Without a doubt, Snowdonia is one of the biggest attractions for people visiting Wales. The epic scale of Snowdon itself, the raw, rugged beauty of the landscape, the challenge of scaling one or more of the incredible peaks, the clean, fresh air and the amazing sense of wildness all combine to make the Snowdonia National Park one of the most-visited, and most-loved, places in the entire United Kingdom. If you’ve never visited this part of Wales before, it’s time to plan your visit. And whilst there are plenty of must-see spots and bucket-list things to do, such as Zip World, Surf Snowdonia and climbing the mighty Snowdon itself, we’re on a mission to showcase a few of the lesser known gems of Snowdonia, for those that like to get off the beaten track.
Walking in Snowdonia
For walking enthusiasts of all abilities, the Snowdonia National Park is something of a heaven on earth. Snowdon will always be the biggest draw, of course, but if you head there hoping to climb it in blissful tranquillity, you could be in for a shock, as the main routes are hugely popular, and likely to be pretty busy throughout the peak holiday season. By all means, take the time to tick Snowdon off your hiking wishlist, but then look elsewhere for some awesome hiking experiences that are likely to be far more peaceful. Check out the Nantlle Ridge, or the twin peaks of Moelwyn Bach and Moelwyn Mawr for some epic hiking that takes you off the tourist trails and into the heart of wild Snowdonia. These are reasonable trails for moderately fit individuals, but of course, as with any outdoor activity, always follow some sensible guidelines, telling someone where you’re going, wearing appropriate gear and footwear, and paying close attention to the weather.
Dinorwig Slate Quarry
Long abandoned, Dinorwig was once one of the largest slate quarries in the world, and it sits starkly above Llanberis, as a reminder of the former dominance of the slate industry in this area. Nowadays, you can walk around the quarries, taking in the stark landscape, before heading to the National Slate Museum to learn about the area’s slate quarrying heritage. The museum is staged to look like the workers have simply finished their shift and gone home, offering a real insight into the working conditions and lives of those working at the quarry in the 19th century. Also well worth a visit is the fascinating, if slightly gruesome, Quarry Hospital Museum, with its fully-restored ward and operating theatre, as well as a display of rather unsettling medical instruments and equipment.
No less imposing for being ruins, Dolbadarn Castle keeps watch on the Llanberis Pass, and it’s easy to imagine yourself back in the 13th century, when soldiers would have been actively engaged in defending the area from here. Hugely atmospheric, and surrounded by stunning mountain landscapes, Dolbadarn is nonetheless very much a hidden gem, and well worth a visit. The castle is open daily, except for Christmas and New Years Day, and admission is free, as it is at many historic sites managed by Cadw across Wales. For an extra special treat, why not book yourself on the upcoming Stargazing Evening at Dolbadarn Castle? For just £10, you will be able to immerse yourself in a full-on dark sky experience, with friendly help and advice on how to spot lesser known constellations and how to use a telescope or binoculars.
Where to stay in Snowdonia
Just as it’s a great idea to get off the beaten track in terms of Snowdonia’s attractions, it also makes sense to find a place to stay that’s also a little bit more unusual. Yr Efail Swynol, in Bethesda, is a charming converted blacksmiths, sleeping 6. Its rural location means that you have plenty of space to relax, and yet, the whole of Snowdonia is easily accessible. Preswylfa, in Llan Ffestiniog, is another super cottage that is brilliantly located for exploring Snowdonia – close to Blaenau Ffestiniog, but tucked away on the edge of a nearby village, for peace and tranquillity. For more ideas on where to stay in Snowdonia, check out our holiday cottage listings.