In less than three hours from Manchester or Liverpool, you could be in North Wales in no time. Instead of seeing brick, steel, concrete and traffic, you could wake up to stone, slate, picturesque scenery and mountains. Whether you choose narrow gauge railways, the scenic Cambrian Coast Line or foot, Gwynedd is a most picturesque part of Wales to explore. It is a beautiful part of the world noted for its seaside resorts, castles and the highest point of Wales, Snowdon.
From Aberdyfi to Bangor, such delights include Caernarfon, Llanberis, Penrhyn, Criccieth and Harlech Castles. There is also delightful seaside resorts in Aberdyfi, Barmouth, Pwllheli and Criccieth. Abersoch is a popular retreat for sailing, jet-skiing and windsurfing.
Bangor for many people is a gateway to Anglesey and - a few miles later - for Holyhead and the Republic of Ireland. Contrary to popular belief, it is not the Bangor immortalised in the Fiddler's Dram's 1979 hit single 'Day Trip to Bangor (Didn't We Have A Lovely Time)'. It is a city with its own university, a footballing side in the Welsh Premier League and a cathedral. Close by is Penrhyn Castle on the eastern side of the city, whereas Garth Pier is on the northern side of the city, offering views of the Menai Strait and Anglesey.
A few miles south west is Caernarfon, famed for its castle and Roman fort. By 1284, Caernarfon Castle was built by English stonemasons to control Wales. It became the seat of Edward I's government in North Wales and in later times, Charles Windsor's investiture as His Royal Highness, The Prince of Wales in 1969. Today, it is one of the UK's much loved and most complete Medieval castles. From there, you can get a narrow gauge steam train to Porthmadog, thanks to the Welsh Highland Railway. After a long drawn process, Caernarfon's rail connection was restored in 2011.
By Porthmadog, Gwynedd is characterised by its narrow gauge and standard gauge railways. It is possible to do the Blaenau Ffestiniog line and explore the Conwy Valley from there. Or you could take London Midland's service along the Cambrian Coast Line into Pwllheli, Harlech, Barmouth or Aberdyfi. Porthmadog was once the hub of the Welsh slate industy and a busy port. The Porthmadog Maritime Museum details the town's heritage, and industrial use of its narrow gauge railways.
A short distance away is Portmeirion, an Italian style village designed by Clough Williams-Ellis. His village was made famous by the Patrick McGoohan series 'The Prisoner'. It has been seen in other TV programmes and music videos. There is also a pottery, formed by Clough Williams-Ellis' daughter, Susan, in 1960.
The Cambrian Coast Railway Line is well worth a journey with spectacular views of Cardigan Bay. Plus the possibilities for connecting with North Wales' Great Little Trains. Harlech Castle is a stop away, as well as Barmouth. On the banks of the Afon Mawddach, this delightful resort is popular with families. After crossing the Barmouth Bridge over to Fairbourne, is the Barmouth and Fairbourne Railway. It opened in 1895 as a narrow gauge construction tramway.
Also off the Cambrian Coast line is the Talyllyn Railway, the world's oldest preserved line. Preserved in 1951, it originally served the Bryn Eglwys slate quarry. Further down the line is Aberdyfi, where another movement was pioneered - the first ever Outward Bound centre, opening in 1941. The Aberdyfi centre has leanings towards maritime activities.
Football is the main draw for sports fans with Bangor City, Caernarfon Town and Porthmadog playing in the Welsh Premier League and Cymru Alliance. Throughout Gwynedd, sailing and golf are popular pastimes.
There is a number of public houses and hotels which make for intimate conference venues. The University of Bangor is also available for weddings and events, and a conference venue in its own right.
If you're looking for somewhere different as a conference venue - and happen to like narrow gauge steam railways - you're in for a treat.