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North Wales

Gogledd Cymru

North of Wales, Northern Wales, Y Gogledd
Geographic region
Historical extent of North Wales (red and lighter red), Montgomeryshire (lighter red) is sometimes also considered Mid Wales. Other cultural definitions of North Wales vary.
Historical extent of North Wales (red and lighter red), Montgomeryshire (lighter red) is sometimes also considered Mid Wales. Other cultural definitions of North Wales vary.
Six principal areas of Wales commonly defined to be North Wales, for policing, fire and rescue, health and regional economy.
Six principal areas of Wales commonly defined to be North Wales, for policing, fire and rescue, health and regional economy.
Sovereign state  United Kingdom
Constituent country  Wales
Historic counties
Principal areas
Preserved counties
 • Land 6,172 km2 (2,383 sq mi)
 • Estimate (2018) 698,400
 • Density 113.6/km2 (294/sq mi)
Demonym(s) North Welsh, North Walian, "gogs" (informally)
Time zone UTC±0 (GMT)
 • Summer (DST) UTC+1 (BST)

North Wales (Welsh: Gogledd Cymru), also known as the North of Wales (or simply the North, or in Welsh 'y Gogledd' in Wales), is a geographic region of Wales, encompassing its northernmost areas. It borders Mid Wales (or South Wales under some definitions) to the south, England to the east, and the Irish Sea to the north and west. The area is highly mountainous and rural, with Snowdonia National Park (Parc Cenedlaethol Eryri) and the Clwydian Range and Dee Valley (Bryniau Clwyd a Dyffryn Dyfrdwy), known for its mountains, waterfalls and trails, located wholly within the region. Its population is more concentrated in the north-east, and northern coastal areas of the region, whilst significant Welsh-speaking populations are situated in its western and rural areas. North Wales is imprecisely defined, lacking any exact definition or administrative structure. For the public purposes of health, policing and emergency services, and for statistical, economic and cultural purposes, North Wales is commonly defined administratively as its six most northern principal areas, but other definitions of the geographic region exist, with Montgomeryshire historically considered to be part of the region.

Those from North Wales are sometimes referred to as "Gogs" (from "Gogledd" – the Welsh word for "north"); in comparison, those from South Wales are sometimes called "Hwntws" by those from North Wales.

The region includes the localities of Wrexham, Deeside, Rhyl, Colwyn Bay, Flint, Bangor, Llandudno, and Holyhead. The largest localities in North Wales are the town of Wrexham and the conurbations of Deeside and Rhyl/Prestatyn, where the main retail, cultural, educational, tourism, and transport infrastructure and services of North Wales are located.


The region is steeped in history and was for almost a millennium known as the Kingdom of Gwynedd. The mountainous stronghold of Snowdonia formed the nucleus of that realm and would become the last redoubt of independent Wales — only overcome in 1283. To this day it remains a stronghold of the Welsh language and a centre for Welsh national and cultural identity.

World Heritage & Biosphere Sites

The area is home to two of the three UNESCO World Heritage Sites in Wales. These are Pontcysyllte Aqueduct and canal and, collectively, the Edwardian castles and town walls of the region which comprise those at Caernarfon, Beaumaris, Conwy and Harlech. It also shares with Powys and Ceredigion the distinction of hosting the only UNESCO Biosphere (from Man and Biosphere (MAB) Programme to promote sustainable development) reserve in Wales, namely, Biosffer Dyfi Biosphere.

Political divisions

The region is made up of the following administrative areas:

In addition to the six Local Authority divisions, North Wales is also divided into the following preserved counties for various ceremonial purposes:

Related constituencies

North Wales was a European Parliament constituency until 1999. Currently, there is an electoral region for the National Assembly for Wales with the name (used, in parallel with the smaller constituencies, to elect top-up members under the Additional Member System), which covers the north-east of Wales (specifically the entire area of the former pre-1996 county of Clwyd) as well as the Northern-most coastal areas of north-western Wales; the rest of North Wales is covered by Mid and West Wales.


