Snowdonia tour: Llanberis & Beddgelert
The Snowdonia national park, created in 1950, was the first welsh national park, and covers approximately 820 square miles of North West Wales.
To fully appreciate all the park has to offer you’ll need to spend a few days, if not a week, but I’ll try and give you some highlights tours that will focus on the main sites to visit. The idea is to create a circular itinerary you can follow, starting and finishing anywhere along the route, and assumes you are driving.
Tour 1: Llanberis & Beddgelert.
For convenience this route starts in the town of Porthmadog and concentrates on the Western side of the park, the bit where the mountain is: ‘What mountain?’ I hear you ask. Well the park is home to the highest mountain in Wales and England which is called (Mount) Snowdon (1,085m), a cautionary note: when you’re chatting with locals or other visitors you’ll look a little silly if you mix up Snowdon with Snowdonia, as in ‘I just walked up Snowdonia’ so think before you speak!
So back to the tour: If I’m meeting a group we’ll normally rendezvous at Tesco, for those who don’t know Tesco is a large supermarket which is easy to find in Porthmadog, and is just 2 minutes walk from the train station and main bus stops. It’s a good place to grab a sandwich for lunch which will save you time later.
For the first 20-30 minutes we’ll stick to the main A487 heading towards Caernarfon, so turn Left out of Tesco and follow the signs. It’s a good road, but not much to see, we’re just travelling to our first destination: Llanberis.
After following the A487 for around 18 miles you’ll come to the village of Bontnewydd, this is where we’ll pick up the road for Llanberis, so watch out for the sign (turning right) following this road for around 5 miles will bring you to Llyn Padarn (Lake). The lake is approximately 2 miles long and at it’s deepest point around 30m, making it one of the biggest natural lakes in Wales.
Keeping the lake to your left you’ll soon arrive in Llanberis itself. Keep driving past the parking areas and the first large building you see on your left, this building is the Electric Mountain visitors centre, more on this later.
Just after the Electric mountain building you’ll see a sign for ‘Padarn Country Park’, ‘Lake Railway’, ‘High Ropes Course’, ‘Welsh Slate Museum’ in fact a lot of little signs bunched together pointing to the left, essentially you’re going to the other side of the lake where you’ll find a large parking area (not the first small car parks you pass, follow the signs for the museum) this will be our base for a while so find a good parking spot and get a ticket.
The large ‘old’ looking building is the Welsh Slate Museum, a must visit attraction, besides it’s free, has a good cafe and clean loo’s! Spend time exploring this area, perhaps follow some of the hiking trails (info on large notice boards) or stroll along the lake to the Victorian Quarry Workers Hospital, another must do.
If you fancy a train ride up Snowdon the station is back on the main road near the signs where you turned left, it’s normally busy and only runs in the summer months, but do go and have a look around even if you don’t want to go up the mountain, you could always walk up, but it does take most of a day!
Electric mountain; the visitors centre you passed on your way in, gives information and a tour of the Dinorwig pumped storage power station, basically the mountain on the far side of the lake is hollow and houses an enormous hydro-power station, you really need to visit the information centre to fully appreciate what you can’t actually see!
It’s completely up to you how long you stay in llanberis, there’s actually enough to keep you going all day, but when you want to carry on with the tour just drive back to the main road and turn left following the road past the Snowdon Mountain Railway station.
This road is the Llanberis pass with the mountain on your right being Snowdon (Snowdon Massif) and on your left the Glyder mountain range. There are little parking spots where you can pull over a search for climbers picking their way up the mountains, the area is very popular with climbers due to it’s easy access and wide range of difficulties. The area is also popular with free climbers, this is where the climber doesn’t use ropes or pegs etc, you’ll often see them using the large rocks on the side of the road to practice on, it’s very skilled and dangerous, so practising on low, short-fall routes is a good idea!
The top of the pass is call Pen Y Pass, welsh for the head of the pass, there’s a parking area, but it’s normally full, but no worries if it is, just keep going …. now down hill, and oh what a hill. At the junction turn right and you’ll soon come to a parking area on your right, pull in for a photo session. The views are stunning, but are of course weather dependant.
Carry on down the hill, through stunning mountain scenery, past lakes, rivers and through hamlets, stop whenever you like for photos or to explore, eventually arriving at the village of Beddgelert. Follow the road left over the bridge and just past the ice cream shop (on your right) watch out for the car park sign.
Beddgelert is a stunning little village with lots to offer, but it’s better for you to explore and find its secrets for yourself, but hints to get you going: Learn the story of Gellert, find out how many movies have been filmed around here and test out the claim that it’s the best ice cream in the ‘world’.
To continue on, from the car park turn right past the Royal Goat hotel, following the road towards Porthmadog, if you see a parking spot pull in, perhaps to dip your toes in the crystal clear river waters, or to grab a photo of a steam train as it winds its way along the river’s edge; remember it’s your trip.
Following the signs for Porthmadog will bring you back to our starting point, this is where I’ll say ‘Hwyl Fawr am rhwan’ that’s welsh for Goodbye ….. For now!