The Llŷn (also spelt Lleyn) Peninsula is the finger of land occupying the north-west of the Welsh mainland, and most of it is designated an Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty. Much of it is wild and remote in feel, and its rugged mountains and hills make for some of the most dramatic coastal backdrops in the country and some of the best beaches in Wales. But its coastline is varied, with everything from peaceful sheltered harbours to seemingly infinite stretches of dune-backed beaches and estuaries, attracting everyone from hardcore surfers to those who like to spend the day on the beach relaxing with a bar a few yards away. The Llŷn is also one of the most steadfast strongholds of the Welsh language, and a great place to gain an introduction to it if you haven’t encountered it before.
The following photographs show some of the best North Wales beaches from around the Llŷn coast, starting from Caernarfon in the north and heading anti-clockwise around the peninsula to Porthmadog and Portmeirion.
This west-facing sand and shingle sweep a few miles south of Caernarfon has a wild Welsh feel to it, backed by the nearby three peaks of Yr Eifl (often anglicised to ‘The Rivals’), the three peaks that dominate the coastline.
Aberdesach is almost the continuation of Dinas Dinlle, to its south and closer to Yr Eifl. A mixture of pebbles and sand, this stunning quiet beach nestles near the foot of the mountains, and the medieval pilgrims’ church at Clynnog Fawr.
Porth Dinllaen is a tiny beachside hamlet that was once considered as a location for a ferry port. It’s now only accessible via a footpath across a golf course, and you can reward yourself with a drink at the Ty Coch Inn, the pub that sits right next to the sand. The harbour is popular with sailors, and the view back up the coast to Yr Eifl is magnificent.
Penllech beach is a fairly remote mile-long strip of some of the whitest sand we’ve seen in Wales. We once stayed in the cottage at Porth Colmon, just beyond its southern end, for a week, and had the beach to ourselves most of the time.
This is one of the Llŷn’s real hidden gems, reached down a track through a farm. It’s a narrow cove sheltered cove with cliffs either side, opening out to amazing views down towards the end of the north coast of the Llŷn.
Whistling Sands (Porth Oer)
Named after the sound made by the sand underfoot, there are actually two beaches here, separated by a narrow rocky headland. It’s only a mile south of Porth Iago, and the two could be combined in a short but spectacular coast path walk.
This small village has been called the ‘Land’s End of North Wales’, and it does have a remote, isolated feel. It was also the departure point for pilgrims to Bardsey Island, three miles away. It enjoys a glorious setting right next to the village, overlooked by the medieval St Hywyn’s Church, and the terrace of the Tŷ Newydd Hotel a few doors down is a great place to enjoy a drink and breathe in that sea air.
Another beautiful quiet secluded beach, tucked away at the bottom of cliffs two miles from Aberdaron. There’s a small car park at the top of the hill, with stepped access down from there. It’s very popular spot for climbing and bouldering.
Also known as Hell’s Mouth, this long south-west-facing beach draws surfers from afar, drawn to big waves propelled in by the prevailing south-westerlies. It’s hidden down a labyrinth of lanes behind a vast warren of sand dunes. It also looks amazing from the coast path on the hills at either end.
It’s only a short drive up and down winding lanes from the eastern end of Porth Neigwl, but sheltered Abersoch seems a world away. The main beach to the south of the village is easily accessible, with outstanding views to Snowdonia and a row of higgledy-piggledy brightly painted beach huts completes a lovely scene. By summer day it’s a very popular family beach with many people taking their boats out for a ride in the bay. There is also a wealth of Abersoch accommodation to choose from.
One of our favourite beaches anywhere, I fell in love with this place as a child but every time I go back it seems to get better. It’s owned and operated by the National Trust, at the foot of a narrow lane, its waters normally calm in the lee of a large headland, a stream trickling down to the beach, below a lovely café and bar right next to the sands. A row of brightly painted beach huts adds to the idyll, as do the views to the mountains. Those in need of a break from all this lying around on the sand can enjoy the short invigorating climb to the top of the headland, Mynydd Tir-y-cwmwd, to share the view with the Tin Man sculpture.
There are actually two beaches at Criccieth (spelt Cricieth in Welsh), one either side of its spectacularly sited castle. If you want to relax on a beach in Wales soaking in the view of a castle, this pretty resort is the place to do it. Both East and west beaches are a mixture of sand and pebbles – the lower the tide, the more the sand you’ll find. The ice cream from Cadwalader’s, just below the castle, tops it off perfectly. We also recommend a visit to the castle for the tremendous views back to the mountains of Snowdonia.
After the vast expanse of Black Rock Sands (Morfa Bychan), we approach Porthmadog and the end (or beginning) of the Llŷn Peninsula. The village of Borth-y-Gest, less than a mile from the centre of Porthmadog, makes for a wonderful discovery, with its tiny but beautiful little harbour, views to the mountains and walks along the Glaslyn estuary, past this gorgeous little beach.
Traeth Bach, Portmeirion
Traeth Bach means ‘little beach’, and at low tide, this is not what it says on the tin. The Italianate fantasy village of Portmeirion enjoys a fantastic setting on the Dwyryd estuary. At high tide the water laps against the shore beneath the renowned hotel, but when the tide goes out, you can enjoy a long walk along the open sands.