We stood on the rocky peak, gazing out across the Afon Glasyn Valley.
As a Kiwi, I was no stranger to rolling hills and fields, but this verdant corner of Wales still managed to take my breath away. This was my first time visiting Snowdonia National Park, and suddenly that old Tom Jones song made much more sense, as the grass here is so green it’s almost luminous.
But, as stunning as it was, this view was not the main reason for our visit – we were here to climb the highest mountain in England and Wales, Mt Snowdon.
The idea was concocted with friends over a bottle of wine (or five). I can’t remember who mentioned it first, but before we knew it we’d agreed to a family weekend in Wales during the autumn half term, to conquer the famous peak.
I was still recovering from a shoulder dislocation (have you read about my accident prone life?) so the plan was that the girls and I would take the Snowdon Mountain Railway up, meet hubby and our friends, enjoy a snack in the cafe, and then we’d all walk down together.
But nature, as is often the case, had a different plan.
In the days before we set off Snowdonia was besieged by high winds. When we arrived at our bed and breakfast the day before we were still praying they’d die down, but when we woke the next morning and checked online we discovered the railway was closed.
The boys (two hubbies and our friends’ older son) decided a little wind wasn’t going to defeat them, so they set off anyway – hiking boots tightly laced, and walking poles in hand.
The rest of us reverted to Plan B: after a leisurely breakfast, we decided to go for a drive and explore our surroundings. For nearly an hour we drove through the most stunning scenery from postcard-perfect villages bisected by babbling brooks, to silvery lakes, and through lush forests.
We carefully wound our way up winding mountain roads, finally stopping at the wild and windy viewing station, where we admired the valley laid out before us, and over to Llyn Gwynant lake.
Next, we drove on to Llanberis, the village at the base of Mt Snowdon, where we decided we’d brave the wind and walk up as far as we could. At least then we could say we’d been on the mountain even if we hadn’t managed to get to the top.
But before we’d even set off, we had a call from the boys: they’d tried their best to make it up the mountainside, but the higher they got, the windier it had become. Eventually, the gusts had been so extreme they’d literally watched people getting blown off their feet.
They were now safely ensconced in the Pen-y-Ceunant Isaf pub, which is tucked at the base of the popular Llanberis path (which is longer but less steep than other routes, making it popular with tourists and families).
We met them at the pub for a hot chocolate and decided to wander up the Llanberis path as far as we could. Which, as it turned out, wasn’t very far at all.
We made it to the start of the path easily enough, but then the wind started picking up. And picking up some more. And then picking up even more. By now, the gusts were getting quite intense – we were having to lean into the wind to stay upright – and we noticed a tide of people coming back down the path.
One woman spotted us and shook her head. ‘You might not want to go any further up,’ she advised, ‘I’ve just seen someone get blown off the walking track.’
We decided to make our way back down, taking in the unbelievable views as we did.
Despite Mother Nature throwing us a meteorological curveball, we still had a brilliant weekend in stunning Snowdonia. We might not have made it to the top of Mt Snowdon (or even close to it) but we still had loads of fun and got to breathe in loads of that delicious Welsh air.
We’ll definitely be back, and next time the summit will be ours!
FIVE STUNNING THINGS TO DO IN SNOWDONIA
• pay a visit to ZIPWORLD. As well as Bounce Below – a huge underground trampoline suspended in an old slate mine – you can go climbing and ziplining through subterranean caverns, or fly over Blaenau Ffestiniog town on Europe’s longest zipline.
• take a steam train through stunning Snowdonian scenery with the world’s oldest narrow gauge railway, Ffestiniog Railway. This 200-year-old feat of engineering includes a buffet service and a fully-licenced bar, and takes you through tranquil pastures, magnificent forests and lakes and waterfalls, climbing from sea level to over 700 feet high.
• wander along the SNOWDONIA SLATE TRAIL. This recently restored 85-mile circular trail transports you back in time to when the valleys were dominated by the slate industry. Today, as well as admiring the Welsh countryside, you can still view the old slate tips, railways and quarry buildings, and walk the same paths that linked the mining villages and hamlets. Make sure to leave enough time for a visit to the NATIONAL SLATE MUSEUM.
• navigate the coastline of Anglesey and the Menai Staits with ANGLESEY BOAT TRIPS. Choose from a variety of trips, from leisurely tours around Puffin Island, to high-speed thrill rides.
• explore PENRYHN CASTLE. This imposing Neo-Norman stately home was built in 1820 for politician George Hay Dawkins Pennant, but today it’s owned by the National Trust. Take a peek inside the regal rooms, get a taste of Victorian life in the faithfully restored kitchen, and admire the spectacular gardens and their views over Conwy Bay and Snowdonia.
Search for your perfect family holiday in Wales with the Original Cottage Company. Wales Cottage Holidays is an established family-run agency; the staff all live and work in Wales and are genuinely passionate about both their home country and helping their customers find the perfect holiday property.