1) Sunbathing and sand dune jumping on Shell Island
Shell Island (Mochras) is a peninsula west of Llanbedr in Snowdonia National Park which offers access to a six mile long stretch of sandy beach and some of the tallest sand dunes in Wales. Whilst it is primarily a camp site, day visitors can walk in for free or drive in for £7.50. Parking spots are meters away from the beach and dunes.
If you make the effort to walk five – ten minutes along the beach from the car you will find peaceful and secluded picnic spots in the dunes with pristine sand. The beach has a very gentle gradient overall, which makes it great for families.
Access to Shell Island is via a causeway across the estuary of the River Artro. This can be flooded at high tide, although it is due to be open all day this coming August bank holiday, with the possible exception of Monday evening.
I will work up a sweat before heading to the beach by getting up early and running via the Rhinogs to Llanbedr. This is a beautiful route through Bwlch Drws-Ardudwy between Rhinog Fawr and Rhinog Fach. The path then follows the Afon (river) Cwmnantcot, passing the Nantcol waterfalls and reaches Llanbedr from where I will hitch a lift to the beach. This route is partially described (back-to-front) here.
2) Cycling in Coed y Brenin forest
My significant other is not too keen on walking but he is very much a fan of cycling. We are planning to hire mountain bikes from Beics Brenin and to cycle the Dragon’s Back trail in Coed y Brenin forest.
We’re waiting for a clearish UK weekend weather forecast on Wetter Zentrale before pre-booking our bikes. Fingers crossed. Bike hire at Beics Brenin starts from £25 for a full day’s hire. It is best to pre-book your bike – we missed out at Easter since all the bikes had been fully booked.
Looking for some solitude may be difficult in central Snowdonia during summer but I have my eye on the Rhinogs traverse. At over 30km I don’t know if I’ll manage it in one day (and it seems plenty of people take two-three days) but it does look stunning, secluded and a good navigation challenge for my Mountain Leader training.
4) An underground adventure with Go Below
Having spent many school holidays camping in Snowdonia we have done all the usual underground tours of Snowdonia: Sygun Copper Mine, Llanfair Slate Caverns, Electic Mountain and Llewedd Slate Caverns. Go Below takes underground exploring to a whole new level, offering half and full day tours involving via ferrata, ziplines and abseils through a network of disused mine tunnels starting from £39 for children and £49 for adults. This is definitely on my wish list.
Zip World Caverns offers a similar experience in Blenau Ffestiniog at £60 per person.
5) Get lost in a Mediterranean village in North Wales
This beautiful Italian inspired village on the edge of the tidal estuary of Afon Dwyryd was designed by Sir Clough Williams-Ellis between 1925 and 1975. With extensive sculptured gardens and vibrant architecture, it makes a change from Wales’ grey mining towns. Portmeirion was also the filming location of cult 60s TV series The Prisoner in which an ex-spy is held captive in a mysterious village patrolled by ominous bouncing ‘Rover’ balloons and inhabited by seemingly content but lobotomised prisoners.
Entry is £11 for adults and £8 for children but is free for those with a Sunday Lunch reservation at the Hotel Portmeirion (3 courses for £24.95)
Here are a few other things to do which I have tried over the years and can recommend:
Camping at Llyn Gwynant
Camping in Beddgelert
Pete’s Eats cafe in Llanberis