SNOWDONIA NATIONAL PARK
Snowdonia’s craggy peaks actually yield surprisingly diverse terrain pristine mountain lakes etch glittering blue outlines onto fields of green, while desolate slate cliff-faces slope into thickly wooded hills. Rough and handsome, England and Wales’s highest mountains stretch across 2175 square kilometers, from forested Machynlleth to sand-strewn Conwy. Although these lands lie largely in private hands, endless public footpaths accommodate droves of visitors.
TRANSPORTATION AND PRACTICAL INFORMATION. Trains ( (08457) 484 950) stop at several large towns on the park’s outskirts, including Conwy (237). The Conwy Valley Line runs through the park from Llandudno through Betws-y-Coed to Blaenau Ffestiniog (lhr. 2-7 per day). At Blaneau Ffestiniog the Conwy Valley Line connects with the narrow-gauge Ffestiniog Railway (236), which runs through the mountains to Porthmadog, meeting the Cambrian Coaster to Llanberis and Aberystwyth. Buses run to the interior of the park from Conwy and Caernarfon; consult the Gwynedd Public Transport Maps and Timetables, available in all regional tourist offices. The Snowdonia National Park Information Headquarters, Penrhyndeudraeth, Gwynedd ( (01766) 770 274), provides hiking info and can best direct you to the eight quality YHA hostels in the park and the region’s other tourist offices (www.gwynedd.gov.uk).
HIKING. The highest peak in England and Wales, Mount Snowdon (Yr Wyd-dfa; the burial place) is the park’s most popular destination, measuring 1085m. Six paths of varying difficulties wind their way up Snowdon; tourist offices and National Park Information Centres can provide guides on these ascents. Weather on Snowdonia’s exposed mountains shifts unpredictably. No matter how beautiful the weather is below, it will be cold and wet in the high mountains. Pick up the Ordnance Survey Landranger Map #115 (£6) and Outdoor Leisure Map #17 (£7), as well as individual path guides at tourist offices and park centers. Contact Mountaincall Snowdonia ( (09068) 500 449; 36-48p per min.) for local forecasts and ground conditions. Weather forecasts are also posted in Park Information Centres.
LLANBERIS. Llanberis owes its outdoorsy bustle to the popularity of Mt. Snowdon, whose ridges and peaks unfold just south of town. The immensely popular Snowdon Mountain Railway has been taking visitors to Snowdon’s summit since 1896. ((0870) 458 0033. Open mid-Mar. to Oct. Round-trip £18.) KMP ( (01286) 870 880) bus #88 runs from Caernarfon (25min. 1-2 per hr. SI.50). The tourist office is at 41b High St. ( (01286) 870 765. Open Easter-Oct. daily 9:30am-5:30pm; Nov.-Easter Su, W, and F-Sa llam-4pm.) Plenty of sheep keep hostelers company at the YHA Llanberis . ( (0870) 770 5928. Curfew 11:30pm. Open Apr.-Oct. daily; Nov.-Mar. Su-Th. Dorms £11.50, under-18 £8.30.)
This tiny coastal town just south of the Llyn Peninsula commands panoramic views of sea, sand, and Snowdonian summits. High above the sea and sand dunes is ElHariech Castle, another of Edward I’s Welsh castles; this one served as the insurrection headquarters of Welsh rebel Owain Glyndwr. (Open June-Sept. daily 9:30am-6pm; May and Oct. 9:30am-5pm; Nov.-Mar. M-Sa 9:30am-4pm, Su llam-4pm. £3, students £2.50.) Harlech lies midway on the Cambrian Coaster line; trains arrive from Machynlleth (1M-I%hr. 3-7 per day, £8.20) and connect to Pwllheli and other spots on the Llyn Peninsula. The Day Ranger pass allows unlimited travel on the Coaster line for one day (£4-7). The tourist office, 1 Stryd Fawr, doubles as a Snowdonia National Park Information Centre. (780 658. Open daily 10am-lpm and 2-6pm.) Er\joy spacious rooms and breakfast served in a glassed-in patio with views of the ocean and castle at Arundel , Stryd Fawr. Call ahead for pick-up. (780 637. Singles £15; doubles £30.) At the Plas Cafe , Stryd Fawr, guests linger over long afternoon tea (£1-4) and sunset dinners (from £7) while enjoying sweeping ocean views from the grassy patio. (780 204. Open Mar.-Oct. daily 9:30am-8:30pm; Nov.-Feb. 9:30am-5:30pm.) Postal Code: LL46 2YA.