Posted by: brigid benson | January 20, 2013

Postcard from: wintry Llanberis in the mountains of Snowdonia, Wales

Snowdon mountain    Pete’s Eats Caffi   National Slate Museum   Bangor Town Clock   Electric Mountain   The Miners’ Path & Pen Y Pass  

LLanberis: Snowdon's village

LLanberis: Snowdon’s village

Croeso! Welcome to the mountains of North Wales!

CROESO

Snuggled into the foothills of the Snowdon range, the colourful hub of  LLanberis on the south shore of Llyn Padarn has been a sightseers’ honeypot for centuries.

Llanberis, aka 'Snowdon's village'

Llanberis, aka ‘Snowdon’s village’

The Victorians were mad for mountains and the attraction of Snowdon, at 3,560ft the highest mountain in England and Wales, had them flocking to the rural community in well heeled droves. Fancy hotels were built in the village of low stone cottages housing miners and quarry workers.

Elegant Plas Coch, built in 1865

Elegant Plas Coch, built in 1865

Originally a quarry manager's home, Mount Pleasant Hotel

Originally a quarry manager’s home, Mount Pleasant Hotel

At first the visitors ascended the mountains on mules, led by local guides but from 1896 they were treated to the delights of open carriages on the mountain railway – many a hat was whipped off in the wind; canny local kids at the bottom of the valley gathered them up and sold them on! The Snowdon Mountain Railway still chugs spectacularly up to the summit.

Whether or not your heading up the mountain, the village is a blast of colour to be savoured even on a cloudy, snowy winter’s day.

Snowdon Street, Llanberis

Snowdon Street, Llanberis

Colour therapy

Colour therapy

You may have no intention of getting active but you can be sure there are people on a mission around here…

SKI

Skis on Sunday

CANOE

The Catholic church of Sant John Jones

The Catholic church of Sant John Jones

On the main street is the catholic church of Sant John Jones, born at Clynnog Fawr in Gwynned, Wales and hung, drawn and quartered for his religious beliefs in Southwark, London in 1598. He was canonised in 1970; his feast day is July 12.

CHURCH SANT

The village has much to offer tourists. Just one look at the signposts confirms you may never get round it all.

Spoiled for choice! Where to start?

Spoiled for choice! Where to start?

A fine place to begin is Pete’s Eats the acclaimed caffi where you can also shower, borrow books, peruse maps, use wifi, sleep, buy pants and pint mugs – yes really!

Pete's Eats, celebrated in my book 52 Weekends in the Country

Pete’s Eats, celebrated in my book 52 Weekends in the Country

You can also perfect your Welsh – many locals are fluent Welsh speakers.

Vocabulary test later!

Vocabulary test later!

Should a blizzard blast in you'll always have something to read

Should a blizzard blast in you’ll always have something to read

If not books, there are fascinating notices plastered around the walls - info on all all kinds of stuff from mountain survival to greenwood gates.

If not books, there are fascinating notices plastered around the walls – info on all all kinds of stuff from mountain survival to makers of greenwood gates.

Pay special attention to the laminated illustration of some of  Snowdon’s most scary places.

Be prepared!

Be prepared!

Upstairs there are more books, mountaineering journals and a mouthwatering selection of maps.

pete view upstairs

You may be here some time…

Books

I am unable to resist big maps…

Temptation!

Temptation!

Some of my favourite places are stashed in here…

Wanderlust guaranteed!

Wanderlust guaranteed!

It’s easy to forget why you might have come by in the first place. For this perhaps?

Small veggie breakfast

Small veggie breakfast

Carnivores' alternative

Carnivores’ alternative

Stagger from the ‘caffi’ refuelled and ready to yomp up the main street which services all your mountain needs, from survival clothing and kit to art, weather forecasts and books.

MNTN BOOKS

FORECAST

ART

SLEDGE

Buses passing through the village promise to whisk you away to unsual destinations, including this – one of my personal favourites…

BUS

And if the town clock doesn’t do it for you perhaps the wonders of Electric Mountain will; the unforgettable trip includes an amazing tour of Dinorwig power station concealed deep in the belly of  Snowdonia.

Read more in my acclaimed book 52 Weekends in the Country   stuffed with outstanding landscape photography (pics in my blog are all snapped on my mobile phone!) top tips and advice – all based on first hand tried and tested experience – my aim is to ensure you get the most from your precious time away.

From a tour of the James Bond underworld of Electric Mountain there are more thrills on unusual railways: Lyn Padarn Railway journeys around the lake while the extraordinary Snowdon Mountain Railway climbs dizzily to the panorama of the peak.

RAILWAY WHEEL

SNOWDON RAILWAY

Leaving the village there’s a great road up to Pen Y Pass, skirting Llyn Padarn, past the keep of Dolbadarn Castell  and dramatic workings of Dinorwig slate quarry.

ELECTRIC MNTN

Especially graphic in winter, the slate quarry scars of the mountain conceal an immense hydro electric power station. Nearby there’s a great  free visit; learn about the Welsh quarrying industry and worldwide export of durable Welsh slate at the National Slate Museum 

When Welsh slate roofed the world...

When Welsh slate roofed the world…

Though the scenery is spectacular throughout the seasons, I’m especially drawn to the drama of winter.

VIEW

As you ascend Pen Y Pass look out for fellow road users and idyllic hideaways.

CYCLE

ROADSHEEP

A romantic bolthole perhaps?

A romantic bolthole perhaps?

Climbing higher there may be ominous signs of rapidly changing weather conditions; winter winds blast snowspray across the road.

BLOW SNOW

At the summit of Pen Y pass is another great ‘caffi’ and the start of the Miners’ Path ascent of Snowdon. Beware the route: it may sound like a straightforward commute but this is deadly territory  – rescue helicopters are frequent visitors.

Don’t take risks; be prepared. The rock tethered shed in the car park tells you all you need to know…

Tethered shed!

Rock steadied shed

PEN Y PASS

Stop to refule and make wise choices about your expedition

Stop to refuel and make wise choices about your expedition

Heed the warnings!

Too many tragedies

Too many tragedies

The Sea king rescue helicopter was in attendance again on my most recent visit.

SEA KING

But if you’re well prepared and the weather’s with you, the Miners’ Path is a dramatic route into the heart of Snowdonia.

The Miners' Path built for workers at the Britannia Copper Mine

The Miners’ Path built for workers at the Britannia Copper Mine

Ready to go?

Do yourself a favour; be prepared to try a few Welsh phrases – the locals have thoughtfully provided a useful selection on the information board in the main street.

welsh lesson


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