Walking the Snowdon Round: Snowdonia National Park

by Christine Saul

Introducing the Snowdon Round

We are very excited about our new Snowdon Round trail.  It takes you on an awe inspiring journey with plenty of 'wow factor', circumnavigating Snowdon - the highest mountain in Wales and England at 1085m. You will enjoy the breath-taking natural beauty of Snowdonia National Park, as well as experiencing the unique slate heritage of North Wales as you walk around the Snowdon Massif. This lower level circular trail avoids the mountain tops, and starts and ends at the popular village of Llanberis at the foot of Snowdon, but we also offer a more challenging Mountain route, including a climb up Snowdon itself.


Exploring the Snowdonia National Park

900.jpgThe area around Snowdon is a real honey pot; it's always very popular and attracts visitors from all over the world. Over half a million people either climb, walk, run, or take the train up to the summit of Snowdon each year. For the more adventurous and experienced walker, we are also offering a Snowdon Round Mountain Route, a high level alternative trail which takes you over the summit of Snowdon, Moel Siabod and the Glyderau ridge.

Our Snowdon Round trail follows popular footpaths as well as lesser-visited footpaths through Snowdonia, allowing you to get off the beaten track and see the vast variety of scenery the National Park has to offer. The trail passes through sleepy former slate villages with pretty white-washed or stone cottages, as well as the ghostly remains of disused slate quarries and by a few remaining working quarries. Welsh Slate is still recognised as one of the highest quality slates in the world, and the use of Welsh slate for buildings dates back to Roman times.

As well as industrial interest, the trail offers so much variety in terms of scenery and landscape. It passes through forests, over open moorland, across pastureland, past lakes and alongside rivers and through spectacular glacial valleys. You will also hear Welsh being spoken often as you pass through the Welsh speaking villages of North Wales, with 65% of the population speaking Welsh.

This is a trail not to be rushed.  There is so much natural beauty plus historic and cultural interest to take in en route.


Setting off - Llanberis to Beddgelert

900 (1).jpgLeaving Llanberis, the trail climbs steadily and you are soon rewarded with the first of many views of the Snowdon massif, the Glyderau mountain range and numerous disused slate quarries and slate tips, plus views of the coast and the Isle of Anglesey. The trail drops down to Waunfawr village, which has a community cafe and a pub with its own micro brewery. It is also a stop on the Welsh Highland Railway, which is classed as one of the world's greatest train journeys; its historic steam trains run 25 miles through the breath-taking scenery of Snowdonia National Park from Caernarfon to Porthmadog.

From here the trail climbs again, crossing open heather moorland with views of the impressive Nantlle Ridge and passing slate tips before dropping down again past a flooded quarry pit to Y Fron, which also has a new community cafe. From Y Fron, the trail weaves its way down through the heart of the spectacular Nantlle Valley Slate Quarries, past building remains, pits and tips, which are now all disused; the last quarry that commercially produced slate here closed in 1979. The former slate villages and communities of North Wales are very proud of their slate heritage, and Gwynedd County Council are currently running an initiative to try to get the slate villages of Snowdonia designated as a World Heritage Site, due to the impact the industry had on the landscape, life and culture of the area.

The trail continues through forests towards the village of Rhydd Ddu with its pub and tea room. Rhydd Ddu is also a stop on the Welsh Highland Railway, as well as home to the start of the quietest of the six main paths up to the summit of Snowdon - the Llanberis Path being the most popular. From Rhydd Ddu, the trail follows a multi-use path which weaves its way through Beddgelert Forest, crossing the Welsh Highland Railway a few times, and through a variety of landscapes offering fantastic views of the surrounding area to reach the picture-postcard village of Beddgelert.


Admiring the views - Beddgelert to Capel Curig

900 (2).jpgBeddgelert is known as 'A place of legend in the heart of Snowdonia' and is famous for Gelert's Grave - Gelert being the mythical faithful hound of the medieval Welsh Prince Llewelyn the Great. The story was actually made up by local traders a long time ago in an attempt to lure tourists to the village. It is a picturesque, unspoilt tourist village - also on the Welsh Highland Railway line - with cafes, inns and shops, and a very popular ice cream parlour!

Leaving Beddgelert, the slate quarry landscapes are temporarily left behind. You pass Sygun Copper Mine, which closed in 1903 but is now restored and a winner of the Prince of Wales award for tourism; you can follow a self-guided audiovisual tour through the original Victorian mine workings. The trail then makes its way up the glacial valley of Nant Gwynant, following the river through the valley and passing the peaceful mountain lakes of Llyn Dinas and Llyn Gwynant in the shadow of Mount Snowdon.

Eventually the trail ascends out of the valley and once up high and looking back, there are fantastic views back down the Nant Gwynant valley, with Snowdon looming behind.

