The railway by the lakeside was built to carry slate from the quarries to a port on the Menai Straits.
narrow-gauge steam tr ain, vintage steam engines from the former Dinorwic slate quarries
The start of the train is at Gilfach Ddu, next to the National Slate Museum. It then goes to Llanberis and from there non-stop to Penllyn, passing again the Gilfach Ddu station.
Return fares (2013): adults 7,50, children 4,50. Special family rates.
The Padarn Country Park is a nice area east of the Padarn Lake (Llyn Padarn), near the old Dinorwig Quarry. It's a great place for walking; besides the Lake Walk (see other tip), there are several signposted trails:
Vivian Trail (blue): this one passes the Vivian Quarry, which now is filled with water. You can walk directly to the border of that pool, or take a look from above. Also on that trail, you'll see several remains of the quarrying industry, like the old winch house, inclines, and the Old Quarry Hospital. Inside is a little museum (free admission) with medical equipment form the 19th century. Parts also go through the slate mountains, and I felt a bit uncomfortable with all this slate next to me, I had the feeling that it just needs a mouse to bring the slate into movement and slide down! But you had very nice views!
Woodland Walk (yellow): this is a trail through the oak wood which is special because it's Sessile Oak. It partly goes the same way like the Lake Walk and has great views over the lake towards Llanberis and the mountains. It also overlaps with the Vivian Trail and goes a bit through the slate mountains.
Kingfisher Trail: trail for the less able and wheelchairs; it's leading from the car park at the Quarry Museum to the lake shore and to the Vivian Quarry pool. It's interesting that car park and the area closeby used to be part of the lake... until they put all the slate waste there!
The Padarn Lake, or Llyn Padarn, is 3 km long and not very wide. Llanberis is located on the south-western end of the Lake. From the car park at the A4086, you have a great view over the lake towards the mountains, the slate quarry and Dolbadarn castle.
There's a trail around the lake which is about 5 miles, and is signposted with white marks. While the western part between Llanberis and Penllyn is flat and easy to go, the path on the eastern side through the Padarn Country Park and the village Fachwen is hilly. We walked a bit on the eastern side, it goes a lot through forest above the lake, but there are some nice viewpoints with wonderful views!
There are also boat trips on the Padarn Lake in the afternoon, and you can do other activities like sub aqua-diving in the Vivian Quarry Pool next to it, or climb at the high ropes course which is next to the Quarry Museum.
Dinorwig Power Station, also called Electric Mountain, is a pumped storage power station hidden in the mountains of the former Dinorwig Slate Quarry. It's the largest in Europe. They’ve built some huge tunnels and underground chambers which now host six generating units. You can visit the site on a guided tour which is very interesting and takes almost one hour. It starts at the Visitor Centre where you first will watch a short introduction. Then you are being taken to a locker room where you have to lock your bags, phones and cameras. Next, a bus takes you through the tunnels into the mountain; you’ll find a hard hat on each seat. On the way you get some more explanations about what you will see at the stations that you are going to. First, you'll see the valves with the large water pipes, and then you walk a few stairs up to the turbine hall. In contrast to most others turbines, they are vertical instead of horizontal here. Also these turbine generators have the world’s fastest response time and can get to full power in only a few seconds. This is pretty impressing! Next, the bus takes you to the third station, which is the hall where you can see the top of the generators. Here, you’ll watch another film, about the building of the power station.
In the Visitor Centre, which is free, there's a exhibition with some information panels that explain how the power station was built etc. And on the first floor there's a model of the generator. The exhibition is very small, but still interesting. There’s also a gift shop and café.
Tours run daily from Easter to end of October.
Admisssion: 7,75 adults, 3,95 children (minimum 4 years old). Special family rates.
You need 1,- for the lockers, but it’s returned afterwards.
Slate quarrying used to be an important industry in Llanberis. There had been several quarries which all were closed after the quarrying industry declined after WWI. The Dinorwig Quarry near Llanberis was closed in 1969, and in the former industrial engineering workshops you now find a Slate Museum. You can see all the workshops like the blacksmith’s forge, machine shop and power hall, have a look at the mess room, and visit the chief engineer’s house. Also there’s an introduction film with some information about the slate quarrying. Very interesting and impressive was the slate-splitting demonstration – someone was showing how to split slate and even had one of the school kids try it. And then there’s this giant waterwheel that has 15,4m diameter. You can walk up the stairs (or take the elevator) into the waterwheel building and watch the wheel working, pretty imposing!
