After what feels like a lifetime England is finally opening up again to travel across UK borders. So, while international travel is still off the cards, or restricted to a very small and unrealistic list of destinations, we decided it was time to go on a staycation to North Wales. Not only does the Welsh countryside offer beautiful scenery, outdoor adventures and unspoiled views, it is also a wonderful destination for you and your pup. It was the perfect escape from the City of London, as well as the perfect place to let Chester, Natalie’s youngest French Bulldog explore.
Now you may ask why we choose to go to North Wales in the sunshine, rather than sunning ourselves on a beach in the south of England, or even pick a city break in the delights of Bath with Chester. The truth is North Wales has an amazing array of walks and hikes that are perfect for a little pup with ridiculous amounts of energy!
So, if you’re looking for a staycation with your four-legged friend then look no further, North Wales can provide everything you need from full day adventures and delicious food to help you fuel up and or recover from your days exploring. Snowdonia in particular is also known as the ‘adventure capital of the UK‘… need we say more.
To help you start planning your North Wales adventure we’ve created a quick dog-friendly guide to help you know where to stay, what to do and see and where to eat.
Where to stay
In North Wales we were lucky enough to be invited to stay at Dog Friendly Hotel, The West Arms in Llanarmon Dyffryn-Ceiriog. The West Arms is an authentic, local hotel off the beaten track when it comes to exploring North Wales, while it has recently been renovated, it still holds the charm and character from the original 15th-century country hotel.
The West Arms is a boutique hotel that has sixteen rooms to choose from, not only that but it also has a restaurant and bar, two private dining rooms and a great outdoor space and beer garden to eat and drink in the sunshine. The atmosphere is brilliant as both tourists and locals alike enjoy the space and delicious dinners, so if you’re looking for local recommendations then there’s no better place to ask the right people.
The hotel, run by Nicky and Mark Williamson, welcomes dogs of all ages and sizes. Chester was a welcome as we were! We took his bed, food and bowl and he had everything he needed for the trip. He was allowed to stay in the room with us, he was able to join us for dinner and he was also able to make friends with the locals, as well as Nicky and Mark’s dogs who stay at the hotel. He was a pampered pup that’s for sure!
It was an absolute dream while we were in North Wales, offering a great location for everywhere we wanted to explore on our trip, including Snowdonia National Park, Bala Lake and Llangollen. Although, if hiking up Snowdon isn’t something you fancy there are lots of smaller, less crowded hiking trails on the The West Arms’ doorstep. All you need to do it ask Nicky and Mark where to begin and they’re more than happy to help!
What to do and see
Climb Mount Snowdon
Drive from The West Arms: 1hr 45min
Now, you’re probably wondering how on earth Chester, a little French Bulldog was able to climb Mount Snowdon, the highest peak in Wales. But, as mentioned earlier this little Frenchie has incredible amounts of energy! Plus, we opted for the easiest path, Llanberis Path.
As Llanberis Path is the easiest, it is also the most popular, but it is the best path for pups. It isn’t too steep and takes around five to seven hours to complete both ways. We managed to complete it bang in the middle at six hours with Chester pulling us along by the end of it! The Llanberis Path was an amazing adventure, the views are beautiful – when the mountain isn’t covered in cloud that is – and reaching the top really feels like such an achievement. However, be wary as once we reached the top we had to wait around 30-minutes in the freezing cold to top the summit – totally worth it though!
We spent our six hours hiking taking in the incredible views, stopping off for many photo opportunities and also grabbing a picnic on the way back down. It was a truly wonderful experience to explore the natural beauty of Wales and introduce your pup to the great outdoors. Plus, the carpark is right at the beginning of the path and isn’t too far away from the Snowdon Mountain Railway toilets.
Top Tip: Prepare for every type of weather!
While hiking Mount Snowdon we came across every type of weather, from clear skies and blazing sunshine – so much so we had to whack the factor 30 suncream out – to cloud, bitterly cloud temperates and harsh winds. Therefore, it is vital to bring and wear layers that you can easily put on and take off during your hike.
Proper walking shoes are also a must when it comes to hiking Mount Snowdon. Most of the terrain consists of loose rocks, so while this is fine going up, coming back down can be a little more slippery.
Explore Snowdonia National Park
Drive from The West Arms: 1hr 45min
Snowdonia National Park isn’t limited to Mount Snowdon, while it is the main attraction the rest of the 823 square miles holds the most beautiful valleys. The park actually consists of 13 other peaks to hike too, which is perfect if you’re looking something slightly more off the beaten track, or perhaps you’ve already climbed Mount Snowdon and are looking for a new challenge.
Either way Snowdonia National Park has lots to offer. Even driving around the park allows you to see the most incredible views and scenery. Not to mention all the local wildlife you come across, however, if travelling with your pup please make sure they’re kept on a lead to keep the local animals safe.
Snowdonia National Park also isn’t limited to only walking and hikes; the park offers the Snowdon Mountain Railway, Dolgoch Falls and Plas Tan y Bwlch Gardens.
