- Snowdonia, and around
Snowdonia, known in Welsh as Eryri (Land of the Eagles), is a land of high peaks, steep, plunging valleys and open moorland bounded on the west by the Lleyn Peninsula and the Cardigan Coast. Rocky mountains, glacial lakes, waterfalls and wilderness compete for attention.
Prehistoric man and Celtic chiefs left their mark here. The Romans built roads and forts. Pilgrims visited. The Welsh Princes of Gwynedd reigned from mountain strongholds-armies disappeared into the vastness of the remote countryside, eluding their enemies. The English came to conquer and marked the landscape by building castles.
Today's visitor can experience the culture of the past while enjoying the beauty of today. Snowdonia National Park's 840 square miles (1351 sq. km) stretches from the Conwy river in the north to Machynlleth in the south and eastwards to Bala. It includes the mountain ranges of Tryfan, the Glyderau, the Moelwynion, Aran and Arennig, Cader Idris and the most well known mountain, Snowdon, the highest peak south of the Scottish border at 3560 ft. (1113m.)
Bangor, an historic university and cathedral city, lies at the eastern entrance of the Menai Strait. This ancient town began in 525AD with the building of a monastery. There's an ornate Victorian pier-considered one of Wale's finest-that provides a delightful countryside view. The Museum of Welsh Antiquities contains collections of prehistoric, Roman and other northern Wales finds. Nearby Penrhyn Castle is a country house pretending to be a castle. It was built for the slate magnate Lord Penrhyn and completed about 1834.
The town of Caernarfon is famous for its castle and medieval walls. The walls are 766yds (700m) long and are almost complete. They include eight towers and two gateways. Caernarfon Castle, on the Menai Strait, is the site of the investiture of the Princes of Wales. The first Prince of Wales, King Edward's son, was born here in 1283. More recently Prince Charles was invested here.
Encircled by Caernarfon, the Roman fort of Segontium-once the most western in the Empire-was occupied from 77Ad to c394AD. The foundations are all that remain today.
Llanberis is a popular mountain centre in the National Park. It is flanked by two lakes, Llyn Padarn and Llyn Peris. The beautiful Llanberis Pass is a not-to-be-missed driving adventure. From Llanberis, take the rack and pinion railroad to the summit of Mt Snowdon. It's a scenic wonder on a clear day.
The Welsh Slate Museum is at nearby Pardarn Country Park. On view are the foundry, fitting shop, smithy, sawmill, carpenter's shop, pattern loft and all the old machinery used to dress the slate. Most spectacular is the 50.5 ft (15.4m) diameter water wheel that provided the power in the workshops. Roofing slate was made here for all of Britain.
The Snowdonia National Park Visitor Centre is located at the Old Stables in Betws-y-Coed, a popular resort. There are many interesting bridges in the area. The iron Waterloo Bridge, built in 1815 by Thomas Telford, is inscribed "This arch was constructed in the same year the battle of Waterloo was fought". The famous Swallow Falls and its chasm are nearby. To the south of the village is the Fairy Glen, a narrow gorge of the River Conwy.
Blaenau Ffestiniog, once the centre of the slate quarrying industry, is now a tourist attraction. At the Llechwedd Slate Caverns, Victorian mining conditions can be observed, and you can learn how slate was mined on the Miner's Tramway tour or the Deep Underground tour.
Beddgelert, a wooded stone village located amid steep mountain slopes, lakes and wooded hillsides, was featured on a stamp in 1997 and won a Gold Award for villages in a Europe in Bloom competition. It's a desirable location for exploring the Snowdon mountain range.
Bala Lake, the longest lake in Wales, is a popular watersports centre. A narrow-gauge railway skirts the southern shore. This town was, at one time, the centre of the Methodist Church movement.
The Cardigan Coast and Bay area is known for its sandy beaches and holiday resorts. Barmouth is an old harbour town made popular by the Victorians. Look for the bridge built in 1866, with its 113 trestles and enjoy the famous Panorama Walk.
Porthmadog was a 19th century terminus for shipping slate. Nearby Black Rock Sands provide a beach playground. Portmeirion is a famous Italianate village near Porthmadog.
Harlech Castle was made internationally famous by the song "Men of Harlech". It is now a World Heritage site. Part of its appeal is the viewpoint it commands from its 200ft high crag over Cardigan Bay, the Lleyn peninsula and the mountains of Snowdonia.
