Menai Bridge to Caernarfon

Spectacular bridges, a woodland walk along the beautiful Menai Strait takes you to one of the world’s greatest middle age castles

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Start and finish

Menai Bridge to Caernarfon

Distance

Multiple options for start and finish points mean this could be a route of anything between 2 miles / 3 kilometres and 11 miles / 18 kilometres.

Along the way

The route starts and finishes with some of the most iconic and awe-inspiring architectural marvels to be found in Wales, connected by a fantastic woodland walk along the banks of an official Area Of Outstanding Natural Beauty, the Menai Strait.

From Menai Bridge town square we head down Water Street to the Menai Strait and almost immediately the massive hulk of the Menai Suspension Bridge rises impressively in front of us. Walk right through one its huge arches – built high enough so that ships could sail underneath. Constructed by Thomas Telford, this bridge transformed the journey between London and Dublin, as well as the lives of local people when it opened in 1826.

Then we veer left down to the Belgian Promenade, built by Belgian refugees to thank the people of Menai Bridge for looking after them after they had fled from the German invasion in 1914. From here there are some fantastic views of the two bridges which cross the Menai Strait.
At the end of the promenade, we turn left to discover the pretty little fifteenth century island church of St Tysilio or turn right uphill through Coed Cyrnol nature reserve to Menai Bridge town where we can learn more about the history of the Menai and Britannia bridges by visiting the Menai Heritage museum.

Now we have a decision to make - on which side of the bridge should we cross? The left has views towards Bangor pier, Beaumaris and the Great Orme, while the right hand side looks towards the Britannia bridge and the woodlands that we will soon walk through.

Roaring currents and an island-house

On reaching the mainland turn immediately right along a drive through woodlands for half a mile to reach Treborth Botanic Gardens and turn right. From here we just follow the path through the woods with the Menai Strait always on our right-hand hide.

The very strong tidal currents here are called the Swellies and can be very dangerous with strong flows and whirlpools created by the difference in the height of the tide at both ends of the Strait. The structure of the two-centuries-old fish traps on Ynys Gorad Goch can still be seen today.

Glimpses through the woods of the Britannia Bridge gradually become more significant and soon we are walking under the second crossing of the Menai Straits. Built by Robert Stephenson and opened in 1850 to carry trains only, the bridge was rebuilt after a fire in the 1970s and is now the main route for cars, as well as trains, to and from Anglesey.

Through the woods

From here, the path along the Straits through the Glan Faenol woods is well marked and has occasional hides, benches and viewing platforms. The Faenol estate (also known as the Vaynol) has a fascinating history and at one point we also have a spectacular view of Plas Newydd on the opposite bank.

In a while we reach the outskirts of Y Felinheli. Passing through the marina, the Swellies café, La Marina or the Garddfon Inn here provide good opportunities for refreshments and a break.

From here we follow the beach road up the hill, veering right to take the tarmacked path on the former railway line all the way to Caernarfon along Lôn Las Menai, a shared route with cyclists.

Pass Caernarfon’s Doc Fictoria marina development and Galeri arts centre before reaching the town walls, a half-mile long security blanket that was an essential part of Edward I’s plan to complete his fortress town. We then follow the promenade, squeezed between the glorious Menai Straits on our right and the mighty town walls on our left.

Spectacular world-famous castle

As we turn the corner we almost stumble upon the spectacular Caernarfon Castle. Recognised worldwide as one the finest examples of medieval architecture, this fortress-palace is grouped with Edward I’s other castles at Conwy, Beaumaris and Harlech as a Unesco World Heritage Site. But for sheer scale and architectural drama Caernarfon stands alone.

The castle – which took 47 years to build, seven centuries ago - undoubtedly merits plenty of time to explore. It is also home to the Royal Welch Fusiliers Museum which tells the story of Wales’ oldest infantry regiment over more than three hundred years. The best view of the castle is to be had by crossing the footbridge over the Seiont. From here you can see it in its entirety in a fabulous riverside setting.

In its shadow we can also see the Cei Llechi regeneration project which has transformed the Harbour Office building and the derelict buildings behind it into spaces for local artisans and craft manufacturers. There is also an informative exhibition on the history of slate production in the area in the old Harbour Office.

If we still have the energy after a long walk, we have the option to discover a heritage site that’s much older than the castle. Walking behind Cei Llechi and past the shiny new terminus for the Welsh Highland Railway we take the footbridge over the train track and along a footpath. Crossing the main road, up some residential streets and within half a mile we discover Segontium Roman Fort.

Although much of its stone was plundered to build the castle, nearly two thousand years after it was constructed the remains of a shrine, a strongroom to keep the pay-chest, and the basilica where the commanding officer would issue orders and hold courts martial, can be clearly identified.

Walk highlights

Rhys Roberts, Wales Coast Path Officer, said: “Although quite lengthy, this is a mainly flat walk, much of it through woodlands along the banks of the beautiful Menai Straits. And it is bookended by two of Wales’ most iconic architectural gems.”

Need to know

There are no direct buses between Caernarfon and Menai Bridge, however there are frequent services from Caernarfon to Bangor. Most only require one change to reach Menai Bridge and normally take less than an hour. Or consider the option of using two cars. Gwynedd Council’s parking app may also be useful when planning a visit.

Car parking, shops, toilets, cafes and supermarkets are plentiful in Menai Bridge and Caernarfon.

Y Felinheli has public toilets on the sea front by the Garddfon Inn, a small selection of places to eat, and a convenience store a hundred yards or so off the path.

Map

Download the Menai Bridge to Caernarfon map (JPEG, 3.78MB)