Ynys Llanddwyn old
Llanddwyn Island's old lighthouse, with Snowdonia in background

The area is mostly rural with many mountains and valleys. This, in combination with its coast (on the Irish Sea), has ensured that tourism is the principal industry. Farming, which was once the principal economic force in the area, is now much reduced in importance. The average income per capita of the local population is the lowest in the UK and much of the region has EU Objective 1 status.

The eastern part of North Wales contains the most populous areas, with more than 300,000 people living in the areas around Wrexham and Deeside. Wrexham is North Wales' largest town, with a population of 63,084 in 2001. The total population of North Wales is 687,937 (2011). The majority of other settlements are along the coast, including some popular resort towns, such as Rhyl, Llandudno and Pwllheli. The A55 road links these towns to cities like Manchester, Liverpool and Birmingham and the port of Holyhead for ferries to Ireland; few routes connect North Wales with South Wales. There are two cathedral cities – Bangor and St. Asaph – and a number of mediaeval castles (e.g., Criccieth, Dolbadarn, Dolwyddelan, Harlech, Caernarfon Castle, Beaumaris, Conwy) The area of North Wales is about 6,172 square kilometres, making it slightly larger than the country of Brunei, or the island of Bali.

The highest mountain in Wales, (and also higher than anywhere in England or Ireland), Snowdon, is situated in north west Wales.


North Wales has a very diverse and complex geology with Precambrian schists along the Menai Strait and the great Cambrian dome behind Harlech and underlying much of western Snowdonia. In the Ordovician period much volcanism deposited a range of minerals and rocks over the north western parts of Gwynedd whilst to the east of the River Conwy lies a large area of upland rolling hills underlain by the Silurian mudstones and grits comprising the Denbigh and Migneint Moors. To the east, around Llangollen, to the north on Halkyn Mountain and the Great Orme and in eastern Anglesey are beds of limestone from which metals have been mined since pre-Roman times. Added to all this are the complexities posed by Parys Mountain and the outcrops of unusual minerals such as Jasper and Mona Marble which make the area of special interest to geologists.


North Wales has a distinct regional identity. Its dialect of the Welsh language differs from that of other regions such as South Wales in some ways: for example llefrith is used in most of the North instead of llaeth for "milk"; a simple sentence such as go upstairs now might be Dos i fyny'r grisiau rŵan in North Wales, and Cer lan y stâr nawr in South Wales. Colloquially, a person from North Wales (especially one who speaks with this dialect or accent) is known as a North Walian, or a Gog (from the Welsh gogledd, meaning "north"). Areas close to the border with Cheshire can have Scouse accents of English, and along the coast Manchester accents are common.


According to the Annual Population Survey and Office for National Statistics, the unemployment rate of the six principal areas of North Wales was collectively 3.9% for the population aged 16 and over; the employment rate was 75.9% of those aged 16-64, and the economic inactivity rate (excluding students) for the population aged 16-64 was 17.9%.

North Wales Growth Deal

In 2016 the UK Government invited North Wales to submit a Growth Deal Bid, to "create thousands of jobs, boost the economy, improve transport and communication links, focus on renewable energy, support tourism and more". A bid was prepared by the North Wales Business Council, which consists of the Leaders and Chief Executives of the 6 councils, the Vice Chancellors of Wrexham Glyndŵr University and Bangor University the Chief Executives of Coleg Cambria and Grwp Llandrillo Menai, and North Wales Mersey Dee Business Council. In the 2018 budget Philip Hammond announced that £120M would be made available by the UK Government to support the Growth Deal. In December 2018, Ken Skates confirmed that the Welsh Government would match the UK Government funding, and also offered to match any additional funding support which the UK Government might make available. In November 2019 the Heads of Terms Agreement for the North Wales Growth Deal was signed by the representatives of the North Wales Economic Ambition Board, Alun Cairns the UK Government Secretary of State for Wales, and Eluned Morgan, Baroness Morgan of Ely on behalf of Welsh Government.


Terms for people from the region include; North Welsh, and North Walian (also spelt as North Walean), or informally as "Gogs" from the Welsh word for North, "Gogledd". This term is mostly only used to distinguish from other parts of Wales (i.e. only used domestically in Wales), a majority of the population consider themselves as just "Welsh", and some additionally or only as "British". Communities along the Wales-England border and northern coast may identify as "English" as they are home to many of those of English ancestry.


