Climbing Mount Snowdon
If you are staying in North Wales, top of your to do list must be climbing Mount Snowdon. At an elevation of 1,085 metres (3,560 ft) above sea level, it is the highest mountain in Wales at . It is also the highest point in the British Isles outside the Scottish Highlands.
Snowdon the busiest mountain in the United Kingdom and the third most visited attraction in Wales. We didn’t realise it was also used by Edmund Hillary in training for the 1953 ascent of Mount Everest! On clear days, Ireland, Scotland, England, and the Isle of Man are all visible, as well as 24 counties, 29 lakes and 17 islands. Madness.
There are many routes by which you can climb Mount Snowdon. There is even the Snowdon Highland Railway which can take you straight to the summit! The walking routes range from those for the amateur climbers to those for the more serious. Warning: regardless of the route, you should prepare properly for what is a strenuous mountain climb and check the conditions. Each of the paths can be dangerous in bad conditions.
We chose to walk up the Miners’ Track (probably second easiest). This track starts at the Pen-y-Pass Car Park. This car park is small and gets full up very early in the morning. 3 miles further on is a park and ride at Nant Peris. This also gets busy but we managed to find a space at 9am. We got a taxi (no need to book, they pick up anyone who needs a ride) for £2 a person up to the Pen-y-Pass car park. There is also a bus for the same price as a taxi. However, this runs irregularly (once an hour when we were there).
The History of the Miners’ Track
The Miners’ Track was historically used to carry copper from the Britannia Copper Works to Pen y Pass. It begins by skirting the lake, Llyn Teyrn, before crossing the causeway over the lake, Llyn Llydaw.
Derelict mine buildings are encountered along several parts of the path which are interesting to see along the way. It ascends steeply towards Bwlch Glas (signified by a large standing stone). It then joins the Pyg track (again see the large stone!) for the final ascent.
The final parts of the ascent are tough in places. However, we saw people of all ages (including kids and dogs!) and everyone made it to the top!
The ascent took us approximately 2.5 hours with a couple of short breaks for water and snacks. At the summit, there is a queue for a photograph, but it is worth it to prove you made it to the top! There is also a very busy café where you can buy food, drink and souvenirs and visit the all important toilets! On a clear day, the views from the top are incredible and well worth taking in.
The way down took us approximately 2.5 hours. After all that climbing, we spent the rest of the evening stuffing our face with a BBQ and relaxing our muscles in the hot tub! Definitely recommended, something to tick off the bucket list, and a highlight of our trip!
Welsh Highland Railway
The Welsh Highland Railway is a 25 mile trip on a narrow gauge taking you through the middle of wonderful Snowdonia from Caernarfon to Porthmadog. You get to travel on one of the most powerful narrow-gauge steam locomotives ever built!
We chose the WHR over the Ffestiniog Railway as it stopped in Forest Holidays at the Meillionen stop. As this is a request stop. You just need to hold your hand out (like you would do for a bus) and the train will stop.
We travelled from Meillionen to Porthamadog which took 50 minutes and cost £24.90 each. It is a pretty steep price for a fairly short journey but it was a lovely experience on the train taking in all the wonderful scenery. From lakes, mountains, farms, waterfalls and cute villages, you will see it all. There is even a range of light refreshments and hot and cold drinks on the train (including Welsh lager!).
Porthmadog is a historic harbour town where you can explore the quayside, shops and cafes. When we visited it was absolutely pelting it down so we only stayed for 40 minutes as the trains are not regular. If the weather was nicer we would have chosen to travel to Caernarforn as there is more to do there. Overall, it was still a lovely experience on a beautiful steam train and definitely should be on your list of things to do in North Wales.
We couldn’t visit North Wales and not see the colourful village of Portmeirion. Created by Welsh Architect, Clough Williams-Ellis, from 1925 to 1976, he wanted to how show how a naturally beautiful site could be developed without spoiling it. Built in an Italian style, Portmeirion is considered an architectural icon and a popular tourist destination.
Portmeirion Village is home to two hotels, historic cottages, iconic architecture, a spa, shops, restaurants and cafes, exotic gardens and sandy beaches. It has it all really! Given the design of the village it is unsurprising that it has appeared on film and TV including Cold Feet and The Prisoner.
Before we visited, we had not appreciated that this village was only open to visitors between 9.30am and 5.30pm and there was an admission charge of £12. We had noticed online that if you book a 2-course meal at the Deudraeth Castle Brasserie (just outside the village and priced at £20) you are given free entry, which is a good deal.
When entering the village, you get the sense of visiting a theme park / an Alice in Wonderland type world that has been kept a secret. I guess that is part of the charm! Included in your ticket price is free parking, guided walking tours and a train tour which runs every 30 minutes. We could not resist jumping on the two-carriage green train around the Gwylly woodlands area to explore a wild garden designed by the horticulturalist Caton Haigh, an authority on Himalayan trees and exotic plants. This part of Portmeirion was my favourite as it reminded me of Japanese gardens with beautiful water lilies and a red bridge over the lake.
If you like walking, there are 4 miles of coastal paths where you can wander to the lighthouse. It was a little too breezy when we visited but something to do in the summer.
We had a casual lunch at The Old Town café where you can choose from lighter bits including sandwiches, soups and jacket potatoes to larger meals such as fish and chips. A coronation chicken sandwich (a big one!) with crisps and salad, a chilli jacket potato and two soft drinks was £17. Decent lunch although the service was pretty slow. We also had a mango cheesecake and sticky toffee pudding gelato which were tasty!
Overall, I can see the charm of Portmeirion and it is a good way to spend half a day when looking for things to do in North Wales.
Harlech Castle is a UNESCO World Heritage site around 30 minutes from Forest Holidays. It was built in 1283 by Edward I, King of England, to secure the lands that he had won from Llywelyn ap Gruffudd, the Prince of Wales and had always been planned as a military stronghold.
The speed at which it was built was impressive. The huge walls rising from the rock in just six building seasons. At its peak over 950 men worked on the project!
The best part of the castle is to climb to the top of the south-west turret of the gatehouse. As you climb you can look up into each floor of the gatehouse! Another must do is to walk the perimeter of the wall and take in the coastal and mountainous views. Be careful if it is rainy as the stairs can be slippery!
Harlech Castle is a nice way to spend an hour or so and entrance is reasonable at £7.20.
Beddgelert is a gorgeous village just a 20 minute walk from Forest Holidays. It reminded me of the warm Cotswolds villages that we are so fond of.
It is picturesque, friendly and unspoiled with a handful of hotels, guesthouses, shops, arts and crafts, restaurants and pubs.
We stopped off at The Prince Llewelyn for a drink which is a hotel in pub in the heart of Beddegelert. Dog friendly (of course) we sipped on some Welsh lager in a cosy corner and played cards!
We then walked two doors down to the Sacarens Head and sat by the fire place drinking Guinness!
East London Girl: Things to do in Wales
Click Here for where to stay in North Wales