Whilst many people visiting the beautiful Snowdonia National Park, known in Welsh as Eryri, make a beeline for the soaring Mount Snowdon, the tallest mountain in Wales, there are plenty of other attractions and activities within this large area of natural beauty. Whether you’re looking for incredibly scenic hiking trails, cascading waterfalls, serene lakes, rugged coastal areas, glorious sandy beaches, quaint villages, or charming towns, Snowdonia National Park really does have something for everyone. Covering 838 square miles (2,170 square kilometres), you could spend weeks exploring and still not tick everything off the list! Here are some ideas to get you started on your Snowdonia adventures:
Beddgelert: a charming village of legends
A small village in the northwest of Snowdonia National Park, Beddgelert attracts a large number of tourists thanks to local legends about a faithful hound, after whom the village is said to be named.
According to local lore, Gelert the dog belonged to Prince Llywelyn the Great. (Some accounts do not, however, name the owner, simply referring to him as a woodcutter.) The prince entrusted the dog to take care of his baby son whilst he went on a hunting trip, returning to find the baby missing and his dog covered in blood. In anguish and rage, the prince plunged a dagger deep into his dog, fatally wounding him. As his once-trusted companion lie dying on the cold ground, the prince heard cries from the bushes. Upon investigation he found his son unharmed, along with the dead body of a wolf.
Although some say that this tale is make-believe, invented as a way of luring visitors to the small village, many people still flock here to visit Gelert’s grave. A small fenced area in the middle of lush farmland contains a simple rock, said to be Gelert’s grave. The ruins of an old home stand nearby; take a peek inside and you’ll find a sculpture of a dog lurking within the walls!
There are no charges to visit the grave; you just need to follow the signs and walk for about 10 minutes along a path leading through fields filled with grazing sheep.
The award-winning village is also said to be one of Wales’ prettiest villages. An old stone bridge spans the narrow river, parts of the historic church date back to the 12th century, and many buildings were constructed using local stone, all coming together to create a picturesque village with plenty of olde-worlde charm.
Betws y Coed: an enticing top tourist destination
Betws y Coed is another idyllic village nestled in the stunning Snowdonia National Park. Visitor numbers swell especially during the summer holidays (July to September), and the warmer weather certainly does make exploring the surroundings more appealing! Indeed, Betws y Coed is amongst the most popular non-coastal resorts in North Wales. It is also the main village within the national park.
Many of the attractive stone buildings in the village date back to the Victorian times, and it’s easy to feel a sense of nostalgia as you wander around and stop into one of the inviting country pubs, like the Royal Oak Hotel, for a bite to eat or a drink. Head to the train station and you’ll find a row of cute craft stores, ice cream shops, and other outlets that are sure to delight. Ancient stone bridges cross the tinkling river and bells can be heard chiming the hour from the newer of the two village churches, St. Mary’s. Dating back to the 14th century, the older St. Michael’s Church is the oldest building in the village.
Many artists and poets have been drawn to Betws y Coed over the years, attracted by the tranquil vibe and the picture-perfect views. Surrounded by thick woods and jagged mountains, one of the main natural attractions in the village is Swallow Falls, said by many to be one of the most beautiful waterfalls in Wales. There is a small admission cost of 1.50 GBP (2 USD). The nearby Fairy Glen, a dazzling gorge said to be home to fairies, is also well worth a visit.
Machynlleth: the Gateway to Snowdonia National Park
Whilst the small town of Machynlleth is located just outside of the southern boundary of Snowdonia National Park, it is marketed as the gateway town to the spectacular area. It’s a good base for exploring the lower reaches of the expansive national park, especially the popular mountain biking trails of the Dyfi Forest. If you’re looking for somewhere a bit different to stay, enveloped in nature, how about sleeping in a tipi?
A historical market town, Machynlleth was the scene of the 1404 coronation of Owain Glyndwr, a rebel who became the Prince of Wales. The streets are lined with old buildings, and, if you visit on a Wednesday, you can still peruse a wide assortment of goods in the traditional market that has been in operation since the late 1200s! Key landmarks and attractions in Machynlleth include the Town Clock, Parliament House, and the Tabernacle Arts Centre / MOMA. Be sure to visit the large and sparkling glacial lake of Tal y Llyn and take a walk to Dolgoch Falls.
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Other places of interest in Snowdonia National Park
Of course, the entire Snowdonia National Park area is brimming with resplendent scenery, showcasing nature’s wonderful creations at their finest. Of the park’s magical lakes, Bala Lake (Llyn Tegid), Llyn Dinas, Llyn Padarn, and Llyn Llydaw are amongst the finest. When it comes to mountains, there is certainly no shortage of places to enjoy excellent hiking and biking. Cadair Idris, Pen Y Fan, Y Garn, Rhinog Fach, Moel Siabod, and Mynydd Mawr are just a few peaks that deserve your interest.
Other gorgeous villages and towns to discover include Harlech, home to a magnificent historical castle, the coastal Tonfanau, the heritage town of Dolgellau, and Blaenau Ffestiniog, known for its former slate mining industry and the scenic Ffestiniog Railway.
Have fun unearthing the many treasures of Snowdonia National Park and croeso y Cymru: welcome to Wales!
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