If you find yourself in Snowdonia National Park, then you will no doubt come across Mount Snowdon. With a summit of 1085 metres (3560 feet), it is the highest mountain in Wales & England.
Views from the top of Mount Snowdon are one of the highlights of a visit to this part of Wales. On a clear day you get a magnificent view and if it is not so clear, you may find yourself above the clouds feeling a little surreal.
If you are energetic, you can hike to the top of the mountain. The easiest walk leaves from Llanberis and takes around 5 hours for a return trip. Of similar difficulty is the hike from Beddgelert, which also takes around 5 hours. There are more difficult options as well, but please be warned - people die each year when scaling the mountain.
If you are not the athletic type, like yours truly, you can catch the Snowdon Mountain Railway to the top (or part way up) the mountain. The UK's highest railway has been running since 1896, and is the only public 'rack-and-pinion' railway in the country. A trip to the summit in this little red train takes one hour, and it runs from mid-March to early-November, depending on the weather.
On the grey day we were in Llanberis the railway was only running a quarter of the way up, so we decided not to take a ride this visit. Next time we will head there in summer and ride to the top.…or perhaps if I start training now we can do the hike!
The Welsh Slate Museum is located in the town of Llanberis. You can find it in a fabulous setting in the shadows of the surrounding slate mountains, which are quite spectacular.
This is a living, working museum, and with free admission, it is a great attraction for all the family. There are workers' cottages, furnished as they would have been in Victorian times; a huge working water wheel; and slate splitting demonstrations.
To get to the museum, turn off the A4086 between the Snowdon Mountain Railway station and Electric Mountain.
One of the things in Snowdonia that I was keen to see was the Ffestiniog Railway, the oldest Independent Railway Company in the world. Built between 1832 and 1836, Ffestiniog is a 22km (13.5mile) narrow-gauge railway that twists its way through Snowdonia National Park, between Porthmadog and Blaenau Ffestiniog.
The line was opened to the public in the 1860's, when horse-drawn wagon were replaced by steam locomotives.
We stopped off in Porthmadog to enquire about a ride on the train, but unfortunately the timetable didn't fit in with the rest of our schedule. We did, however, get the chance to see the lovely little train setting off on its journey to Blaenau Ffestiniog.
And there certainly was a lot of steam!
Check out the website for weekly timetables and plenty more information.
There are several routes with variable difficulty to get to the top of Mount Snowdon.
The most popular and challenging one is the Horseshoe path which can be started from Penn-y-Pass. If you’re staying at Llanberis for the night, a good option is to take the Sherpa Bus from Llanberris High Street (several stops and at least 2 buses per hour) to Penn-y-Pass for a 10 to 15 minutes bus ride (the bus can get packed very quickly and you’ll have to wait for the next one so try to leave on time i.e. before the crowd decides to invade the mountain – around 8ish seems to be fine).
From Penn-y-Pass you’ve got 2 options: leaving the café in your back, you can either go straight ahead toward the Miner’s Track (“gentle” walk around the lakes followed by a steeper ascent which involves a bit of scrambling toward the summit) or turn right toward the Pyg Track. You can decide to stay on the Pyg track until the top: the views are more enjoyable than on the miners track as you get a steady elevation all the way to the summit. After let’s say 30-45 minutes on the Pyg Track you can also decide to walk on the best ridge path in the UK on the Horseshoe path. You can’t miss it as loads of people would have probably preceded you (if not – go back urgently!) and you will look at them from below telling to yourself: “Gosh .. What are these people doing up there...Will I really be able to do that?” Actually if the weather is ok (dry and no wind at least) then you can take your chance provided that you’re not scared by heights… Otherwise you wouldn’t be able to make it. The first bit involves some climbing, then some scrambling on a very narrow ridge… It’s not for the faint hearted but less scary than it sounds or looks though (see my pictures)...
After the ridge, the way to the top is quite easy... Go back to Llanberis via the Llanberis path, a gentle but long walk down to where you took the bus in the morning.
Overall i would say that it takes about 5h return.
The Ultimate High Level Ridge Walk - The Snowdon Horseshoe
The most exhilerating high level ridge walk in Wales & England, possibly in Scotland too - for ordinary walkers.
The Snowdon Horseshoe is a terrific walk over Crib Goch, Crib-y-Ddysgl, Yr Wyddfa and Y Lliwedd, making a circular walk, unsurpassed.
Start & Finish: Pen-y-Pass, top of Llanberis Pass. Time 5 - 8 hours.
Best done anti-clockwise: Follow the Pyg track, then up the steep Crib Goch (Red Ridge). Once on it's summit, route finding is ok in good visibility - tough in cloud, as you teeter along a knife edge with awesome drops either side, scramble around the Pinnacles and then over the easier Crib-y-Ddisgl.
From here it becomes an easier walk. There are still potential accidents, especially with wobbly, tired legs, decending off Snowdon down steep and loose scree.
Yr Lliwedd has vertical cliffs on just one side, so is less threatening but just as spectacular!
Finish by joining the Miners' Track at Llyn Llydaw.
