It covers more than 800 square miles and is the third most visited. Snowdonia National Park was designated in 1951 and since then, tourists have flocked to this rugged part of north Wales for its crystal clear lakes and rivers as well as its walks. And that’s one thing Snowdonia National Park isn’t short of.
For those who relish a challenge, Snowdon, Wales’ highest peak, has around six paths to its summit. Far from being an afternoon stroll, they’re well worth it because once there, you’ll be rewarded with a breathtaking view in all directions. Because of the inevitable gradients, changes in weather and potential slippery conditions, winter hiking on the steeper routes is better suited to the more seasoned hiker.
Of the six, Llanberis Path has less of an incline but is the longest – it runs for nine miles. The path, although a very popular route, can be hazardous in winter higher up. Caution aside, the experience far outweighs the challenge as you’ll see some incredible views at the top.
The Miners’ Track is slightly shorter by one mile. It presents no less a challenge, however, and as its name suggests, has links with copper mining. The hike from the car park is gradual at the start and although there are several changes in gradient – and direction – on the way, things get considerably steeper near the end. It’s worth it though, because once you’re there it’s like being on the roof of the world.
For the less experienced, Snowdonia National Park has circular walks ranging from just a few hours to a full day. Although less challenging, you still need to be cautious on these routes as the terrain can be changeable. These walks are ideal for families – and dogs – and as long as you have sturdy footwear, are a great day out.
The Torrent Walk – around 4 kms long – takes in the river Clywedog gorge, a spectacular channel and home to a wide variety of plant and wildlife. The Precipice Walk – a moderate leisure walk of around two hours – will suit the whole family and takes you through part of the historic Nannau Estate. The focal point of this hike is the stunning view of the Mawddach Estuary and the distinctive, and legendary, Cader Idris.
On the southern part of the National Park is the Mawddach Trail. Nine miles long, it’s considered one of Britain’s best. The trail follows the Mawddach Estuary with Snowdonia’s rugged and glorious scenery as a backdrop. You can join the trail at several points and picnic tables and benches are dotted along its length. The trail is even suitable for families with push-chairs.
One of the more moderate leisure walks is the Branwen Walk. This starts and ends in Harlech and runs for around two miles. The trail has a slightly different slant as it takes in not only the town and its castle, but also the area around the coast. No less stunning in terms of scenery, the circular Branwen Walk suits all ages.
If you want some variety, why not consider a Sherpa bus ride. This, literally, becomes your passport to freedom as the service shuttles around Snowdon’s base and all six footpaths.
Snowdonia offers accommodation to suit all tastes from quaint cottages, B&B, hotels to luxury holiday rentals. For the budget conscious, try the Pentre Bach Bunkhouse. The barn promises rustic comfort over two floors with some fantastic views. It sleeps up to 16, is disabled and pet friendly and is close to Snowdon’s main footpaths.
Glyntwrog House in Betws-y-Coed is a beautiful Victorian style guest house offering bed and breakfast in an ideal location. You are guaranteed a warm welcome in this secluded property and it’s a great place to relax at the end of the day. To set you up for a full day’s hiking, a Welsh breakfast is highly recommended. For more details, visit www.glyntwrogsnowdonia.co.uk.
With nearly 1,500 miles of public footpaths, spectacular scenery and rare forms of wildlife, Snowdonia National Park, in its own way, remains quite unique. It’s the only place in Britain where you’ll find the Snowdon lily, the Snowdonia hawkweed and the Snowdon beetle with its rainbow colouring. The Park attracts more than six million visitors a year and when you’ve been there, you’ll understand why.