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Path leading through a a space in a an ancient stone wall

The Pilgrims Way North Wales: Explore Ancient Trails

The Pilgrims Way North Wales: Explore Ancient Trails

The Pilgrims Way spans over 130 miles, inviting walkers to explore tiny stone churches nestled amidst the hills, providing shelter and respite just as they did in ancient times. Experience the rejuvenating power of pilgrimage – modern day pilgrims describe it as a time to reset, reflect and reconnect with nature.

Embark on a journey through North Wales, where centuries of history and natural beauty await along the Pilgrim’s Way, stretching from Basingwerk Abbey to Bardsey Island, where pilgrims have found solace for over a millennium.

Follow in the footsteps of St Cadfan, who established a Christian community on Bardsey 1,500 years ago and experience the enduring sense of sacredness that still draws pilgrims today, connecting ancient churches dedicated to saints of the 6th century which offer a glimpse into the region’s rich spiritual heritage.

Gronant Dunes at sunset
Gronant Dunes at Llanasa © Hawlfraint y Goron © Crown copyright 2024 Cymru Wales

Start your journey at Basingwerk Abbey, once a haven for medieval pilgrims en route to Holywell. From there, traverse woodlands, cross rivers and ascend mountains, encountering picturesque villages and beautiful coastal views along the way.

Encounter ancient relics like the Maen Achwyfan cross and stone circles in the Conwy valley, prompting contemplation of life’s mysteries. As you journey, immerse yourself in the beauty of the Welsh landscape, from rolling hills to majestic waterfalls and then reach the pinnacle of your pilgrimage with a voyage to Bardsey Island, where the tranquil shores offer a sense of peace that lingers long after your return home.

Whether you walk the entire route in two weeks or explore it one day at a time, the Pilgrim’s Way promises a profound and unforgettable experience. Discover the hidden treasures of Wales, from its religious landmarks to its diverse wildlife, and let the beauty of the landscape inspire you on your journey of self-discovery.

Final Destination point of The Pilgrims Way - Bardsey Island at sunset with a pink sky
Bardsey Island © Hawlfraint y Goron © Crown copyright 2024 Cymru Wales

The Pilgrims Way Route

The Pilgrims Way is approximately 135 miles /218 km in length. These are “map miles” and do not take into account ascents and descents. I’ve split the route up into 13 sections, depending on your fitness levels you can break it down further or combine the sections so you can plan a walk of 10 to 17 days.

Basingwerk Abbey to Maen Achwyfan
Distance: 6.3 miles/10.2 kms

Maen Achwyfan to Llanasa
Distance: 5.1 miles/8.2 kms

Llanasa to Tremeirchion
Distance: 8.4 miles/13.5 kms

Tremeirchion to Llannefydd
Distance: 9.8 miles/15.7 kms

Llannefydd to Gwytherin
Distance: 11.5 miles/18.5 kms

Gwytherin to Llangernyw
Distance: 5.9 miles/9.5 kms

Llangernyw to Penmaenmawr (Stone Circles)
Distance: 11.9 miles/19.1 kms

Penmaenmawr (Stone Circles) to Bangor
Distance: 19.93 miles (32.08 km)

Bangor to Waunfawr
Distance: 15.1 miles/24.3 kms

Waunfawr to Clynnog Fawr
Distance: 11.3 miles/18.2 kms

Clynnog Fawr to Nefyn
Distance: 10.3 miles/16.6 kms

Nefyn to Aberdaron
Distance: 18.1 miles/29.1 kms

Aerial view of Aberdaron
Aberdaron © Hawlfraint y Goron © Crown copyright 2024 Cymru Wales

Planning your Pilgrims Way Walk

Accommodation and Backpacking

While wild camping is generally not permitted in Wales, the route offers various accommodation options, including B&Bs, guesthouses, hotels and hostels. You can typically find suitable lodging along the Pilgrims Way either or nearby. Many providers offer transportation to and from the route for a fee. You’ll only need to carry a packed lunch, snacks and drinks on your walk as most accommodations provide bedding and towels. Ensure your clothing is suitable for varying weather conditions, with waterproof gear and sturdy boots being essential.

Packing Essentials

Pack your belongings wisely, using waterproof covers or liners for your rucksack and separating clothing into waterproof bags. A rucksack with a capacity of 30 – 40 litres should do the job and remember, the larger the bag, the more you’re likely to carry.