And there’s something else very interesting: the quarrymen’s houses. Originally they are from Tnygrisia and were moved to the Slate Museum in 1998. They are decorated in different periods styles – 1861 (slate industry was growing), 1901 (time of the Penryhn Strike), 1969 (closing of the Dinorwig Quarry). It’s interesting to see how the same house is being changed. First the upper room was just one room, with the only separation being a blanket draped from the ceiling. Later, a wall was built to get a second room. Also the house got a small extension at the back over the time, for a washroom and later a toilet. The interior decoration is also very well made to fit the time period.
Open daily from 10am to 5pm (to 4pm and closed on Saturdays from November until Easter)
Dolbadarn Castle was built by Llywelyn the Great in the 13th century to defend the passage through the Snowdonian mountains. The location of the castle is very nice, on a hill above Llyn Peris and next to Llyn Padarn. Today, the castle is in ruins and only the tower is left, together with some little walls. You can climb up the stairs to the entrance, which is on the first floor, and have a look in its inside. From the entrance and in front of the castle, you have a great view on the surroundings – the lakes, the former slate quarries and the mountains.
Under the care of CADW. Free admission.
Llanberis lies at the foot of Mount Snowdon ("Yr Wyddfa" in Welsh), which is the highest mountain in Wales. It’s 1085m high and you have a choice of several hiking paths if you want to climb it.
The Miners’ Track is the most popular one and starts at Pen-y-Pass on an altitude of 350. We only passed this place by car but the views from there are great, so hiking there must be nice! There’s a pretty expensive car-park at Pen-y-Pass (I think it was 10,- or even more per day) which fills quickly. Another car-park is down the pass on the A498, but then you need to walk up all the way. Another alternative is to take the bus from LLanberis to Pen-y-Pass.
Another path is the Llanberis Path which is said to be the longest and easiest route. It starts in Llanberis and is well signposted. We went the first part of it and had some nice views on Llanberis and the mountains. You also get good views on the Snowdon Mountain Railway, as the path goes close to it.
This Snowdon Mountain Railway is another option to go up on Mount Snowdon as it goes from Llanberis up to the summit. It’s the only rack and pinion railway in the UK and runs from March to early November. It’s very very slow... the railway length is 7 km and the average speed only 8 km/h. So you get plenty of time to enjoy the landscape!
The railway station is on the A4086. There’s a large car park on the opposite side of the road below the Royal Victoria Hotel (6,- per day), another smaller one behind the station (6,- for 8h, 10,- per day), and other (cheaper) car parks closer to the village centre or towards the Slate Museum.
When you plan for your visit to Snowdonia these are very useful websites:
Snowdonia National Park (official website): http://www.eryri-npa.gov.uk/home
For weather information: www.metoffice.gov.uk/loutdoor/mountainsafety
For those who don't want or can't walk (or Climb) up Snowdon there is always the Option of the train.
It was in 1869 that a new branch line of the London and North Western Railway opened bringing people from Caernarfon to Llanberis and the foot of Snowdon then the only way to reach the summit was to walk or take a donkey ride, A proposition was then put forward to extend the railway up to the summit but a local landowner (George William Duff Assherton Smith) turned down every proposal as he thought that a railway would spoil the scenery, it was twenty years later that a rival plan to build a railway from Rhyd Ddu station on the other side of the mountain up to the summit brought fears that Llanberis would forever lose its tourist trade and with this in mind Assherton Smith changed his decision allowing his land to be used and so in November 1894 the 'Snowdon Mountain Tramroad and Hotels Co. Ltd' was formed to build the railway.
In order to ensure that the trains were able to climb the steep and continual gradient of Snowdon the Snowdon Mountain Tramroad and Hotels Co. Ltd travelled to Switzerland to find the best mountain railway technology
The smooth constant operation when climbing the steep slopes has been achieved by a double racked rail used with a rotating toothed pinion. This pinion is mounted underneath the locomotive guaranteeing that the locomotive does not lose its grip on the track.
