Why you should visit Snowdonia
Snowdonia – Eryri in the Welsh language – is the largest of Wales’s three national parks. Covering 823 square miles, nine mountain ranges and 23 miles of coastline, this stunning region in northwest Wales is a haven for outdoor enthusiasts, foodies and adventurers.
With “elite” hiking trails, “breath-taking backdrops”, and “mythic mountains” ringed by “fairytale forests”, Snowdonia National Park offers visitors an “exhilarating blast” of natural beauty and unforgettable experiences, said Joanne Owen in Rough Guides. It’s not just ideal for “epic outdoor escapades”, this is a destination for “history-inspired adventures” or a “fun-filled family break”.
Mountaineers love the “rough tough stuff” that Eryri offers, said the VisitWales tourism board. But this “supersized adventure playground” with mountains, hills, river valleys, woodland and beaches offers activities for all ages. Enjoy “high wires, bike trails and white water rafting”, or visit a castle, a beach or a cosy pub.
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Things to see and do in Snowdonia
Climb Mount Snowdon
Mount Snowdon (Yr Wyddfa in Welsh) is the highest peak in Wales and England at 3,560ft (1,085m) above sea level. A “magnificent magnet” for climbers and hill walkers, it is “one of the best things to see and do” in the national park, said Joanne Owen in Rough Guides. There are six official routes up Snowdon: Llanberis path, Pyg Track, Miners’ Track, Watkin Path, Rhyd-Ddu Path, and the Snowdon Ranger Path. According to the National Trust, Llanberis Path is the easiest with the Watkin Path the most challenging. But the best way to “avoid a traffic jam of climbers” is to take the Snowdon Ranger, said The Guardian.
Walks and routes
If scaling a mountain is a bit too hardcore for you, then there are many options for a scenic stroll. In fact, there’s 1,497 miles of approved National Park Authority walking paths to explore. Routes that have “access for all” include a 4.5km walk to Aber Falls, one of Snowdonia’s “most impressive” waterfalls, and the 15km Mawddach Trail, one of the park’s “most flexible and accessible trails”.
Towns and villages
There are 24 small villages and five towns within the boundaries of the national park. The largest communities include coastal town Harlech, which overlooks Cardigan Bay and is home to a magnificent castle, and Dolgellau, which has 180 buildings which are listed. Small market town Y Bala is one of the communities with the highest percentage of Welsh speakers in the national park. It’s also a top location for sailing, canoeing and white water rafting.
Snowdon Mountain Railway
Reopening on 1 April, Snowdon Mountain Railway’s destination for the 2023 season will be Snowdon Summit. One of the region’s “most famous attractions”, the railway has track that has a “thrillingly steep grade”, said Fodor’s. And on a clear day “you can see as far as the Wicklow Mountains in Ireland, about 90 miles away”. It’s recommended to book in advance.
There are many magical castles to see in Eryri, so “make sure you mix up your stay” with a “healthy portion of culture and heritage”, said What’s On North Wales. “Remarkable” coastal castle Harlech Castle remains “one of the most popular” in Snowdonia, said Sugar & Loaf. It’s a “formidable fortress” that “keeps watch” over the coast and mountains.
Situated on its own peninsula in southern Snowdonia, there’s “nowhere quite like” Portmeirion – “the UK’s cutest village”, said Time Out. “Well, nowhere in Wales, at least.” Designed by Sir Clough Williams-Ellis in the early 20th century, Portmeirion is an “Italian village smack dab in the middle of Wales”, said The Crave Traveler. “If you’re travelling to the UK and can’t make it over to Italy, but you want to experience an Italian village, go here!”
Thrill-seeking and adventure in Snowdonia
National White Water Centre
Hold on tight as Snowdonia has some of the best outdoor activities to enjoy anywhere in the UK. The National White Water Centre in Frongoch near Bala offers white water rafting on “raging natural rapids”.
Adventure Parc Snowdonia
You can surf and stay at the Adventure Parc Snowdonia in the majestic Conwy Valley. As well as being home to an inland surf lagoon and the Wave Garden Spa, the park also offers outdoor activities such as climbing, open water swimming and zip lines. Indoor activities include high ropes, caving and ninja assault. There’s even a hotel on site: the 106-bedroom Hilton Garden Inn Snowdonia.
An ideal day out for adults and children, there are three Zip World sites across north Wales: Fforest near Betws y Coed, Penrhyn Quarry, and Llechwedd Slate Caverns. Activities include alpine coasters, treetop nets, zip lines and adventure courses. Penrhyn Quarry is home to “Velocity 2”, the fastest zip line in the world.
Hotels and places to stay in Snowdonia
For climbers, Pen-Y-Gwryd Hotel in Nant Gwynant valley at the foot of Snowdon is a “characterful mountaineer’s hotel” that is a “unique option for adventure enthusiasts”, said The Hotel Guru. Pubs with rooms include The Saracens Head in Beddgelert, which is a “chic boutique inn” offering 11 stylish yet cosy rooms, while the Cross Foxes Inn just outside Dolgellau is “perfectly located for outdoor enthusiasts”. If it’s a B&B you’re after, then the “luxurious” Tan Y Foel Country House near Betws-y-Coed offers a “stylish getaway”. It’s set in a “charming” traditional house with “epic views across the valleys”.
On The Telegraph’s list of best hotels in Snowdonia, Plas Dinas Country House in Caernarfon, Olif in Betws-y-Coed, and Penmachno Hall in Penmachno are among the hotels which get an 8/10 expert rating. Plas Dinas is an “elegant” country house hotel “set between the mountains and sea” in rural Snowdonia. Olif has a “fun fusion” of Welsh and Mediterranean set off by a “cosy, rustic look and fairy lights”. And Victorian country house Penmachno Hall will leave you feeling like a “well-looked after old friend”.
Eating and drinking in Snowdonia
Olif in Betws-y-Coed is also a great place to eat – especially for “Welsh tapas and towering burgers”, said Time Out. “No, that isn’t a typo; Welsh tapas is definitely a thing.” The Stables (Y Stablau), another “excellent option” in Betws-y-Coed, serves up “big portions of refined pub grub in a delightful beer garden setting”.
There’s usually “six or seven ales on tap” at the Cwellyn Arms in the village of Rhyd Ddu, said Dave Roberts on Walk Up Snowdon. “Beers spotted have been Conwy and Gogarth breweries, and just too many others to mention.” Vaynol Arms in Nant Peris is an “atmospheric tavern”, with some “wonderfully dated 70s mountaineering photos on the wall”. Snowdonia Parc in Waunfawr may not be “technically” on the routes, but it “deserves a mention”. It has a campsite and they “brew their own beer too”.
Located at the base of the Snowdon Watkin path in Nantgwynant, Caffi Gwynant is “our favourite cafe in the world” for breakfast, lunch or teas, said Nook Snowdonia. Housed in a converted chapel, it offers a menu filled with local produce as well as homemade cakes and local ales. It’s “as popular for breakfast as for a post-hike pint”, said Time Out. “But choose wisely – you may struggle to waddle anywhere after the buttermilk chicken waffle slathered with maple butter.”
Transport: how to get to Snowdonia
Rail users can “easily” get the train to Snowdonia, “no matter what part of the UK you’re coming from”, said TheTrainline.com. “The North Wales Coast Line from Crewe to Holyhead connects you to Bangor (Gwynedd) at the northwestern edge of the park and Llandudno, where you can get the Conwy Valley Line down through the park as far as Blaenau Ffestiniog.”
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