Scotland has Ben Nevis, England has Scafell Pike, and Wales has Snowdon – or yr Wyddfa, to give it its Welsh name. Towering to a majestic 3,560 feet, Wales’ highest peak is set in 823 square miles of pristine national park that will take your breath away with its beauty. Whatever you like to take on holiday, be it your hiking boots, your kids, or simply your appreciation of a good view, you deserve a holiday in Snowdonia!
One of the main reasons people come to Snowdonia is to climb Snowdon. There are five clear routes, all of them taking around six hours there and back. The Llanberis Path is the most popular, but you could also take the Miner’s Path and Pyg Track, Snowdon Ranger Path, Rhyd Du Path that leaves from Beddgelert, or the Watkin Path. For the more experienced hikers (with a good head for heights), the Snowdon Horseshoe provides a scary popular traverse. There’s a handy Sherpa bus service that drops off and collects from these points but if you don’t fancy walking, the Snowdon Mountain Railway runs from Llanberis Station to the peak and mountain bikers are free to use the Llanberis Path at certain times during the year.
Of the 100,000 people who scale Snowdon each year, around 150 get into difficulty and require assistance from Mountain Rescue. Avoid being one of them by dressing appropriately and following sensible hiking guidelines such as letting people know when you go out and when you come back.
Snowdonia offers more for the lover of the great outdoors than just Snowdon. The national park is teeming with spectacular flora and fauna and it has more National Nature Reserves than anywhere else in Britain. Snowdonia is a mountain biking hotspot, with the superb Coed y Brenin mountain bike park and traffic free routes such as the Mawddach Trail, Lon Las Eifion and Lon Las Ogwen. If you want the challenge of a climb but Snowdon is too much, Cader Idris in Dolgellau is a good alternative.
With over one hundred lakes, dozens of game fisheries and bait shops, anglers are spoiled for choice in Snowdonia. If that wasn’t enough, there are 200 miles of coastline to fish from. Speaking of coastline, the beaches are just as gorgeous as the rest of Snowdonia. Barmouth is a popular resort with families, while Abersoch is a little more upmarket. Nefyn and Llanbedr are also worth visiting.
The peaks of Snowdonia are only half of this impressive landscape. What goes on underground is equally exciting, with not only traditional caving expeditions, but zip lines and even trampolines at Bounce Below and Llechwedd Slate Caverns in Blaenau Ffestiniog. King Arthur’s Cavern in Corris brings Arthurian legends to life brilliantly and you don’t have to be a child to enjoy the experience.
There are loads of rainy day activities in Snowdonia, starting with the awesome Harlech Castle. Sometimes it’s easy to forget that, far from being tourist attractions, most of Wales’ castles were built to impress and subdue the population who lived in their shadows. Built by Edward I from 1282-89, Harlech Castle has long held a place of importance in Welsh culture and certainly justifies its standing as a UNESCO World Heritage site.
Wet weather is a great reason to spend the day in Caernarfon. Not only is there another King Edward I built, World Heritage castle, it’s a vibrant town packed with history. Start at the Tourist Information Centre on Castle Street for local maps and then walk your way around the ancient walls, stopping at the many museums, shops and cafes.
Snowdonia for Foodies
When all that activity has given you an appetite to rival Homer Simpson’s, Snowdonia is the ideal place to sit and eat! If your holiday cottage has a good kitchen, make your way to Blas ar Fwyd in Llanrwst and pick up some local ingredients for a delicious meal. This superb delicatessen rivals any in Britain, especially when it comes to Welsh food and wine. They also have a restaurant and a good selection of prepared foods to take away if you want a night off cooking!
Conwy is a perfect base for foodies. Not only are its mussels exported worldwide, the annual Conwy Honey Fair, which is held in mid-September, has been going for more than 700 years, and Conwy Feast is a great food festival held at the end of October. While you’re there, be sure to visit Plas Mawr, a skilfully preserved Elizabethan town house dating back to 1576. Snowdonia also has a calendar of regular farmers markets and incredible restaurants to suit all tastes and budgets. Do a little research before your holiday and your stomach will thank you.
Snowdonia in Winter
Snowdonia is a far from fair-weather destination. It’s possible the landscape is even more beautiful in winter, but that doesn’t mean you want to freeze your toes off in it every day. Most of Snowdonia’s castles are open to the public during winter, with Criccieth Castle having free entry from Monday to Thursday between November and March. Portmeirion Village offers half price entry during winter; or you could visit the Inigo Jones Slate Works near Caernarfon. You can also take a ride on a steam train, buy genuine Welsh wool items at Trefriw Woollen Mills and enjoy climbing the mountain paths without summer tourists.
Winter is the ideal time for photographers to visit Snowdonia as the lower light silhouettes the ridges even more dramatically than normal, and makes mist wreathed peaks simply magical.
Snowdonia is a place you should visit at least once in your life. It is more than a mountain; it’s a landscape which has been protected so it can be enjoyed for generations, where history and modern Welsh culture happily sit together, and where you will make incredible memories to last your lifetime.
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