As I sit writing this, the sun is setting and I’m sat out on my balcony watching the sky turn from blue to purple to pink. I’ve just come back from our first post-lockdown holiday and, my god, it feels good to be able to travel (albeit very differently!) again. We have just spent 4 amazing days in the incredible Snowdonia National Park, North Wales, either walking, hiking, eating or just taking in the stunning scenery, and it provided the perfect chance to re-set after a crazy busy few months navigating through lockdown life.
Shane and I had planned to go to Snowdonia around Easter time this year. It has been on both our travel bucket lists for some time and, despite living in Wales all of our lives, it’s not somewhere we had really visited before. Unfortunately our initial trip plans had to be postponed due to the lockdown restrictions, but with travel restrictions easing in Wales earlier this month, we decided that a little getaway to North Wales was on the cards. We booked a staycation in a self-catering cottage in Betws-y-Coed, packed our hiking boots and a load of food, and headed off on a little adventure.
It was bliss. Snowdonia is seriously beautiful. It’s rugged and diverse, with mountains piercing the sky and dense forests occupying the hill tops, as well as gorgeous coastline. It’s got beautiful winding lanes, deep green valleys, huge lakes and little farmhouses and cottages built out of stone. It has a rich history and a magical feel, you really do feel as though you’re in an other worldly place. The National Park consists of 823 square miles and is a working and living landscape. It boasts the highest mountain in England and Wales, and over half of its population speak Welsh, which I loved. It’s so lovely to hear the country’s mother tongue being spoken.
Of course, when writing these posts at the moment I do want to reiterate, as I have done with previous posts such as this one about things to do in Pembrokeshire, that Wales has different coronavirus restrictions to the rest of the UK. It’s important to be respectful, of both the local people and the environment, so please, if you do visit, read up on how you can visit safely here.
Today’s post provides a little snapshot into our trip, featuring what we got up to. However, there is so much that we missed out on, simply because we didn’t have enough time to cram everything in within 4 days. We would have loved to visit Anglesey and the Llyn Peninsula, which the National Park doesn’t cover but are right next door, but we mainly stuck to the mountains and lakes on this occasion. However, that means we have the perfect excuse to go back and explore some more! Here are our recommendations for a Snowdonia Staycation.
This picturesque little village is described as “the gateway to Snowdonia” and is the perfect place to base yourself from while visiting North Wales. It is a stunning mountain resort, which became popular in the mid-1800s when artists and travellers would stay in the coaching inns which lined the road from London to Holyhead. It has lovely guesthouses, delicious eateries, quirky shops and seriously amazing scenery. Little bridges cross its raging river, where you can sit and watch salmon jumping upstream with a yummy pizza from Hangin’ Pizzeria, and there are also lots of wonderful walks in the surrounding areas.
You can see why Betws-y-Coed is considered one of the villages to visit when in North Wales. It actually reminded me a lot of Banff in Canada. In the evenings you will find hikers enjoying a pint in the pub beer gardens after a long climb, or sat on the village green enjoying some chips. It has a laid back feel, with really friendly people, and we loved going for a walk around in the evenings after venturing out for the day. Don’t forget to check out the bakery based in the Spar, and if you fancy a walk from the village, head up to Swallow Falls to witness these amazing natural features.
Climb Mount Snowdon
No trip to Snowdonia is complete without hiking Snowdon. Yr Wyddfa in Welsh, it is the highest peak outside of Scotland in the UK and stands at 3,560 feet. It had been on my bucket list for years and we finally did it on our trip! It was overcast and super cloudy at the top so we couldn’t take in any panoramic views unfortunately, but I believe on a clear day you can see as far as Ireland. Nevertheless, the climb itself provides stunning views of the surrounding peaks and lakes, and looks over the village of Llanberis.
There are several different tracks to choose from and we took the Miner’s Track up and then the Snowdon Ranger track down, before taking a cross country loop across to Llanberis. The Miner’s Track, which was built to serve the Britannia Copper Mine on Snowdon, involves a straightforward start along a twisting path that passes various lakes and old stone mining huts, before a more trickier ascent upwards. It was a tough old climb, with lots of scrambling and hauling yourself up stone faces, but there are plenty of routes to choose from to suit all abilities. Or, if you’re not up to the hike, you could get the Snowdon Mountain Railway train which is now open for business in 2020 after the pandemic. (There is a cafe also at the summit but unfortunately is closed this year.)
