Snowdonia was one of the first areas to receive National Park status in 1951, with the tallest mountain in Wales and tremendous diverse landscapes created by volcanoes and glaciation it is easy to understand why. The area has impressive mountains, large expanses of woodland, beautiful gorges, miles of coastline, waterfalls and remains from a slate industrial past. What better way to experience the area than to walk from Machynlleth in the South to Conwy in the North on a less well known long distance walking route that is the Snowdonia Way.
Saturday 21st July – Machynlleth
Having arrived in Machynlleth, before any of the 6 intrepid trekkers that I was acting as a guide for on the Snowdonia Way, I had a chance to delve into the history of Wales’ ancient capital. In times past when relations between the Welsh and the English were troublesome Owain Glyndwr was crowned as the Prince of Wales in this very town as part of his rebellion against the English, which started in 1400.
Fast forward to the present day and the welcome we got on the first night couldn’t be warmer from the accommodation owners right in the centre of town. The evening was spent enjoying local food and getting to meet everyone who original came from a variety of countries from around the world: Lindsay (Wales), Bob (America), Cathy (Scotland), Marita (Germany), Marlis (Switzerland) and Alex (England).
Sunday 22nd July – Machynlleth to Dolgellau (24.7km, 407m)
After a hearty breakfast and an explanation of the days route ahead, we all convened at Machynlleth clock tower for the obligatory start of the trek photo. The trek started crossing the River Dovey and followed the Corris railway along the valley floor that linked the old mining towns of Corris and Aberllefenni to Machynlleth. Slate mining has a long history in Wales and was dramatically visible as we passed a huge cavernous abandoned mine while walking through the spoil heaps en route. On a very hot summers day the air conditioning effect as air moved through air gaps in the spoils did not go unnoticed or unappreciated!
The walk ascended for a good 3km and we all suffered in the afternoon heat, everyone found their pace, stuck to it and came across the top of the col warmly welcomed by everyone else. The rest of the days walking had great views of Cadair Idris, both the east and north face. Harry (the trek manager) met us with much needed water refills and salty snacks to replenish us before the last 7km. While dropping into Dolgellau there was certainly a buzz in the village, which turned out to be their summer fair in full swing, what a great welcome and a great opportunity to enjoy some much needed cold drinks!
Monday 23rd July – Dolgellau to Trawsfynydd (22.6km, 790m)
After yesterdays scorcher it was nice to wake up to a grey sky and lower temperatures safe in the knowledge that it wouldn’t be so hard to keep hydrated. The start to the day certainly got the legs firing with a steep pull out of the village. Within no time we had crossed Afon Mawddach and started to rise higher and higher above the valley floor. It wasn’t until we left the woods that the efforts of climbing were rewarded with views of the river and Foel Cynwch.
After descending through beautiful deciduous National Trust owned woods we crossed the A470 and headed into the woodland of the King (Coed y Brenin). The woodland is better known as North Wales premier mountain biking centre and the number of bikes around certainly gave that impression too. Walking through woodland for any length of time can be a bit monotonous when there are no views and the 250 metres of ascent weren’t helping. When we finally came out the other side though the view across the moorland, onto Llyn Trawsfynydd and beyond, deserved a rest and a moment to savour. For Alex it was a great chance to get 5 mins shut eye lying in a body position that was more resemblant of a body that had undergone a serious trauma than that of a peaceful sleeper!
The descent from Craig-Y-Penmaen was causing Bob a few problems after suffering from cramp and was happy to call it a day, along with Marlis, when we reached the road. Everyone else continued on for the last 5km to Trawsfyndd through agricultural farm yards, what felt like peoples back gardens, over a number of stiles and finally onto a track before being reunited with everyone and whisked in the Thistle Bus back to Dolgelleu.
Tuesday 24th July – Trawsfynydd to Beddgelert (29.5km, 930m)
Starting the day walking along the Llyn Trawsfynydd’s (a man made reservoir’s) 200 metre bridge with low cloud and drizzle felt like an ominous start to what would be the longest day’s walking on the trek. After passing the reservoir we followed the deep gorge of Llennyrch through fields of bog myrtle. The name would suggest wet feet but after the summer we have had so far our feet were anything but wet. After a short slippery stream crossing, with no incidents thankfully, the walk ascended out of a forest and onto open land. Having seen a lot of forest yesterday we took a slight variation of the route that allowed us to bypass more forest path and stumble upon a beautiful lunch spot on the south side of Llyn Tecwy n Uchaf.
Once re- energised with food and water the route took us onto the Wales coast path and great views down to the sea. Marita was more excited of the views over Portmeirion which I now know was the setting for the cult 60’s TV show, the prisoner, I also now know her husband has a prisoner style blazer….. it’s amazing what you learn on these treks!
Walking up the valley away from the sea led to further forest paths before the views ahead opened up and a chance to get a great view of Snowdonia’s Matterhorn, Cnict. Its a perfectly shaped pyramidal mountain that is often overlooked due to some of the taller mountains in Snowdonia national park but should be on everyones list to visit.
The day had already been long and the pace understandingly slowed as we traversed along the uneven stones that make up the pass of Aberglasslyn. It’s certainly a spectacular way to enter the village of Beddgelert where a well earned rest for everyone waited after a long 11 hour day on the hills.
The Snowdonia Way Part II…coming soon