Sunday, June 23, 2013

Snowdonia National Park in Wales

This summer, we spent a long leisurely weekend in Snowdonia National Park in a cottage in the town of Dolgellau. Getting to Dolgellau wasn't as easy though, as there are no car rentals available at night at any of the train stations nearby. So we took a train to Birmingham and then drove about 2.5 hours to reach Dolgellau.

Park landscape
Snowdonia National Park is huge, covering half the length of Wales. The highlight of the Park is the Snowdon Mountain, apparently the highest mountain in Wales and England. Other than that, there are green hills, beaches and quaint villages dotting the Park. There are many activities to do in the Park: trekking, water-sports, castles, relaxing on the beach or just enjoying a nice meal in any of the little road-side inns.

We did a little bit of trekking near Dolgellau, half the trek up Snowdon Mountain and some timepass at one of the beaches near Dolgellau, so all in all a relaxed weekend with some activity here and there (and a lot of driving!).

Park landscape
The weather for 2 of the 3 days we were there was not sunny but the area looked just beautiful when the sun came out! Pristine green hills all around dotted with white sheep and rivers and lakes. But the sun was so rare, we saw very few of those Kodak moments!

The first day, we spent half the day in Dolgellau looking for something to eat!! It would be wrong to call it a town, its actually just a small village with very limited eating options. Finally, a breakfast place offering burgers and pizzas saved us! Thankfully they had a Spar superstore in the village too which saved us from hunger for the rest of the trip!!

Precipice trail
Near Dolgellau, we did a short 2 hour trek on the Precipice trail. Its a beautiful trail taking you through fields filled with sheep, next to a small lake and finally finishing around a hill with views till afar. You can see the shore and the sea coming inland too, from the top of the trail.

View from Precipice trail

View of Llanberis
The next day, we did half of the trek up Snowdon Mountain. The trek starts from the town of Llanberis and it takes about 4-5 hours to go up and come down. Due to a time limitation, we did only part of the trek. Be aware though, the first part of the trek is very steep but it gets a lot better as you move on. The mountain was bare with limited vegetation, so nothing much to see while trekking up. The views of Llanberis and the lake were pretty though!

Train up Snowdon
There is also an option to take the train up the mountain (for the lazy ones!). I would suggest that its better to walk up as its not too tough, though the train ride does look cute and romantic! Also, the train has very limited runs during non-peak times, so its always a good idea to check the schedule and book in advance if you still want to use it. Also point to note is its generally much colder at the peak than the bottom, so would suggest all to go up fully prepared.

While we were going up, we ran into multiple people coming down dressed as superheroes. Don't know if there was a superhero convention happening at the peak or not, nonetheless it was an interesting sight. While coming down, we also stopped at the Snowdon inn on the way which offers some tasty Welsh scones for tired souls.

The last day we did some sightseeing, visited the beach at Barmouth, a beautiful little (but crowded) town and then drove upto the Harlech castle which was just ok-ish. We did eat at the best ice-cream shop in town though (in a town of 500 people!) and bought tasty freshly made fudge, the benefits of life in the slow lane.

Harlech Castle
View from Harlech

We drove around a lot in the Park too, taking in the sights of green fields filled with sheep (yet again!) all around, running into lakes every few miles. We drove through the Hay (?) valley which looked very beautiful and worth visiting and staying in sometime in the future.

Park landscape
We landed up in the town of Betws-y-Coed while trying to catch a train to London and it seemed very romantic and lovely. I guess its a good place to stay if you visit Snowdonia, was so lively and well decorated! We also landed in the town of Shrewsbury just outside the park, and ate at Saffron, a "renowned" Bangladeshi restaurant. Even that tasted good when you haven't had Indian food for a couple of days. (Also, would definitely advice anyone going to Wales to check the train schedule carefully as they have very limited services on Sundays. We ended up having to drive around a lot to catch a train!)

Other than the places we visited, there are many other treks to explore, cycling tracks to cycle on, coasteering to do across the cliffs and beautiful castles to visit. There is a Go-Ape site also located near Dolgellau which was closed when we visited it but might be an interesting activity.

Park landscape
The rest of the time, we just spent in our cottage which was a beautiful two-storeyed house overlooking the town with a glassed skylight room to sit and enjoy the view. This was my second time staying in a cottage and I loved it. Feels so homely and cosy, definite way to go vacationing in UK.  After the relaxed three days, we drove back to Birmingham and then to London, leaving all the green fields behind. Even a weekend in the countryside relaxes you so much, should do it more often!

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