1. Flint Castle
Flint Castle, or Castell y Flint, is a gaunt, atmospheric ruin close to the northern end of the Wales Coast Path, overlooking the Dee Marshes. When work started on the castle in 1277, the broad Dee estuary stretched inland all the way to the ancient walled city of Chester. It was the first of the English King Edward I’s ‘Iron Ring’ of castles designed to strangle Welsh resistance to English rule. The castle was an easy day’s march from Chester and, like all his other Welsh castles, could be resupplied by sea. It also guarded the strategic low-tide crossing of the estuary from Wirral on the English side of the border.
Today the castle is cared for by CADW – the Welsh government body that protects the built heritage of Wales — and the remaining towers and shattered walls look out across the tidal sea marshes to the romantic ‘Sands of Dee. The Dee Estuary is still a largely unspoiled wilderness and recognised as being of ‘international importance’ for its thousands of resident and migrating waders and wildfowl. No wonder the castle was painted by the famous landscape painter JMW Turner. Flint Castle is still an iconic place and well worth a carefully scheduled visit.
2. The Great Orme
When old Norse and Viking sailors passed this dramatic limestone headland that juts more than a mile out to sea from the North Wales Coast, they imagined it looked like a vast sea serpent — an ‘urm’ or ‘orm’. Today, the name seems as apt as ever. Composed of layer upon layer of white limestone laid down in a tropical sea in the late Carboniferous Period, some 340 million years ago, the Orme was first exploited by prehistoric copper miners around 4,000 years ago — and for a small fee, you can still descend into the ancient mines.
Today, the Great Orme is probably most famous for its historic working trams, aerial cable cars, herd of white feral goats, limestone pavements, rare plants, wildflowers, birds and butterflies. But it’s the stunning panoramic views over the whole of the North Wales Coast that will impress you most. On a clear summer’s day, the views stretch east, back towards Rhyl, Prestatyn and the other Victorian seaside resorts, north and out to sea where wind farms enliven the waves, and west to Conwy, the Snowdonia mountains, the Menai Strait and the Isle of Anglesey, or Ynys Mon. Visit once, and the Great Orme will stay in your memory for a lifetime.