Get ready for Summer: Snowdonia

view gallery VIEW GALLERY

Snowdonia offers far more than mountain scenery, there's cycling, walking, great food, steam railways, and castles to explore. David Atkinson reports



Why go here?


Anglesey may have grabbed the headlines recently as the new home of the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge, but Snowdonia remains the heartland of holidays in North Wales.

Wales's first national park celebrates its 60th anniversary this year with even more superb walking, flower-strewn mountain vistas and warm Welsh hospitality. One major new attraction is the revived Welsh Highland Railway (festrail.co.uk), now running a complete 40-mile, steam-powered circuit through the heart of the national park from Caernarfon to Porthmadog. While Betws-y-Coed and Llanberis remain the primary hubs, you should head for Dolgellau, in the south of the national park, for a more grassroots taste of Snowdonia life. This market town feels properly Welsh and makes for a good base to explore the area.

The great outdoors

Snowdonia is best known as a centre for activity breaks. Savvy mountain bikers flock to Coed y Brenin Forest Park (forestry.gov.uk/wales) for some of the best trails in the UK. This Forestry Commission site also has a series of colour-coded walking trails, some accessible by wheelchair and pushchair, and there's a new high-wire facility from Go Ape! (goape.co.uk). Apart from the six paths leading to the summit of Snowdon, The Mawddach Way (mawddachway .co.uk) is a new, long-distance footpath around the spectacular Mawddach estuary near Barmouth. New estuary bushcraft courses run on Wednesdays through summer with Firefox Bushcraft (firefoxbushcraft.co.uk).

The history trail

The coastline fringing the national park features a clutch of World Heritage-listed medieval castles (cadwevents.co.uk), with Harlech within the park borders, Conwy and Caernarfon just a short drive outside. These form Edward I's "iron ring" of medieval fortresses and play a pivotal role in Welsh history. For something more contemporary, the fairytale, Italianate village of Portmeirion (portmeirion-village .com), reveals another side of Snowdonia devoted to art, architecture and aesthetics. It has even survived last year's dismal remake of the Sixties TV series The Prisoner, which was famously set in the village. Visit early or late to catch the low sunlight illuminating the surrealist architecture.

The retail therapy

Buying local produce, such as farmhouse cheese or locally brewed real ale from the Purple Moose microbrewery (purplemoose.co.uk) in Porthmadog, is a popular way to take a taste of Snowdonia home. Or check out the Dolgellau farmers' market on the third Sunday of the month for unusual local crafts, such as oilskin bags from Eleanor's Attic (eleanorsattic.co.uk), as well as local food producers. The tourist office in attractive Beddgelert is a great place to stock up on books about Welsh folk legends, such as the tragic tale of Prince Llewellyn's loyal dog, Gelert, which gives the village its name.

The inside attractions

The weather can be changeable at best (always bring wet-weather gear) but Snowdonia is blessed with lots of wet-weather attractions. Try the National Sale Museum (museumwales.ac.uk) to escape a downpour. Hafod Eryri (eryri-npa.gov.uk), the new granite visitor centre and café atop Snowdon's summit, is slowly winning fans after the initial controversy over its design. There's material inside about the park and its geology. Save your legs by taking the Snowdon Mountain Railway (snowdonrailway.co.uk), a feat of Victorian engineering, to the summit. Some of the original 1896 steam engines still make the five-mile climb and have superb views from enclosed carriages.

The places to eat and drink

Wales's star as a foodie destination continues its ascendancy with chefs championing local produce and specialities, such as lamb, cheese, cockles and lava bread. Tyddyn Llan (tyddynllan.co.uk). near Corwen. remains the only Michelin-starred eatery in the north, but there are plenty of smart new openings. Try the Tannery in Llanrwst, near Betws-y-Coed, and the Cross Foxes (crossfoxes.co.uk) in Dolgellau, a home-from-home bar and grill on the doorstep of looming Cader Idris. Finally, no visit is complete without a stop at Glaslyn Ices in Beddgelert (glaslynices. co.uk) for the creamiest double scoop in Snowdonia. Mine's a butterscotch and pecan.

Compact Facts

How to get there

Arriva Trains Wales (arrivatrains wales.co.uk) serves the area with mainline connections at Llandudno and Bangor with Virgin Trains (virgintrains.com).

Further information

Visit Wales (visitwales.co.uk), Snowdonia National Park (eryri-npa.co.uk), and Discover Dolgellau (discover dolgellau.com).

