Life in rural Snowdonia. Bits of news and local gossip which guests to our self catering cottages might find interesting. Anything from new born animals here on our farm to wide ranging directives from the Welsh Assembly.
Life in rural Snowdonia. Bits of news and local gossip which guests to our self catering cottages might find interesting. Anything from new born animals here on our farm to wide ranging directives from the Welsh Assembly.
The Royal St Davids is hosting its ‘Open Week’ 23rd – 30th June 2013. Nationally and Internationally this beautiful links golf course is famous for it’s breathtaking views over cardigan bay and the mountains of Snowdonia. The course is within a ten minutes drive of a handful of our cottages. Fill in our enquiry form and I’ll check availability for you http://dioni.co.uk/enquiry-form/.
We should start our tour of the Bloodiest Castles in North Wales with the largest of them all perhaps. Caernarfon Castle. Following years of bloody battle, Llywelyn, the last price of Wales, was finally defeated and killed by the armies of Edward I in Builth in 1282. King Edward I wanted to deny Dafydd, Llywelyn’s brother, any chance of staging a comeback so quickly drove home his advantage by ordering the construction of huge a huge castle in Caernarfon and other strategic locations.
James of St George was put in charge. He immediately employed hundreds of workers to dig the huge moat that was to surround the castle and to cut the great foundation trenches that would support the 6-meter thick walls of the castle. Any houses of the old welsh township that lay in the way were torn down and destroyed.
By 1284 the castle was almost finished. Edward I and his wife Elenor came to stay and by the end of the year Caernarfon was established as the centre of government for the newly formed welsh shires.
But all was not well. In 1294 Madog ap Llywelyn led the welsh in a revolt against their new English rulers. The town walls were burnt to the ground and the newly appointed English sheriff was killed. A year later however, Edward was back in charge. He refortified the castle and strengthened its defenses. Especially the bits that faced towards the local town.
What started as a spat between two neighbours eventually led to the sacking of Ruthin castle and years of bloody fighting right across Wales.
Owain Glyndwr, a descendent of the welsh princes, fell out with his neighbour, the anti welsh Norman landowner, Reynold de Grey. The English King, Henry IV sided with De Grey in the argument, but this didn’t stop Glyndwr from marching on de Greys stronghold in Ruthin in 1400. The town was raised to the ground and de Grey was captured and held for ransom. Following the bloody battle, Glyndwr and his army marched onwards to Denbigh then Flint before moving southwards along the English border to Oswestry and Welshpool.
Other welsh lords, long oppressed under English rule, were emboldened by Glyndwrs success and rallied to his side. In response, King Henry IV summoned a huge army and marched on the rebellious welsh. The guerrilla tactics adopted by the rebels and their knowledge of the mountains was to prove decisive during these early years however. Henry was unable to regain control, resorting instead to punitive assaults on a villages thought to be sympathetic to Glyndwr.
But in time, the enforced economic blockade on Wales began to take hold. The support Glyndwr had enjoyed from the French waned and the rebellion stalled. The killing of the charismatic prince himself finally ended the revolt in 1416. Accounts vary but it is though that Owain Glyndwr was tricked away from his army before being killed on a lonely field.
Harlech castle in North Wales must be the most fearsome stronghold in the UK. It dominates the landscape to this day, but imagine what impression it must have had back in the 13th century when it was built.
A concentric outer curtain wall surrounded an even stronger inner ward with four protective towers at each corner. Painted a brilliant white, the castle looked out over the Irish Sea crashing against the cliffs some 50m below. A deep trench cut into the rock protected the castle from the only approach by land. And all this when the native population lived in houses of wood, mud and straw.
But let’s assume you’re not easily scared and you decide you’re going to attack the castle anyway. Under a rainstorm of arrows, you battle your way over the outer curtain wall and somehow navigate across the deep ditch to the east of the castle. Now you’re faced with the main gatehouse, the only access to the inner ward. Here you have to crash your way through 3 sets of heavy oak doors and three separate iron portcullis gates. But you’re in luck; the first portcullis has been left open. You charge through and bash up against the second portcullis. But, silently, the first portcullis gate is lowered shut behind you. Trapped inside this narrow corridor, the soldiers in the guardrooms to either side are free to take pot shots at you through narrow arrow slots in the walls. Boiling hot oil poured down from the murder holes in the ceiling and your attack seems doomed.
