The fairytale North Wales villages named among ‘greatest’ in Britain

Against the backdrop of Aberffraw's pastel-coloured houses, horse riders cool off in Afon Ffraw, the tidal river that runs past the village to the beach, Traeth Mawr, and the sea
-Credit: (Image: Phil Taylor)


Two picturesque villages in North Wales have been named among the “greatest” in Britain. They have been included in a list of the country’s 30 best villages in 2024 compiled by The Telegraph.

Although most of them are in England, there are four in Wales and just three in Scotland. The publication said the shortlist prioritised beauty and authenticity, emphasising places not overrun by tourists, North Wales Live reports.

Introducing its selection, The Telegraph said: “Britain has no shortage of eye-catching villages, but a combination of good looks, convenience for day trippers and a few influential endorsements can be enough to turn what was once a peaceful retreat into an overtourism battleground inundated with selfie stick-wielding tourists from April till October.

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“Fortunately, there are still plenty of beautiful but uncrowded British villages that do retain their authentic character, where medieval pubs and churches remain the beating heart of the community, and where welcoming shopkeepers stock treats from local producers.”

The four Welsh villages are divided into north and south. Representing South Wales are Solva, Pembrokeshire, with its “ice-cream pastels” and “fjord-like harbour”, and Laugharne on the River Taf in Carmarthenshire, host to a castle ruin, old walls and reminders of poet Dylan Thomas.

Flying the flag for North Wales were Aberffraw on Anglesey and Beddgelert in Gwynedd. Below is what The Telegraph had to say about them.

Aberffraw, Anglesey

The Telegraph said Wales is a county full of 'seaside lovelies' - but some stand out more than others, such as Aberffraw on Anglesey
The single-span stone bridge over the Afon Ffraw at Aberffraw, Anglesey, was built in 1731 by Sir Arthur Owen. Now a scheduled ancient monument, it can be crossed on foot but not by vehicles. -Credit:Phil Taylor

The Telegraph said: “Looking at dinky, sleepy Aberffraw on Anglesey’s southwest coast, you’d never guess it was the chief seat of the Princes of Gwynedd in the Middle Ages – a legacy still celebrated in its scallop-shaped biscuits.

“Nowadays, the village is a huddle of pretty stone and pastel-painted cottages peeking above the tidal waters of the River Ffraw. With the first glimmer of sun, you’ll race with childlike joy over wind-whipped dunes to its gorgeous sweep of powdery sand, Traeth Mawr.

“Views stretch across the Irish Sea to the glowering mountains of Snowdonia and the Llŷn Peninsula. If you fancy a slightly longer ramble, hook onto the coast path, which passes a Bronze Age burial cairn en route to the cove of Porth Cwyfan. Here medieval St Cwyfan’s Church sits on a rugged little island that gets completely cut off at high tide.”

Recommendations

To stay in Aberffraw, The Telegraph recommends Capel Seion, a Grade II-listed converted chapel. For eating out, it suggested a trip up the coast to Oyster Catcher, a glass-fronted, beach-facing restaurant in Rhosneigr that offers sustainably fished and farmed produce.

And for a day out, the paper suggests heading to the island’s southernmost tip. Traeth Llanddwyn, it says, is an “uplifting three-and-a-half-mile beach, fringed by dune and Corsican pine. From there you can walk out to Ynys Llanddwyn at low tide.”

Beddgelert, Gwynedd

Ancient St Mary's church in Beddgelert
St Mary's church, Beddgelert, Gwynedd. -Credit:Tony Harnett

The Telegraph said: “Nestled deep in the heart of Snowdonia’s wildest mountains, riverside Beddgelert is a heart-warming glimpse of a bygone era, with its sprinkling of stone cottages, humpback bridge, pubs with roaring fires and singing locals, and a highland railway puffing on by. In summer everything blooms, while in winter chimney smoke hangs in the air.

“The village’s quirkiest feature is a statue of a famous hound. Myth has it Beddgelert (“Gelert’s grave”) was named after Prince Llywelyn the Great’s dog, though in reality a local landlord made the whole thing up a couple of centuries ago to boost tourism.

“At any time of year, this is a cracking base for chucking on boots to hit trails wiggling up into gnarly mountains. Warm up with a four-hour circular walk, ticking off the high moors of Grib Ddu, glacial Llyn Dinas lake and the Aberglaslyn Pass, a narrow gorge where the boulder-smashing Glaslyn River thunders past cliffs and lichen-wisped forests.”

In 2023 Beddgelert was named one of the 30 most unspoilt villages in Britain. It's described as Eryri's 'loveliest' - you can find out why here.

Recommendations

For somewhere to stay in Beddgelert, The Telegraph recommended Plas Tan y Graig, an “elegant Victorian house”. This, it said, has “river and Aberglaslyn views, a garden terrace, and fill-your-boots breakfasts playing up local produce”.

For refuelling after a day’s hiking, an “unfussy meal” at the Saracens Head is ideal, said the paper, adding: “Go for a pint of Faithful Gelert and pub grub faves. Kids, muddy boots and dogs are welcome.”

Best day out is, inevitably, “Snowdon” (Yr Wyddfa). The Telegraph suggests using the nearby Rhyd Ddu Path as it is a “tremendously beautiful (and surprisingly quiet) seven-mile stomp up to the 1,085m summit”.

The Telegraph’s 30 ‘greatest villages’ in Britain

  • Saltaire, West Yorkshire

  • Hutton-le-Hole, North Yorkshire

  • Dent, Cumbria

  • Alnmouth, Northumberland

  • Cartmel, Cumbria

  • Mells, Somerset

  • Cranborne, Dorset

  • Lustleigh, Devon

  • Shaldon, Devon

  • Lizard, Cornwall

  • Laxfield, Suffolk

  • Great Massingham, Norfolk

  • Wing, Rutland

  • Ombersley, Worcestershire

  • Broadway, Worcestershire

  • Wootton, Oxfordshire

  • Alfriston, East Sussex

  • Ditchling, East Sussex

  • Bosham, West Sussex

  • Dedham, Essex

  • Chilham, Kent

  • Hambleden, Buckinghamshire

  • Sonning, Berkshire

  • Solva, Pembrokeshire

  • Laugharne, Carmarthenshire

  • Aberffraw, Anglesey

  • Beddgelert, Gwynedd

  • Tobermory, Isle of Mull

  • Inverie, Highland

  • St Monans, Fife

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