Snowdonia, or Eryri, as it’s known in Welsh, is North Wales’s National Park, covering 823 square miles. It is a popular, yet unspoilt destination for travellers from over the world. Famous for it’s breathtaking scenery, endless activities and superb Welsh produce, I recently paid a visit to check out the very best things to see, do, eat and where to stay in the area.
What to do
The choice of activities in Snowdonia is wide and varied. As you would expect from a National Park, the scenery is astonishingly beautiful and there are a wealth of walks, cycle rides, train journeys and drives to choose from to take in the spectacular surroundings. The area also covers the Llŷn Peninsula and Cambrian Coastline, and the combined area offers a wealth of things to do. I have included our favourite destinations here, but to find out about the many other attractions, I recommend visiting the Snowdonia Mountains and Coast page.
There is genuinely something for people of all ages in Snowdonia, encompassing both young and old, single adventurers, couples, families and older visitors, but Snowdonia is particularly brilliant for family adventures in the UK, and for those with children of all ages.
Keen to encompass our inner adventurers and give some new activities a try, we found some really fun adventures to attempt across the area.
Snowdonia Riding Stables
Starting the weekend off gently, we visited Snowdonia Riding Stables. Situated at the border of Snowdonia National Park, it is a very well equipped stable that caters from beginner riders to all-day hacks. We went for a guided group ride with Kelly, a really lovely girl who has worked at the stables for several years. We took our horses up a steep track, across a dramatic river and up the hills along the Snowdonia National Railway track to admire the views across to Anglesey. Our horses had a lovely nature, and we were able to improve our riding skills very quickly. Not only did we have an incredibly enjoyable and memorable ride, we left feeling as though we had really made progress under Kelly’s guidance. I cannot recommend a visit more highly as all levels are catered for, and there is plenty of tuition and provision for children to ride, too.
The view from the top of Zip World Titan
Next, we drove down to Blaenau Ffestiniog, which was formerly a major slate mining town on the edge of the Snowdonian mountains. With the decline of mining in the area taking hold, Llechwedd Slate Caverns, a former hive of industry, has been converted into a tourist attraction. We absolutely loved it here. It is a really unique experience to travel underground and see the mines first hand. The tours are excellent and staff were a delight, which really made it a brilliant experience. However, there is much more to the site than this. In what felt like a brave move, I found myself being drivien to the top of a mountain looking over the mine to zip wire down to the ground. Zip World Titan is the world’s largest zip zone, which takes you over moor, mountain and mine shaft. The uplift minibus takes you up and up to the top of the hills, and the view is spectacular when you arrive at the summit. I did have a mini-wobble as I was being strapped in to the equipment, but the experience is quite unique. You can travel down at the same time as your party, on parallel wires, which makes it a particularly fun group experience. The feeling of exhilaration is quite something when you get to the end, and the views are astonishing. We completed the dare-devil experience at Llechwedd by visiting Bounce Below, which is an extremely unique experience taking you through rooms, cages and slides, inside a mine cavern in a series of bouncy rope cubes. Catering for children, and your inner child, it is such a fun and almost surreal way to spend an hour, it must be experienced whilst you’re here. With so many activities at Llechwedd, you could easily spend a day here. We left exhilarated from the experience.
Driving towards Snowdon
The most famous attraction of the region is, of course, Mount Snowdon. As keen fell walkers, it was on our list as a major summit to conquer. Sadly, weather conditions were unusually against us when we visited. But we did manage to take the Snowdon Mountian Railway from Llanberis to just over half way up Snowdon to Rocky Valley.
The view from Snowdon Railway
Despite the weather, it was an remarkable experience and one I will be sure to do next time. The train climbs steeply almost immediately after leaving the station in Llanberis, and crosses two waterfalls before climbing up through the valleys to the summit. It is a truly wonderful feat of engineering and a wonderful experience – particularly special for anyone who is unable or unwilling to climb Snowdon. Both children and adults on our train were in awe of the experience. The reward is always the view at the top and being able to experience that without the walk is remarkable. Highly recommended.