But lets pretend you miraculously manage to escape. Battered and bruised but undeterred, you decide on a seaward attack the following day. The enemy has a far stronger navy but luckily they’re busy fighting the Scots further north. You sail towards the cliffs to the west of the castle. A substantial sea gate stands guard against such an invasion, but perhaps you’ve been able to drug the soldiers inside and come ashore without too much of a fight. A path has been carefully cut into the cliff leading up to the western face of the castle. But this has been made deliberately narrow windy. Forced to ascend slowly in single file you and your soldiers are easily cut down by arrows fired from the castle walls above. You’re forced to retreat once again.
All this makes Harlech Castle the best castle in the UK. Owain Glyndwr did of course famously usurp the English from Harlech in 1404 but the castle was virtually deserted by then. No one has ever really stormed the castle successfully. Indeed the castle was the last stronghold to hold out in both the War of the roses and the English Civil War. On both occasions, it was a prolonged siege and the exhaustion of supplies and support from without that led to the surrender of the garrison within. The castle held firm.
You can of course visit all these castles and many others when you stay at our North Wales holiday cottages. The Cadw website is a great place to start.
I’m hoping to visit some of the Open Gardens events here in North Wales this summer. For those of you who have not yet been to an Open Garden, its a chance to admire what should really be happening in your own patch whilst indulging in a spot of traditional welsh Afternoon Tea. You can see why I make the effort to go. If you’re planning a holiday to Snowdonia this summer take a look at http://www.ngs.org.uk/.
Describing these places as the Top 5 locations for Bird Spotting in North Wales might be a little cheeky. A better title might be ‘5 nice places that I’ve visited and enjoyed spotting birds despite not being a real expert’. But I didn’t think that was catchy enough.
The RSPB nature reserve at Ynys Hir near Machynlleth has been a favorite site of bird watchers for a long time. There are up to seven hides available to the public as well as a visitors centre, picnic area and nature trails. A combination of Welsh oak woodland and saltmarsh means there is a wonderful variety of birds to be spotted. These include the feisty Lapwing, the unmistakable Redshank and the noisy Wood warbler. The BBC’s Springwatch series has been based in Ynys Hir in recent years.
North Wales can now proudly boast two pairs of breeding ospreys and hopes are high that this success might continue in future.
The newly formed Dyfi Osprey project have an excellent visitor centre as well as a hide and spotting telescopes, and always lots of very friendly volunteers at hand. This enthusiastic group also have a fantastic website which includes a live webcam overlooking the nest. Well worth a look at the moment especially, link below.
Further north the Glaslyn site is a mile or so to the west of Llanfrothen on the B4410. Again, friendly volunteers will gladly help you with the spotting scopes and answer any questions you may have. You could combine your visit with a ride on the Welsh Highland railway, as the there’s a station nearby. (Some lovely pick-nick tables by the river too.)
Traeth Lafan or Lafan Sands is one odf the most popular locations for bird spotting in North Wales. The area runs along the North Wales coast between Llanfairfechan and Bangor. This huge expanse of mud flats can attract up to 15,000 birds in winter. These include Curlews, Oyster Catchers, Redshanks and the Great Crested Grebes. It can be a little difficult to get down onto the flats. But the best places to view the birds include Morfa Madryn near Llanfairfechan, Morfa Aber near Abergwyngregyn and Aber Ogwen near Penrhyn Castle just outside Bangor.
Ynys Enlli or Bardsy Island lies just of the westernmost tip of the Llyn Peninsula in North West Wales. 20,000 saints are said to be buried on the island and the site of a 5th century monastery continues to be a place of pilgrimage for some. Many more visit the island for the wildlife these days however. The absence of any land predators such as cats, dogs makes the island a haven ground nesting birds such as Guillemots and Kittiwakes. Oystercatches and the rare Chough also nest on the island but many more breeds pass through on their annual migration routes.