According to Statistics for Wales (StatsWales), the North Wales region, consists of the 6 northern principal areas, and statistics provided by StatsWales only include these 6 areas. In 2018, the estimated population of the region was 698,400 people. North Wales exhibits the evenest distribution of population across the local authorities of any of the 4 statistical regions of Wales, with 4 of the 6 authorities home to over 100,000 residents, Flintshire, Wrexham, Gwynedd and Conwy. Flintshire is the most populated principal area of North Wales, home to an estimated 155,600 people, with the Isle of Anglesey being the least populated with an estimated 70,000 people.

In 2018, North Wales has an estimated population density of 113.6 persons per square kilometre. Flintshire is the most densely populated of the 6 areas, at 355.6 persons per km2, with Gwynedd being the least dense principal area at 49.0 persons per km2. Between 2008, and 2018, the population density of North Wales grew by 2.3%, the third-highest rate of population density growth of the 4 statistical regions of Wales. Gwynedd, with 3.7% growth, had the highest population density growth rate in North Wales, whereas the Isle of Anglesey had the lowest population density growth rate at 0.1% from 2008 to 2018.

The population growth for the region between 1998 and 2018 was 6.3%, however, the rate was lower between 2008 and 2018, than in 1998 and 2008. Conwy was the area with the highest population growth rate for the two decades at 8%, with Isle of Anglesey having the smallest growth rate at just over 3%.

Population settlements

North Wales' largest settlement (locality) is Wrexham, with 65,692 people in the 2011 census. Data from the census details that North Wales has a lower number and proportion of residents living in settlements of 25,000 or more, than South East and South West Wales, but higher than Mid Wales. StatsWales attributes this to North Wales' lack of a settlement of a population higher than 100,000 people.


North Wales has an ageing population, as the proportion of residents over 65 has increased from 18.5% to 23.0%, and the proportion of the population under 15 has decreased from 19.8% to 17.8%.



North Wales has a distinct regional identity. Its dialect of the Welsh language differs from that of other regions, such as South Wales, in some ways: for example llefrith is used in most of the North instead of llaeth for "milk"; a simple sentence such as go upstairs now might be Dos i fyny'r grisiau rŵan in North Wales, and Cer lan y stâr nawr in South Wales. Colloquially, a person from North Wales (especially one who speaks with this dialect or accent) is known as a North Walian, or a Gog (from the Welsh gogledd, meaning "north"). There are Welsh medium schools scattered all across North Wales, ranging from primary to secondary schools.

Welsh-speaking population

According to the 2011 census, there were 204,406 Welsh-speakers aged three and over in North Wales. Data from the Annual Population Survey, stated that Gwynedd had the largest proportion of speakers in North Wales and Wales as a whole, with 75.6% of residents aged 3 and over saying they can speak Welsh. Flintshire had the lowest rate of Welsh in North Wales, with only 22.5% saying they can speak it. North Wales is the most Welsh-speaking region of the 4 statistical regions of Wales, at 41.9% of the population speaking Welsh in the year ending September 2019, up approximately 2.4% from September 2009. However, Flintshire is one of 2 principal areas in Wales where the rate of Welsh has decreased over the past decade.



Wrexham A.F.C. play in the English football league system; having been a member of the Football League for over 80 years, in 2008 they were relegated into the Conference National for the first time in their existence. They now play in the Vanarama National League. They play at the Racecourse Ground in Wrexham and train at Colliers Park, Gresford.

Several teams including Connah's Quay Nomads F.C. and Bangor City F.C. have appeared in UEFA competitions, playing within the mostly semi-professional Welsh leagues the Cymru Premier and the Cymru North.

Due to the proximity of North Wales to the North West of England, support for the English clubs of Liverpool F.C., Everton F.C. and Manchester United F.C. has been historically strong.

Rugby League

Wales was represented in the Super League by the Crusaders RL, they re-located to Wrexham for the 2010 season from South Wales. They played at the Racecourse Ground and trained at Stansty Park both in Wrexham before folding in 2011. They have now been replaced by the League 1 side, North Wales Crusaders.

