North Wales’ beautiful Llŷn Peninsula has pretty seaside villages and offers boating, beaches and the best of British weather. Words: Lesley Gillilan
A crooked limb of land hanging off the coast of Snowdonia, the beautiful Llŷn Peninsula has a lot in common with Cornwall. The two places share the same independent nature and island mentality, a similar reputation for mild weather and long sandy beaches; they even share a history of mining and granite quarrying.
On a map, it actually looks a bit like Cornwall, but Llŷn (pronounced Lleen) – only 25 miles long – is a tiddler by comparison. Pwllheli, the ‘capital’, is the only proper town, and the peninsula is thoroughly and proudly Welsh (most of the locals speak the language). A range of mini Welsh mountains rises from its northern shore: a hike to the triple summits of Yr Eifl, the peninsula’s highest points, is rewarded by breathtaking views of the Irish Sea and across Cardigan Bay to the peaks of the Snowdonia National Park.
Below, fields of gentle farmland – dotted with Llŷn's own woolly breed of sheep – roll down to the peninsula’s fingertips where romantic Bardsey Island sits like a full-stop off wild, lonely Mynydd Mawr headland – Wales’s own Land’s End.
With the nearest motorway nearly two hours away it is, says local resident Jayne Edge, ‘a little bit remote’, but that doesn’t stop crowds of visitors piling into the pretty seaside villages in one of the sunniest places in Britain. They come mainly from Cheshire and the cities of the northwest, and they tend to head for Abersoch. The heart of the local tourist industry, Abersoch has it all: cliffs and coves, sandy beaches, a yacht marina, bars, bistros and boaty fashion shops. ‘The place comes alive in the summer,’ says Jayne. ‘Though some prefer the winter when it’s quieter.’
Jayne moved from Shropshire to Abersoch to join her husband Marco – an Anglo-Italian born in Pwllheli. And the couple now run Abersoch’s B&B and restaurant, the Venetia. They spend their time off on a beach, in a boat or exploring the peninsula: a drive up to Nefyn on the north coast (a highlight is the seaside hamlet of Porthdinllaen, only accessible on foot); or down to Aberdaron, at the foot of Llyn, with its humped-back bridge and seaside church (the cemetery is right on the beach). Snowdonia is on the doorstep. ‘For us, Llŷn is all about the sea and the scenery and being outdoors,’ says Jayne.
WHERE TO BUY
For its sandy beaches, laid-back holiday vibe and smart sea-view houses, Abersoch is the obvious choice. Llanbedrog, with its wild headland and quarry beach, is its quieter, more traditional neighbour. Pwllheli, the area’s workaday market town, has the convenience of local services (supermarkets, railway station, schools) and is generally cheaper: large, family-sized houses sell for around £200,000; small, terraced cottages for around £85,000. Escapists should head for out-of-the-way Aberdaron and its surrounding villages; or for a slice of real Wales and the great outdoors, explore Nefyn on the rugged north coast.
The peninsula is blessed with beaches, particularly around Abersoch. Head to the National Trust’s Tywyn y Fach for dunes, kayaking and dreamy views of St Tudwal’s islands, or to Llanbedrog for its sheltered sands and a line of photogenic beach huts. The Wales Coast Path offers some spectacular walks: try Aberdaron to the Whispering Sands at Porth Oer via the summit of Mynydd Mawr. There is excellent sailing out of Abersoch or Pwllheli (the latter’s marina is one of the finest in the North West), seaside golf at Morfa Nefyn and good surfing at Hell’s Mouth Bay. Great places to eat include the Ty Coch Inn, a north-coast fishermen’s pub right on Porthdinllaen beach and Italian-style Venetia in Abersoch. For more information, see visitwales.com
JOBS & COMMUTING
One of the most out-of-the-way places in the country, the peninsula is not ideal for commuters or job-seekers – there are opportunities in tourism, retailing or the public sector, but it helps to speak Welsh (the main language for around 80 per cent of the population). The only station is at Pwllheli; the end of the line for the Cambrian Coast Railway, which runs services to Machynlleth, Shrewsbury or Birmingham (change here for London Euston, which takes six and a half hours). Trains to nearby Porthmadog take 20 minutes. Caernarfon is 45 minutes by car. Liverpool, the nearest city and airport, is over two hours away.
Botwnnog (five miles inland from Abersoch) and Glan-y-Mor in Pwllheli are the area’s main secondary schools. Both are bilingual comprehensives, rated Good by Estyn (the Welsh equivalent of Ofsted).
The influx of non-Welsh-speaking buyers and second-home owners is a bone of contention among locals who, in some areas, have not only been priced out of the local housing market but also fear the dilution of their culture. Nothing can be done to check the second-homes market, but committed, full-time movers might consider learning a little Welsh.
PAY A VISIT
Plas Bodegroes bodegroes.co.uk
Chef Chris Chown and his wife Gunna, run this charming country ‘restaurant with rooms’, set in private grounds close to Pwllheli. The house is Georgian, Grade II-listed and beautifully decorated in keeping with its fine period features; the comfortable rooms are modern rustic; and the restaurant displays a passion for local produce. The cosy lounge and formal dining room have views of the hotel’s pretty gardens. Doubles from around £120 per night.
What Jayne likes about… The Llŷn Peninsula
Watching seals and dolphins in the bay off St Tudwal’s islands. ‘It’s lovely to see these creatures in their natural habitat.’ Jayne and Marco have their own boat, but Abersoch Angling runs wildlife trips in the fishing boat, Jenny II.
The Oriel Plas Glyn y Weddw or ‘Gallery in the Vale of The Widow’ in Llanbedrog is, says Jayne, a fantastic local asset. In a Grade II-listed, Victorian Gothic dower house, it offers exhibitions, arts events and a cafe. ‘The building is steeped in history and the setting is beautiful.’
A favourite walk is from Abersoch along the Wales Coast Path to the National Trust’s idyllic sandy beach at Port Ceiriad. ‘The views are amazing.’
CAN YOU AFFORD IT?
Average house prices: [April 2022]. Source: Rightmove
The singer, Duffy (or Amie Ann Duffy) spent much of her youth in Nefyn. Survival expert Bear Grylls is the owner of St Tudwal’s West island and its lighthouse. Sitcom writer Carla Lane owns uninhabited St Tudwal’s East.