The Lleyn Peninsula is an area of remote bays and cliffs, wildlife- inhabited islands and coastal resorts. The largest coastal town is Pwlleheli with a long sandy beach and marina. It's a popular holiday resort. The old town still hosts a market, and the harbour is filled with pleasure craft. Nearby, in Aberech, is a large medieval church.
Aberdaron is the most westerly village on the Peninsula. It, too, has a sandy beach. Bardsey Island, two miles (3km) off the end of the peninsula, is an ancient place of pilgrimage.
Betws-y-Coed, in the heart of the Gwydir Forest, is the meeting place of three valleys and the River Conwy and its three tributaries. There are many riverside and forest walks in the area. Nearby a motor museum features a collection of vintage cars. The Conwy Valley Railway Museum at the train station features a miniature railway, shop and buffet coach restaurant. The 14th century church of St Michael's is one of the oldest in Wales. Welsh choirs perform in the summer at the parish church of St Mary's.
Caernarfon Castle Castle Ditch, Caernarfon
The castle, part of Edward I's plan to control the Welsh nation, was built on the site of an original motte and bailey castle. It was to serve the purpose of governing the area and at the same time, be substantial and palatial enough for a king to visit. The single defensive wall is a massive one beefed up by internal defenses. There are two inner wards. The castle is constructed with angular rather than round towers. The 10-sided Eagle Tower and the Queen's Tower were the most elaborate. There are a number of exhibitions, an AV program and displays in the castle, including the Welsh Fusiliers regiment.
Open: End March-end May, Oct from 9:30-5, end May to first Oct until 6pm, Nov- end March until 4pm. Tel: 01286 677617
Harlech was one of Edward I's iron ring of fortresses. Sited on a high hill, it dominates the town of Harlech. The castle's massive inner walls and towers stand almost to their full height. There is an outer gate with twin turrets in a curtain wall, mostly in ruins. The gatehouse was once the home of the Constable. The views from the top of the walls are memorable. In 1404 the Welsh leader Owain Glyn Dwr took the castle and made it the site of his court. The castle was involved in the War of the Roses and was under siege for eight years before it yielded to the Yorkists. This defense inspired the song, "Men of Harlech".
Open: End March-end May, Oct from 9:30-5, end May - first Oct until 6pm, Nov-to end March until 4pm. Tel: 01766 780552
Penrhyn Castle One mile east of Bangor
Penrhyn Castle, which occupies one acre (.4ha) has curtain walls, four towers and a massive keep. The main rooms are done in the same style as the exterior. There is a grand hall, library and drawing room. A grand staircase has carvings of heads and human hands. An ebony room shows off furniture made of real ebony. A collection of Old Masters paintings is part of the castle's treasures. The house even includes a slate bed. An Industrial Railway Museum and doll museum are located in the old stables. There is a walled garden and walks in the grounds. National Trust property.
Open: Castle, 3rd week March to end first week Nov, daily except Tues., 12-5 except July and Aug, 11-5. Tel. 01248 353084
Snowdon Mountain Railway
Snowdon Mountain Railway, on the northwestern slope of Snowdon, is almost 5 miles (8km) long and takes about 1 hour to reach the summit from Llanberis. It carries 59 passengers. Trains run from about 9am in the morning, but weather is an important factor in whether they actually operate. High winds are a danger across the last part of the track, which is on a narrow saddleback. There is a café at the top. Trains do not run in the winter months. It is best to call ahead.
Tel. 0870 458 0033
Snowdonia Tourist Information CentresBala Tourist Information Centre
Penllyn, Pensarn Road, Bala, LL23 7SR. Tel: 01678 521021
Blaenau Ffestiniog Tourist Information Centre
Unit 3, High Street, Blaenau Ffestiniog, LL41 3HS. Tel: 01766 830360
Caernarfon Tourist Information Centre
Oriel Pendeitsh, Castle Street, Caernarfon, LL55 1ES. Tel: 01286 672232
Conwy Castle Visitor Centre
Conwy, LL32 8LD. Tel: 01492 592248
Dolgellau Tourist Information Centre
Ty Meirion, Eldon Square, Dolgellau, LL40 1PU. Tel: 01341 422888
Harlech Tourist Information Centre
Gwyddfor House, High Street, Harlech, LL46 2YA. Tel: 01766 780658
Porthmadog Tourist Information Centre
Y Ganolfan, High Street, Porthmadog, LL49 9LD. Tel: 01766 512981
Destination guides by kind permission of Britain Express