You will need:- a head for hights and to be fit, properly equipped - and know the weather forecast. Difficult in wet and windy conditions as the rock is polished.
Need to use hands in places (Grade 1 Scramble). Absolutely amazing views and an absolute delight - with a sense of exploration and achievement at the end.
Superb photography and being a horseshoe route (in plan - see maps) you get excellent views across Glaslyn (blue lake). Simply spectacular!
Exposed rock scrambling - a trip or fall is likely to be fatal. Not a tourist route. Once commited to Crib Goch it cannot be escaped - and reversing is harder.
Get advice from the National Park Wardens (office at Pen-y-Pass) - People do die.
Note: The Knife Edge of Crib Goch can be bypassed by remaining on the Pyg track up to Glaslyn and ascending the "zig-zags" to join the other routes prior to Yr Wyddfa. This is the most common route - much safer and less scary, but still with the exhileration of Y Lliwedd to finish.
Just south of Beddgelert at the junction of the A498 and A4085 is Pont Aberglaslyn ( Pont meaning Bridge )
As you stand on this bridge and look up the Aberglaslyn Pass you're confronted with one of those "I must take a photograph" moments. The guidebook says it's one of the most photographed views in Britain. Parking is pretty much impossible right near the bridge but there is a dedicated Aberglaslyn carpark a little way way up the A4085 and you can walk back down the road or I think there is a path from the carpark down the slope which will be fairly steep.
You can also walk here from Beddgelert which is about 3 miles.
The road from the bridge toward Beddgelert takes you through the pass alongside the river.
The Walking Englishman website gives an interesting rundown of a walk around the Beddgelert area taking in the Aberglaslyn Pass en-route.
EDIT: On our last trip in March 2012 we parked in the village at Beddgelert and walked down the pass and then the road to Pont Aberglaslyn, crossed the bridge and walked all the way back to Beddgelert on the rocky path running next to the river which is really beautiful, and pretty flat too so not too strenuous.
If you're lucky you might spot the steam train from the Welsh Highland Railway near the village as we did.
Here is a 4 & 1/2 mile walk from the National Trust website (graded "hard") for Aberglaslyn Pass and Cwm Bychan you can print out in pdf.
Barmouth is a seaside town on the west coast and is typial of English Victorian seaside towns in it's style.
The vast promenade has a land train that runs almost the whole length. There is a large beach. There is also parking on the promenade.
There is a wooden railway bridge across the estuary that is still in use today. I believe pedestrians can also use the bridge.
There is also a small lifeboat museum located in the old lifeboat station. Admission is free. The station was established in 1828 at the request of the local inhabitants of the town. Five RNLI (Royal National Lifeboat Instutution) medals for gallantry have been awarded to the station.
For somewhere to eat while you're here I can highly recommend the Tal Y Don pub (see my tip in the Restaurants section.
We were staying in Morfa Bychan in Porthmadog. This is a stonesthrow away from Portmeirion where they filmed The Prisoner in the Sixties.
Built by Clough William Ellis from 1925-1975 on his own private peninsula on the coast on the edge of the Snowdonia National Park.
Opening Hours and Admission
This information from their website
Open every day 9.30am – 5.30pm.
Day Visit Admission Charges 2004 (grounds open 9.30am - 5.30pm daily) are as follows:
Children under 4 free of charge
No dogs allowed (guide dogs excepted)
It still cost £6 when we visited so I'm assuming the prices haven't changed for 2005.
Warning: Always check tide times and never venture onto the estuary sands within 2 hours of next high tide. The tide can come in quickly and you may get cut off.
We loved Portmeirion. It was beautiful and quite surreal. Make sure you're able to take lots of photos. Happily it was a nice day when we went so the sun really brought out the colours of the buildings.
The shops sell all manner of things. They sell lots of different Jams (or jelly to our American friends). Obviously they also sell lots of Prisoner goodies.
My best tip would be to buy the guide as you come in and spend half an hour sitting at the tea shop having a quick read first. I read the guidebook when we came back and was quite annoyed that I'd missed a few really interesting bits. There is a free map with basic information available at the ticket kiosks as you come in.
Climbing Snowdon is something I'd recommend everyone that is physicaly able should do - you don't have to be that fit and there's a pub on top! [In fairness there's also a lot of tourists who've come up on the train which can be a bit demoralising].
The Llanberis path is the longest, but easiest way up Snowdon and follows the route of the railway. It's almost impossible to get lost, but it's worth exercising caution in bad weather as you're not far from the cliff edges into the Llanberis pass at a number of points (though this kaes for an excellent view - one that people on the train don't get).
Beddgelert is a truly beautiful village at the heart of Snowdonia.
A short walk to the south of the village, following the footpath along the banks of the river Glaslyn leads to Beddgelerts most famous historical feature "Gelert's Grave" which is where the village get's it's name - The word bedd means grave . It is well signposted.
According to legend, the stone monument in the field marks the resting place of Gelert the faithful hound of the medieval Welsh Prince Llywelyn the Great.
