Wales?! Never been there.
Northern Wales – how far away is THAT!?
Snowdonia? – Is that a made up place? You must be talking magic lands now… Game of Thrones?
It sounds like a made up place, or to me it does anyway. However, I assure you it’s very real and very beautiful. A few months back, during spring, we ventured up north to Snowdonia in Northern Wales to hike up Mount Snowdon the tallest mountain in Wales and England (not Scotland!). Getting out of the city for a breath of fresh air and a bit of adventure was just what we were after.
Shattered from a long week of work and an extra long drive (only five hours!) we finally arrived at our little bunk lodge nestled in the hills of Snowdonia, nearing midnight. The mountain air was freezing and within minutes we were tucked up in our sleeping bags ready for bed.
We were woken by morning sun streaming in through our bunk room windows and the sound of cockerels crowing proudly… a beautiful day in Snowdonia – we certainly weren’t in London anymore.
With hiking boots laced, water bottles filled and lunches packed (a gourmet bacon and egg pie homemade especially) we drove down the road to Moel Siabold, a classic local mountain cafe. With bargain prices (compared to London!), hearty cooked breakfasts and an abundance of homebaking to take away with you, it’s a low frills place that caters for the hoards of hikers, climbers, campers and bikers that descend on Snowdonia week in and week out. Pots of tea, hot coffee and substantial ‘full Welsh breakfasts’ complete with local black pudding did the trick in preparing us for a day out hiking.
There are three main routes to tackle Mount Snowdon; the Miners Track, Pyg Track, and Crib Goch which is renowned as the most challenging. Opting for a more adventurous day, we decided on the Crib Goch route up and one of the more gentle routes down. We set off from the carpark with a small crowd – it turns out a lot of people were making the most of the amazing (March!) Welsh sunshine.
The first hour was a gentle uphill trek on a well worn rocky path. From the Crib Goch junction the beaten track quickly disappeared and we were faced with enormous jagged rock faces. What I had thought was going to be a walk in the park turned quickly into a full body rock climb. After an hour of using all fours to scramble up, the rock face flattened out. Sweet, sweet relief were my initial thoughts… only to realise that two more peaks lay ahead; both larger, rockier and steeper than the one we’d just climbed. With patches of snow, some slippery rocks and sheer drops either side, the climb was precarious and required a seriously good head for heights.
Once the knife-edge pinnacles had been conquered the last section gently plateaued to where the other routes met. Incredible 360 degree views greeted us at the summit. Endless blue sky, green rolling countryside and a horizon of a sparkling sea. People young and old, dogs big and small gathered at the top – most who had taken easier short routes up. During the summertime a train delivers people who’d rather not walk right to the summit where there is a cafe (only open in summer). It seemed a bit of a shame to have a cafe and train up there, especially after a hike so long and gruelling – I didn’t much like the idea of sharing the beauty and views with people who hadn’t earned it!!!
After a slow and rocky descent down we finally made it to the car park as the sun was setting. Exhausted but happily satisfied with the day’s achievements, we collapsed into seats in a small but famous pub near the base of the mountain – the Pen Y Gwryd. This spot was where Sir Ed Hilary, Tenzing Norgay and the team stayed while training for their Everest Expedition. With walls covered in ancient mountaineering equipment and signed photos of the mountaineering Greats, it was just the place to recap on the day’s challenges and triumphs. Pints in hand we chatted mountaineering as if we were old hands, eventually relocating down the road to Betws Y Coed where a local pub filled us with well-earned pub grub.
Though it was faaar more challenging than I had anticipated it was a completely wonderful day out hiking – what’s a good hike without a bit of a knee wobbling, jaw dropping challenge anyway!!?? A definite must for anyone living in the UK and itching for a bit of adventure… Bring on the next highest peak!
Highlights: Would have to be the perfect weather (which we were constantly reminded was not typical of Wales), the views for miles and miles and the deliciously refreshing beer in the pub at the bottom of the mountain – how good does a well-earned drink taste!? Driving through Snowdonia’s historic stone villages, past picturesque glassy lakes and weaving between golden tussocky hills was a definite highlight too.
Recommendations: This was the spot where we tucked into large Welsh breakfasts. And this is where we rehydrated after a long day hiking. We stayed in these little bunk rooms here (by no means luxurious but it served it’s purpose well!). This site gives some great information on the Snowdonia region, and this site has tips on the routes up. Don’t forget to check the weather, it was easy to see how things could go from bad to worse in horrible weather.
Have you been to Snowdonia? How did you find it? Any other UK-based hikes that you recommend? Comment below and let me know!
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