Just back from an exhilarating long weekend in Snowdonia!
The Thursday before Easter I flew to Cambridge, and we set off the next day on a 5 hour drive across the UK. There were 6 of us (Irish, Italian, American, and New Zealanders), so we decided to rent a car in Cambridge, as it’s cheaper (overall) than taking public transport, and it gives a lot more freedom once you get to the mountains. It was tricky to find a car rental company that would rent a 7-seater to a 23-year old driver for less than £300 but we managed to get it for £180 in the end!
It was a loooong drive to get there, and the bank holiday traffic didn’t help, but luckily the drive became really picturesque when we reached Wales. We entertained ourselves by learning some Welsh (e.g. Araf=slow) and planning the hiking routes. We stopped off at Asda for some groceries (£73 for 6 people for 4 days- not bad!!) and petrol. If we had had a bit longer it would have been great to explore the area around Betws-y-Coed, a stunning town that we passed through.
We arrived to our campsite just after lunchtime, and began pitching the 8-man tent. This was absolutely gigantic.
The campsite itself was pretty cool! It was £5 pp per night regardless of number of tents, and there were proper toilets, a place for washing dishes (with hot water!) and warm showers (50p each). There was plenty of space and the ground was reasonably flat. There were also plenty of chickens!
After a speedy lunch we set off for our first peak of the trip, just north of Llyn Ogwen. It was incredibly sunny even though we only started at 5pm.
There were some dangerous scree slopes so we ended up coming down early, and we started cooking our first dinner: fajitas!! For future reference these are extremely difficult to cook on a pocket rocket: you have to make sure the chicken is fully cooked, and they take up a lot of gas… But they were worth it! It was a nice change to have something other than tinned food while camping. (Separately, it would be a wise idea to bring more than one pocket rocket when cooking for this many people, just to speed things up!)
Our first nights sleep was freezing, the tent was much too big and didn’t warm up at all so we all had to wake up in the middle of the night to put on all of our clothes… We weren’t expecting it to be so bad in April but I guess the clear skies had something to do with it!
We woke up slowly and set off to Snowdon (1,085m), the highest peak in Wales! It was crazily busy that morning (Easter weekend) and the carpark was already full at 9am (and cost £10!) so we had to park in a ditch along the road instead (which was free!)
We walked along the Miner’s path for a while and then took an “off-road” route onto a nice horseshoe-shaped ridge. The views from up here were incredible!
There are lakes all around and the route runs along the edge of a nature reserve.
There was a good bit of scrambling up and down until we finally reached a plateau just below the peak. We stopped here for a lovely nap in the sunshine, which was just what we needed after a long days hiking!
Apparently you can see all the way to Ireland on a clear day, but it was too hazy at the time. When we finally managed to wake up we made the last part of the ascent to the actual peak, but this was a nightmare… It turns out that there’s a tram that runs from one of the valleys up to the highest point, and it was jam-packed. I have never seen so many selfies being taken… There was a huge visitors centre with a café, and we even heard someone say that the queue for the café was one hour long! Needless to say, we didn’t hang around there for long.
We set off along another path to bring us back to where we left the car. This path was full of people so we got a bit delayed…
We were very glad we had taken the “path less travelled” on our way up!
That night some of the group met some of their astronomy friends, who happened to be staying in the exact same campsite as us! So after a shower and a bowl of mushy pasta (note to self: one saucepan is not enough for 6 people!) we set off to the pub to meet the other group. We ended up going to the bar at the mountaineering centre at Plas-y-Brenin. Luckily it was nice and warm there and we were able to relax a bit. The centre looks great, and even has a dry ski slope! We’ll definitely head back there someday.
After another cold night we woke up to a cloudier morning on Easter Sunday.
After our UHT-based breakfast (which wasn’t so bad!) we decided to explore northern Snowdonia.
We set off towards Abergwyngregyn (yep that’s a real place) and parked in (yet another) pay-and-display carpark. The weather was due to be pretty miserable so we were well prepared for rain, but luckily we only got a couple of minutes of it. Some of us even managed to get sunburnt!
We started off on a nice forest trail and crossed some more scree sloped before reaching a waterfall. There were loads of sheep on this trail, including lots of newborn lambs. We had to navigate some slippery cliffs and a couple of river crossings but generally the terrain was quite pleasant. The waterfalls were amazing and we even got some nice views of the sea.
We stopped for lunch (after carefully navigating through some crazy-looking horses) and had our tiny easter eggs! Then we walked through cloud to reach our peak before coming back down through several farms.
When we returned to the campsite we showered and made risotto- which sounds fancy but is actually the ideal meal for making on a campsite! We used pouches of microwaveable risotto, which only cost about £1 each, that you can cook on a pan just by adding water. It might not have been great by normal risotto standards but we were delighted! It was quick and filling, and we’ll definitely be making it again.
We went back to the bar that night for hot chocolates (and to make use of their free wifi) and slept much better afterwards.
On Monday morning we packed up the tent and headed to the Llandudno peninsula for a quick hike along the cliffs. This was a good choice, as the weather was amazing (again!) and the town was really cute. It seemed like an old-fashioned holiday town, and they had little trams and cable cars. It wasn’t too busy and we managed to do a lap of the peninsula (including a break for Twixes) in just over an hour.
We stopped in the town of Conwy (which has a really nice castle!) for lunch, where we finally found out what “Welsh Rarebit” is. I thought it was a type of meat… But nope it’s cheese-on-toast! And it’s really nice!
We set off back to Cambridge and got stuck in some nasty traffic on the way… But arrived on time for my flight in the end!
Just a note to anyone going to Wales: the ground is really rocky. We had to scramble for bits of the path each day, and even on the well-marked paths you would struggle without proper hiking boots. If I was going again I’d bring walking poles. The downhill parts were quite steep and our knees were starting to ache by the end of the day. Finally, although the trails are busy and may not seem dangerous, there were sheer drops in many places and the rocks can be quite loose. It’s so important to navigate carefully on these mountains- a young man died on Snowdon the day before we went, after taking a wrong turn and falling. So be prepared, and try to stick to the paths if you’re unsure!
This was a surprisingly cost-effective weekend overall, and the communal costs worked out at £80 per person. This included car rental, petrol (lots of it), road tolls, camping, showers, all groceries and maps.
(A great tool for calculating who owes what on a trip like this is www.whatsyourshare.com. It calculates the net amount that each person owes, which keeps it hassle-free. And the website is free and doesn’t make you create an account!)
Overall we had a great time- Wales is a really beautiful country. We made new friends, got some vitamin D, and realised just how strange the Welsh language is!
Finally, it’s amazing to see how “international” hiking can be as a hobby- this blog only has 2,000 views and look at all the countries they’re from!