Day trips to the island can be arranged from Pwllheli and Aberdaron. But be warned, the crossing can be a little choppy. (I can still remember my cousins Dewi’s face just before he reached over the side to be sick.)
The nature trails through the woods of Coed Garth Gell are located within the beautifull Mawdhach valley, about a mile east of Bontddu. This forgotten nature reserve is home to all three of the UK’s woodpeckers as well as Redstarts, Wood Warblers and Pied Flycatchers.
Abandoned and ruined buildings bear testament to the gold mine that once thrived in this area. So keep an eye out for anything yellow that catches the light in the river. The path up to the top of the reserve is quite a climb in places but the effort is well worth it as visitors can enjoy spectacular views across the valley towards Cader Idris once out of the trees.
I live in Barmouth, North Wales. Love traveling, baking and Disney. I’m off to Uni in September.’ Here are my thoughts on the top things to do in the Barmouth.
Knickerbockers Ice Cream parlour is my favourite place to go to for a sweet fix in Barmouth. Classic flavours are available but there are also more adventurous choices like ‘bubblegum’ and ‘amaretto & black cherry’. My favourite is the lemon curd, irresistibly scrummy.
We are spoilt for choice for beaches in this area. Barmouth beach is possibly one of the nicest around however. The beach holds the coveted Blue Flag award for cleanliness.
The most popular spots around Barmouth for fishing are the harbour at high tide and the railway bridge connecting Barmouth to Fairbourne. During the summer there are also boat fishing trips from Barmouth harbour. As a kid, my family and I would grab a pastry from ‘Browns’ bakery in town before walking onto the bridge for a great afternoon of crabbing. Plenty of fishing tackle type shops in town to pick up all the equipment you need.
Barmouth is surrounded by beautiful countryside. The ‘Panorama Walk,’ is a must for anyone interested in viewing Barmouth in a different light.
The Mawddach trail has quickly become one of the most popular things to do in Barmouth. I’d recommend the trail for cyclists of all ages. The levelled route begins by crossing Barmouth Bridge then continues along a disused railway track which follows the estuary to the town of Dolgellau some 8 miles away. You can cut the route short by stopping off at the George III pub for a drink or light lunch before cycling back into town. If you haven’t brought your own bike with you just pop into Birmingham Garage (just on your way out of Barmouth towards Dolgellau) where you can hire one.
A converted Victorian chapel in the centre of town now holds a 186-seat theatre auditorium. Film screenings, workshops, and all sorts of community theatre events are held throughout the year. The theatre also hosts a ‘Jazz and Blues’ night every 4th Friday of the month, as well as other, one off, live music concerts.
The ‘Original Milk Bar’ is Barmouth’s most famous café laid out as an old fashioned classic diner. ‘Ebeneezer’s Chapel & Emporium’ is like walking into Aladdin’s cave – an interesting shop and café found in an old converted chapel. Finally, the hot chocolate at Davey Jones’ Locker on the harbour is a must for all visitors to Barmouth.
My recommendation in Barmouth would be the Last Inn. The staff are friendly and it has a warm cosy atmosphere.
Bistro Bermo is one of the nicest restaurants in town. They only have around 16 covers however so book early to avoid disappointment.
No seaside trip is complete without at least one visit to a ‘chippy.’ My choice in Barmouth would have to be the famous, award winning ‘The Mermaid,’ but be sure to jump in the queue when it’s quiet or else you could be forced into a 30 minute wait at least, but they sure as heck are worth it!
During the summer the beach comes alive and has lots of activities such as beach trampolining, bouncy castles and donkey rides. The amusements opposite have the classic waltzers, dodgems and mini rollercoaster rides. Candyfloss and kiss me quick hats are available, but not compulsory.
There are a range of events and short/ small festivals that take place in Barmouth and the surrounding area every year, all year, including:
Barmouth Kite Festival
Saturday & Sunday 11th & 12th May
Saturday & Sunday 13th & 14th July
Three Peaks Yacht Race
Saturday 15th June
Starts from Barmouth Harbour
Family Fun Day
Saturday 29th June
Talybont Square, Barmouth.
