Snowdonia

Our first morning after our first night under canvas, we had quite a long drive ahead of us and so were up early. I don’t think I had woken up properly because I put some water on to boil and almost immediately managed to kick it over (BTW, if you ever need a good camping stove, look no further than the MSR Whisperlite series. They’re amazing. If you manage not to kick them around, that is).

Right, back to the trip. After a rather pathetic shot of coffee we packed up and headed for North Wales. It was raining and visibility was poor as we headed over the Pennines but we made good progress though and were soon in the holiday town of Llandudno, Wales’ largest seaside resort, with its fancy big hotels and nice beach. We weren’t really interested in sticking around for long though because I had spotted the rocky cliffs and zig-zag roads leading up to the summit of the Great Orme:

Great Orme Road North Wales

The Great Orme is actually a headland and looks like this from above:

Great Orme North Wales

When we got to the summit visitor centre and tram station,

Great Orme summit and Tramway Station North Wales

we learnt that it has the only remaining cable-hauled tramway still in operation on British Roads (photo by Dr Neil Clifton):

Great Orme Tramway, Llandudno

As we drove down and around the headland to the town of Conwy, we were greeted by several kitesurfers who were braving the icy waters:

Kitesurfers at Conwy North Wales

and then we drove past the town’s famous castle,

Conwy Castle North Wales

which, we soon found out, is right next to the local train line:

Conwy Castle North Wales

A short drive later and we’d made it to Betws-y-Coed on the outskirts of Snowdonia National Park, our second of this trip. Like Edale, Betws-y-Coed is another place my dad and I had been to a lot together when I was growing up, but the last time we were here was at least 15 years ago, when my leg was in plaster after a football injury – so I was now determined to make up for my lack of moibility during my last visit.

We made our way to the National Park Visitor Centre to get our national parks passports stamped:

Snowdonia National Park Visitor Centre Betws-y-Coed

and on our way back to the car we came a across a rather strange sight. Four people were standing in the river with nets. They appeared to be waiting for some yellow specks that were floating towards them:

Betws-y-Coed Rubber Duck Race

We waited a while and saw that they were actually rubber ducks. People had bet on which one would make it first down the river. Apparently it’s a bit of a local tradition:

Betws-y-Coed Rubber Duck Race

After the netting of the winning duck we headed on to our destination for the night: Bedgellert. I’d almost forgotten how beautiful the Snowdonia landscape is:

Snowdonia Landscape Wales

But I could vividly remember how quickly the weather can change. And change it did. Our planned hike for that afternoon was going to be wet – very wet.

Rainclouds in Snowdonia

As we past by the foot of Snowdon (the highest mountain in Wales), which was well and truly covered in cloud, my dad pointed out the Pen-Y-Gwrd Hotel, a base used by Sir Edmund Hillary and Sherpa Tenzing when training for the first successful ascent of Everest. If you’re ever in the area, this place is definitely worth a visit. It sells great beer and food, has lots of mountaineering memorabilia and you can really imagine what it was like back in the day.

Pen-Y-Gwrd Hotel Snowdonia

When we finally arrived at Cae Du campsite it was getting a bit late so we got the tent up quickly and walked towards the village of Beddgelert, past quaint little houses,

Bedgelert Houses Snowdonia

until we arrived at Gelert’s resting place:

Gelert's Grave

Beddgelert actually means Gelert’s grave and the village is named after none other than a famous dog.

Gelert Statue Beddgelert Snowdonia

As the story goes, Gelert belonged to Llywellyn, Prince of North Wales, in the 13th century. One day the prince was out hunting and left Gelert at home to guard his baby son. When the prince returned he was joyfully greeted by a blood-stained Gelert. The son’s cot was empty. In a rage, the prince drove his sword into Gelert’s side, but as the dog yelped his last yelp, the son, who was safe on the floor, started crying. He was next to a huge wolf that Gelert had slain to protect the baby. The prince was so sad he is said to have never smiled again.

The walk to the grave wasn’t very far at all so we decided to head further down the valley following the River Glasyn. On our way, we were really happy to hear (especially my dad, since he was a trainspotter as a young lad) the Welsh Highland Railway steam train starting up in the village. Here’s my dad giving an overview of the day and the train coming past (watch out for his geeky excitement as it comes through the tunnel):

As we followed the railway as it snaked its way down to Porthmadog we passed several copper mine tunnels and impressive waterfalls on the way.

River Glasyn Beddgelert Snowdonia

And then as we made our way back to the campsite the sun starting coming out again. Just in time for us to relax in the sunshine, and plan our next day’s adventures!

Cae Du Campsite, Snowdonia, Beddgelert

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