Accommodations typically provide bedding, but bunkhouses and hostels may offer sleeping bags for a fee. Remember to bring toiletries, including a small first aid kit containing essentials like painkillers, plasters, antiseptic cream, and insect repellent. If you plan on doing the walk during the summer months make sure to pack some sun cream.

By considering these factors and planning ahead, you can ensure a safe and enjoyable journey along the North Wales Pilgrim’s Way.

The Pilgrims Way Map

Highlights of The Pilgrims Way

Discover fascinating sites along or near the Pilgrim’s Way, each offering a unique glimpse into Wales’ rich history. Many locations feature QR codes so you can access them on your phones when you visit.

Here’s a snapshot of some of the highlights:

Basingwerk Abbey: Explore the ruins of this 13th-century abbey.

Greenfield Heritage Park: Delve into the 18th-century industrial heritage of this site.

St. Winefride’s Well: Visit the 7th-century shrine at this sacred site.

Maen Achwyfan: Encounter the mysterious stone cross at this enigmatic location.

St. Asaph Cathedral: Marvel at this 11th-century cathedral’s architecture and history.

Llansannan: Immerse yourself in the vibrant Welsh village atmosphere.

Hafodunos: Admire the hall designed by Sir George Gilbert Scott and discover sculptures along the Pilgrim’s Way.

Llangernyw: Visit the parish church housing Wales’ oldest yew tree.

Rowen: Explore the picturesque village nestled in the Conwy Valley.

Stone Circles at Cefn Coch Penmaenmawr: Discover ancient stone circles overlooking Penmaenmawr.

Bangor Cathedral: Pay homage to St Deiniol at this historic cathedral.

Llanberis: Experience outdoor adventures in this former slate village.

Bardsey Island: Conclude your journey at this mystical island with a rich spiritual history.

St Asaph Cathedral
St Asaph Cathedral © Hawlfraint y Goron © Crown copyright 2024 Cymru Wales

Taking A Break

As the Pilgrim’s Way winds through remote areas, planning a day off requires a bit of thought due to limited transport options in some places.

Here are some suggestions for you to relax and explore:

Gwytherin: Visit the village where St Winefride resided, steeped in legend and pilgrimage traditions. Explore ancient sites like Penbryn Chapel and immerse yourself in the area’s mystical atmosphere.

Eglwysbach and Rowen: Relax in the picturesque Conwy Valley, with opportunities for leisurely walks and exploring charming villages. Nearby attractions include Conwy’s medieval walls, Bettws y Coed’s outdoor adventures and Bodnant Gardens.

Penmaenmawr, Llanfairfechan and Abergwyngregin: Take a day to stroll along the coast, visit nature reserves, or explore nearby towns like Llandudno. Enjoy the scenic beauty and diverse attractions of this coastal stretch.

Bangor: Discover the city’s historic cathedral and vibrant university scene. Explore nearby landmarks like Penrhyn Castle and Plas Newydd, or venture to Caernarfon Castle via regular bus services.

Llanberis: Ascend Snowdon or explore the Slate Museum and Electric Mountain. Enjoy outdoor activities in the National Park or visit nearby towns like Betws y Coed and Capel Curig.

Waunfawr: Experience the Welsh Highland Railway or embark on scenic walks. Explore nearby attractions like Caernarfon and Porthmadog, accessible via regular bus services.

Penygroes: Discover a former slate quarry village with its own vineyard. Take circular walks exploring quarry paths or venture to nearby towns like Caernarfon and Criccieth.

Clynnog Fawr and Trefor: Explore prehistoric settlements and enjoy scenic walks. Use Trefor as a base to explore nearby attractions like Tre’r Castell and the Llŷn Peninsula.

Nefyn, Morfa Nefyn and Tudweiliog: Use these towns as a gateway to explore the Llŷn Peninsula’s natural beauty and historic sites, including the Llŷn Pilgrims Trail.

Aberdaron: Relax on the beach or hike around the headland for stunning views. Explore local attractions like Becws Islyn bakery, Porth y Swnt museum, and St Hywyn’s church.

The ruins of Basingwerk Abbey
Basingwerk Abbey © Hawlfraint y Goron © Crown copyright 2024 Cymru Wales

Discover the Heart of North Wales

Experience the essence of North Wales along The Pilgrims Way. From quaint villages to historic landmarks, this journey offers a glimpse into the region’s captivating heritage. Start your adventure and embrace the simplicity and beauty of North Wales at every turn.