The pinion is the only source of traction for the locomotive with the wheels only supporting the weight of the engine. The main point that is unique to rack railways is that the locomotive always pushes the carriage up the mountain and due to safety reasons it is never coupled to the train. The carriage has its own set of brakes that will bring the carriage to a stop if it is disengaged from the Engine.
After some construction setbacks due to some very bad weather the first train reached the summit in January of 1896 and the railway was ready to open to the public in the Easter of 1896.
Llanberis to the Summit. Return £25:00 for Adults and a Single is £16:00
Children return £16.00 Single £13.00
Other discounts apply for students and the disabled or for the various stations along the way
Dolbadarn Castle at Llanberis dates to the 13th century but sadly only the keep remains in solid condition but it is thought by many to be one of the finest of Wales's ' native-built castles said ro have been Built by the mighty Llywelyn ap Iorwerth (Llywelyn the Great) sometime before 1230.
The castles history did not die with Llywelyn the Great in 1240 and the castle was in active use for at least another 40 years and was the prison of Owain Goch (Owain ap Gruffydd) by his younger brother, Llywelyn (Llywelyn the Last) during the struggles for control of North Wales during the 1250's.
Owain spent 20 years here as a prisoner, living on the upper floor of the castle. During the revolt of the Welsh princes against the English King Edward I, Dolbadarn Castle was held by another of Llywelyn's brothers, (Dafydd ap Gruffydd).
Unfortunately for the princes and for the Welsh the castle fell to the formidable forces led by the Earl of Pembroke and Dolbadarn was seized by the English army 1n 1282. shortly after the castle was abandoned.
When Owain Glyndwr led the Welsh uprisings around 1400 it is thought that Glyndwr may have used the keep to hold prisoners such as Lord Grey of Ruthin Castle.
The Castle is free to visit.
The Llanberis path is the easiest, longest and the most popular of the five well-beaten paths up Snowdon, It is about 5 miles from base to summit and is well graded, it more or less follows the railway track from Llanberis.
The path starts in Llanberis and from the station of the Mountain railway pass the front and right down a short road to a small square. At the end of this is a gate and cattle grid go through it (don't walk over the cattle grid as it is very slippy, use the Gate) there is an information board here providing details of the walk. Carry on and start the climb up a steep road. Near the top of the road is a great Tea House, perfect for a drink on your way back down.
shortly after the path turns left through a gate and goes onwards and upwards, it dips under the railway and after an almost level stretch reaches the Halfway house, a little cafe that is open during summer months. There is then a climb up untill the path once again passes under the railway and is a good place to stop for a break before tackling the last stretch and steep climb. the views from here are great as long as your not in cloud.
The path then goes south and closely follows the railway up to the top which is just near the Station and Visitors centre ( the visitors Centre is only open during the Summer Months)
The Llanberis path starts, obviously, at Llanberis, and is considered one of the longer but easier ways to climb Snowdon. The path mirrors the Snowdon Mountain Railway (which also starts at Llanberis). There is a 'Half-Way House' along the path which serves drinks and snacks, but this is not open during the winter months. The last quater of the Llanberis path can be a little daunting, especially if there is Ice on the path, and although it is the easiest way to get to the summit, it is still sometimes impassable, forcing people to turn back only a couple of hundred meters from the summit.
The Llanberis path doesn't require any real mountain climbing experience or special equipment, just wear sensible clothes and take some common sense with you, and of course a bar of Kendal mint cake! For more information on what to take and what to be aware of when climbing Snowdon, see my tips on the Snowdonia Page.
The lovliest waterfall that I saw anywhere in the UK is Swallow Falls, in Snowdonia. Located near the town of Betws-y-Coed, it is where the Llugwy River cascades down the mountains. This is a favorite spot for visitors to Wales.
For some spectacular views of the Snowdonia National Park, you can't beat the Snowdon Mountain Railway. This is the only rack and pinion railway in the UK (similar to the Cog Railway in the White Mountains of New Hampshire). It goes to the Summit of Snowdon, which is the highest peak in Wales at 3,560 feet.
Unfortunately, on the day of my visit, the peak was shrouded in thick clouds. But the views on the way up were tremendous. Maybe you will be luckier.
Worth seeing this (and they have it working at various times too).
The V2 incline was built in the 1860's, and in use until the 1920's. It's basically a lift system, for bringing slate down to the lakeside quarry workshops and railway. It was restored in 1998.
A most unusual thing.