Country Music and Line Dancing Festival
Saturday & Sunday 6th & 7th July
Talybont Square, Barmouth.
Mawddach Paddlesports Festival
Saturday & Sunday 13th & 14th July
Mawddach Estury, Barmouth.
Barmouth Walking Festival
Saturday 14th – Monday 23rd September
Barmouth and surrounding area.
Barmouth Motocross Weekend
Saturday & Sunday 26th & 27th October
How’s that New Years resolution working out? If running or getting fit was one of yours, here’s an idea, Snowdonia Challenge. Why not enter a race of some kind. Set yourself a target to aim for. Invest in the idea by planning a holiday around the event. It’ll give your family something to look forward to as well. Book the time off work and tell your friends about your plans. That way you’ll be committed and less likely to find an excuse for seeing it through. Here are some options in North Wales for you.
You’ll have to be quick for this one as it’s only a couple of weeks away. But if you’re already in training and looking to kick start 2013 with a bang have a look at the Anglsey Coastal Trail Series. The Marathon and Ultra races are naturally only for the well initiated but the Half Marathon and 10k course are promoted as one of the best in the cross-country trail series. http://www.endurancelife.com/
A half marathon event organised by the excellent and very professional team at Always Aim High. If you’re new to long distance running or, you’re preparing for a full marathon later on in the year this one’s perfect. Run across the iconic Menai bridge and enjoy beautiful views over the straights towards Snowdonia as you follow a costal route undulating gently towards Beumaris. http://theislandrace.com/
If you fancy trying something a bit different, this night time run up Moel Famau near Denbigh might be the thing for you. At 3.7miles this certainly isn’t the most physically demanding Snowdonia Challenge trail race I’ve listed on here but I cant help but think that you’d need a fair amount of courage to run along muddy mountain tracks in pitch darkness with nothing but your head torch to lead the way. The website is a bit rubbish but I’m sure they’ll send you some more info if you email them. http://www.thisonecounts.co.uk/
Probably the friendliest mini triathlon in the UK. I’m hoping to have a go at this again this year so there’s no need to worry about being at the back of the group. I’ll be there to keep you company. If nothing else, the £40 entry fee helps our community swimming keep it’s doors open to local schoolchildren. Seeing as the council has given up on the idea. http://www.harlechtri-entries.org.uk/
This is one for all the trendy runners out there. If you’ve got all the gear this 10k run through the middle of fashionable Abersoch is the place to be seen. The spectacular finish sees runners hurdling breakwaters as they sprint along the beach before crossing the finish line by the yacht club. http://www.abersoch10k.com/
If road cycling is your thing, you have to be in Caernarfon on the 16th of June. Last year was the inaugural year for this event but there’s no doubt in my mind that these cycle races around the mountains of Snowdonia are going to grow from strength to strength. If it’s good enough for Dave Brailsford to recommend, you know, the bald one in charge of the Olympic cyclists, then it must be pretty good. http://etapeeryri.com/
Another one for the not so serious perhaps. This great day out sees runners of all ages board the narrow gauge steam train at Tywyn which in turn climbs up the beautiful Dydyni valley towards Tal y Llyn lake. From here, the idea is to race the train back into town. The camaraderie and family atmosphere of this fun day out ensures all the runners finish with a smile on their faces. http://www.racethetrain.com/
It’s to late too enter the famous Slateman Triathlon. Places for that one dried up very quickly after the 2012 race. But the kind people at “Always Aim High” have set up this third in a series of gruelling triathlons based in North Wales. This might be the hardest Snowdonia Challenge on this list. If you’re stupid enough, I mean brave enough, to want to swim 750m across a mountain lake in October, you’ve come to the right place. A 70km cycle will then take you over the Chrimea Pass near Blenau Ffestiniog. (I once had a car that couldn’t make it up that hill.) Then its just a short 9km sprint up Moel Siabod. Moel means smooth mountain in welsh which I guess is better than a pointy mountain. http://snowmantri.com/
You know how you can get those route profiles showing you how the road undulates up and down as you go round the course. Well the Snowdonia Marathon profile looks like a dental impression from a rabid dog. Two huge canine type peaks at the beginning and end with some rather nasty incisors in the middle. When you’re half way up that second canine or Bwlch y Groes, that 750m swim across a mountain lake might not seem like such a bad idea. http://www.snowdoniamarathon.co.uk/
Back to the coast for this one. Thankfully it’s a little flatter by the sea. The Conwy Half Marathon is another one of those events that seems to grow from strength to strength each year. Helped I’m sure by the brilliant unseasonable weather they seem to enjoy. Again, a good one perhaps if you’re new to running and want to set yourself a target at the end of the year. http://www.runwales.com/events/conwy-half-marathon
If you’re tempted by any of the above, drop me an email and I’ll see if I can find a North Wales Holiday Cottage nearby. If the dates don’t quite work for you let me know when you can make it and I’ll have a look if there are any other events running at that time.
