My Self-Guided Weekend in Snowdonia
My partner and I decided we deserved a weekend break away, and what better than a weekend at one of the many HF houses?! We both love Wales, and after many recommendations from my colleagues, I decided on Craflwyn Hall in Beddgelert, Northern Snowdonia. We planned some sightseeing and were also steeling ourselves as we had decided to climb Snowdon on the Saturday, as my father told me I ‘simply could not go to Snowdonia and not climb Snowdon’!
We set off from Hertfordshire in the sunshine, and after a long stretch of motorway we reached the lush green valleys of Wales. After a quick lunch stop in Llangollen (it took me a while to get the pronunciation right…), we continued to our next stop which was the unassuming yet fascinating Gwydir Castle.
The castle, which is more like a manor house, sits about a mile outside the ancient market town of Llanrwst in the Conwy Valley. It was purchased by a couple in 1994 who saved it from impending dereliction – they have been working continuously to restore it and rely totally on donations and the entrance fees. It looked glorious in the sunshine and we were free to explore the house and the garden at our leisure. It has a rich history and there is lots of information in each room. It is only 30 minutes away from Beddgelert and is well worth a visit.
We then drove south-west down the valley, through Snowdonia, and enjoyed the stunning views of Snowdon and the surrounding mountains. Any route you travel though this national park will be impressive, but this was a particularly scenic drive, past sparkling blue lakes, along the River Glaslyn until we arrived at Craflwyn Hall.
We immediately joined the group and HF leaders for the introductory walk which helped us get familiar with the local area. In the heat it really felt like we were in the Mediterranean - anywhere but Wales! We also got some much-needed advice from the good-humoured and friendly leaders on the best route to walk up Snowdon. Our room was spacious and had a great view, and the other guests were so welcoming.
The next day we started early as I expected Snowdon and its surrounding car parks to be very busy given that it was a Saturday and with such hot weather. We filled up on a delicious cooked breakfast, which was a mistake on my part as I then had to start the walk on a full stomach! This feeling soon abated as we started to appreciate what incredible weather we were experiencing and how lucky we were for it to coincide with our weekend away.
We walked up Snowdon on the Rangers Path, as this is generally a quieter route and with more ascent. I struggled up the first part as it was already quite hot by 9am, and it was very steep! The path then levelled out, the wind picked up and we enjoyed the fantastic views as the landscape opened up in front of us.
The last third of the journey up the mountain was a steep, rocky path, but with the summit in sight we plodded on and managed to get to the top in 3 hours. It was extremely crowded at the very top, which slightly diminished my sense of achievement at climbing the mountain! I told myself that most of these people had taken the train up the mountain…
We ate most of our extensive picnic lunch looking out across the mountains and lakes and towards the path we had just climbed.
We then descended back down the same path, with the heat even more intense, as the wind had dropped. We made it down in about 2 hours, then dipped our tired feet in Llyn (lake) Cwellyn next to the car park, which was a most welcome cure for sore feet!
The following day was spent on the Ffestiniog Railway, all the while aching from our climb the day before. Sunday was even hotter than the day before, so we packed plenty of water for the train. I was interested to experience this railway as HF Holidays include it as part of our charming break, ‘Great Little Trains of Wales’.
The Ffestiniog Railway is the world's oldest narrow gauge railway - being old souls, we both enjoy a ride on a steam train whenever we holiday in the UK, and this one did not disappoint. It has to be one of the most picturesque steam railways I have seen. Even at the Porthmadog station, you have a fantastic vista of Snowdonia on one side, and the sea on the other. The train then journeys up to Blaenau Ffestiniog, an old slate-quarrying town. On the way up, we enjoyed dramatic green scenery, taking in the sights from our almost-empty carriage. At Blaenau we treated ourselves to an ice cream before getting back on the train to go back to Porthmadog.
That evening we and the other guests participated in a competitive but fun music quiz out on the lawn after dinner.
After checking out of our room on the Monday, we walked along the River Glaslyn to Beddgelert, to visit Gelert’s grave and get more ice cream (it was very hot that day, too…). The final activity for our weekend in Wales was swimming in this river – a truly refreshing and magical experience!
Ways you can visit Snowdon: