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The best known of Wales' national parks, Snowdonia contains the country's highest mountain Yr Wyddffa - better known as Snowdon - which is accessible by the Snowdon Mountain Railway for those not wishing to walk up to the 3,560 foot summit. There are 14 other peaks of over 3,000 feet in the region including the shapely Tryfan and the Glyders both overlooking the wild Ogwen Valley to the north of Snowdon.
There are several centres from which to explore the region. Llanberis where the Snowdon Railway departs from and is also home to Electric Mountain - a fascinating underground hydro electric scheme open to public tours at most times. Across the steep and winding road over Pen y Pass are the small hamlet of Capel Curig with its famous views of Snowdon, and the larger tourist centre of Betws y Coed. South of here lies Beddgelert surrounded by some very scenic country of mountains, lakes and valleys, while the eastern edge of the region is marked by Bala with its lake, Llyn Tegid and watersports centre. The hill country surrounding Bala is particularly good for hiking and much quieter than central Snowdonia, it being possible to walk for hours and see no-one on the Arenig or Aran Ranges. Heading to the south of the region brings us to Dolgellau which is close to both the mountain of Cader Idris and the network of mountain bike trails at Coed y Brenin just to the north.
Here we are near the west coast of Wales which with the exception of a small stretch around Harlech is outside the national park though there is plentiful accomodation to be had especially if one plans a visit outside of the main holiday seasons. Many of the coastal towns are well placed to explore Snowdonia from, in addition to having their own appeal. Caernarfon is known for its castle as is Conwy on the northern coast while Bangor and the Menai Straits are the gateway to the island of Anglesey.
Back to hiking which is one of the main activities within the national park, the most popular start points are; Llanberis (plentiful accommodation) for an energetic alternative to the railway, Pen Y Pass which has limited parking though is served by an excellent bus service in the summer months and the Ogwen Valley for easy access to Tryfan, the Glyders and southern Carneddau. There is a campsite in the valley itself, with a few hotels and B&B's in Capel Curig and plenty in Betws Y Coed further east on the A5. Bethesda in the other direction has some hotels and the well placed Snowdon Lodge (self catering rooms) is closer to where the walks start. By heading into the Carneddau Range north of the Ogwen, you'll avoid the summer crowds.
Among many the following are geared to the life and history of the arae:
Weather can change rapidly from sunny conditions to rain or mist and waterproof clothing is imperative.
The North Wales coast is well served by the rail network and one can travel to Betws y Coed, Dolwyddelan and Blaenau Ffestiniog which is linked to the west coast by the Ffestiniog Railway (limited service in low season). The Welsh Highland Railway - again limited service in low season - links the Beddgelert region with Caernarfon.
The A55 which runs the length of the north coast with the A470 branching south through Betwsy Coed and leading across Snowdonia to Dolgellau. From the South and East the A5 also goes through Betwsy coed and the Ogwen valley to join the A55 at Bangor while the A494 heads down through Bala to Dolgellau. Most places are easily accessible and as mentioned, the area around Snowdon is served by the Snowdon Bus in the summer months.
Ty Newydd Bala B&B: 4* Bed and Breakfast. 12a Cae Gadlas, Bala, LL23 7AT, ☎ +44 (0)1678 520964, Centrally located, only 5 minutes walk from the town centre, this new self-built home, designed to their own specification is beautifully finished and offers you a relaxing base to explore Bala and the surrounding areas.
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