Anyone who is interested in trains will also enjoy the Ffestiniog & Welsh Highland Railway, providing another opportunity to enjoy the outstanding scenery.
And for adventurous bike riders will enjoy Coed-y-Brenin Forest Park to ride the trails, or the trails at Llechwedd.
For some more relaxed sightseeing, I highly recommend a visit to Portmeirion. I didn’t really know what to expect, but we loved it here. It is just so eclectic and characterful, and walking around the village is quite unlike anywhere else you’ll see anywhere in the UK.
Where to stay
When choosing somewhere to stay, I found the Snowdonia Mountains and Coast website most useful, offering a wide choice of accommodation, from hotels to bed and breakfast, and all of which have been vetted and come recommended.
My choice for the stay was Tyddyn Mawr bed and breakfast, situated at the foot of Cadair Idris and around three miles from Dolgellau in Southern Snowdonia. I chose it based on its excellent reviews online and was delighted with the choice.
I can only describe it as a very traditional Welsh farmhouse, inside and out, situated in the most delightful spot. The welcome we received from the owner, Olwen, was incredibly warm and genuine, making it abundantly clear from the off that we would be looked after in the most experienced hands. Olwen had thought of everything, from pre-booking a selection of tables for us to choose from for dinner, to arranging a number of gluten free options in advance.
Arriving in the dark on a Friday night after a long, long drive, Tyddyn Mawr immediately felt like the warm and cosy retreat we needed for the night. The rooms are large, comfortable and spotlessly clean. They have been thoughtfully decorated in a traditional Welsh farmhouse style, as you’ll see throughout the property, with furniture and doors custom made from local Welsh wood.
Localism is a theme at Tyddyn Mawr. Olwyn and her family are proud of their Welsh heritage and Olwyn’s language skills were most informative in my attempts to improve my knowledge of the Welsh language. In fact, in Gwynedd, Welsh is widely spoken, taught in schools, and spoken in shops, cafes and restaurants.
Being situated so close to the coast, fish features on the breakfast at Tyddyn Mawr, and we enjoyed some delicious hot mackerel and smoked salmon for breakfast. Olwyn also uses eggs from the farm next door, Welsh yoghurt from Llaeth Y Llan near Conwy and makes her own muesli, which is made using local honey from Dolgellau. Homemade jams made from fruit from a family garden also feature on the breakfast table. Gluten free options were no trouble at all. It is the breakfast you need to set yourself up for a busy day ahead.
Location wise, Tyddyn Mawr was superb. You could sit in your room and watch lambs bounding around the fields, or walk directly from the B&B up Cadair Idris, one of the most unspoilt and dramatic walks in Snowdonia. Dolgellau is an easy, short drive away, and from there, you are connected to major roads to explore the area further.
Where to eat
Our most delicious and memorable meal of the visit was at Y Sospan in Dolgellau. We enjoyed a very nice dinner here one night, with a good choice of tasty, well cooked, hearty meals. This isn’t fancy food, but really good cooking, and we thoroughly enjoyed everything we had, from a meltingly tender pork belly, to a giant fillet of perfectly cooked salmon and a lovely bottle of Gewürztraminer to accompany. This is exactly the kind of food you want to eat after a day in the great outdoors. The staff were very helpful and generous in offering alternatives for food allergies.
Bwyty Mawddach restaurant near Dolgellau is a good choice for a smarter meal. Their Sunday lunch is highly recommended. The menu is really lovely and the surroundings are gorgeous. It is definitely the place to go to smarten up and enjoy a special dinner. Be sure to book ahead though, as they do run a number of large events and tables to book up quickly.
A good café in Snowdonia is Conwy Falls Café in Betws-y-Coed. Great service and they do a nice breakfast as well as lunch, and Amelie’s Café in Conwy is a very nice stop off for a light lunch and an excellent slice of cake.
Thank you to Snowdonia Mountains and Coast for inviting me to visit Snowdonia.