Llanberis, Wales, was one of the most beautiful places I’ve been to and one of the most memorable parts of my trip, even though, or especially because, it was a little out-of-the-way mountain town nestled in a valley with so much to do in a comfortable setting. Had I not had a ferry to Ireland to catch the next day, I would have stayed there longer.
As I said, on the way I passed by Porthmadog, which looked like a posh ski and lake resort town from the bus window. It was fairly large and had a nice everything, with a nice amount of the nice everything. Llanberis, on the other hand, was a tiny town with one Main Street located on the edge of Snowdonia National Park, but this Main Street had everything you need: an Indian restaurant, an ATM, a pub, and the Snowdonia Bakery, which I learned the hard way was only a sign with no functioning bakery. At least it added to the quaint ambience. I will always almost taste those mountainside pastries that could have been….
The walk to the hostel was a lot less than 2.3 miles up a very steep hill past homes with roses climbing up latticework and spilling over fences, beside a running stream. And at the top of the hill sat the hostel, with Snowdownia Mountain, the highest peak in Wales, behind it and a 3 mile hike or steam engine train ride away along the Snowdon Mountain Railway. Behind the hostel was a campsite where numerous people had set up tents and were cooking. On either side was a fenced off area for horses (left) and sheep (right). In Llanberis, you’re not kept up by the sounds of screaming drunks; you’re kept up by the sounds of sheep who won’t be quiet at 2 in the morning.
And then the view from the front of the hostel…. I got there, put down my stuff, and went outside to sit on the picnic table perched near the hill’s edge, watching the pink and purple sunset over the mountains whose tops were obscured by white clouds. This kind of sunset was a rare event with the rainy weather they experience. I would rate it in my top five sunsets so far seen, even though it’s the only one I can actually remember. Say “sunset” and this view will come to mind for me.
From there I looked down on the town situated against these mountains, stretching along the main road with all the modern amenities you could need in this quiet escape populated only by local tourists and residents. Behind the main road was a lake where people took boats and kayaks, with a big field adjacent where lots of guys played soccer.
The weather was even perfect: a little chilly but pleasantly so, and so it remained the next morning when I set out to find Dolbadarn Castle, only a short walk away.
The the walk leading up there was as exciting as the castle itself. It was beautiful. I felt like fairies should pop out from behind the trees to make this complete. It started off passing over a little river with the clearest water I have ever seen in my life, as in you look down and literally it’s like looking through a clean window at all the rocks and things on the bottom. Then it went up a path surrounded with rock faces covered in moss, bent trees, and, well, basically what I would call paradise minus the pastries and five more degrees of warmth. And then instead of walking out of the forest to a roped off castle surrounded by a mass of tourists waiting for a tour group, I walked out to an old castle keep on top of a hill with an incredible view of the mountains and the lake, completely open and free to explore, with only a couple other people taking an early morning walk up there.
Google maps told me there was another castle about three miles going in the opposite direction, and now I have a solid reason for going back. A three mile walk along a river to a castle that appears to be in the middle of nowhere? Yes, I will buy my plane ticket back to the Isles as soon as I have the chance. I got so excited about this place I messaged my friend and said we had to go camping there one day. It’s the kind of place you want to share with other people. It would be a great weekend trip with friends (and truth be told a weekend or long weekend is probably all you would want).
To sum it up, Llanberis has everything you need for an amazing weekend away:
- A tucked away town with really friendly people
- But all the amenities for your comfort a short walk or car ride away and a lack of that never-had-contact-with-the-outside-world sense
- Great hiking to Snowdownia Mountain and surrounding areas
- A pub, or, something to do at night if you don’t want to just sit around playing cards and talking (and who wouldn’t!?!), or if you would rather do that in a pub
- A good hostel if you prefer a bed
- Amazing views and forests
- A lake where you can rent canoes and boats, and by which you can play soccer
- A steam engine train that takes you around the lake and up and/or down Snowdownia
- And, of course, castle remains within walking distance