Whatever your passions, whatever your age, here are the best things to do in Denbighshire and Flintshire. Where to start? The tranquil and secluded or the action-packed crowd pleasers? We have both in abundance.
Karting and climbing
Let’s take off in top gear with a visit to one of the longest running indoor karting centres in Europe at Sandycroft, Deeside. Apex Kart caters for complete beginners and seasoned petrol heads, corporate clients, families and juniors aged over eight. It has been running more than 25 years and in 2015 underwent a complete refurbishment to give it even more va-va-voom.
If that’s not enough of an adrenaline surge, head down the road to Pentre, Deeside, where The Boardroom Climbing provides a high point of any trip to Flintshire. The energetic and competitive will relish the challenges of this World Cup-standard indoor bouldering and climbing centre. It includes the first eight metre high indoor Psicobloc wall in Europe.
For a bird’s eye view of Denbighshire head to Llangollen Wharf for a narrowboat trip over Pontcysyllte Aqueduct. Look over the sides to absorb a view which really will take your breath away. Two-hour long trips cover five miles of Llangollen canal World Heritage Site. Alternatively take a horse-drawn boat to Horseshoe Falls, a man-made marvel engineered by Thomas Telford.
Head down the road to Pentre, Deeside, where The Boardroom Climbing provides a high point of any trip to Flintshire
Spend a day back in time
Llangollen Steam Railway is another visitors’ favourite especially when Thomas the Tank Engine comes to town. Starting at Llangollen Station near Dee River Bridge, trains run 10 miles to Corwen, following the line of The Dee Site of Special Scientific Interest. To add extra fun look out for events such as the Real Ale Train, Santa Specials, Days out with Thomas, and Dine on the Line experiences.
Locomotive fans also love the narrow-gauge Bala Lake Railway offering nine-mile steam journeys around Bala Lake and through Snowdonia National Park. The ticket to ride begins at Llanuwchllyn Station from where trains run to the market town of Bala, before the steam adventure gets under way. Bala with is majestic lake – Llyn Tegid – is worthy of a day out itself.
Walk in the ethereal shadows of the Aran, Arenig and Berwyn mountains. This is the largest natural lake in Wales, sourced by the Tryweryn and Dee rivers. It’s a haven where sailing, canoeing, wild swimming, and fishing are the order of the day. Alternatively simply take a waterside stroll and enjoy an ice-cream on a bench.
Going underground there’s a chance to delve into the history of Flintshire’s Second World War mustard gas storage base at Rhydymwyn. Though the now derelict site is owned by the Ministry of Defence, the Rhydymwyn Valley History Society operates a visitor centre and on specific occasions when allowed by the MoD it leads tours through the fascinating tunnels at Valley Works, near the River Alyn. The underground chambers held most of Britain’s mustard gas and chemical weapons during the war. The society website details its tour dates and other activities.
Going underground there’s a chance to delve into the history of Flintshire’s Second World War mustard gas storage base at Rhydymwyn
The River Alyn flows to Rhydymwyn from Loggerheads County Park, the ideal place for a not-too-strenuous family walk. Follow the riverside trail from Loggerheads Visitor Centre and cafe through the woodlands to Devil’s Gorge where abseilers frequently do their stuff. Choose a low route or the higher trail commanding stunning views of Moel Fammau, the highest hill in the Clwydian Range straddling the Denbighshire-Flintshire boundary. The summit gives its name to Moel Fammau Country Park, an Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty. If you’re in good shape you can walk to Jubilee Tower on the top and back in a couple of hours.
Offa’s Dyke national trail crosses Moel Fammau and also takes in the circular remains of a hillfort at the summit of Moel Arthur, near Nannerch. Make the moderate climb up Moel Arthur to be rewarded with a terrific natural tableau of the Vale of Clwyd laid out before you. Even more just rewards come in the form of a visit to the Cross Foxes Pub in Nannerch where the licensee has been known to serve up a rejuvenating and scrumptious cider made from pressed apples grown by villagers. Other popular summits to aim for include Moel Fenlli, Moel Findeg and Moel Hiraddug.
Beautiful countryside is something neither Denbighshire nor Flintshire are short of. Explorers can enjoy a different viewpoint every day for a week or more. Try packing a picnic to digest at the top of Hope Mountain while looking out at the Cheshire Plains. The 1,083-foot mountain is small compared to Snowdonia’s giants but the bonus is it’s far less busy than its more famous cousins. There’s a wide choice of good rural pubs around Nercwys Forest which is criss-crossed with a mix of short and longer pathways and bridleways for walkers, cyclists and horseriders.
Llandegla Forest is also much loved by cyclists. It can be a bit muddy after rainy weather, but which outdoor adventurer doesn’t love a tramp through the puddles? It’s the kind of picture postcard terrain that’s perfect for sending a wish you were here selfie to friends back home. Graig Fawr, locally known as ‘Meliden Mountain’, is near the 70-foot Dyserth waterfall joining the River Afon to the River Clwyd. For an easy stroll take the raised footpath from Prestatyn to the waterfall where there’s a souvenir shop.
The River Alyn flows to Rhydymwyn from Loggerheads County Park, the ideal place for a not-too-strenuous family walk
A trip to the seaside
For typical seaside revelry, venture to the Nova Centre or Ffrith Beach Fun Park, Prestatyn or the Palace Fun Centre, Rhyl. The sandy Rhyl beach stretches for two miles from the Clwyd Estuary to Splash Point meaning that although it can get busy in summer there’s plenty of space for all. Dog owners should note that pets are not allowed on the beach from May to September, but other dog-friendly beaches nearby include Gronant Dunes, Prestatyn.
Among the Rhyl penny slots and amusement arcades you’ll also find SeaQuarium, featuring exotic aquatic species and an outdoor sea lion cove giving an underwater view of seals in a 33,000-gallon pool.
There are some real historical gems awaiting visitors to Denbighshire. Plas Newydd is a historic house in the town of Llangollen is where Lady Eleanor Butler and Miss Sarah Ponsonby captured the imagination of Regency society. They received a stream of visitors to the unpretentious little cottage which, over the years, they transformed into a Gothic fantasy of projecting stained glass and elaborately-carved oak.
Winner of a 2016, 2017 and 2018 Visit Wales Hidden Gem award, Ruthin Gaol is the only purpose-built, Pentonville-style prison open to the public as a heritage attraction. People can spend time exploring its nooks and crannies and learn about life in the Victorian prison system. The attraction is closed during winter, so it’s worth checking opening times. And finally in the beautiful setting of a working farm in the Vale of Clwyd, Cae Dai 50s is a unique collection. Featured, amongst other items are areas dedicated to crime, sport, music, classic cars and a varied assortment of room sets dating from the 1950s era.
For a waterborne expedition with a difference drop into Kathleen and May Centre at Connah’s Quay, Flintshire. From here, the Quay Watermen’s Association run boat trips along the River Dee using two Wheelyboats, with access for the disabled. They take about two hours to head upstream to Chester and back. Half-hour jaunts provide a close up view of local bridges including Britain’s biggest asymmetric cable-stayed bridge spanning the Dee Estuary. Once back on dry land, peruse the centre’s small museum and cafe.
For typical seaside revelry, venture to the Nova Centre or Ffrith Beach Fun Park, Prestatyn or the Palace Fun Centre, Rhyl