Discover Pistyll Rhaeadr
Drive from The West Arms: 30min
If we’re completely honest we hadn’t heard about the waterfall Pistyll Rhaeadr before our trip to North Wales. Luckily, over a glass of wine with The West Arms’ owner Nicky she mentioned it would be a great stop off on the way back from Snowdonia National Park… and boy was she right.
Pistyll Rhaeadr is an enchanting waterfall in the Berwyn Mountains. It has two hiking options, one to the bottom of the waterfall and one to the top. Now, while we’re sure the view from the top of the waterfall is absolutely breathtaking, our legs couldn’t face another uphill hike after summiting Snowdon. So, we opted to go for the bottom of the waterfall, which is about 10-minutes away from the car park and still offered the same excitement of discovering a hidden waterfall.
The waterfall is Britain’s tallest single-drop waterfall and it is beautiful, it was the perfect place to relax and calm down after the excitement of climbing Snowdon. We sat, relaxed and watched as Chester played in the water, rightly cooling himself off after his busy day of hiking.
Kayak at Bala Lake
Drive from The West Arms: 1hr
Natalie and I can never resit an opportunity to take her kayak and explore the open water, and in North Wales, Bala Lake was the perfect opportunity for this kind of adventure. Bala Lake is a huge freshwater glacial lake and was one of our favourite experiences in North Wales.
We drove over to Bala Lake in the morning, parking at Llangower Station Car Park (LL23 7BY) and blew up the kayak before exploring the water with Chester in tow and relaxing on the beach. It is a popular place for families and friends alike to swim in the water, soak up the sunshine and picnic on the shore. While we only spent a morning here you could easily spend the whole day laying on the shore and swimming in the lake. It is absolutely beautiful and the perfect place for water sports or some leisurely swimming at the many different entry points around the shoreline.
Drive from The West Arms: 30min
If you’re looking to explore some of the local towns while you’re in North Wales then we would suggest an afternoon trip to Llangollen, a small town based on the River Dee. Llangollen has lots of cute cafes, restaurants by the river, boutique vintage and antique shops, not to mentioned the delicious local ice cream. The main attraction is Llangollen Bridge, one of the seven wonders of Wales and is a Grade I listed building.
Llangollen is also a great place to stop off for a bite to eat. On our visit we went to the Cottage Tearoom & Bistro for some hearty food of jacket potatoes and steak baguettes, it has a cute outside dining area which is perfect for your four-legged friend. Nicky and Mark also recommended The Three Eagles and The Corn Mill, although both were fully book on our trip so make sure you book in advance.
Top Tip: When dining at The Corn Mill ask for an outside table right by the river!
Where to eat and drink
The West Arms
Staying at The West Arms in North Wales comes with many perks, and at the top of the ‘perk list’ we would have to say the food. We ate at The West Arms on the first night of our trip, starting off with a glass of red wine by the fire while reading our books, followed by a delicious three-course meal prepared on-site. Plus, Chester was able to bring his bed and join us under the dinner table.
One brilliant aspect of The West Arms’ menu is that all the food comes from farms within a one-mile radius of the hotel, meaning it is fresh daily, locally sourced and the menu varies night to night. Even better the vegetables are grown in the Chef’s own garden. Even, even better is that the local farmers who sell the meat to the hotel also come for evening drinks in the bar.
We were spoilt for choice when looking at the menu for the evening we were staying. In the end we opted to start with Grilled Halloumi with Beetroot, grown in the Chef’s garden, and the Charcuterie Meats board which comes with the amazing Black Olive Tapenade. For mains we wanted to try some of the local produce, Natalie went for the Fresh Egg Linguine with Serano Ham, Asparagus and Chive Cream, while I ordered the Home-Made Welsh Mountain Lamb Burger with Red Slaw and Cucumber and Mint Raita.
Finally, as you know us, we could not say no to dessert and boy did The West Arms have some great options. Sticking with the theme of locally sourced foods we had the Summer Fruit Eton Mess and Dark Chocolate and Caramel Torte which both come with local Strawberries. We have to say after eating dinner at The West Arms we were fully satisfied and rolled to our beds with bellies full of good food and wine – luckily we didn’t have far to go.
In the morning The West Arms hosts a wonderful breakfast of a full, good quality ‘Welsh’ fry up with 1-mile produce to fuel you and give you enough energy for your adventures around the North Wales scenery.
The Hand is a local pub opposite The West Arms, and on our second night after hiking Snowdon all we wanted was some good old pub food and a glass of wine to celebrate the days achievements. Again, Chester was able to join us under the table, although on this particular evening he was too tired to move from his bed, so we carried him to the pub in it.
The Hand fit the bill when it came to hearty pub food and good wine. We both ordered pies – one Steak and Ale pie with gravy and mash, and one Chicken pie with leek sauce and mash. We have to say both were exactly what we were looking for and filled our hungry bellies with warmth. Lastly, yet again we were unable to say no to dessert. So, not long after two Sticky Toffee Puddings with Caramel Sauce came our way.
Dog Friendly Hotels
We love to travel with Natalie’s French Bulldogs Gus and Chester, but we often find it hard to find hotels around the U.K who are willing to host our four legged friends. Therefore, we set out to discover the best Dog Friendly Hotels around the U.K. Hotels who not only allow you to bring your pooch, but also cater for them and make them feel welcome.