Newest Review: ... it is possible to walk up the Mount Snowdon (at 3,560 ft it dominates the landscape of Snowdonia National Park) via six main routes, eac... more
Visit Wales in 3 days
Villages & Resorts in Wales in general
Member Name: velissaria
Villages & Resorts in Wales in general
Advantages: Great scenery, very friendly people, cheap bus tickets
Disadvantages: Rainy weather and tiny B roads
We had only three days to spend in Wales and I think we managed to see as much as possible. Here is our experience and some useful tips:
* DAY 1*
We started our trip from North Hampshire and we set as a goal to get to North Wales - in particular, to Betws y Coed at the borders of Mount Snowdon - in one day. We were on a bike and wanted to use only A or B roads in order to enjoy the scenery and see as much as possible of the countryside, so we covered the distance in 12 hours, stopping twice for a meal and getting lost despite the satnav! The main problem was that many B roads in Wales seem to be more of what I call F roads (aka "Farm roads") used apparently mainly by farmers and cattle. So, before you decide to set your satnav to avoid M and A roads, think again, especially in North Wales.
Have a look at maps.google.com to follow our journey:
In England, from Newbury we drove to Chippenham, then to Bristol and Olveston where we took the M48 to South Wales. The view from the bridge to get across was magnificent and bikes go free through the borders! Mind you, Welsh is a language still alive and kicking, so all the road signs are primarily in Welsh and the locals speak the language fluently. They seem to be able to switch from English to Welsh and back to English very casually and without any effort.
From the borders, we headed towards Hereford and Newtown. Although South Wales has some similarities to England in terms of the landscape - open, flat areas for farming - going North is so different! It is full of mountains with conifers and lakes. It's really beautiful and interesting to watch! The houses have stone walls and characteristic pointed roofs with slate tiles. Methodist churches are also very common, all facing the main streets.
After getting lost on B roads around Snowdonia, with the bike having to go through mud and sheep and cattle looking at us with a curious face reading "what are these two idiots doing in the middle of nowhere when it's raining", we managed to get to our pre-booked Guest House named "Gwesty Bryn Parc" (= the Park Hill) at Betws-y-Coed. The owners are a very friendly Dutch couple and the place was very comfortable with a great view to Mount Snowdon (a full review may follow at some point).
For those who love hiking, it is possible to walk up the Mount Snowdon (at 3,560 ft it dominates the landscape of Snowdonia National Park) via six main routes, each of them varying in length, gradient and terrain. Car parks are available at the bottom of the paths. The general area is used for cycling as well. However, the most important thing in Snowdonia is to check the weather. Walking on Snowdon can be dangerous, so our host used to check the weather forecast everyday. You can do so at: www.metoffice.gov.uk/loutdoor/mountainsafety
and get info on the walking paths and the Snowdonia National Park in general, here: www.eryri-npa.gov.uk
You can also go to the mountain peak by train, using the Snowdon Mountain Railway (http://www.snowdonrailway.co.uk/) and they say that the view is stunning. Unfortunately, during our stay the weather got worse, with heavy rain, fog and storms, so we decided to give it a miss as it would be too dangerous and we wouldn't be able to see anything from the peak anyway.
We visited Blaenau Ffestiniog instead, easily approachable by train. Today the town seems "tired", dirty, abandoned and with a very high unemployment rate. But it was booming 150 years ago, when it was founded by the Victorians to house the entrepreneurs of the time as well as the bosses and work force of the slate mining community in the 14 mines and quarries around the town! The landscape is unique, and certainly something I had never seen before: high hills made from pieces of dark slate, the by-product of the slate mining and transportation industry for more than 100 years.
The main tourist attraction today are the Llechwedd (Llech = slate) Slate caverns, located approx. 25' on foot and 5' by bus from the town train station and centre. A Victorian village was built around the caverns to accommodate the workers and the directors, including a pub, a bank, a prison, a tobacconist, a post-office, and the house of David Francis, a famous blind Welsh harpist. The great thing is that many of the buildings are preserved in a very good condition and house modern shops or they are museums providing an insight into the life and history of the mining community. The Victorian pub still serves 'old-fashioned' food, a tribute to the food of the miners, and the whole village provides an excellent day out for the whole family.
