Rhyl Harbour, Wales

8 Things to do in Rhyl, Wales

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North Wales is already known as the Lonely Planet European capital of adventure. The county beat highly regarded destinations such as South Australia, Aysén in Chile, The Tuamotus in French Polynesia and The Skellig Ring in Ireland. North Wales has beautiful beaches, rugged mountains for an adrenaline-filled adventure, historic markets, and industrial towns such as Rhyl. North Wales is leading the way with a plethora of award-winning artisanal food producers.

History of Rhyl

Aerial view of Rhyl
Source: Lukassek on iStock

Rhyl remains a little bit of a mystery, although it is mentioned in the 1301 ancient document Hulle Ryhull. It appears that the town has had several names, including Hyll, Hull, Rhill and Rhûl Rhul and Rhyll, before finally becoming Rhyl in 1840. It’s thought that the word Rhyl means hillock or hill, which the town’s coat of arms proudly reflects. There has been an ongoing debate about the etymology of the word Rhyl for well over a century.

Rhyl lies on what was once marshlands regularly flooded by the sea, the River Clywd and rainwater. In 1794, the council built dams to protect the town from the sea. Rhyl was just a handful of fishing villages, a few farms and the big house Ty’n Rhyl. The big house dates back to 1672; it was built with some ancient remains from Rhuddlan Castle. The manor was home to Angharad Llwyd, the famed late 19th-century award-winning writer who has many manuscripts preserved in the National Library of Wales in Aberystwyth. In the late 19th and early 20th centuries, Rhyl was a well-known brickmaking town that boasted four thriving clay pits on the outskirts of the seaside resort. Between 1860 and 1940, the majority of the community was built with locally-made bricks.

Rhyl has lots of exciting attractions that entice tourists from near and far. The town has a thriving art scene with famous theatres, great shopping and delicious foodie offerings. You can take to the water, explore the rivers or sea, wander along the beach, or try your hand at watersports on the only saltwater lake in Northern Wales. 

8 Things to Do in Rhyl, Wales

Marine Lake

Marine Lake, Rhyl
Source: John Longley on iStock

Marine lake was once an area of marshland but is now an artificial lake fed from seawater from the nearby River Clwyd Estuary. The Lake was opened in May 1895 to celebrate Queen Victoria’s birthday. On the morning of her birthday, four giant sluices fed water into the lake. An exciting celebratory regatta, gala and fete were held in the Queen’s honour when the lake was full. Fast forward to the 21st-century; the lake is home to sailing, waterskiing, wakeboarding, kneeboarding and canoeing activities. Those that are more daring can try barefooting, an adrenaline-pumping activity where the skier effortlessly skims across the water with bare feet. There are lovely walks around the lake, and the island in the middle is home to the resident wildlife. There is a children’s educational, environmental trail around the lake with interactive boards making wildlife sounds.

There has been a seafront pavilion theatre in Rhyl since 1891. The first was destroyed by fire, and the second was demolished to make way for the current state-of-the-art theatre. Rhyl Pavilion Theatre plays host to various international and local artists such as Bryn Terfel and Katherine Jenkins. There are countless productions and community events throughout the year, and the play week runs West End Musicals. 

Rhyl Theatres

Rhyl has a little theatre. Each year the theatre puts on two performances. The charity provides a dedicated club where children can learn about self-expression, participate in workshops and rehearsals and develop their confidence and self-esteem. Diversity is wholly encouraged.

Just outside Rhyl in Rhos-on-Sea is Britains oldest permanent puppet theatre that was founded in 1958. The little 100-seat theatre was once a popular form of entertainment in this seaside town. The theatre offers Punch and Judy workshops, frequently performs at local fun days, fetes and galas. The theatre has an ancient collection of over 1,000 marionettes featured in their beautifully curated shows during the school holidays. 

