Snowdonia map & highlights
Make the most of your time
Snowdonia itself isnít a secret, with the highest peak in Wales being placed on every childís map of Britain at an early age. But there are many secrets lying under it, over it, around it and tunneling through it. Once the heart of the slate quarrying industry, Snowdonia has tapped into its natural resources in 21st century sustainable style.
For starters, check out the National Parkís app which helps you unwrap each layer of what feels like a giant pass the parcel of delightfully surprising layers.
Here are a few of our favourites:
Antur 'Stiniog, Blaenau Ffestiniog has four adrenaline inducing downhill mountain bike trails, not for the faint hearted. The superb Stiniog Special Burger served at their Antur Cafť is not for wimps either. If you would rather ride your bike than push it, pre-book the uplift that gets you back to the top again. They offer excellent coaching sessions too. Top regeneration of this slate mining area, donít miss the town itself at the bottom of the hills.
If you are someone who likes to have water at the end of hike, Snowdonia is lake central. One very popular spot with serious outdoor swimmers and kayakers is Bala Lake (or Llyn Tegid) in the east of Snowdonia. Most activities are available all year round, with Gwersyll yr Urdd Glan-llyn in Llanuwchllyn the leading outdoor centre to be checked out.
The other sought after peak in South Snowdonia, less known by National Parkís newbies, but one for all aspiring hikers. And there are a handful of hikers compared with Snowdon. Check out the Pony Path route to get to the top. Cader comes from the Welsh for chair, and myth has it that Idris is a giant who used the mountain as an armchair. The summit is a cool resting place for sure. Nearest town is Dolgellau.
Coed y Brenin
Coed y Brenin visitor centre is gateway to Coed y Brenin Forest Park which is, literally, a hive of activities. It also has a state of the art eco visitor centre, and plenty of bikes to hire. Most famous for its pioneering mountain bike trails you can also enjoy orienteering, waymarked walks along the River Eden with waterfalls to while away your time . It is one big honeypot of healthiness really. And happiness.
Yep, they put a power station into the mountain. Just like that. This is no hydro hype, but an almost Orwellian marriage of machines and nature. With over 16 kms of underground tunnels, and open seven days a week, they have also put a lot of energy into becoming an all-round leisure experience with a climbing wall, indoor play centre for under 12ís, cafť and gift shop.
A beach day is a must, but Harlech isnít just a beach. The town itself is heaving with history, with a castle as its centerpiece and the famous myth of Branwen ferch Llyr (Branwen daughter of Llyr) running through its veins. The beach also has magical qualities and a Green Coast Award to boot.
The nearest town to Snowdon so for many this is the hiking hub - with shops with state of the art outdoor gear and cafes with steamed up windows as those donning same gear shed layers and tuck into well-deserved carbs and coffee. If you are just doing the train thing, do come out of the station and enjoy what the village has to offer.
The Mawddach Trail
Give the inclines a miss for a day and enjoy a flat riverside walk or cycle along this estuarine trail from Dolgellau to to Morfa Mawddach following the tracks of an old railway line. 15 kms one way, this is also a joggersí favourite. Bring your binoculars too. Bird and wildlife watching is a treat as the trail takes you across the estuary with salt marshes and peaty habitats.
Or to give it its Welsh name, Yr Wyddfa. You canít avoid it. It is in your face at all times, telling you to get out and put toe to turf. There are various trekking routes but you can also take a train to the summitís terminus which makes Grand Central Station look dull. Hafod Eryri
, a granite and glass architectural gem, is Walesí window to the world. But be wary of the crowds. With half a million having summitted in 2013, congestion can be an issue.
The name doesnít exactly have you jumping up and down with excitement, but this is a fascinating recollection of Snowdoniaís legacy. It is important to remember that these mountains had to be worked hard before we lucky ones of the leisure generation got to run wild all over them.
Might seem cheesy, but itís actually cheese-tastic and a fine legacy to the engineers who installed it. You also have the stunning Hafod Eryri building on the summit as its terminus. This is train geeks gone chic. Also, you can get a single ticket up and walk back down. Or vice versa, but you canít book a trip back down in advance, so you arenít guaranteed to get a seat. The train is accessible for wheelchair users.
Itís out of this world. Not only can you go flying at speeds of up to 100 mph, but you also get to support the now revitalized Penrhyn Quarry which is nestled amongst the mountains of North Wales. Check out the video and hold onto that jaw, because it will drop. Not as fast as your stomach will when you go flying though.
There is a bus stop right by the foreshore centre, or it's a short 5 minute walk from the bus stop in the centre of Bala. Bala is served by the X94 Arriva
bus service (Wrexham, Llangollen, Corwen, Dolgellau and Barmouth).
- Betws y Coed Ė Llanberis: 30 minutes by Sherpa Bus
- Porthmadog Ė Beddgelert: 20 minutes by Sherpa Bus
- Llandudno - Betws v Coed : 50 minutes by train
- Machynlleth - Barmouth: 1 hour by train