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On top of Wales


The three-hour hike up Mount Snowdon is certainly worth it when you reach the summit and it becomes understandable why the Welsh mountains are one of Britain’s best loved tourist spots. The serenity and tranquillity is the perfect backdrop to make you feel like you are literally on top of the world, even if that world is just Wales.

With fields surrounding you and sheep your only company, it doesn’t seem a bad way to live especially away from the hustle and bustle that city life can bring. You could almost be forgiven for thinking you are in your own little Welsh paradise, if it wasn’t for the hundred or so other hikers coming from behind just about to interrupt your little haven.

Snowdonia, situated in North Wales, continues to feature in various top ten holiday destinations in the UK was the first of only three National Parks in Wales to gain its status in 1951, the largest after the Lake District. It is most famous for its mountain, Snowdon, which at 1085 metres (3560 feet) is the highest mountain in England and Wales.

If the three hour hike isn’t your thing than the lazy way out is the Snowdon Mountain Railway in Llanberisn described as “a majestic mountain top adventure”. Running since 1896, the two-and-a-half hour round trip takes in the breathtaking scenery and views at the summit which can stretch as far to the Isle of Man and the Irish mountains on a clear day.

The Llanberis Lake Railway is a great way to explore Snowdonia and see the magnificent sights on a historic steam train. “The Great Little Train of Wales” tours along the Lake Padarn stopping off at the Dolbadarn Castle and the Welsh State providing slate splitting demonstrations.

Snowdonia has some of the best places to camp and a short drive away in Betws-y-Coed is named after the local attraction, Swallow Falls campsite and perfect for family holidays and the chance to bond with nature. The famous Swallow Falls are a spectacular sight, best viewed in November, where visitors can follow the Llugwy River as it flows through jagged rock across the mountains, creating awe-inspiring foaming cascades.

During the day Betws-y-Coed has plenty to offer including Thomas Telford’s iron bridge built in 1815 bearing the inscription, “This arch was constructed in the same year the battle of Waterloo was fought.” But a hard day exploring should end relaxing in the teahouse on the riverbank, which has been visited by tourists from all over the world, or a traditional fish and chip supper eaten on the rocks by the beautiful waterfall watching people go by.

If the cold and wet weather is enough to send you packing there are plenty of B&Bs and guest houses to choose from or, if your budget can stretch a bit further, the Royal Victoria Hotel in Llanberis is great for all your needs. It has a superb range of facilities including golf and tennis courts. The Hilton it isn’t, but it offers good quality and value, certainly well worth the extra £60 (based on two sharing) for running electricity, hot weather and a cooked meal which doesn’t just consist of sausages, bacon and beans.

For a girl who is more at home in her Manolo Blahniks, walking boots are a must to truly experience the full potential Snowdonia has to offer. It helps if you are into your more adventurous sports like rock-climbing, mountain biking and defiantly walking because there are plenty of hidden gems to see for which a car just won’t do. Keen ramblers will be at home in the picturesque countryside that plays home to various species of wildlife and, even if you are not in touch with nature, the picture postcard scenery is enough to appreciate why so many children cite Snowdonia as their favourite childhood holiday.

The locals live a quiet life many running B&Bs and gift shops to help support the economy so a thriving nightlife is more likely to involve a quiet drink in the pub. But don’t let that put you off because by embracing and sampling the culture it is a real opportunity to experience family life as it used to be. Snowdonia even manages to remain self-sufficient dependent on rainfall; many of the lakes are used as water storage to power hydroelectricity to the villages. More information can be found at the Electric Mountain visitor centre in Llanberis.

Snowdonia is such a beautiful part of the British Isles that it is impossible to visit all its natural beauties and a week long trip is not long enough. It is the perfect place to take the children during the summer holiday for a cheap break full of adventurous activities to keep them amused. However it is all popular with coach tours, Exodus Coaches offer reasonable rates for pensioners.

A trip to Snowdonia is like being transported back to the 1940s before the technological advances on which we rely so much. The simple life of cooking by the fire and making your own entertainment is surprisingly rewarding and a holiday that everyone should experience at least once in their lives.

For more information contact the Wales Tourist Board (www.visitwales.com).  Tickets for the Snowdon Mountain Railway can be booked in advance on 0870 458 0033, prices start at £10.50 for adults and £7 for children for a return journey. For places to stay visit the The Swallow Falls campsite (01690 710796) welcomes dogs for a small subsidiary, adults £5 and children £2.50 or the Royal Victoria Hotel now the Quality Hotel Snowdonia (01286 870253) www.royal-victoria-hotel.co.uk, prices start at £60 (including breakfast) in peak season.

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