It’s worth noting that Snowdon is a really popular hike. It gets busy pretty early and car parks easily fill up. We parked at Nant Peris carpark and paid £5 to park there all day. We then got the Snowdon Sherpa bus service to the Pen-Y-Pass carpark and Miner’s Track starting point for just £2. It’s also a strenuous hike and takes about 6-8 hours. Take plenty of snacks, water and layers with you.
Book onto the world’s fastest zip line at Zip World
If you’re an adrenaline junky, then Snowdonia is the place for you! One of the main reasons for our trip was because I had booked vouchers for us to take on the world’s fastest zip line at Zip World for Shane’s birthday present last year. I may have been slightly regretting doing so on the way up as I was so nervous, but it was honestly so much fun. We loved it!
Zip World consists of 3 different locations, including Penrhyn Quarry, Slate Caverns and Fforest. We took on Velocity 2 at Penrhyn Quarry, which sees you reaching speeds of over 100mph as you fly over the bright blue slate quarry lake on a zip line. Other adventures include Bounce Below at the Slate Caverns and some cool forest trails at the Fforest site. Definitely worth looking into if you’re after some adventure.
Visit the beautiful Italian-esque village of Portmeirion
I have seen so many stunning photos of this quirky little village on Instagram and social media over the years, so I knew that when we visited Snowdonia we just had to go to Portmeirion. This enchanting resort on the North Wales coast, not too far from Porthmadog, was built by Welsh architect Clough Williams-Ellis between 1925 to 1973. He wanted to show how a naturally beautiful location could be developed without spoiling it, and I believe he has done just that!
The village is centred around a main Mediterranean-style piazza and overlooks a private peninsula. It features brightly coloured buildings in an Italianete style, cobbled paths, quirky artworks and paintings, and amazing gardens and treasures. We loved walking around and taking in all of the terracotta-roofed houses and ambling our way down to the seafront. Around the village you will also find 70 acres of sub-tropical rainforest to explore. There are rare flowers and some of Britain’s largest trees too.
You can even stay on-site. There is self-catering accommodation and a hotel (which was closed during our visit), as well as various shops and places to eat/drink (take-out only until 3rd August). Despite parts of the village being closed because of the pandemic, there is still heaps to do and we felt really safe there. There is ample space, facilities are kept clean and there are lots of hand sanitiser stations and one-way systems in the shops. We spent a few hours there and it cost £13 entry. Definitely money well spent! You can see why this is one of Wales’ most popular tourist destinations.
Take a drive through the country lanes
Wherever you look in Snowdonia National Park, you will see beauty. We just loved driving through the little villages of Blaenau Ffestiniog, Capel Curig and Bethesda while on our travels to various parts of the area. It’s definitely worth stopping off and taking in the scenery or snapping a few photos on route too. The photo above features the deep Ogwen Valley, which was seriously breathtaking!
Visit some of its many amazing lakes
There is no shortage of gorgeous lakes to visit in Snowdonia. We visited Llyn Padarn (above) after our hike up Snowdon, as it is situated on the edge of Llanberis and within an 800 acre country park, and our main reason for visiting was to find the Lone Tree. It’s a really popular spot with photographers, as you can see the peaks behind, and sits right on the shore of the lake. We also loved driving past the amazing Llyn Ogwen, which has superb views of Tryfan and is said to be the last resting place of Excalibur. Legend says that Bedwyr Bedrynant, a knight of King Arthur, cast the famous sword Excalibur into the lake there. It is told that the sword remains in the lake to this day.
Do some more hiking
And if all of that walking and exploring isn’t enough, you could always squeeze in another hike! Cadair Idris was our second hike of choice as it is situated on the Southern edge of the National Park and was on our route home to South West Wales. It overlooks Llyn Cau (the lake in the photograph) and you follow the ridge around the lake to reach the summit. It may be the ninth highest mountain in Wales but it is a seriously tough climb, especially as we had very limited visibility at the top. We took the Minffordd Path up from the main carpark (£6 all day parking but takes cash only), and ended up getting lost and started making our way down via the wrong trail as the cloud was so thick. It’s a killer on the legs but it felt so good to say we had done it nonetheless!
Have you been to Snowdonia? What would you recommend?