In addition, for £15.20 per person, you can take two tours inside the mines. One is by using the Miner's Tramway: visitors go into a 1846 tunnel, entering the mountain boarding a small train with a battery-electric locomotive. Stops at various points of the caverns allow you to learn something about the life, the skills and death of those who once worked there. The other tour is in the Deep Mine: it involves a plunge into the mine and a 25-minute walk through ten underground huge chambers. Health and Safety does not appear to be such a fuss in Wales, so although I saw children visiting both tours, I am not sure if they are suitable for toddlers and young kids. It's dark, slippery, you must wear a helmet and the second tour has around 68 steps at some point, so it is less popular, but I found it more exciting. Don't get me wrong: the cavern tour is an amazing experience and you shouldn't miss it. Don't forget to have a look at their website for more info:
It's a great way to spend a rainy cold windy day underground!
What the town of Blaenau Ffestiniog should do is try and get the tourists to the actual town, since at the moment most people only visit the caverns and then leave. The town is so depressed that it is uninviting and there are no pubs or restaurants to catch your attention. We had coffee and cakes at a small independent cafe run by a friendly local couple. They make all the cakes themselves, including traditional Welsh Cakes and Bara Brith, the famous Welsh tea bread with dried fruit. They also post by mail freshly made cakes on order all over the UK and we found this an excellent idea for gifts to relatives and friends instead of e.g. flowers. A Bara Brith costs £8.75 and the Welsh cakes £7.00.
Contact details: "Ty Coffi", 6 High Street, Blaenau Ffestiniog, LL41 3ES, tel. 01766 831 382 mob. 07513 239 947.
It was raining a lot again, so getting on the bike was not really something we wanted to do. With the help of our hosts we found out that with one bus ticket, costing a mere £4.95 per person from the Gwynedd council area, you can use unlimited bus transport all day, all around Snowdonia!!
(see: http://www.gwynedd.gov.uk/) So, when in Rome, do as the Romans do. We decided to get a bus timetable (our hosts had one) and tickets, and start bus hopping and visiting the main towns around Snowdonia! It was the best decision of our holidays.
The first bus conveniently leaves outside the Betws- y- Coed rail station. We went high up the mount Snowdon at Peny Pass. The bus was warm and comfortable, but the driver was driving like a madman under heavy rain and fog, and despite having faith on his knowledge of the roads, we got scared our adventure might end just there :) However, we managed to get safe and sound to Beddgelert, a lovely town with an organised Tourist Information Office near the bus stop. From there, you can take the steam train to the north western coast. Unfortunately again, there was flooding and the steam train would not run.
So, we had tea at a very nice Inn overlooking the main road, and waited for the next bus which took us to the coastal town of Caernarfon. There is a harbour with a large central square and a beautiful presbyterian church. Part of the old town is built within the Castle grounds, like in the medieval times.
To be honest, the port looked kind of depressing and depressed to me, so from there our next bus took us along the coast, through Bangor, a modern town with its University Campus, to the coastal town of Conwy. This is an exceptionally clean and cheerful place, with a huge castle in a good condition surrounding it. The old buildings are very well preserved and renovated and on the Quay you can visit the smallest house in the UK. (http://www.attractionsnorthwales.co.uk/attraction s/britains-smallest-house) Hmmm... on the website it claims that the fee is £0.75 per adult, but I think we paid £1 each. Anyway, it is well worth it, as it is very well preserved today and it is difficult to believe that a couple and a man over 6" tall once lived there!
From Conwy, we took the bus to Llanrwst, where we stayed just for an hour and it was dark by then. And finally we got on the bus back to Betws-y-Coed. The overall daily journey took around 12 hours. We enjoyed it very much and we were impressed by how genuinely polite everybody was: the bus drivers, the pub staff, the shop owners. We had a meal at an Inn in Conwy and the chef came to us to apologise because he ran out of a type of dessert! By the way, many Inns in Wales offer food, just like the pubs, and are open to the public.
We had a great time in Wales and we definitely want to go there again.
Summary: Great place, I want to visit again!
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