North Wales has its own amateur league, in the fifth tier of the British rugby league system, the North Wales Championship.

Rugby Union

In September 2008 it was announced by the Welsh Rugby Union that a development team based in North Wales would be created, with a long-term goal of becoming the fifth Welsh team in the Celtic League. It was envisaged that this would both help the growth of the game in the area, and provide a larger pool of players for the Welsh national team to be selected from. The team was named RGC 1404.


North Wales is home to two universities, Bangor University, and Wrexham Glyndwr University. In 2018-19, in total there were 17,500 enrolments on higher education courses in North Wales, representing 13.2% of student enrolments in all of Wales. Bangor University was home to a majority, 58.3% of these enrolments, with 10,195 enrolments in 2018-19, with Wrexham Glyndwr University following with 5,895 enrolments, and further education college Grŵp Llandrillo Menai providing the remaining 1,410 enrolments.

Further education (FE) in Wales is provided by "colleges" (not to be confused with a university college), these are usually either sixth form colleges, further education colleges, or sixth forms within secondary schools. Further education colleges are the largest further education institutions in North Wales, in which, at present, there are only 2; Grŵp Llandrillo Menai, and Coleg Cambria. Both of these colleges, are amalgamations of smaller further education or sixth form colleges, and are sometimes described as "super colleges". Grŵp Llandrillo Menai is a merger of Coleg Llandrillo, Coleg Menai, and Coleg Meirion-Dwyfor, providing courses for students of the Isle of Anglesey, Conwy County Borough, Denbighshire, and Gwynedd. Coleg Cambria is a merger Deeside College and Yale College, Wrexham, providing courses for students of Denbighshire, Flintshire, and Wrexham County Borough. There are no standalone sixth form colleges (sixth form only) in North Wales, as all colleges providing sixth form courses also provide non-sixth form courses.

The other institutions providing sixth form further education in North Wales are secondary schools, which provide sixth form education themselves. Not all secondary schools in North Wales provide sixth form education, with it being common for students of a secondary school that does not provide sixth form education to study at a further education college.

Grŵp Colegau NPTC Group of Colleges, a further education college formed from the merger of Neath Port Talbot College and Coleg Powys, is the main further education college for Powys, hosting a campus in Newtown.



North Wales Roads & Sea
Map of the roads and sea routes in North Wales

North Wales does not have any motorways, with the only motorways in Wales being present in South Wales, and nearest motorways (M53 and M56) being on the other side of the Wales-England border. There have been proposals to upgrade the A55 into a motorway or have more motorway-like features. Trunk roads in the region are maintained by the North and Mid Wales Trunk Road Agent (NMWTRA).

The main roads spanning across North Wales, mostly span east to west, especially along the North Wales coast. This is mainly due to the mountainous terrain in the middle of Wales, leading most north-south connections to be slower, leading to diversions onto north-south roads in England. The emphasis on east-west roadways has led to North Wales having closer connections with North West England (centred on Liverpool and Manchester) rather than with South Wales.

The busiest road in North Wales is the A55, the "North Wales Expressway", a dual carriageway primary road connecting Chester to Holyhead, along the North Wales coast and passing Deeside, Llandudno Junction, Conwy, and Bangor. It is described as the economic lifeline for North Wales, and the second most important road in all of Wales, only to the M4 in South Wales. The road connects all the way to the Port of Holyhead following an extension in 2001, which provides ferry connections to the Republic of Ireland. The majority of the road is part of the E-road network as E22 (until Ewloe, where it goes along the A494 into England), and is a dual carriageway, grade-separated, for its entire 88-mile length.

A historically important road in the region is the A5, a major road that was the primary link between the region and London (as the "London-Holyhead Trunk Road"). The road crosses the Menai Suspension Bridge and is regarded as a more scenic route, with its historical importance as a connection between London and the Port of Holyhead, superseded by the A55. Other roads transiting North Wales, from east to west include the A458 from Halesowen to Mallwyd, and the A494 from Dolgellau to Saughall (originally to Birkenhead).

