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One of the undoubted highlights of the Cambrian coast is charming HARLECH, with its time-worn castle dramatically clinging to its rocky outcrop, and the town cloaking the ridge behind, commanding one of Wales's finest views over Cardigan Bay to the Llŷn. There are good beaches nearby, and the town's twisting, narrow streets harbour many places where you can eat and sleep.
Harlech's substantially complete castle (June– Sept daily 9.30am–6pm; April, May & Oct daily 9.30am–5pm; Nov– March Mon– Sat 9.30am–4pm, Sun 11am–4pm; £3.50; Web: www.cadw.wales.gov.uk ) sits on a 200-foot-high bluff, a site chosen by Edward I for one more link in his magnificent chain of fortresses. Begun in 1285, it was built of a hard Cambrian rock, known as Harlech grit, hewn from the moat. The two massive half-round towers of the gatehouse now host an exhibition outlining the castle's history.
Harlech's train station is below the castle on the main A496. Most buses call both here and on High Street. The pick of the local places to stay is the cosy, informal Castle Cottage, on Pen Llech near the castle (Tel:01766/780479, Web: www.castlecottageharlech.co.uk ), a "restaurant with rooms" that's often booked well ahead. The best alternative is the Castle Hotel on Castle Square, directly opposite the castle (Tel:01766/780529, Web: www.harlechcastlehotel.co.uk ; Price: £50). The hardy might prefer a night under canvas at Shell Island (Tel:01341/241453, Web: www.shellisland.co.uk ), great for camp fires in the dunes and walks on the splendid Ardudwy Beach (part of which, near the village of Dyffryn Ardudwy, is officially naturist). If you want to camp in Harlech itself, head for the summer-only Min y Doncampsite, Beach Road (Tel:01766/780286), three minutes' walk from the beach. There are some wonderful places to eat on High Street, including Cemlyn Tea Shop (Tel:01766/780425), an excellent upscale licensed café with a lovely sun terrace; the inexpensive but licensed Plas Café (Tel:01766/780204), with a good range of food and fabulous views from the garden and conservatory; and the bistro-style Yr Ogof (Tel:01766/780888), where you'll find a good-value range of inventive vegetarian and meat dishes.