6 Historic Towns In North Wales You Should Visit Now

As 2022 looks to be the year of the staycation yet again, I thought it would be useful to write a post about the beautiful historic towns in North Wales you could visit for a long weekend or staycation.

Because lets face it, there’s no better way to spend a weekend than exploring a new historic town, finding great places to eat and making memories is there? It’s what I spend a lot of my weekends doing!

North Wales is a popular place to visit in Wales. People are drawn to the area by its famous castles, but there are also many historic towns where you can easily spend a whole day exploring. Here’s the top six historic towns you should visit in North Wales;



Beaumaris

Beaumaris (meaning ‘fair marsh’) is a GREAT town for history lovers – its the perfect mix of medieval, Georgian and Victorian architecture.

The jewel in the crown is undoubtedly the UNESCO World Heritage Site that is Beaumaris Castle. Perfectly concentric, it is also unfinished but still well worth a visit.

But there is SO much more to check out besides. After visiting the castle, why not check out Beaumaris Courthouse, one of the oldest courthouses in Britain? Or what about Beaumaris Gaol, a Victorian prison complete with original treadwheel? Or if you’re into church crawling like I am, visit St Mary and St Nicholas Church where you will the stone coffin of Princess Joan (or Siwan as we call her in Wales). She was the illegitimate daughter of King John and the wife of Llywelyn The Great, Prince of Gwynedd.

Conwy

If you only have time to visit one historic town in North Wales, make it Conwy.

To start with Conwy is the most complete medieval walled town in Britain. The walls are 30 ft high and, when considered with the impressive Conwy Castle, gives visitors a very good idea as to how medieval walled towns were constructed and laid out.

But there is so much more to Conwy than just the castle and walls. Visit Aberconwy House, the oldest townhouse in Wales, dating from around 1300. Nearby you will find Plas Mawr, one of the finest Elizabethan townhouses in Britain. If you’re after something a but more down to earth visit the quayside, where you can find the smallest house in Britain, measuring only 9ft high and 6ft wide.

Before you leave town don’t miss the Conwy Suspension Bridge, built by Thomas Telford.

Denbigh

In my Welsh History Travel Guide, I called Denbigh the most overlooked historic town in Wales – and I stand by my statement!

Much of the original medieval street pattern and some of the town wall still stands, as well as one of the original gates – but you don’t have to navigate all the tourists like you do in Conwy in the summer. Denbigh Castle, built by Edward I, is impressive and where you should start your visit. In the 16th Century Elizabeth I gifted the castle to her favourite Robert Dudley, Earl of Leicester. He started the half-finished Leicester’s Church next door.

In fact, if you like churches Denbigh is for you. There are also the remains of Denbigh Friary, the only Carmelite house in Wales, and the 15th Century parish church St Marcella’s is home to some great memorials. There’s one for Humphrey Llwyd, a cartographer who produced the first ever printed map of Wales.

TOP TIP: Denbigh always goes all out for the annual Open Doors heritage festival held mid-September every year. A lot of sites are free to visit this weekend, and there are extra walks and events to enjoy. I really recommend visiting Denbigh for this specific festival!

Llanrwst

Another overlooked historic town which people often drive through without stopping, Llanrwst is a pretty, little market town in the Conwy valley.

Its most well-known for the picturesque Ty Hwnt i’r Bont tea room which is often featured on Instagram, and the nearby three-arched stone bridge, said to be built by Inigo Jones. But there is a lot more to be discovered in and around Llanrwst.

Start at the Parish Church of St Grwst in the middle of town, which is home to a stone coffin that reportedly belonged to Llywelyn The Great. Then check out the nearby almshouses before heading out of town to Gwydir Castle (open seasonally), a 16th Century Tudor courtyard house built for the powerful Wynn family. While there, ask for the key for nearby Gwydir Uchaf Chapel. This was the castle’s private chapel and inside you will find an extremely fine painted interior.

Ruthin

With over 800 years of history and set in the charming Vale of Clwyd, the county town of Ruthin is another overlooked gem of a town in North Wales, packed full of interesting historic buildings.

The jewel in the crown is Nantclwyd y Dre, the oldest dated timber town house in Wales.  It contains seven rooms which have been restored to represent various periods in the building’s history. After visiting here, I would recommend wondering the streets and seeing where it takes you, admiring the black and white timber buildings along the way. There really is no other town like it in Wales.

One of the other architectural highlights of Ruthin is The Myddleton Arms aka The Eyes of Ruthin. It earned this nickname on account of its seven dormer windows. Also look out for Maen Huail, a large stone block where legend says King Arthur himself beheaded a rival.

Like Beaumaris, Ruthin also has a gaol to visit. Ruthin Gaol is quite a unique attraction in that it is the only purpose-built Pentonville style prison open to the public as a heritage attraction.

TOP TIP – Looking for an historic place to spend the night? Try Ruthin Castle, a 19th C mansion built on the site of a 13th C castle. This was a hub of Edwardian society, where figures such as the future Edward VII and Lillie Langtrey spent the weekend, so you would be in good company.

Wrexham

Many people don’t think of Wrexham as an historical town, but take a second glance and you’ll uncover an interesting (and often industrial) history.

In the town itself you can visit the gorgeously Gothic church of St Giles, one of the largest medieval churches in Wales, or the great Wrexham Museum. It’s home to the official Welsh Football Collection – the largest collection relating to Welsh football in public ownership – and will be a home to a new official football museum for Wales.

If you venture a little further out of Wrexham, you can even visit an UNESCO World Heritage Site. Built by Thomas Telford, Pontcysyllte Aqueduct is the longest aqueduct in Britain and the first aqueduct in the world to use a cast iron trough.

National Trust member? Then check out stately home Erddig or Marcher fortress Chirk Castle.

TOP TIP – Looking for an historic place for lunch? Try the hall house-turned-thatched pub The Horse and Jockey in the middle of Wrexham, as featured in the book Historic Pubs of Wales.

All these historic towns in North Wales are well worth a visit, and are pack full of historical gems waiting to be discovered! Which one would you like to visit first? Let us know in the comments below!


Fancy learning about what other top historic towns you can visit in Wales? Then check out my Welsh History Travel Guide.

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