Betws y Coed always seems to hold an enchanting feeling about it, set around luscious green forestry and beautiful views as the gateway to Snowdonia National Park. During Christmas time the village really does come alive, when visitors and residents truly celebrate the festive season in style. Being one of Britain’s first artists’ colonies, the products and crafts available certainly set the standard – and the entertainment is nothing short of fantastic during the village’s main event during the first week in December.
This event – Nadolig Betws y Coed Christmas – puts on entertainment especially for the kids with their very own Santa’s Campsite. The marquee is filled with art and craft activities, a snowman shy and Santa’s grotto at the far end. Of course, where would Santa be without his trusted elves on hand to lay out the entertainment and guide the children into the grotto to visit the Mr Claus himself? Next to the campsite you can meet the magical reindeers Dancer, Vixen and Cupid who have been waiting all year to meet everyone. The lantern parade which also follows as part of this event is always a highlight where some of the most amazingly shaped lanterns can be seen. The parade which begins at the Memorial Hall moves through the village and is a wonderful way to make your way to the community carol singers. Nothing says Christmas like carol singing around lanterns among a community in celebration.
To round of the Christmas event in Betws y Coed an exciting firework display can be seen on Cae Llan, in the centre of the village. Usually run on two nights of the event, the display is very entertaining and it certainly gives a magical finish to the event.
The shops are open late in the village during this time of the year, and you can purchase some of the best handmade and unique gifts and products in Wales. Originality in products has always been the area’s strong point in this beautifully situated village. A lovely little shop in the area that sells wonderful personal gifts is Candles Power. Often open late, this little candle shop creates works of art out of their products that are handmade to your order. Catering for all seasons, Chris and Ash have been professionally pouring, hand crafting and personalising candles for almost 30 years and they even created a candle for Pope John Paul on his visit to Wales.
Galeri Betws y Coed Gallery exhibits leading works of art by some of the most talented artists in Wales. Their work, consisting of originals, photography, framed and unframed prints, aims to deliver quality art to the people and visitors of Wales. During the Christmas celebration, the works of art are on display, showing the best of what Wales has to offer. The gallery also has original handmade jewellery on show throughout the year, which might make shopping a little easier when it comes to choosing something a little special.
Perhaps a sweet treat from Cwmni Cacen Gri might make an ideal gift for you. This little Welshcake company sources their ingredients locally and so they promise that you can’t get fresher. All the cakes are baked daily and the variety will make you want to take the lot home. Also a great place to stop off from shopping and grab a bite to eat, the cake shop is a very satisfying visit.
Being an area so fond of the outdoors, Betws y Coed is never short of outdoor clothing shops. So if what you’re looking for is the perfect winter wear for the outdoors, you’ll definitely be coming to the right place. All over the village you’ll find a variety of shops brimming with high quality clothing and gear for all the family. With everything from safety equipment to camping and adventure equipment there’s nothing you’ll have to go without in this one-stop village for outdoors equipment.
The village is stunning through all seasons but Christmas time in Betws y Coed certainly holds a magical feel about it. The atmosphere of late night shopping in the area is something unique, especially in the gateway to Snowdonia where Christmas is so special.