Climbing up and over Bwlch y Rhediad pass - which separates the Moelwyn mountain range to the south from Moel Siabod to the north - the trail enters and crosses wild and remote open moorland, offering a complete contrast in terrain and scenery.

Descending from the moorland, the trail heads towards the village of Dolwyddelan in the Lledr Valley, the birthplace of Llewelyn the Great, the native Princes of Wales. The trail passes right beside the impressive Dolwyddelan Castle - built by Llewelyn the Great - perched on a high mound. You can explore inside the castle, where there are lots of information boards explaining the castle's history.

Leaving Dolwyddelan, the trail climbs through forest, offering glimpses of the southern face of Moel Siabod through the trees, before emerging onto open moorland and crossing the eastern slopes of Moel Siabod. Once again, you are rewarded with fantastic 360 degree views from the top and of the Glyderau and Carneddau mountain ranges ahead, before the trail drops down to Capel Curig where you will find the highly commended and spacious Moel Siabod cafe. Geared towards walkers and climbers, it offers great food and is also a point of reference and advice for exploring northern Snowdonia. It also has a permanent small photo exhibition called 'Soul of Snowdonia', where you can view outstanding photographic images of Snowdonia.


Wandering through valleys - Capel Curig to Bethesda

900 (3).jpgFrom Capel Curig you enter the spectacular Ogwen Valley on a low-level walk through the wide, glacial valley and the very heart of the mountains you had earlier been viewing from up high. You are surrounded by the backdrop of the Glyderau massif to your left and Carneddau massif to your right, with the rocky fin of Tryfan dominating the view.

At the end of the valley you reach the beautiful Llyn Ogwen - said to be the last resting place of the famous sword Excalibur - and follow a pleasant but rocky path alongside the lake to reach Ogwen Falls and Cwm Idwal information centre. A worthwhile 1km detour from here takes you to Llyn Idwal, another beautiful lake in a natural amphitheatre-shaped valley, caused again by glacial erosion. The area was Wales' first nature reserve and is world famous for its rock formations, connection with Charles Darwin and its rare and fragile plant life, including the Snowdon Lily, which can only be found on the mountains of Snowdonia.

From here you enter the Nant Francon, another splendid glacial U-shaped valley, heading towards Bethesda.

The large spoil slate tips of the Penrhyn Quarry then come into view, and you are now heading back into the quarrying landscape of the past, walking through old slate tips which are slowly being reclaimed by nature. You reach Penrhyn Quarry just before Bethesda, which during the nineteenth century was the world's largest slate quarry, with the deepest man-made hole on earth at nearly one mile deep. It is still operating today but can now only claim to be Britain's largest slate quarry. Its current claim to fame, however, is that it is now home to the fastest zipline in the world and the longest in Europe - Zip World - where if you are brave enough, you can fly at up to 100mph for two minutes, 500 feet above the quarry lake. A short detour uphill will take you past an impressive slate sculpture of a seated man to a viewing platform next to their restaurant, where you can watch zippers flying by. You can also take tours of the quarry.


Returning to the start - Bethesda to Llanberis

900 (4).jpgThe final section of trail leaves Bethesda and heads back up on to and across wild moorland again, heading back towards Llanberis. Leaving the moorland, there are splendid views towards the coast of Wales and the Isle of Anglesey.

As you get closer to Llanberis, Snowdon comes into view again in all its glory, with Llyn Padarn down in the valley. The trail drops down along wooded paths through Padarn Country Park, emerging beside the Old Quarry hospital and finally arriving at the Llanberis Lake Railway and the National Slate Museum in Llanberis, on the shores of Lake Padarn. The museum is on the site of the former Dinorwig Quarry, which closed in 1969, and tells the story of the Welsh slate industry by offering a choice of walks, talks and demonstrations, and entry is free.

After a memorable and awe-inspiring few days walking around the Snowdon massif, it would be well worthwhile staying an extra night or two in Llanberis as there is so much to do and see here, including climbing Snowdon if you wish - by foot or by train.

I thoroughly enjoyed walking this trail. Snowdonia is definitely one of the most breath-taking and exciting locations for walking in the UK; it has so much natural beauty, history and culture to offer and I hope to go back to explore more of the area by foot very soon. I'm sure if you book to walk this trail, you will feel the same!

Contours Holidays pride ourselves on our expert knowledge of the UK’s trails. We regularly set out to check our routes and directions and to make improvements on the holidays we offer. You can find several write-ups of staff expeditions in our Trail Diaries.

Routes on this trail

Snowdon Round Mountain Route
6 to 7 nights
61 miles
From £940 per person
A demanding yet rewarding hike in Snowdonia, conquering many of its mountains along the way. Find Out More
Snowdon Round
4 to 6 nights
56 miles
From £620 per person
A scenic walk around the foothills of the iconic Snowdon massif in Snowdonia National Park. Find Out More

Originally published 14/01/19

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