Updated May 20, 2021
(Published September 14, 2020)
A region with one of the UK’s most beautiful national parks at its centre, Snowdonia is an easily accessible escape with something for every type of traveller. And whether you’re a keen hiker ready to tackle its highest peaks, or a couple seeking a romantic weekend filled with country pubs and leisurely walks, our guide to the best of Snowdonia will make planning your next holiday to Wales easy.
If we had our way, we’d spend our entire stay in Snowdonia gorging on Welsh rarebit (think cheese on toast, but a million times better). But to do so would be an insult to the wonderful diversity of the region’s culinary offerings, whether it’s homemade cake in the cosy cafés lining the streets of seaside towns such as Abersoch, or the enormous Welsh lamb roasts served in log fire-warmed pubs deep inside Snowdonia National Park.
Speaking of which, top of your hit list should be Pen-y-Gwryd, regarded by many as one of Snowdonia’s best pubs and where food is served in a cosy dining room that dates back to the 1800s. Pen-y-Gwryd is also where Edmund Hillary based himself while training for his 1953 ascent of Everest, and the climber’s memorabilia fills the dining room.
One of Snowdonia’s best restaurants is Y Sgwar, which you’ll find in the pretty village of Tremadog. Filled with nods to its location (including a beautiful slate floor and the original stone fireplace), the restaurant serves up traditional Welsh comfort food: think huge Welsh fillet steaks, locally sourced pork belly drizzled with cider jus, and mussels from the nearby Menai Strait.
Got a sweet tooth? Don’t miss Kin & Co in Abersoch, a seafront town where locals strut along the high street with surfboards tucked underarm. In this colourful café, balls of colourful wool are piled next to stacks of homemade brownies – Kin & Co sells a carefully-curated selection of homeware and craft supplies, too.
Whether you’re searching for hotels in Snowdonia National Park or Welsh caravan sites that offer easy access to the region’s best bits, finding accommodation in North Wales is easy, thanks largely to the wide range of hotels, bed-and-breakfasts and caravan sites.
Haven Hafan y Môr Holiday Park is ideal for travellers concerned about crowds – options at this sprawling holiday park include caravans, luxury lodges and apartments. We recommend one of the brand new luxury static caravans in the Heron’s Point area – perks include an enormous patio, lots of tech (including a Bluetooth speaker system) and a spacious kitchen area kitted out with an oven, freezer and microwave. Stay here and you’ll have direct access to Abererch Sands and the Wales Coast Path, as well as to Snowdonia National Park – Hafan y Môr is just a few kilometres from its entrance.
We also recommend the Royal Victoria Hotel in Llanberis. This 104-room hotel is surrounded by 30 acres of flower-filled gardens and woodland and it’s just a five-minute walk from the hotel to the Snowdon Mountain Railway.
For a classic B&B, consider the Bryn Tyrch Inn, in the middle of Snowdonia National Park. Try to nab one of the mountain view rooms but don’t panic if they’re booked out – the views from the sprawling gardens are just as stunning.
Finally, one for the radar: the Hilton Garden Inn Snowdonia, which opened in May 2020 as one of North Wales’ largest hotels. You’ll find it in Betws-y-Coed, so you’ll have easy access to Snowdonia National Park, although the hotel’s biggest selling point is the fact that it’s right next to Adventure Parc Snowdonia, an inland surf lagoon and the only guaranteed surf break in the UK.
A visit to Snowdonia isn’t just about scrambling up Snowdon, although if you’re planning on summiting Wales’ highest peak, Llanberis, a village near its base, is a brilliant starting point. Llanberis’ often-overlooked other attractions include Padarn Country Park, which sits in the shadow of Dinorwic slate quarry – once the second-largest in the world. A network of hiking trails meanders through the park’s forests, and there are several museums to check out, including the Welsh Slate Museum and the Quarry Hospital, which is filled with weird and wonderful exhibits (don’t miss the slate mortuary table, or the wheeled hospital stretchers designed to slot into the quarry’s railway tracks).
One of Snowdonia’s lesser-known railways is the Ffestiniog railway, which was established in 1832 and is the oldest independent railway in the world. Hop onboard for the 20km journey from Porthmadog harbour to the slate-quarrying town of Blaenau Ffestiniog, via Snowdonia’s finest lakes, forests and waterfalls. Get lucky and you might bag a seat in the carriage (complete with its original writing desk) used by former prime minister David Lloyd George, who worked in Blaenau Ffestiniog.
There’s more underground fun at Sygun Copper Mine, near the village of Beddgelert. It was abandoned in 1903 but today, visitors can follow the seam of copper through its stalactite-filled interior. Make sure you squeeze in a visit to the mine’s small museum – it’s packed with rare and unusual exhibits, including a 71 million-year-old dinosaur egg found in China.
For history, head to Caernarfon to admire one of Wales’ most beautiful castles and to wander through the town centre, dotted with remnants of the city walls. Don’t miss Northgate Street, formerly known as Stryd Pedwar a Chwech. You’ll find it in what was once Caernarfon’s red light district, and its Welsh name translates as Four and Six – the number of shillings sailors would pay for a package which included a room, a bottle of gin and a prostitute.