PROMOTED VIDEO
Voices
Barn owls are among species that could be affected
charity appeal
News
Sarah Silverman (middle) with sister Reform Rabbi Susan Silverman (right) and sister actress Laura Silverman (left) at Jerusalem's Western Wall for feminist Hanuka candle-lighting ceremony
peopleControversial comedian stages pro-equality Hanukkah lighting during a protest at Jerusalem's Wailing Wall
Arts and Entertainment
The Bach Choir has been crowned the inaugural winner of Sky Arts’ show The Great Culture Quiz
arts + ents140-year-old choir declared winner of Sky Arts' 'The Great Culture Quiz'
Sport
After another poor series in Sri Lanka, Alastair Cook claimed all players go through a lean period
cricketEoin Morgan reportedly to take over ODI captaincy
Independent Travel Videos
Independent Travel Videos
Simon Calder in Amsterdam
Independent Travel Videos
Simon Calder in Giverny
Independent Travel Videos
Simon Calder in St John's
Independent Travel Videos
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

ES Rentals

    iJobs Job Widget
    iJobs Travel

    Investigo: Finance Analyst

    £240 - £275 per day: Investigo: Support the global business through in-depth a...

    Ashdown Group: Data Manager - £Market Rate

    Negotiable: Ashdown Group: Data Manager - MySQL, Shell Scripts, Java, VB Scrip...

    Ashdown Group: Application Support Analyst - Bedfordshire/Cambs border - £32k

    £27000 - £32000 per annum: Ashdown Group: Application Support Analyst - near S...

    Recruitment Genius: Class 1 HGV Driver

    £23000 - £27000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This successful group of compan...

    Day In a Page

    Homeless Veterans appeal: 'You look for someone who's an inspiration and try to be like them'

    Homeless Veterans appeal

    In 2010, Sgt Gary Jamieson stepped on an IED in Afghanistan and lost his legs and an arm. He reveals what, and who, helped him to make a remarkable recovery
    Could cannabis oil reverse the effects of cancer?

    Could cannabis oil reverse effects of cancer?

    As a film following six patients receiving the controversial treatment is released, Kate Hilpern uncovers a very slippery issue
    The Interview movie review: You can't see Seth Rogen and James Franco's Kim Jong Un assassination film, but you can read about it here

    The Interview movie review

    You can't see Seth Rogen and James Franco's Kim Jong Un assassination film, but you can read about it here
    Serial mania has propelled podcasts into the cultural mainstream

    How podcasts became mainstream

    People have consumed gripping armchair investigation Serial with a relish typically reserved for box-set binges
    Jesus Christ has become an unlikely pin-up for hipster marketing companies

    Jesus Christ has become an unlikely pin-up

    Kevin Lee Light, aka "Jesus", is the newest client of creative agency Mother while rival agency Anomaly has launched Sexy Jesus, depicting the Messiah in a series of Athena-style poses
    Rosetta space mission voted most important scientific breakthrough of 2014

    A memorable year for science – if not for mice

    The most important scientific breakthroughs of 2014
    Christmas cocktails to make you merry: From eggnog to Brown Betty and Rum Bumpo

    Christmas cocktails to make you merry

    Mulled wine is an essential seasonal treat. But now drinkers are rediscovering other traditional festive tipples. Angela Clutton raises a glass to Christmas cocktails
    5 best activity trackers

    Fitness technology: 5 best activity trackers

    Up the ante in your regimen and change the habits of a lifetime with this wearable tech
    Paul Scholes column: It's a little-known fact, but I have played one of the seven dwarves

    Paul Scholes column

    It's a little-known fact, but I have played one of the seven dwarves
    Fifa's travelling circus once again steals limelight from real stars

    Fifa's travelling circus once again steals limelight from real stars

    Club World Cup kicked into the long grass by the continued farce surrounding Blatter, Garcia, Russia and Qatar
    Frank Warren column: 2014 – boxing is back and winning new fans

    Frank Warren: Boxing is back and winning new fans

    2014 proves it's now one of sport's biggest hitters again
    Jeb Bush vs Hillary Clinton: The power dynamics of the two first families

    Jeb Bush vs Hillary Clinton

    Karen Tumulty explores the power dynamics of the two first families
    Stockholm is rivalling Silicon Valley with a hotbed of technology start-ups

    Stockholm is rivalling Silicon Valley

    The Swedish capital is home to two of the most popular video games in the world, as well as thousands of technology start-ups worth hundreds of millions of pounds – and it's all happened since 2009
    Did Japanese workers really get their symbols mixed up and display Santa on a crucifix?

    Crucified Santa: Urban myth refuses to die

    The story goes that Japanese store workers created a life-size effigy of a smiling "Father Kurisumasu" attached to a facsimile of Our Lord's final instrument of torture
    Jennifer Saunders and Kate Moss join David Walliams on set for TV adaptation of The Boy in the Dress

    The Boy in the Dress: On set with the stars

    Walliams' story about a boy who goes to school in a dress will be shown this Christmas