but the cosy lounge is a TV room so not the most sociable, dining area cafe-like.

 
 

If you have only time for a brief visit to Snowdonia and want a day's walking in the mountains, a useful base is a hostel in Bethesda, reachable by frequent bus from Bangor:

CABAN CYSGU Bunkhouse (Bethesda)

Address: Ffordd Gerlan, Gerlan
Tel: 01248-605573

Email: dewi + AT + cabancysgu-gerlan.co.uk

Facilities: Community-run. 12.50 (15 weekends) (2008). Kitchen, drying room, bike store,16 beds. In Welsh-speaking village, 1km from shops, pub, take-aways..

UK Trail opinions: Ideal base to climb highest plateau in Wales from hostel door. Outdoor activities in area..

Visit HOSTEL WEB SITE!

Caernarfon is a small interesting town with an impressive castle. There is a hostel here, well located for everything including a surprise view:

TOTTERS Hostel (Caernarfon)

Address: 2 High Street
Tel: 01286-672963

Facilities: Owner-run. Lg kitchen/dining room in basement, comfy lounge with small TV, sociable, friendly staff, casual feel. Superb view 20 metres away. Lively small town with all facilities and imposing castle..

UK Trail opinions: Has a pleasant and friendly, laid-back feeling. Kitchen area in basement is a bit austere but sociable; lounge has TV but is cosy. Do go and look at their surprise view!.

Reviewers' comments: All reviewers are enthusiastic, many call it homely; staff friendly and very helpful.

 
 

SNOWDONIA

The main mountain massif of Snowdonia has many lovely spots, and lots of hostels from which you can climb mountains or take low-level walks from the hostel door. The view from the top of Snowdon is stupendous -- but be warned, on many days the summit is shrouded in cloud!

Snowdon
If you particularly want to climb Snowdon, any of the following hostels are suitable:

Llanberis (frequent buses from Caernarfon and Bangor) is a touristy village with limited shops and the start of the easiest and most boring path up Snowdon, or you can cheat and take the railway. Snowdon is the only British mountain with a cafe on top! The hostel is a 15-minute uphill walk, in a quiet spot away from the tourist centre:

LLANBERIS YHA

Address: Llwyn Celyn
Tel: 0870-7705928

Email: llanberis + AT + yha.org.uk

Facilities: Well-equipped kitchen, pleasant dining room, lounge w TV, games, drying room.

UK Trail opinions: Longish walk out of village up hill; view of Snowdon, climb it from hostel door; caters well for individuals.

There is a bunkhouse 4km from Llanberis at the foot of the impressive Nant Francon valley and right beside Snowdon:

SNOWDON House (nr Llanberis)

Address: A4086, Nant Peris
Tel: 01286-870284

Facilities: Small bunkhouse, low-cost, kitchen, 3-tier bunk beds.

Visit HOSTEL WEB SITE!

Boulder Adventures near the High Street in Llanberis sometimes has beds available in its bunkhouse; they provide breakfast but have no guest kitchen.

Pen-y-Pass has 8 buses a day from various points, and if you start here you are already a third of the way up Snowdon. The hostel has impressive facilities:

PEN-Y-PASS YHA


Tel: 0870-7705990

Email: penypass + AT + yha.org.uk

Facilities: Lg kitchen, 2 dining rooms, lounge, games room, bar, no TV, open all day & all year.

The valley from Caernarfon to Beddgelert has two routes up Snowdon, one from Rhyd Ddu, the other from Snowdon Ranger. 7 buses a day (5 Sun) run along this valley through its fine and varied scenery, passing right by a camping barn, a bunkhouse and a hostel, or you can climb Snowdon on a day trip. All these also have good parking. The camping barn is cheap but you need sleeping bags; the comfortable HI hostel is right by the start of a track up Snowdon; and Rhyd Ddu bunkhouse also has camping on a beautiful site beside the lake. Outdoor activities (eg kayaking, climbing, mountain biking) are available if arranged in advance. There is also a volunteer-run narrow-gauge train from Caernarfon to Rhyd Ddu, but its prices make it a splurge rather than a means of transport!

BACH VENTURES CampingBarn (nr Waunfawr)

Address: Pentre Bach,Waunfawr
Tel: 01286-650643

Email: info + AT + bachventures.co.uk

Facilities: Low-cost, very basic but cosy; bring sleeping bag & pillow case, equipped kitchen, dining/common room, drying room, toilet/shower /water in separate building 10m away.

UK Trail opinions: Single dorm comprises mattresses on floor; go outside to toilet, shower and dishwashing building.

Visit HOSTEL WEB SITE!

SNOWDON RANGER YHA (near Rhyd Ddu)


Tel: 0870-7706038

Email: snowdon + AT + yha.org.uk

Facilities: Lounge, kitchen, dining room, games room, cycle store, drying room.

UK Trail opinions: Comfortable traditional hostel at foot of good track up Snowdon.

