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The best things to do in Denbighshire and Flintshire

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.

Go Karting best things to do

Start the day off with some adrenaline sports

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.

Llangollen Steam Railway best things to do

Take a visit to Llangollen Steam Railway

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

Get outdoors

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.

Talacre Lighthouse

Take a family trip to the seaside and visit Talacre Lighthouse

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

Scenic cycling

If sailing’s not your first love, an alternative is to get on your bike and take the eight-mile, traffic-free national cycle route between Connah’s Quay and Chester. It follows the course of a former railway. Digging further into Flintshire’s rich heritage is a project set up to preserve the legacy of mining communities who sourced coal from below the seabed at Talacre for more a century.

A sculpture dedicated to pit ponies was unveiled in 2017 at Point of Ayr near the colliery site, the last remaining deep pit in North Wales when it closed in 1996. Pit ponies were used until the late sixties. A Miner’s Trail accessed by an app follows a circular route via part of the Wales Coast Path between Ffynnongroyw and Talacre. Talking of ponies, saddle up with Bridlewood Riding Centre, Gwespyr, which has the advantage of securing direct access onto Gronant and Talacre Beach. It also runs hillside hacking treks and ‘own a pony’ days for young children to have a go at riding and learn the ins and outs of animal husbandry.

Cyclist on country trail best things to do

Follow the former railway on an epic cycle-route

While in Talacre stop off at Danger Point, an educational activity centre for families, schools and organised groups. Youngsters can become ‘Danger Detectives’ following a cleverly put together trail in which they are tasked with spotting health and safety perils in everyday settings. It gets busy so we suggest you book in advance.

If sailing’s not your first love, an alternative is to get on your bike and take the eight-mile, traffic-free national cycle route between Connah’s Quay and Chester

Amazing animals

Greenacres Animal Park, Sandycroft, also advises visitors to plan ahead for the best chance of encountering its meerkats, raccoons, parrots, Shetland ponies, donkeys, alpacas, llamas and traditional farm animals like cows, sheep and pigs. The park website details opening times and any possibilities of closure due to bad weather.

Alpacas best things to do

The family will love a day out at the farm

Always open and free to visit is Greenfield Valley where 70 acres of woodlands teem with wildlife. Within it is Greenfield Valley Heritage Centre enveloping the ruined Basingwerk Abbey where Middle Ages monks harnessed the power of Holywell Stream to grind corn. The centre museum houses relics of the region’s industrial past and farming memorabilia. Frequent visitor participation events are held here during school holidays and cafe and adventure playground with rope walks and timber bridges on stilts help keep children entertained.

Many people make a full day of it by following the signposted trail from Holywell high street, taking in the ancient Pilgrim’s Way and St Winefride’s Well. The well is the shrine from which Holywell takes its name – holy well. Reputed to have healing powers it’s nicknamed the ‘Lourdes of Wales’. You’re sure to go home feeling refreshed!


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Your guide to arts and culture in Denbighshire and Flintshire

Image credits: ©Crown copyright (2019) Visit Wales; Jaddy Liu/Mattias Diesel/Unsplash; Shutterstock.com

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