The story, is told on the tombstone:
"In the 13th century Llywelyn, Prince of North Wales, had a palace at Beddgelert. One day he went hunting without Gelert, "The Faithful Hound", who was unaccountably absent. On Llywelyn's return the truant, stained and smeared with blood, joyfully sprang to meet his master. The prince alarmed hastened to find his son, and saw the infant's cot empty, the bedclothes and floor covered with blood. The frantic father plunged his sword into the hounds side, thinking it had killed his heir. The dog's dying yell was answered by a child's cry. Llywelyn searched and discovered his boy unharmed, but near by lay the body of a mighty wolf which Gelert had slain. The prince filled with remorse is said never to have smiled again. He buried Gelert here"
Standing on the bridge near the church and looking toward the mountains is a spectacular view. The rivers Glaslyn and the Colwyn meet at this bridge.
The village has won awards for Wales in Bloom and Britain in Bloom on numerous occasions and won the Entente Florale, the Europe in Bloom competition.
A must do whilst in Snowdonia National Park. Mount Snowdon is 3,560ft (1085m) high. Said to be the burial place of the giant ogre Rhita, vanquished by King Arthur. The Snowdon Mountain Railway opened in 1896. This rack and pinion railway rises to within 66ft of the summit of the highest mountain in England and Wales.
You can either buy a return ticket (£20 adult) or a single ticket up and walk back down (£14 Adult). Single tickets down are sold on a stand-by basis only. You can buy tickets in advance by phone with a Credit/Debit card, telephone 0870 458 0033 but on the day you can only buy in person at the station. All prices etc are given on the website,
There is a small pay and display car park just near the station and a few others on the other side of the road. Beware of just parking of the road. When we went I think a lot of areas were residents parking only and you'll either get a ticket or get clamped.
Arrive as early as possible before you attend to travel. We arrived in Llanberis just at around 1.30 and had to wait until about 4pm for the next available train. The first train runs at 9am.
You can't take bulky bags and luggage on the train. Only registered support dogs are allowed on the train. There is disabled access. The carriages are quite cramped when full. You are not allowed to stand up and/or lean out of the door window to take pictures. Try to listen to the commentary on the way up as it's quite interesting.
The local army search and rescue seem quite keen on "showboating" and on our trip they kept flying past the train and at one point hovered next to the carriage for a few minutes for a photo opportunity.
It takes an hour to the summit, a half hour stop at the top and an hour back down again. If you miss you return train you CANNOT just get the next one and if you're not on the train when it;s due to leave it will go without you so keep your eye on the time.
See my tip on Snowdon summit
Driving along the A498 coming away from Beddgelert and towards the A408 to Llanberis, the view off to your left is quite spectacular. At the bottom of the valley below is Llyn Gwynant and there is a little viewpoint with a small carpark on the left partway between the lake and the junction with the A4086 so you can pull in and admire the view. An ice cream van just happened to turn up when we were there - hence the photo of Steve on my homepage.
Nant = Valley
Llyn = Lake
Carry On Up The Khyber was filmed around here. This website gives a rundown of film locations to look out for in N Wales.
Criccieth is the next town along the coast from Porthmadog. First records of the towns existence date to the year 1230.
Ciccieth is the only town to have a castle on the Lleyn Peninsula although all that remains of the castle now is the gateway but it still looks very impressive on top of the hill. See the castle website for more information. The views from the castle are fantastic. Adult ticket somewhere around £3 (can't remember exactly!).
David Lloyd George, British Prime Minister (1916-1922) spent his childhood a couple of miles away in Llanystumdwy. He died in the house he owned above the Criccieth Road and his grave, designed by Clough William Ellis (see Portmeirion tip) is situated by the river Dwyfor near the bridge. There is an interesting museum dedicated to his life (£3 adult entrry).
The town is popular among water sports enthusiasts due to the high quality of the water. As you would expect there are plenty of B&Bs, guesthouses and hotels etc in the area making this another great base for touring Snowdonia. There is a Spar supermarket on the main street (as you drive in on the A497 it is on your left in the first group of shops).
The CastleXplorer website also gives some very useful information regarding the castle including information for those with disabilities, parking information etc.
Conway Castle was built between 1283 and 1289. The town of Conway is surrounded by a wall around 3quarters of a mile long and with some 22 towers.
It is a majestic sight perched on the rocks overlooking the estuary and is considered to be of such historical importance that it has been given World Heritage Site status by Unesco.
The views as you look out from the battlements at the top of the castle are quite spectacular. Well worth a visit, as is the rest of the town, and reasonable in price also at £4 for Adult entry.
The Castle Explorer website gives lots of useful info regarding admission times, prices, parking, information for people with disabilities etc. It says the pages were updated for 2004 so if you're unsure of any details you could phone ahead.
Following on from the tip for Nant Gwynant , turn left onto the A4086. Pen Y Pass is the highest point of Llanberis Pass.
At the junction is the Pen Y Gwryd hotel. This hotel was the training headquarters for the first successful team to conquer Mount Everest in 1953. These climbers have sugned their names on the ceiling in the main room in the bar.
The road continues all the way into Llanberis, running right alongside Llyn Padarn and ultimately on to Caernarfon.