The busiest north-south road travelling through the region is the A483 from Chester (originally from Manchester) through Wrexham and into England near Oswestry, before re-entering Montgomeryshire and passing Welshpool and Newtown, before continuing onto Swansea. Other major north-south roads include the single-carriageways of the A470 from Llandudno to Cardiff via the Conwy valley, and the A487 from Bangor to Haverfordwest via Caernarfon and Snowdonia.


The Port of Holyhead, on the isle of Anglesey, is the main commercial and ferry port in North Wales. The port had the third-largest volume of freight traffic, in Wales, in 2018 (5.2 million tonnes), after Milford Haven and Port Talbot, and it is the main port for freight and sea passenger transport with the Republic of Ireland, handling more than 2 million passengers each year. 81% of freight traffic going through Welsh ports to the Republic of Ireland, and 75.5% of sea passenger traffic between Wales and the Republic of Ireland went through Holyhead in 2018. Historically, there were two routes between Holyhead and the Irish ports of Dublin and Dun Laoghaire. The route to Dun Laoghaire was the most popular in 1998 with over 1.7 million passengers ferried, however following a consistent decline in passenger traffic, it was removed in 2015. The other route to Dublin saw an overall increase in passenger numbers from just over 1 million in 1998 to just over 1.9 million in 2018, an increase of 82%.

A Mostyn-Dublin ferry service once existed, on the now Liverpool-Dublin route, attracting a peak of 48,000 passengers in 2003, before being discontinued in 2004.


North Wales Rail
Map of rail lines in North Wales

The public rail network of the region is largely split into two sections. These sections are centred around the two main west-east railway lines transversing the region, as there are currently no north-south railway lines wholly in the region. This is largely due to the mountainous regions of Snowdonia resting between the two lines, and low passenger numbers of north-south lines leading to their closure. The public rail network is managed and maintained by Network Rail. Historically, the region had a more extensive rail network with more interconnectivity of the current lines and more connections to the south. However, due to falling passenger numbers, the emergence of automobiles and other factors, the region's railways came under review, resulting in the Beeching Cuts to the network. Many former rail corridors of the once more extensive network were superseded by road infrastructure. The numerous heritage railways scattered across the region serve as a reminder of the former railways across the region.

The majority of lines operated in Wales are part of the Wales & Borders franchise, the current operator is Transport for Wales Rail, a Welsh-Government owned company, although some services (from Holyhead and Wrexham) are operated by the West Coast Partnership operator, Avanti West Coast on services using the West Coast Main Line to London Euston.

According to StatsWales, the number of rail journeys across the 6 principal areas of North Wales, made in 2017-18 was 1.4 million, an increase of 20,525 from 2007-8. The largest share of these rail journeys, at 38.4%, was within the boundaries of Gwynedd. Conwy was the principal area which saw the greatest increase in rail journeys as a percentage of journeys over the ten-year period, at 22.5%. The least amount of rail journeys in 2018-19 was in Anglesey.

As of 2020, there as 66 rail stations within the boundaries of the 6 northern principal areas, of which 2 are among the 20 busiest stations in Wales, Rhyl, and Bangor. 41 of the rail stations are stations of the North Wales lines, whereas the remaining 25 are stations of the Mid Wales lines, specifically the Cambrian Line. There is a total of 5 rail routes in North Wales: the North Wales Coast Line, the Shrewsbury—Chester Line, the Conwy Valley Line, the Borderlands Line (all part of the North Wales lines) and the Cambrian Line. All 5 routes together in 2018-19 had approximately 5,295,602 entries and exits through the 66 stations.

