The Snowdonia National Park, or Parc Cenedlaethol Eryri as it is known to the 62% of the locals who speak Welsh around these parts, was the first national park in Wales, and for many it remains its finest.
It is the peaks of Snowdon itself that draw the crowds, helped by the easy ascent offered by an obliging train. Around 350,000 people walk, climb or take the train to the 1085m summit each year to take in the splendid views and clear those cobwebs once and for all. The ascent of Snowdon may seem more like a beano than a serious walker’s solitary struggle against the elements, but that is all part of its allure and charm.
Despite the number of tourists Snowdon still retains something of its ancient mythic grandeur. It was here that local legend states a giant known as Rita Gawr was slain by King Arthur. His remains are yet to be found at their supposed burial place on the summit.
The park itself is so much more than its namesake, however. Clinging to the northwest of Wales it incorporates some delightful towns, historic ruins, a stunning coastline, beautiful beaches, running rivers and placid lakes in the 35 miles it stretches from east to west and 50 miles it covers from north to south.
Within the natural splendour you can find some fairly sizeable towns, so there is plenty of opportunity to stay in a hotel in the heart of the Park itself. Balla, Dolgellau, Harlech and Betws-y-Coed all offer a range of places for visitors to stay from spa hotels to comfortable guesthouses. You’ll have all the modern comforts and dining options you need to spoil yourself yet still be in easy access of the wide open spaces and fields dotted with sheep and cattle. For information on things to do during your stay keep your eye out for the park authority’s free annual visitor newspaper which includes details on getting around, organised events such as group walks and other activities for young and old alike.
The park attracts over 6 million visitors each year making it the third most visited national park in England and Wales. The northernmost area is the most popular, including as it goes, Snowdon (surprise, surprise). Those looking to escape the crowds, yet still get in some mountain walking, should head for the area around the Rhinogydd in the west.
The park's coastline is a Special Area of Conservation and includes rolling sand dunes that are great for exploring and tumbling down. Further inland nature lovers can look out for rare mammals such as otters and polecats, and birds such as ravens, peregrines, ospreys and the red kite.
With its wildlife, walking, beaches, lakes and mountains complemented by some wonderful places to stay the Snowdonia National Park has a little something for everyone. Now, let’s see if you will walk up Snowdon and forget the train!