Snowdonia National Park

Overview

Introduction

Snowdonia National Park, the largest and most dramatic of Wales' national parks, includes Mount Snowdon (3,560 ft/1,085 m), the highest mountain in Wales or England.

It is not the Rockies or the Alps, but the Carneddau, Glyders and Snowdon mountains nonetheless are a gorgeous area, filled with pine forests, valleys, streams, lakes and birds—ideal for hiking and climbing.

Good bases for enjoying the park include the villages of Bettws-y-Coed and Capel Curig—simple and fairly rustic, they are surrounded by wild hill country and are close to pretty Swallow Falls. (If you stay on the north side of the park, be sure to head up the road to the Bodnant Gardens near Tal-y-Cafn.)

There's also pretty Beddgelert, famed for the grave of Gelert, a faithful dog mistakenly killed by his master. Dolgellau is recommended if you prefer the softer, southern side of the park and the slopes of the dramatic Cader Idris Mountain.

Even if you are energetic and are planning on spending lots of time on the trails, you'll still want to make time for what we think is the best way to see Snowdonia: A ride through the mountains on a narrow-gauge train. In Porthmadog you can board the 13-mi/21-mi Ffestiniog Railway to Blaenau Ffestiniog.

Other narrow-gauge trains in the park include one that runs 4 mi/7 km along Bala Lake (in eastern Snowdonia); the Snowdon Mountain Railway in northeastern Snowdonia, which plies its way to the top of Mount Snowdon (the view from this train is spectacular); Fairbourne Railway, which follows the coast in southwestern Snowdonia (its gauge is the smallest in Wales: 15 in/38 cm); and the Talyllyn Railway, a slow-paced train that follows a 7-mi/11-km scenic route from Tywyn on the coast through the hills to Nant Gwernol. The trains normally operate from Easter to early autumn.

West of the park on the coast is Harlech, whose 13th-century castle perches on a cliff. At the northern end of the park, in Llanberis, is the Welsh Slate Museum, where you can visit quarrymen's cottages and a huge waterwheel and watch demonstrations of slate splitting.

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