So you’ve bought your new Digital SLR Camera and now you want to get out there and take some great landscape pictures. Well there’s no better place to start than Snowdonia. Here’s a selection of my favorite locations along with a couple of suggestions from guests to our holiday cottages here in North Wales.
Cregennen Lakes : Latitude, Longitude: 52.710897, -3.987650
Two beautiful lakes between the Mawddach Estury and the slopes of Cader Idris. Chose a calm day, free of any wind to visit this spot so as to give you the opportunity of capturing the reflections of the surrounding mountains in the water. You can get up to the lakes via a very steep road from Arthog or take the longer but more gradual route from Dolgellau town centre. If your legs are up to it, when combined with the Mawddach Trail, this route makes a lovely circular cycle ride from Barmouth.
Cwm Orddin : Latitude, Longitude: 52.995060, -3.969454
If the weather isn’t so great, Cwm Orddin might be the place to go. Once home to a comunity of hardened slate miners, this abandoned valley is now slowly being reclaimed by nature. There’s a haunting beauty here and a cloak of cloud and mist can often add to to the atmosphere. A chance to play with the black and white images perhaps. From Tanygrisiau, which is just south of Blaenau Ffestiniog, drive up out of the village on Cwm Orthin Road. There’s a small parking area at the far end.
Goodnes Gracious Corner: Latitude, Longitude: 52.844201, -4.119315
Well that’s what we used to call it as children. It’s what we imagine people say as they sweep round this corner of the A496 travelling north towards Harlech. Pointing and staring as they race to their next destination. The wiser among us will naturally take the time to stop and admire the panorama a bit longer. The rolling dunes of Harlech beach sweeping up towards Harlech Castle and the mouth of the Glaslyn eastury. Snowdon and her sisters forming the backdrop. Turn as if you were heading towards Llandanwg beach before parking almost immediately on the wide grass verge on the left. Walk back onto the main road and head towards Harlech. After 200yds you’ll see a footpath on your left leading down to the beach.
Slidy Rock: Latitude, Longitude: 52.857461, -4.110447
Again, not an official name, but it’s what we called this spot when we congregated as children to slide down the smooth face of this rocky outcrop. After capturing Goodness Gracious Corner jump back in the car and head 1 mile north towards Harlech. Fork right towards the upper part of town. Eventually the road bends to the right and you’ll see a footpath to your left. This spot gives you the classic view of Harlech Castle which has appeared on hundreds of postcards, but it’s worth capturing your own take on it I think.
Afon Llugwy: Latitude, Longitude: 53.102733, -3.846459
The Llugwy River flows east from Capel Curig down towards Betws Y Coed along the same route as the A5. Popular locations include the impressive Swallow Falls and magical Fairy Glenn but the entire stretch of the river is beautiful. There’s also a wheelchair friendly walkway along the river bank from Betws Y Coed. A time to play around with a tripod and slow shutter speeds to get that silky movement of the water.
Ogwen Valley: Latitude, Longitude: 53.124010, -4.019536
If you travel a little further up the A5 you’ll enter the Ogwen Valley. Flanked by the Glyderau mountains on one side and the Carneddau mountains on the other, sightseers are surrounded by classic Snowdonia landscapes in every direction. The more adventurous might like to head up Tryfan, a mountain to the south of Llyn Ogwen to get a shot of Adam and Eve, two monoliths which dominate the summit.
Castell Y Gwynt: Latitude, Longitude: 53.105001, -4.008572
Other interesting rock formations include Castell Y Gwynt (Castle of Wind) and the Canteliver Stone. Both of which are near the summit of Glyder Fach. Again the weather can play it’s part when visiting these remote locations. But the thrill of the hike is worth the effort in it’s own right.
Rhinogydd: Latitude, Longitude: 52.849748, -4.002370
Further south, the Rhinog Mountains dominate the skyline. These mountains are amongst the most remote in the whole of the UK. Their stark ruggedness ensures this area remains a true wilderness perfect for night photography.
