Parc Cenedlaethol Eryri or Snowdonia National Park
The rugged landscape of Snowdonia National Park is well known for its inspirational landscapes and Wales’ highest mountain Yr Wyddfa, also known as Snowdon. Parc Cenedlaethol Eryri is home to rolling hills, glacial lakes, pretty stone villages with snug thatched rooves, World Heritage castles, historical slate quarries and Celtic shrines. The ancient coastline is peppered with rampart walls, lighthouses, soft sandy beaches and cliffs that hide a disused maze of smugglers coves.
Throughout the park, you can explore initiatives such as Ein Treftadaeth, which translates into our heritage. The Welsh are fiercely proud of their culture, history, ancient Celtic rainforests and the folkloric lands of Snowdon. Every hill, mountain, village and town holds legendary tales about giants, monsters and magic. Listen out for the tuneful Welsh accent as locals chatter in their native tongue.
Visiting Snowdonia, Wales
Most visitors who visit Snowdonia National Park are keen to climb Yr Wyddfa or Snowdon. The highest cloud-piercing mountain in Wales (and England) dramatically rises to 1,085 metres above the Irish Sea and Cardigan Bay.
Bala, the pretty lakeside town, is the start of many hiking adventures into the peaceful Aran and Arenig ranges. The three neighbouring ranges are Snowdon Massif, Carneddau and Glyderau. Here, you will find some spectacular walker’s favourites, including the highly regarded Tryfan, home to the famous twin monoliths of Siôn a Siân, or Adam and Eve in English. Further south is the magnificent Cader Idris that admires its reflection in the glacial lake.
The Snowdon Mountain Railway has been running since 1896. The diesel train takes you on an exciting journey from Llanberis to Clogwyn Station, almost at the summit. The Snowdon Sherpa bus can take you up or down six routes. Once you have chosen your climb, a clear day will afford you Instagram perfect views of the Snowdonia National Park, Llanfairpwllgwyngyllgogerychwyrndrobwllllantysiliogogogoch (or if you struggle with the pronunciation, you can use Llanfair Pwllgwyngyll for short), down to the Pembrokeshire coastline, up to the Peak District in England and all the way across to Ireland.
8 Things to do in Snowdonia, Wales
Snowdonia National Park
Snowdonia National Park is recognised as one of the finest parks in the United Kingdom and is undoubtedly an area with outstanding natural beauty, rich heritage and lavish landscapes. It’s been described as Wales’ best-known slice of nature and became the country’s first national park in 1951. Snowdonia is the ideal destination for travellers that seek adventures in the great outdoors and take pleasure in long countryside walks, hiking, and exploring hidden coves, castles and rugged coastal terrains.
For adrenaline seekers, there are ample opportunities for climbing, caving, rafting and surfing. Mount Snowdon and its surrounding peaks are a must climb, train or bus journey. Parc Cenedlaethol Eryri spans 823 square miles of protected coastline, valleys, rivers, bird-filled estuaries, forests, and, not to mention, Wales’ largest natural lake Llyn Tegid, or Bala Lake. The national park changes throughout the seasons, make sure that you pack for the cold and rapid changes in weather.
Interestingly, the park is home to two endangered species, an alpine plant called the Snowdon lily and the rainbow-coloured Snowdon beetle.
Portmeirion is a colourful anomaly set on its own peninsula that reaches into the Dwyryd Estuary. The village was the mastermind of eccentric Welsh architect Sir Clough Williams-Ellis. He collected artefacts from crumbling stately homes that would eventually form the delightful Italian-esque beachside utopia. Portmeirion might seem familiar; it was featured in the 1967 cult television series ‘The Prisoner’ and the 1958 film ‘The Inn of the Sixth Happiness’, starring Ingrid Bergman.
The village is a listed conservation area, and all of the buildings are heritage protected and listed. The majority of the slightly kooky cottages and mansions in the village are available to rent for holidays. The colourful Unicorn House is akin to a dolls house modelled on the famed home of the Duke and Duchess of Devonshire, Chatsworth House.
Many buildings are home to cafés that specialise in local organic cuisine, fancy restaurants, and gift shops that sell floral English tableware designed by Sir Clough’s daughter. Take a wander around the private peninsula, and you’ll stumble across a faux castle as you meander through ancient forests.
