Jackson Griffiths, from our Reservations team, recently visited our country house at Snowdon on one of our Outdoor Escapes and he let us in on his trip there.
North Wales is surprisingly easy to get to. From London it took me just 3.5 hours by direct train to Bangor and then a taxi ride
from there to the country house. Had I gone by car it would have been a glorious drive there through the Welsh hills. Craflwyn Hall is one of our smallest properties but, for me, that makes it perfect place to get away from it all. I was looking forward to exploring the local area on one of HF Holiday’s Outdoor Escapes.
Craflwyn Hall is a National Trust property. As well as the main house, there is also a fully converted stable building with bedrooms about 20 yards away from the main house. It was here that I had my room. It was immaculately set up with a great bathroom and views to the hills. A short walk to the lake of Llyn Dinas was an excellent introduction to the area. There is a copper mine in the hills opposite the house. After dinner there was a Prosecco welcome reception in the National Trust visitors room just down the drive from the main house.
On an Outdoor Escape the easy option also includes some sightseeing. So I was so pleased when one of the options was a train ride on the Ffestiniog railway to the start point of the day’s easy walk. Even though the start point of our walk was about a third of the way only the line, our leader Nadine got us a return ticket which allowed for more train time. There is something magic about riding a steam train.- The rocking of the carriages and the changing tempo of the chuffing sound of the engine all take one back to a time where great loads of ore and slate were transported up and down the line. I was also surprised at the speed. In our modern times we are used to a certain level of speed in our cars. The pace of the steam train was a gentler pace than that I was used to. We had to stop for about 45 minutes as a tree had fallen across the line. Railway staff, all volunteers,brought saws and chopped the tree up. Our 4-mile walk took- us through green countryside covered in ferns and through dripping woods, the trees covered with lichen. We finished at a request stop on the Ffestiniog railway. In the spirit of the Railway Children, and much to the amusement of the group, I waved my red “bloomers” (my red jacket) to stop the train.
On the second day I opted for the easy sightseeing option. The night before, Nadine, had come up with a few options and we decided on a short walk finishing at the National Slate Museum in Llanberis. This route took us through mining country with reminders of the hard graft of ordinary folk and fortunes made by mine owners and landowners. One of the first stops was a -1974 plaque to commemorate the centenary of the North Wales Quarrymen's Union. We hiked on to the hill above Llyn Padam past ruins of miners cottages that were covered in moss and bracken. On the way we stopped at and had a tour of Llanberis Miner’s Hospital. It was morbidly fascinating to see the quarrymen’s injuries that doctors and nurses had to deal with 100 years ago.
The National Slate Museum was a fascinating place to learn about the industrial heritage of the region. It is situated at a former slate mine. Most interesting was a slate-splitting (try saying that after a few beers) demonstration. A former slate miner showed us the process of deftly tapping large chunks of slate and splitting them up. Then the thin slates were hacked into shape with a knife. On the wall were slates of particular sizes each new slate had to confirm to, each named after a royal title (prince, duchess, etc.). Apprentices started with small sizes and then graduated to larger sizes. The former miner explained that although the mine is no longer operational, the slate deposits have not run out. The mine went bankrupt and cannot compete against China that produces one slate for £1, whilst the Welsh equivalent goes for £8 per slate. Welsh slate is the best quality, and this is no idle boast from a Welshman. The former miner explained that slate from other regions of the world can have a higher iron content leading to the fossilised mud rusting. He also pointed to a roof of the former mine building from 1850, it looked good as new. It was also interesting to note that due to the fragile nature of thin slate the miners did not get paid for every slate they produced. As much as 20% of slates were broken by the time they made it to the boats.
The beer and cheese tasting was most welcome on the final evening and rounded my Outdoor Escape really well. On the first evening one of our leaders who is a mountain guide and a ranger volunteer for Snowdon gave us a talk on the challenges of Snowdon being so popular. Due to its location, being near to several large cities Snowdon has far more visitors than Scafell Pike and Ben Nevis.
For more information on our Outdoor Escapes visit our website