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Posted on 25/01/2017 by David

With winding mountain roads as well as variety of coastal cruisers, North Wales is a great place to enjoy a long, leisurely Sunday drive.

You’ll find stunning scenery around every corner as well as plenty of great attractions to explore. So, as 2017 is the Year of Legends here in Wales, why not make some time to explore Snowdonia’s legendary landscape and fascinating history, on a mini road trip adventure?

A legendary drive - Abergele to Llanrwst on the A548

Points of interest: St Digain’s Church - Gwydir Castle
Stop for lunch: the Old Stag - the Eagles Hotel

This winding country road between Llanrwst and Abergele takes you through wooded valleys and across hills, immersing you in idyllic countryside views along the way.

St Digain’s Church in Llangernyw is home to an ancient Yew tree, which, at over 4000 years old, is one of the oldest living things on the planet today.

The Church itself dates back to the 13th century, although it is thought the site was used as a place of worship long before this. Two stones stand in the grounds, both inscribed with crosses; these stones have been dated back to the dark ages and were likely to have been an ancient altar.

There have been many reports of spooky goings on at St. Digain’s Church in Llangernyw. One of the more famous stories is that of the Angelystor. Just next to the church there is a quirky little pub called the Old Stag, where you can get a bite to eat and a pint of real ale.

Continue on to the quaint market town of Llanrwst, stopping in at the Eagles Hotel if you haven't had lunch yet, then head over the bridge to find the remarkably beautiful Gwydir Castle. This wonderful example of a Tudor courtyard house was built around 1500.

It has links to some very interesting historic characters and is even associated with the famous Gunpowder Plot of 1605. There is plenty here to ignite your appetite for history. The castle is rumoured to be one of the most haunted buildings in Wales, so watch out for ghouls and ghosts!

Betws y coed forest view

Dramatic mountain scenery - Bangor to Betws y Coed on the A5

Points of interest: Penrhyn Castle - Cwm Idwal - Ugly House - Swallow Falls
Stop for lunch: Craig Y Dderwen Hotel - the Waterloo Hotel

The A5 is an historic road which was built to run stagecoaches from Holyhead to London. The striking scenery on this drive takes you on a journey back through time. You’ll see spectacular glacial valleys, expansive freshwater lakes, winding rivers and rushing waterfalls.

Start out from Bangor, where if you have time, a visit to Penrhyn Castle is a must. A tour of this neo-Norman castle gives you a fascinating insight into the lives of the Pennant family and their financial empire built on sugar plantations, slavery and slate mining.

If you’d prefer to get straight into the mountains, take the A5 south towards Betws y Coed. One of the first villages you’ll pass though is Bethesda, surrounded by the huge grey-blue slate piles of Penrhyn Quarry. Here you can see first-hand the slate mines that earned the Pennant family their fortune.

From Bethesda the road takes you into the incredible u-shaped Ogwen Valley, past Llyn Ogwen which sits below the looming peak that is Tryfan. From there, the landscape begins to open out. If you enjoy a spot of hillwalking, stop off at Ogwen Cottage and head up to Cwm Idwal nature reserve. There is a fairly accessible circular walk round a smaller glacial lake, tucked up at the end of the valley.

Once you are back on the road and you’ve passed through Capel Curig, you are on the final stretch towards Betws y Coed. Look out for the Ugly House on the left hand side of the road, shortly followed by Swallow Falls.

Once you are in Betws, there are plenty of shops, cafés and restaurants to find some refreshment. For a hearty roast dinner, pile your plate high with a delicious carvery at the Waterloo Hotel. Alternatively, the riverside views from the Craig y Dderwen Hotel provide the perfect setting for a relaxing afternoon tea.

Porthmadog Marina winter view

Classic Snowdonia - Porthmadog to Pen y Pass on the A498

Points of interest: Aberglaslyn Estuary - Welsh Highland Railway - Beddgelert - Llyn Gwynant
Stop for lunch: Hebog - Tanronnen Inn

Heading into the heart of Snowdonia from Porthmadog is the perfect way to soak up the incredible landscapes, culture and history of North Wales.

Porthmadog, rich in maritime history, was once a great seaport where Welsh slate was shipped out to locations all across the world. It is the ideal place to begin a road trip into the breath-taking mountain ranges of Snowdonia and gives you a real feel for the industrial heritage of the region.

Before you set off, take a stroll along the Cob and look out across the Aberglaslyn Estuary at that ‘signature’ Snowdonia landscape – you may even spot one of the Welsh Highland or Ffestiniog Railway steam engines heading up into the mountains.

When you are ready to set off, take the A498 from Porthmadog and head north-east. You’ll travel through the Aberglaslyn Pass, a narrow gorge of considerable beauty, before arriving in the perfectly picturesque village of Beddgelert.

Unspoilt, with a welcoming charm, Beddgelert is nestled beneath wooded vales and striking rocky slopes. The village is named after the sad legend of Gelert, the faithful hound of medieval prince, Llywellyn. Take a walk beside the river and look out for the stone in a nearby field which marks the resting place of 'Gelert'.

There are plenty of tearooms and a couple of great places to enjoy Sunday lunch in the village. Try the very cozy and traditional Tanronnen Inn, or perhaps Hebog which offers a more varied menu.

Once your appetite is satisfied, head on further to Llyn Gwynant which sits below the slopes of Snowdon. The winding road takes you up the pass where there are plenty of viewpoints to stop and take in the outstanding view back down the valley.

Images: © Crown copyright 2016 (Visit Wales)