After two and a half months on the road, we thought it was due time we left the chilly fields of England and head on over to Wales, Snowdonia National Park. If you don’t know anything about Snowdonia, look it up now!… actually, no! Just read on and hopefully you will get a feel for it. It contains some of the most stunningly rugged, beautiful landscape around. Snowdonia is right up my alley (Pete’s) with adventures galore, so I’ve been handed the baton for this blog post.
After bidding farewell to our not so memorable one night house sit in Kempston, we loaded up and made the four hour trip to Snowdonia. We arrived quite late on the Sunday night to the little village of Blaenau Ffestiniog, got some greasy kebabs as we had literally no food and nothing was open, and ‘checked-in’ to our Airbnb. The lovely lady (Anne) from two doors up, had lit the fires in preparation for us, and as the house was reliant upon the fires for heating and hot water, this was very much appreciated. We got to know Anne and her husband Daffyd quite well over the few days we were there and heard first hand some of the stories of what slate mining was really like. Slate mines are massive in this region and are everywhere. I was quite excited by this – Megan less so! On our last night Daffyd dropped by our place and gave us a little piece of slate each and engraved our names onto each one.
On Monday, we spent the day driving about and exploring Snowdonia. First stop was Swallow Falls, just outside the little village of Betws-y-Coed. There had been quite a bit of rain recently, so these falls were certainly flowing. They were loud and full of rage, although having to pay to see them and having them cordoned off took away from the experience a bit.
We then explored the quaint little village of Betws-y-Coed. This village was full of charm with the old stone buildings set upon the backdrop of the mountains. I spent some time exploring the raging river (if you haven’t picked up yet, I love anything water or mountain related – put them both together and we have a winner!) and then rewarded Elena (and Megan) with our customary babycino and hot chocolates.
From Betws-y-Coed we headed north up to Llandudno and were pleasantly surprised. We actually were heading there to do some grocery shopping (there is an Aldi there!) but discovered what a great place it was. Set right on the coast, Llandudno is actually the largest seaside resort town in Wales (and to think we were just going there for some groceries – maybe that says something about the size of Wales…) with a beautiful coastal walk and a long pier to explore. We had fun exploring before heading back to our place.
On Tuesday, I had a whole day adventure into the slate caverns behind our place. I booked through a company called Go Below (definitely recommend!) and had such a great all round day. Our small group of 8 spent over 5 hours under ground in the now unused slate caverns. They were magnificent! At one stage we were over 500 metres from the surface. The caverns themselves used to be full of life, with intensive mining going on up until the 1950’s. Now, left behind are vast empty spaces and huge caverns spanning many levels.
The tour itself involved zip-ling across the caverns, traversing across the walls, abseiling down from one level to the next and it even had a free fall towards the end. There were parts where we were crawling through the water at the bottom of the caverns and other times where were learning about the horrific conditions on the miners who only had a candle or two to light the way. All in all, an outstanding day!
While I was off gallivanting my way through the caverns, Megan spent over an hour getting lost in the car (well driving the car), trying to find these gardens to go to with Elena and Kilian before ending up back at the place. After that ordeal, they walked into town and went to… you guessed it, a cafe for a babycino and Welsh cakes with tea (Megan has actually taken to tea – crazy stuff!).
Our second last day was a bit gloomy and wet and most of it was spent indoors, but we did manage to get out and explore a bit of the mountain behind our place. I discovered this gem of a spot on the way to my mine experience, so took the others back there. We climbed up in between two slate mines to discover a perfectly smooth lake surrounded by snowy mountains. It was stunning! We also managed to find an entrance to a mine that was open… although we were a little too sensible for my liking and did not venture inside without helmets.
National Slate Museum
On Thursday, as if I hadn’t had enough learning about the history of slate in the area, I dragged Megan, Elena and Kilian along to the slate museum. I asked Megan what her favourite part of the museum was, she said: “getting back to the car.” Elena answered the same question with “the shop at the end”. Kilian slept most of the time… at least I enjoyed it! And to think it even houses the largest water-mill in the United Kingdom which powers the site. Anyway, on to more exciting things…
Before coming to Wales, I had one item on my Wales bucket list… run up Snowdon and I got to achieve it! Snowdon is the tallest mountain in Wales. I did very little research prior to the run, but knew it would take somewhere in the vicinity of 3-4 hours to get up and down and it would be cold.
I set off in my joggers and skins and quickly realised that this was going to be one heck of a run… both in terms of its beauty (almost unparalleled in terms of what I have run before – Blue Mountains is also high on the list) and it’s brute. As I ran past people walking down decked out in their full gear including poles and snowshoes, they would look at me strangely. What was he thinking!!!
Well, I proved them wrong. Half way up, it turned to snow and I was sliding about all over the pace, but I made it! It really is quite impressive the peak of Snowdon. Unlike, Mount Kosciuszko which, to me, was hugely anti-climatic, Snowdon was a true peak.
The best part though was the run down. I absolutely smashed it, gliding through the snow in my joggers racing the train (which goes up to close to the summit in summer and not quite so far for the rest of the year) down to the bottom. Total time – 2 hours 2 minutes.
I met Megan, Elena and Kilian at a little cafe which a man runs out of his home for hikers. He was quite a strange, yet friendly guy, who served us with creamy hot chocolates (surprise surprise) and Welsh cakes. Megan and Elena told me about their adventures on the steam train.
All in all, this has certainly been my favourite part of our trip so far. If you are planning a trip to UK at any point, I couldn’t recommend it more. (sorry Mum and Dad, maybe next trip!). Looking forward to exploring South Wales in June for two weeks as we house sit on a farm. Until next time…