RHYD DDU Bunkhouse (nr Rhyd Ddu)

Email: snowdoninn + AT + aol.com

Facilities: Lg bunk room, equipped kitchen w industrial stoves, dining room w lg table and pull-down spare beds.

UK Trail opinions: Good bunkhouse in excellent location for walks etc, wth associated campground; pub w meals at village.

Visit HOSTEL WEB SITE!

Nant Gwynant is a beautiful valley, with 3 buses a day (icl Sun) from Betws-y-Coed and Porthmadog. Bryn Gwynant hostel has good facilities and a superb situation above the lake, and you can walk up the hill in their own grounds to an even better view. The route up Snowdon is near but starts with 3km road and paved track.

BRYN GWYNANT YHA

Address: Nant Gwynant
Tel: 0870-7705732

Email: bryngwynant + AT + yha.org.uk

Facilities: Pleasant hostel, 2 dining rooms, moderate kitchen, comfy common room, bar drinks, breakfast available, staff helpful, fabulous views. Hill walks from hostel, 2km to track up Snowdon.

UK Trail opinions: Kitchen well-equipped but lacking bench space; emergency light went on & off all night in dorm. Self-contained annexe more comfortable with its own good kitchen/dining and common room.

 
 

Other peaks and walks
Idwal and Capel Curig are ideal bases for mountain walks. You can get here from Bangor or Betws-y-Coed (several buses a day, but poor connections). There are plenty of mountains accessible from the hostel doors, or you could hitch a ride to Snowdon.

IDWAL COTTAGE YHA (near Bethesda)

Address: Nant Ffrancon
Tel: 0870-7705874

Email: idwal + AT + yha.org.uk

Facilities: Impressive location, self-catering, very sociable.

UK Trail opinions: Greatly recommended, but often full. Mountain hikes from door. Limited bus service, a reviewer suggests hitching is good.

PLAS CURIG Hostel (Capel Curig)

Address: Plas Curig
Tel: 01690-720225

Email: info + AT + snowdoniahostel.co.uk

Facilities: £22.50 dorm beds(2012). Lounge w books, magazines & board games, separate TV lounge, excellent kitchen, large social dining area, large drying room. Meals incl breakfast in nearby pubs. Book through hostel website or phone..

UK Trail opinions: Very good quality hostel with social atmosphere. Individual bathrooms. Climb mts or low-level walks from hostel door. Buses stop at gate. Car park being built..

Visit HOSTEL WEB SITE!

Betws-y-Coed is a tourist village which you can reach by train (several per day) from Llandudno on the north coast. There are many local walks by forest, lakes and rivers, and it's a short bus ride to the mountains. There is a new hostel, the Vagabond, in the centre of the village. The YHA hostel is part of a pub 3km from the village but right by one of the attractions, Swallow Falls.

VAGABOND Hostel (Betws-y-Coed)


Tel: 016-907-10850

Email: admin + AT + thevagabond.co.uk

Facilities: 36 beds, bar, common room, equipped kitchen, meals available.

BETWS-Y-COED YHA (nr Betws-y-Coed)

Address: Swallow Falls
Tel: 01690-710796

Email: betwsycoed + AT + yha.org.uk

Facilities: Small kitchen, bar, pub meals, common room shared w hotel.

In a delightful 'hidden valley', yet with 6 buses/day from Betws-y- Coed or Conwy, is the lovely classic Welsh village of Penmachno with high-class budget accommodation in the Eagles Inn. They have only private rooms, but they told me they don't charge more for single travellers, although on the booking engine single travellers have to pay twice as much as anyone else.

The train line from Llandudno (5 per day, 3 Sun) gets you close to Lledr Valley, with access to mountain walks.

LLEDR House (nr Dolwyddelan)

Address: Pont-y-Pant
Tel: 01690-750202

Facilities: Kitchen, large lounge/diner w TV. Only private rooms, but price seems to be the same per person for everyone. Family atmosphere. Book on their website..

UK Trail opinions: Looks very cosy and friendly. Well located for hikes..

Visit HOSTEL WEB SITE!

The next bunkhouse is an excellent base if you come with a car, or frequent buses from Bangor will bring you within walking distance of here. This bunkhouse has dorm accommodation with all required facilities, and also private apartments with moderate or higher luxury. It's on the edge of Snowdonia, with fine views and hill walks from the hostel door. Do consider it if the more central hostels are full:

JESSE JAMES' Bunkhouse (near Deiniolen)

Address: Penisarwaen
Tel: 01286-870521

Facilities: Dorm bunkhouse, kitchen, dining room, common room w fire, drying room. Owner very helpful..

UK Trail opinions: Also has self-contained units w kitchen, TV, drying area for families & groups. Bring indoor shoes..