Rhyl Beaches

Rhyl has not one but three beaches that span over two miles and at low tide can give you almost half a mile depth of pristine golden sands to enjoy. Visitors can enjoy a wealth of fun on the beach from paddling, seashell and crab hunting and building soaring sandcastles. For the active, there is a beach volleyball court and a boating lake. There is plenty of old-fashioned fun at the seafront Children’s Village with ladybird and carousel rides and two-penny machines in the Bright Spot arcade. Various cafés and ice cream kiosks line the promenade for mid-afternoon treats. Lifeguards patrol the beaches during the summer months and encourage swimmers to use the safe zoned areas. Watersports enthusiasts can head across the harbour mouth to Kimnel Bay, where there is an exciting array of activities, including windsurfing and canoeing. 

SC2 Water Park

SC2 is a family-fun water park with numerous rides that the whole family can enjoy.

The inside park is open all year round. It is home to the terrifying Anaconda high-speed wave ride, which fires daredevils through the pitch black and out of the snake’s mouth into the pool below. The Speedster is for those that want a fast and fun ride, and the Boomerang zooms you down a slide in an inflatable tube.

The younger visitors will enjoy the Piranha Play area with lots of interactive water features to explore. Outside, the seasonal splash pad is great fun for young visitors; they can happily splash around in shallow waters whilst parents keep a watchful eye on them from nearby sunbeds. Kids can also walk in the footprints of ancient dinosaurs through the Jurassic-themed jungle with a host of puzzles, soft play, fun characters, slide and rope courses. The Ninja Tag course is for older children and adults that want to put their fitness levels, skills and bravery to the test and traverse various exciting challenges. 

Aquatic Adventures

Rhyl Harbour is your gateway to watery adventures. You can learn how to sail, jump aboard a fishing vessel for an exciting day’s charters, or explore the craggy coastline and meet playful seals and colourful puffins. The harbour is in the mouth of the river Clywd that runs into the Irish Sea. 

Visitors that prefer to remain on terra firma can visit the SeaQuarium Rhyl and its underwater tunnel in the largest aquarium in North Wales. Walk under the waves and be mesmerised and learn about the beautiful sharks, rays and other fascinating sea creatures that inhabit the waters surrounding the British Isles. SeaQuarium aims to support the conservation of threatened species and habitats locally, nationally and internationally.

Rhyl Miniature Railway

Rhyl Miniature Railway is the oldest miniature train in the UK. It has been offering nostalgic magic to children and their families for well over 100-years. The train is a vintage steam locomotive built in Rhyl in the early 20th-century and was initially used to journey passengers around Marine Lake. There are several miniature trains; one is even named after Prince Edward of Wales. Special events run throughout the year, and Father Christmas even comes to visit each December. 

Visitors can wander around Marine Lake, and kids can enjoy the interactive lake walk or the available activities for children of all ages. There is a small bridge called Pont y Ddraig, which is otherwise known as Dragon’s Bridge. The bridge provides the final link to traffic-free pathways for walkers and cyclists. The bridge has a tall central mast and a pulley system that draws up the platforms when it’s opened to allow boats into the harbour. 

Marsh Tracks

Decade-old Marsh Tracks is three exciting award-winning cycling tracks. A closed-circuit cycling track, a national standard BMX serpentine race track that features a Bensink start gate with various challenging jumps, rollers and berms and a difficult mountain bike track. Qualified coaches offer classes to beginner and intermediate bikers to learn or improve their bike skills. Throughout the year, various events take place, from cycling challenges, running, duathlons, inline skating, hand-cycling, and even Nordic cross-country skiing.

Dyserth Waterfall and Graig Fawr

Graig Fawr was gifted to the National Trust by the steel magnate Sir Geoffrey Summers, who owned Shotton Steelworks. Climb just over 150 metres to the summit, which affords exceptional views over the surrounding countryside and out to the Irish Sea. The River Ffyddion feeds Dyserth Waterfalls. This river is a narrow tributary of the River Clwyd that falls just over 20-metres creating the waterfalls. Interestingly, in the 1880s, Shotton Steelworks used this area for mining which caused the river to dry up. When the mining stopped, the waterfall resumed its full flow. Locals believe that medieval walls housed a giant waterwheel powered by the Rhaeadr Dyserth. Wander through the woodland loop, climb steep, mossy steps and wander past lovely caves and tunnels. The site has been designated a Site of Special Scientific Interest (SSSI) due to rare plants.

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