Mach Loop: Latitude, Longitude: 52.735823, -3.774275
If you’ve got a nice long lens you might like to head down the A470 towards Dinas Mawddwy and try and catch fighter planes as they practice they’re low flying skills on what is known locally as the Mach Loop. If you sit up on the ‘Bwlch’ you can often take pictures looking down at the planes as they streak past in the valley below. But timing is everything, the planes don’t fly that often.
Dysynni Valley: Latitude, Longitude: 52.658046, -3.971364
The Dysynni valley is a landscape of gentler hills and rolling fields. This glacial valley basin is a fertile agricultural region flanked by interesting rocky outcrops including ‘Craig yr Aderyn’ (Bird Rock) home to inland nesting cormorants. Foreground interest can be added by visiting the remains of Castelll Y Bere or the popular Tal Y Llyn steam railway.
by +Gwion Llwyd
If, like me, you’ve been inspired by team GB’s performance in the velodrom during the London Olympics, you might want to consider bringing your bikes along when you next visit North Wales. Here’s a couple of places for you to consider.
Coed Y Brennin
Probably the best mountain biking centre in the UK. Miles and miles of rugged trails with fantastic names like ‘Beast of Brennin’, ‘Dragons Back’ and ‘Minour Tour’. The trails are colour coded according to difficulty similar to ski slopes. So all abilities can be confident of having a great time. All the trails start and finish from the new eco visitor centre just south of Trawsfynydd on the A470. There’s a nice café there, a well stocked spares shop, bike wash facilities and shower cubicles. Bikes can also be hired from the very nice people at Beics Brennin.
The Mawddach Trail is the perfect choice for a family outing out on a summer’s day. Running along a disused railway track that follows the River Mawddach as it lazily winds it way from Dolgellau to the seaside town of Barmouth. There are fabulous views right along the route and the path itself is well maintained and marked. I’d suggest stopping off at the George III for a bit of refreshment along the way. Bikes can be hired at Dolgellau Cycles.
Not for the faint hearted this one. Newly developed downhill trails offer a unique adrenalin rush for visitors to the centre in Blaenau Ffestiniog. For a reasonable fee, a minibus and purpose built trailer will whisk you and your bike up to the top of the mountain before depositing you at the start of several carefully designed and graded downhill trails. Take a moment to marvel at the view across the Glaslyn valley before you set off down the trail of your choice. The buss will be waiting for you at the bottom to take you back up. Assuming you’re still in one piece.
Lon Las Cymru
Lon Las Cymru (The Blue Route of Wales) is otherwise know as ‘National Cycle Route 8’, but that’s not nearly as romantic. The route runs form Cardiff in the south, all the way up to Holyhead on Anglesey in the North. 250 miles altogether but don’t worry, you don’t have to do it all. Some of the nicest parts of the route are naturally found in Snowdonia. Route Maps and guides are surprisingly difficult to get hold of. Sustrans attempt to fill he gap but a standard OS map might be your best bet.
Betws Y Coed
The famous Marin Trail at Betws Y Coed has been joined by a new and equally superb trail, Penmachno. Forest roads are combined with some superb flowing single track to provide a challenging and exhilarating route around one of the most beautiful parts of the national park. Both routes can be joined at Betws Y Coed, a bustling little village which plays host to some superb outdoor pursuit shop as well as numerous cafés and pubs. Trust me, you’ll need a drink afterwards.
North Wales Triathlons
North Wales plays host to a number of triathlons. The Slateman Triathlon held in May starts in Llanberis at the foot of Snowdon with a 1000m swim across Llyn Padarn, a 51km cycle through the spectacular Ogwen Valley and a 11km trail run over Dinorwig Slate Quarry. The Sandman Triathlon involves swimming in the sea off Anglesey, a cycle route along the west coast of the island finishing with a trail run back along the beach. A middle distance Tri is also held in Bala and a well-supported sprint Tri is held at Harlech every year.
Don’t forget, you don’t have to have the legs as Chis Hoy or the determination of the Brownlee brothers to enjoy the above. But wouldn’t it be great if a family holiday in North Wales inspired the next Bradley Wiggins or Laura Trott.
