An area of outstanding natural beauty
I recently visited Snowdonia in North Wales to experience some of the many attractions this amazing area has to offer.
Covering approximately 840 square miles, the Snowdonia National Park is truly an area of outstanding natural beauty. There are unsurpassed views with Snowdon itself peaking at 1085 metres, mountain railways, historic castles galore, pretty coastal towns to explore, wonderfully restored steam trains, woodland parks and Snowdonia’s slate heritage. For the more adventurous there are pursuits such as rock climbing, hiking and mountain biking.
Here are just a few of the attractions I visited on my recent trip.
The famous Welsh architect Sir Clough Williams-Ellis certainly picked a fabulous spot in 1925 when he embarked on creating the inspirational village and gardens known as Portmeirion. The Italianate village was finally completed in 1976 and is testimony to how a naturally beautiful landscape could be developed without spoiling it. Built on its own private peninsular with sensational views across the estuary, I was able to wander and experience a charming, quirky world of meandering streets and cliff top towers.
You may recall the cult television series The Prisoner starring the late Patrick McGoohan. The series was filmed at Portmeirion in 1967 and was subsequently instrumental in bringing many more visitors to this unique village resort. There’s a dedicated Prisoner shop selling memorabilia and the village is still very much a focus for Prisoner fans.
There are over 50 buildings of various styles and character. There are shops, cafés, an ice cream parlour and a lovely luxury hotel with a fine dining restaurant. The cottages are let as self-catering accommodation. The village is surrounded by over 70 acres of sub-tropical gardens and woodlands and there are lakes and miles of pathways with set routes to discover. Portmeirion is also licensed for civil weddings and the village and hotel provide a romantic setting.
Castles and Culture
There are castles galore in Wales and Snowdonia has its fair share. Probably one of the best known is Harlech Castle. Spectacularly located, Harlech Castle was built by Edward I and now keeps a watchful eye over Snowdonia with panoramic views of the sea and mountains from its lofty battlements. The longest siege in British history (1461–1468) took place here during the War of the Roses.
The structure boasts two rings of walls and towers with an immensely strong east gatehouse. It was impregnable from almost every angle and its secret weapon was a 61 metre long stairway, which still leads from the castle to the cliff base.
Today a visit to Harlech Castle is a great day out. A newly installed ‘floating’ bridge connects the castle with the brand new visitor centre, which is now an integral part of the whole experience. Included within the visitor centre is a gift shop and café. This latest development also includes luxury apartments let by Menai Holiday Cottages.
- The highpoint of a visit is to climb to the top of the south west turret of the gatehouse
- Walk the wall – coastal views or mountain panoramas, you won’t be disappointed.
The Welsh Highland Railway
I love the great little trains of Wales and was eagerly looking forward to my journey from Caernafon on the Welsh Highland Railway. It didn’t disappoint!
This railway is the UK’s longest heritage line and runs for 25 miles from Caernafon, past the foot of Snowdon and the picturesque village of Beddgelert, then through the stunning Aberglaslyn Pass and on to the coast and Porthmadog. To cope with its sharp curves and steep gradients, the railway uses huge Beyer-Garratt locomotives, the largest two foot gauge steam trains that you can see anywhere in the world. I upgraded to the first class Pullman coach and felt as if I had stepped back in time to a more civilized age of transport. Relaxing in comfort I was able to enjoy the stunning scenery with at-seat buffet service for snacks and refreshment. Travelling on this railway is an exciting adventure and a super way to see the best of Snowdonia. Once your destination has been reached there is time to explore before rejoining the train for the return journey.
2014 saw the opening of the £1.25 million Porthmadog Harbour Station and 2018 will see the opening of a new futuristic station at Caernafon – definitely on my ‘to do again’ list!
Visitor Discount Card
Top Tip – the new Snowdonia Pass has been launched by Attractions of Snowdonia and is a credit card size pass which gives you access to a number of exclusive discounts at participating visitor attractions, activity providers, shops, restaurants, historical sites and accommodation providers. You can see more about the discount card on Snowdonia Pass website.
Holidays and short breaks in the UK are back in fashion in a big way. Nowadays we tend to travel in search of new experiences, culture, heritage, activity and adventure. Additionally we expect excellent standards of accommodation and dining options – I’m sure you will find Snowdonia ticks all these boxes; it does for me.
I have covered just three attractions of Snowdonia. There are lots more on offer!
For more information on the attractions take a look at the following websites: