Snowdonia is a champion among parks. Over 800 square miles in extent and dominated by Snowdon, the tallest peak in Wales, it has been protected since 1951. That makes it the largest, highest and oldest Welsh National Park.
Lakes and railways
Snowdonia contains Wales’ largest natural lake, Llyn Tegid (Bala Lake). It has one of the highest railway stations in Britain and one of the longest narrow-gauge steam railway lines in Europe, the Welsh Highland Railway. You can also explore some of the best mountain bike trails in the world.
The superlatives don’t stop there. Just look at the scenery.
Craggy mountains give way to ancient woodland and estuaries teeming with birds. Brooks burble under mossy bridges. Folded into these lovely landscapes are pretty stone cottages and welcoming market towns."
The perfect place to get outdoors
With well-defined trails leading past sheer rock faces and grassy slopes speckled with flowers, Snowdon is one of the UK’s most popular mountain hiking destinations. On a clear day, the views will raise your spirits higher with every step. Make it to the top and you can reward yourself with a restoring mug of tea at the award-winning Hafod Eryri visitor centre, open from late spring until the end of October.
If you’re planning an activity holiday in Snowdonia, there’s no need to limit yourself to Snowdon alone. There are more than 90 peaks within the park. 15 of these, including Aran Fawddwy and Tryfan, are over 900 m high. Seven are higher than Scafell Pike, England’s loftiest mountain.
It’s easy enough to pull on your boots and stride off under your own steam, but expert local walking guides can add an extra dimension to your adventure. They’ll point out geological features dating back to the Ice Age and chat about local natural history and archaeology along the way.
Or, explore on two wheels
Adventurous cyclists can get stuck in, too. The superb Coed y Brenin, north of Dolgellau, is where British mountain biking began. Winding through the trees, its graded trails include technical rides which leave serious cyclists grinning from ear to ear. There are also some great routes for novice cyclists and walkers, including all-ability paths that are perfect for wheelchairs and pushchairs, whatever the weather.
A trip on one of the famous vintage trains of the Snowdon Mountain Railway and the Ffestiniog and Welsh Highland Railways is just one way to get a feel for Snowdonia’s distinctive heritage and culture. Exploring by Snowdon Sherpa bus is another. In the quieter corners of the park, you’ll feel satisfyingly close to nature, but this isn’t an untamed wilderness or a fenced-off reserve – it’s a lively region where people have lived and worked for centuries, building cairns and castles, quarries, villages and farms.
It was here, in the 16th century, that the first Welsh translation of the Bible was created, to serve a proudly traditional community. Today, around 65% of Snowdonians speak Welsh – one of the oldest languages in western Europe. If you visit a local festival, such as Dolgellau’s lively Sesiwn Fawr (The Mighty Session) in July, you’ll find the region’s love of Welsh and folk music, poetry and dance is as lively as ever.