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Our editor visits spectacular Snowdonia....

 

AN AREA OF OUTSTANDING BEAUTY

I recently visited Snowdonia in North Wales to report on some of the many attractions this area has to offer. Covering approximately 840 square miles, the Snowdonia National Park is truly an area of outstanding natural beauty. There are unsurpassed views with Snowdon itself peaking at1085m, mountain railways, historic castles galore, pretty coastal towns to explore, fantastic wonderfully restored steam trains, woodland parks and Snowdonia’s slate heritage. For the more adventurous there’s pursuits such as rock climbing, hiking and mountain biking. Here are just a few of the wonderful attractions I visited on my latest trip …

 

CASTLES & CULTURE

There are lots of Castles in Wales and Snowdonia has its fair share. Probably one of the best known is the iconic HARLECH CASTLE. Spectacularly located, Harlech Castle was built by Edward 1 and now keeps a watchful eye over Snowdonia with fabulous panoramic views of the sea and mountains from its lofty battlements.

 

From here I headed off to the Llyn Peninsular which is the dramatic and beautiful 24 mile long piece of land that points into the Irish Sea. I was visiting Oriel Plas Glyn y Weddw which is one of Wales’ premier art venues. The gallery is housed in a Grade 2 Gothic Victorian Mansion. With craft shop, award winning tea room and art workshops on site this is an excellent visitor attraction. There’s also 4 star self catering accommodation and the Mansion is licensed for Civil Weddings. Have a look at the website for more information.

 

PORTHMADOG

The base for my short break was Porthmadog, a delightful seaside town full of charming little shops and plenty of places to eat. This bustling town is a lovely town to explore and a great base close to Snowdonia National Park. I stayed at the Royal Sportsman Hotel in the High Street which is a comfortable family run hotel offering great service and an excellent food menu.

 

When you’re out and about in Porthmadog do take the opportunity to stop at ...

 

CADWALADERS COFFEE HOUSE

Situated at 43 - 47 High Street this has recently developed into a new café brand, and here you can relax, enjoy a special coffee, perhaps a toasted Panini like me, or sample their lovely lemon drizzle cake. My wife spoiled herself with their famous ice cream fruit sundae - verdict ... excellent!

 

FFESTINIOG RAILWAY

I love the Great Little Trains of Wales and the Ffestiniog Railway is known the world over. The train ride from Porthmadog’s picturesque harbour is a super combination of historic railway and spectacular scenery. Originally built to bring the slate from Blaenau Ffestiniog to the harbour, today the little steam engines pull wonderfully restored carriages through the outstanding Vale of Ffestiniog. I took the 11.30 train, bang on time of course, up into the mountains to Blaenau Ffestiniog where the slate mines that surround the town reminded me of the rich industrial heritage of this area. With drinks and snacks brought to the carriage, this was a fantastic day out

 

Also running from the harbour at Porthmadog is the 25 mile long Welsh Highland Railway where the steam trains travel all the way to Caernarfon via the spectacular scenery of Aberglaslyn Pass, Beddgelert, one of the most beautiful villages in Snowdonia and the rugged Snowdonia National Park. This is one of the great railway journeys of Britain!

 

INDUSTRIAL HERITAGE

THE LLECHWEDD SLATE CAVERNS

The quarries of Snowdonia present an amazing array of places to visit not least being Blaenau Ffestiniog and the breath-taking Llechwedd Slate Caverns with its additional Victorian Village above ground with bank, sweet shop and traditional pub. This is a first class attraction that has won many awards since it opened. I arrived by the steam train at the nearby town and was soon grabbing my hard hat to explore the life of the Victorian slate miner and witness the difficult and dangerous working conditions these men had to endure. There are two spectacular underground tours. On the Deep Mine tour, the miner’s railway takes you very deep underground where you will learn the moving story of how a boy of just 12 years of age came to work in the mine with his father and uncle in 1856. The story is vividly brought to life with clever light and sound technology.

 

The second tour is the Miners Tramway. After climbing on board, the little yellow train enters the side of the mountain and weaves its way through man-made caverns. A number of stops enable you to experience the mine first hand with expert commentary from your guide. Above ground there’s craft in action where you can see quarrymen split slate as they have done for hundreds of years. I had enormous pleasure watching the experts produce a specially made up slate, house sign for me. There’s a gift shop and restaurant on site and this really is a great family day out - but mind your head!

 

SNOWDON MOUNTAIN RAILWAY

Snowdon is the highest mountain in England and Wales, peaking at 1085 metres. To stand

on the ‘roof of Wales’ is truly awesome and to reach this fantastic view you can walk or

take the Snowdon Mountain Railway from Llanberis. In the interest of research I decided to

take the train!

 

Since it first opened in 1896, many visitors from around the world have ridden on Britain’s

highest rack and pinion railway. At the Llanberis station there’s an audio visual theatre

where you can learn how the railway came about all those years ago and the difficulties

which had to be overcome in its construction. Once on board, with in-carriage commentary,

the train climbs steadily through woodland crossing the two viaducts after which it breaks in

to open countryside. This is when you get your first view of the peak. The train continues

slowly, higher and higher, following a ridge for you to experience the spectacular views,

weather permitting of course.

 

 

CONCLUSION

Holidays in the U.K. are back in fashion, but sometimes with a difference. Nowadays a lot of us tend to travel in search of new experiences, culture, heritage, activity and adventure. In addition we expect excellent standards of accommodation and food - I’m sure you’ll find Snowdonia ticks all these boxes.

 

David Powell

 

For more information: please visit the following websites:

 

www.attractionsofsnowdonia.com - many more attractions

www.cadw.wales.gov.uk - Welsh castles

www.oriel.org.uk - Premier art gallery

www.royalsportsman.co.uk - hotel in Porthmadog

www.cadwaladersicecream.co.uk - Coffee House

www.festrail.co.uk - Ffestiniog Railway

www.llechwedd-slate-caverns.co.uk - slate caverns

There's plenty of things to do in Snowdonia!

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David is editor of

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Paul Lewin, General manager of the Ffestiniog & Welsh Highland Railway shows you around the railway and the fantastic scenery

We take a look at some of the

attractions of Snowdonia