Facts and figures
Before we start, it’s only fair to point out that it doesn’t actually rain in Wales as much as you might think. The west coast of Snowdonia in particular, fairs better, weather wise, than most of the UK. Met office statistics show that the number of ‘wet days’ (days with rainfall total of 1mm or more) during the summer months averages 25 in Valley on Anglesey compared to an average of 30 days in Upper Castern, the Met Office site in the midlands. When comparing ‘hours of sunshine’ the western coast of wales again, tends towards the top of the UK table. (metoffice.gov.uk/climate/uk) But you’re right of course, this isn’t Spain, and yes it might rain. So what to do?
Like the treasures of London during the Blitz, you might want to seek refuge in some of the slate caverns of Blaenau Ffestiniog. In 1940, on the orders of Winston Churchill, Manod Quarry was used to store all the pictures from the National Gallery, Tate Gallery and the royal collection including the crown jewels. The treasures have naturally been returned but nearby slate mines have now been reenergized as tourist attractions. Llechwedd Slate Caverns transport guests some 500 feet below ground and around 150 years back in time with their deep mine tour. Whilst Go Below Underground Adventures encourage their visitors to abseil, zip line and paddle their way through a system of caves and underground rivers near Betws Y Coed. King Arthurs Labyrinth in Corris is a more mystical experience. The legends and myths of the ancient Celts are retold during your tour of this underground maze. Other underground experiences include Sygun Copper Mine near Beddgelert, Corris Mine Explorers and the Great Orme Copper Mine in Llandudno.
The National Gallery collection is no longer with us but there are a number of galleries in the area exhibiting what has become a thriving art seen. The Kyffin Williams Gallery in Llangefni on Anglesey celebrates the work of one of Wales’ most respected artists. Whilst Oriel Plas Glyn Y Weddw in Pwllheli has a lively diary of events and exhibitions throughout the year. Mostyn showcase the best of welsh and international artists in there five galleries in Llandudno.
Just Get Wet
Go with it! Instead of trying to avoid getting wet, why not embrace the conditions. “It’s only water” as my gran used to say. If you visit the National White Water Centre and throw yourself down the mighty Tryweryn river in a rubber dingy, a little bit of rain will be the least of your worries. Bala Adventure and Watersports just down the road offers sailing, canoeing and windsurfing courses on famous Bala lake. Gorge walking is another increasingly popular activity guaranteed to soak you to the core. Seren Ventures will guide you up waterfalls, along rock walls and submerge you into pools of fresh mountain water.Bring a towel.
Curl up with a good book in front of a real fire with a glass of real ale. A handful of welsh breweries are beginning to make a real name for themselves. Bragdy Nant in Llanrwst, Purple Moose Brewery in Porthmadog, Conwy Brewery and The Plassey Brewery just outside Wreham all have medals and awards galore. Treat yourself to a bottle or two from the local shop before retreating back to your lodgings. Dioni has a selection of small romantic self catering cottages with log fires to help you in your way.
Enjoy the Arts
Some of the smaller independent theatres dotted across this rural landscape fight hard to keep their doors open to the public. Intimate venues like Theatr Harlech, The Galeri in Caernarfon and The Dragon Theatre in Barmouth play host to productions and live performances that often amaze the lucky few that are able to attend.
The Hwylfan in Caernarfon is a great place to take children during bad weather and the little trains of wales plod on through the mountains no matter what the conditions. The Ffestiniog Railway, Welsh Hightland Railway and the Talyllyn Railway are enjoyed by children both young and old. Penrhyn Castle and Caernarfon Castle are both well worth a visit and they both have a roof.
Grin and Bear It
Come prepared and grin and bear it. Perhaps it’s tempting fate but if you bring some decent wet weather gear with you, you can still go walking. The hills and mountains may be covered in mist so stick to a route that is easier to navigate. A walk round Bala lake perhaps or go beach combing along Black Rock Sands in Porthmadog.
As I say, it never rains in Wales but you might want to bookmark this article just in case.