The North Wales Coast Line, the main rail line serving the north Wales coast, and connecting with Irish Ferries and Stena Line ferry services to Dublin Port in the Republic of Ireland. The Conwy Valley Line branches off at Llandudno Junction, heading north to Llandudno and south to Blaenau Ffestiniog. The Shrewsbury—Chester line, connects Chester and Shrewsbury via Wrexham, providing the main north Wales and south Wales connection. A former open-access operator Wrexham & Shropshire, used to provide a Wrexham General—London Marylebone service until 2011. The Borderlands Line, intersects the Shrewsbury—Chester line at Wrexham General, branching south to Wrexham Central (where it terminates), and north to Bidston (Birkenhead), and the North Wales Coast Line at Shotton. Bidston connects to the Wirral line, providing Merseyrail services, west to West Kirby, and east to Liverpool Central. The Cambrian Line forms the other west-east line in the region (as the Mid-Wales line), it connects Shrewsbury, westwards with Mid Wales and towns along Cardigan Bay. The line is commonly split into two sections, the section from Shrewsbury to Aberystwyth is sometimes referred to as the Cambrian Main Line, with the Cambrian Coast Line, splitting off from this line at Dovey Junction, heading northwest to Pwllheli. The Welsh Marches Line connects Crewe to Newport, via Shrewsbury, with services from Holyhead usually continuing to Cardiff Central. It forms part of the North Wales South Wales service, along with the Shrewsbury—Chester, North Wales Coast Line, and South Wales Main Line. These lines form the main rail connection between North Wales and South Wales.

Chester provides the main travel connections for the North Wales Coast, as a major transport hub. As part of the North Wales Metro, from Chester (and Wrexham General at limited times), via the Halton Curve, direct trains run to Liverpool Lime Street, linking to the Merseyrail. Services to Manchester Piccadilly from Chester, via the Chester—Manchester line for Transport for Wales services, and the Mid—Cheshire line for Northern services, in addition to the Northern service to Leeds, provide North Wales' connections to Northern England. Shrewsbury provides the main travel connections for passengers from the Cambrian line (and those commuting south from other North Wales stations), providing services, in addition to those to South Wales, through England to Crewe, Birmingham International, and Birmingham New Street, and via the Heart of Wales line, services to Llanelli.

Heritage and small railway lines

There are numerous heritage and small railway lines in the region, many being protected segments of historical longer lines. Some of these heritage lines are within walking distance from a present Network Rail station or are accessed by another heritage line which is then connected to a Network Rail line.

Many of these lines connect to the Cambrian line. Stations where the heritage railway uses the same station as Network Rail, include Fairbourne, Minffordd, and Aberystwyth. At Fairbourne, the Fairbourne Railway connects to Barmouth Ferry; at Minffordd (for Portmerion) the Ffestiniog Railway connects to Blaenau Ffestiniog to the north and Porthmadog Harbour to the south, and at Aberystwyth, the Vale of Rheidol Railway connects to Devil's Bridge, just outside the region, in Ceredigion. From Porthmadog Harbour on the Ffestiniog Railway, there is a connection to the Welsh Highland Railway to Caernarfon. Near Tywyn station on the Cambrian line, from the nearby Tywyn Wharf station, the Talyllyn Railway operates to Nant Gwernol in Snowdonia, and near Welshpool station on the Cambrian line, from the nearby Welshpool Raven Square station, the Welshpool and Llanfair Light Railway, connects to Llanfair Caereinion.

Railways not connected to the main rail network in the region include; the Snowdon Mountain Railway (SMR), which runs from Llanberis SMR station to the summit on Snowdon, and Llanberis Lake Railway, which runs from Llanberis LLR to Penllyn, along Llyn Padarn, both railways being in Llanberis. The Bala Lake Railway, a mainly scenic route alongside Llyn Tegid / Bala Lake, from Bala (Penybont) to Llanuwchllyn. The Llangollen Railway, links Llangollen to Corwen, the short Corris Railway from Corris to Maespoeth, and the Rhiw Valley Light Railway, near Berriew.

Future developments

Many rail and bus lines of the region are part of an improvement project called the North Wales Metro or North East Wales Metro, which proposes improvements to the existing lines (specifically the Borderlands lines), improved connectivity between rail and other modes of transport, and more connections to North West England.

For the Gobowen to Oswestry line, Cambrian Heritage Railways, the line's operator, is working on reopening the line (multiple sections of line), and the Anglesey Central Railway is also proposed to be restored.


In Llandudno, the Great Orme Tramway links to the Great Orme. It is the only remaining cable-operated street tramway in Great Britain, and one of only a few surviving in the world.

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