Another mysterious landscape, Bardsey Island, is steeped in Arthurian myths and legends. Local rumours have it that Merlin still sleeps in a glass castle nestled quietly somewhere on the island. St Cadfan founded a monastery on the island, which gave respite and shelter to Celts fleeing the Anglo Saxons during the Dark Ages. Medieval pilgrims flocked to the island.
Today, the only pilgrims visiting Bardsey Island tend to seek the nocturnal Manx shearwater birds before they migrate to South America each July. A colony of playful Atlantic grey seals are known to hang out in the harbour. Dotted across the island are Celtic carved stones, the remains of an ancient abbey and a photogenic candy-striped lighthouse.
Dyffryn Ogwen, otherwise known as Ogwen Valley, is a wide glacial valley safely enveloped by the lofty Snowdonia mountain peaks, mirror-like lakes and historic villages and towns. A favourite with knowledgeable walkers takes you up to Cwm Idwal via glorious landscapes carved by timeworn glaciers.
Glyder Fawr is worth the extra effort as you ascend through highland lakes and icy cold waterfalls. The views from the top give you an uninterrupted view of Snowdon itself. Seasoned climbers will be tempted to climb the second-highest peak in Wales, and walk the long but beautiful pathways to Carnedd Llewelyn.
Llechwedd Slate Caverns
Multi-award-winning Llechwedd Slate Caverns is not for the faint-hearted. The steepest mining cable railway in Europe drops you deep underground to discover life in the craggy, unlit mining tunnels. Buried deep under the towering mountains of Snowdonia lies the rock revolution that built endless communities and supported and defined generations of families in North Wales.
The Industrial Revolution created a need for this dark grey fragile rock. In its prime, the slate industry employed over 17,000 men. Half a million tonnes of slate every year was exported across the world by the end of the 19th century. Maenofferen, Diffwys and Casson quarries are part of the bid to make this interesting landscape a UNESCO World Heritage Site. Regular tours take place and culminate in an impressive sound and light show over the magical underground lake.
Llanberis Pass and Village
You don’t have to run the 10-mile annual Snowdon Race to appreciate the Llanberis Pass. The Llanberis Pass lies between the mountain massifs of Glyderau and Snowdon. You’ll pass between the twin lakes of Padarn and Peris and past the hauntingly impressive round fortification built by the Welsh prince Llywelyn the Great as a symbol of his power. Here you’ll also find one of the largest pumping stations in Europe, the underground Dinorwig Power Station.
Little Llanberis is a popular start and finishing point to the hike, especially if you finish up in the Y Gwynedd Inn for refreshments. As you wander the shores of Lake Padarn, you can’t miss the impressive steel sword sculpture Llafn y Cewri that stands over six metres tall. The Blade of the Giants was hewn to celebrate the region’s rich heritage.
The train that once served the slate quarries, the Llanberis Lake Railway, now comfortably journeys visitors along the lake for breathtaking views of the mountains.
Trefriw Woollen Mills
Trefriw Woollen Mills is one of the last working mills in Wales. The woollen mills were once an essential part of the Welsh weaving industry. Trefriw was once a pandy or fulling mill which prepared newly woven woollen fabric with acid liquor and soap into a grease-free cloth to a standard suitable for dying. The River Crafnant drove the waterwheel to wash the wool.
Welsh tapestry bedspreads and blankets are instantly recognisable by their unusual colours and patterns. Tapestry refers to the technique of double-cloth construction, which creates reversible symmetrical-style patterns. Visitors can watch artisans hand-spinning yarn and fabric in a similar method that was used almost two millenia ago. The historical techniques are slowly and quietly dying out to make way for newer fabrics, so make sure to visit their shop. These blankets have a fascinating history that is centuries old and brings with them the hard work of an entire people, families and a country.
The Ugly House in Betws-y-Coed
If you are heading through Glaslyn Valley and the Gwydyr Forest, be sure to stop at Betws-y-Coed. The pretty Alpine-like village is becoming known as the gateway to Snowdonia National Park. Visitors flock to enjoy the many walking, hiking or mountain biking trails around the village. Betws-y-Coed is nestled between Ffos Anoddun, the Fairy Glen, Swallow Falls, and Conwy Waterfalls. The famous Ty Hyll, or Ugly House, is anything but; the quaint cottage is believed to date from the 15th century. The legends that surround Ty Hyll are full of stolen goods, maidens and robbers. It’s now a robber-free tea room serving up delicious sweet Welsh cakes and strong Welsh tea.