SOUTHERN FRINGE OF SNOWDONIA

Gentler but very varied scenery here, with magnificent beaches, a majestic castle at Harlech, the fantasy Italianate village of Portmeirion near Porthmadog, and plenty of varied walks. The scenic rail line from Shrewsbury traverses this area (6 per day, only 3 Sun), as does the wonderful Ffestiniog narrow-gauge line. There are a few buses a day between all these places.

Hostels
Porthmadog is nothing special but a good base (1 bus a day from London, 1 from NE England; 4 local buses per day incl Sun to the mountains). Unfortunately the former hostel Snowdon Lodge is now only open to groups.

There is a new bunkhouse, part of an outdoor centre, in a valley 10 km from Porthmadog, but not easy to reach by public transport (infrequent buses Pothmadog-Golyn, then 2km walk):

CWM PENNANT Hostel (near Golan)


Tel: 01766-530888

Email: info + AT + cwmpennanthostel.com

Facilities: 55 beds. Dorm bed £18 (2010) incl breakfast. Large lounge with DVDs. No kitchen..

 
 

Criccieth, a small town with castle and beach, has a small budget guest house at 11 Marine Terrace. Near Criccieth is a bunkhouse on a campsite:

STONE Barn (near Criccieth)

Address: Tyddyn Morthwyl
Tel: 01766-522115

Facilities: One common room/dorm w sleeping platform, small TV, separate-sex washrooms in separate building, low-cost.

UK Trail opinions: Cosy and very sociable, not new furnishings.

Inland from Harlech is an area of open country with wide vistas of hills, a lake and a closed nuclear power station. The village of Trawsfynydd lies here, and in the centre of the village you can stay at:

LLYS EDNOWAIN Hostel (Trawsfynydd)


Tel: 01766-770324

Email: llysednowain + AT + btconnect.com

Facilities: Equipped kitchen/dining w TV/video & internet. Bike store, laundry.

UK Trail opinions: In centre of village, amidst open country.

LLEYN PENINSULA

Lleyn Peninsula

Nefyn on Lleyn Peninsula, seen from Yr Eifl

Lleyn is good for easy car or bike touring, with lots of walking tracks, moorland walking, good beaches and widespread views. You can have a real relaxing time here, or take part in various outdoor activities from horse riding to surfing. There is a bunkhouse deep in the countryside, which hires bikes and runs Hovercraft courses (Train to Pwllheli then 3 buses per day, none Sun):

SGUBOR UNOS Bunkhouse (near Abersoch)

Address: Tanrallt Farm, Llangian
Tel: 01758-713527

Facilities: Bunkhouse w small dorms, homely atmos, sociable kitchen/common room (no TV or clock), Welsh-speaking farm, bike hire, outdoor activities.

Visit HOSTEL WEB SITE!

Or you can stay in the hostel in Caernarfon and visit the area for the day by bus, but check the times first.


ANGLESEY

You will see the two Menai Bridges as you cross the strait. You could take a day trip here from Bangor or Caernarvon, but don't do this in preference to Snowdonia unless the weather in the mountains is vile. Anglesey has some lovely beaches in the south, but otherwise there is nothing to stop here for, and you usually see its flattish pastoral country as you speed through by train or road on the way to Holyhead and the boat to Ireland (about 6 boats per day).

Holyhead is not very impressive, and the countryside around is pleasant but unexciting. If sailings are disrupted by severe weather and you are forced to stay the night, there is a modest hotel 300 metres from the shipping office, and several b&b's about a mile away at the sea end of town.

There is a new YHA hostel just outside Holyhead, 3 km from the rail station and ferry terminal. This could be a useful stop on your journey, but you need to book ahead. We do not yet know whether it qualifies for our listing.

ANGLESEY YHA (nr Holyhead)

Address: Porthdafarch Rd, Holyhead
Tel: 01407-769351

Email: info + AT + angleseyoutdoors.com

Facilities: Is also an outdoor activity centre.

Reviewers' comments: A reviewer says: Attractive interior, friendly & fun atmosphere, gorgeous location. 30 minute pleasant country walk from train and ferry station. But beds uncomfortable, and breakfast not early enough.














RATINGS

Recent Ratings from Hostelbookers and other sites ('fun factor' if less than 60%)

90LLANDUDNO Hostel
81CONWY YHA
85BANGOR YHA
91TOTTERS Hostel
83BRYN GWYNANT YHA
87LLYS EDNOWAIN Hostel

RATINGS















RATINGS

Recent Ratings from Hostelbookers and other sites ('fun factor' if less than 60%)

90LLANDUDNO Hostel
81CONWY YHA
85BANGOR YHA
91TOTTERS Hostel
83BRYN GWYNANT YHA
87LLYS EDNOWAIN Hostel

RATINGS















RATINGS

Recent Ratings from Hostelbookers and other sites ('fun factor' if less than 60%)

90LLANDUDNO Hostel
81CONWY YHA
85BANGOR YHA
91TOTTERS Hostel
83BRYN GWYNANT YHA
87LLYS EDNOWAIN Hostel

RATINGS