Boots on! Family Friendly Snowdonia Walks

Want to go walking, but have children? It can be tricky to find places suitable for little legs – and it’s never much fun having to carry a tired and grumpy child back to the car…

Fear not – we’ve got you covered!

Below are a selection of Snowdonia walks we believe are suitable for families, ranging from flat pushchair friendly routes to ‘introductory’ mountain hikes. They take between one and three hours to complete – with the exception of the Mawddach Trail, which is longer (but you can do as little or as much as you like).

The great thing about these routes is that they really don’t compromise on the ‘Snowdonia’ experience. We guarantee stunning mountains, incredible viewpoints and varied terrain. So, lace up your boots, pack a raincoat and get walking!

You don’t have to be seasoned hikers to enjoy the Snowdonia scenery.

Mawddach Trail – South Snowdonia

Difficulty: Easy

Buggy friendly? Yes

Postcode: LL42 1NF (Barmouth Car Park)

Arguably one of the best trails in Britain, for cyclists as well as walkers, this broad, flat route was once the trackbed of the old railway line from Barmouth to Ruabon, which closed in 1965. It stretches 9 miles, following the beautiful Mawddach Estuary, and gives walkers a taste of Snowdonia’s striking scenery and varied wildlife habitats, including the salt marshes conservation area.

If you don’t fancy such a long walk, the trail can be joined at several points, including Morfa Mawddach and Penmaenpool.

Cwm Idwal – North West Snowdonia

Difficulty: Easy- Moderate

Buggy Friendly? No

Postcode: LL57 3LZ

A famous and popular walking route, which gives kids a fantastic introduction to Snowdonia walking. A fairly easy incline, along a well-maintained stone path takes you up to the lake, and from there, a circular route around the lake which you can do, depending on your children’s experience level. Younger children will be in awe of the amazing glacial valley. Spend half an hour sitting beside the lake with a picnic and skim stones on the water – kids (and adults) will be in their element.

In 1954, Cwm Idwal became the first officially recognised National Nature Reserve in Wales. One of Charles Darwin’s favourite hangouts, he spent time studying the rocks and plant life while developing his Theory of Evolution. So, as you’d expect, Cwm Idwal is a great place for wildlife spotting, with a large variety of arctic-alpine wildflowers as well as feral goats, polecats and rare pine martens.

The kids will love exploring legendary Cwm Idwal.

Carneddau Mountains – North Snowdonia

Difficulty: Moderate

Buggy Friendly? No

Postcode: LL32 8AZ (Bwlch Sychnant Car Park)

For children who have a little bit more experience with hillwalking and have built up a bit of stamina, the Carneddau has a lot of great paths to explore. There are a number of mini ridges with incredible views across the sea and to Anglesey.

Kids will love the fact that there is so much to see up there. Get the OS map out and see if they can find the cairns and remnants of old settlements that are marked on the map. Wild ponies and plenty of wildlife will also keep their attention. It’s a nice walk for parents, as you can gain a good pace by marching them along the old Roman road. Easily accessible, start at Sychnant Pass car park, where tarmac paths guide you up towards the Roman road. There’s not too much of an ascent as the car park is already high up, and you can walk as little or as far as you like and still feel that you’ve achieved something.

Getting out walking with the family is fun and cheap!

Hopefully these three routes will be enough to turn even the most reluctant of children into fearless outdoor explorers. If you still find yourself struggling – there’s always the fail-safe bargaining tool of an ice-cream at the end! Good luck – and enjoy!

Images courtesy: Cwm Idwal, Tori Smith, 2017. Other images, © Crown copyright 2016 (Visit Wales).

Three breathtaking mountain passes you must drive in Snowdonia

Part of the beauty of holidaying in North Wales is that getting here and driving around is part of the adventure. Snaking forest drives, wild single-track wanders and jaw-dropping mountain passes are all in the mix if you enjoy a drive and are not afraid to explore.

Sometimes it’s all too easy to be so fixated on where you’re going that it’s easy to miss the wonders along the way. This blog will help you appreciate that journey just a little more. Here are our three favourite mountain passes – with a few more suggestions thrown in at the end.

Llanberis Pass/Pen y Pass

The star of many a car advert (with a well-known marque driven by Sir Bradley Wiggins currently gracing TV screens), Llanberis Pass is a must-visit. Yes it’s popular, with the occasional coach making the bendy, walled-in road feel narrower than it is, but it’s popular with good reason.

It’s a rugged landscape from the moment you leave Llanberis, then passing through the hamlet of Nant Peris a boulder-strewn, lunar-like landscape surrounds you. Cliffs and buttresses tower above you on both sides, many speckled with the bright colours of kitted-out rock climbers. There are a few lay-bys to pull into but parking is generally very limited. Just drive carefully and enjoy the most weather-blasted landscape Snowdonia has to offer.

Look out for: the scarily steep north face of Crib Goch, best viewed to your left when driving up from Llanberis to Pen-y-Pass. Yes, people walk along the top of that!

Top tip: in our opinion, driving from Pen-y-Pass down to Llanberis gives you the better views. Go early or late for a quieter run and the chance to pull over. And don’t wait for clear weather – there’s something special about driving this route with the cloud down over the precipitous peaks.

Ascend the dizzying heights of Pen y Pass, just minutes from the hotel.

Nant Ffrancon

One of Sir Anthony Hopkins’ favourite places, so who are we to disagree? Nant Ffrancon is the natural passage between the Glyderau and Carneddau massifs. Telford tried to tame it with the A5, but in reality he only succeeded in giving us ring-side seats to the shark’s fin of rock called Tryfan, and Cwm Idwal’s alpine arena. Specifically, Nant Ffrancon is the valley from Ogwen Cottage (where most people park to begin their adventures) west to the slate town of Bethesda.

Look out for: the waterfalls at Ogwen Cottage. Easy to miss amid the melee of walkers but worth a wander just for the views down the valley.

Top tip: best driven from Bethesda towards Ogwen Cottage in the direction of Betws-y-Coed. There’s a lay-by halfway along Nant Ffrancon on the southbound (Bethesda direction) side. It looks like a pavement but this is a great place to stop and admire the views. If you don’t mind narrow roads, there is a minor road that follows the opposite side of the valley to the A5 (pictured), but coming from Bethesda the right turn is easily missed. It brings you out at Ogwen Cottage.

The splendour of the Nant Ffrancon Valley enjoyed from behind the wheel.

Sychnant Pass near Conwy

Between Conwy Mountain (that’s the rocky hill that practically forces the A55 into the sea near Conwy) and Tal y Fan is a hidden mountain pass. Taking its name from a nearby hamlet, Sychnant Pass takes a bit of finding but once you’re on it, it comes as a fabulous surprise. From the town’s one-way streets inside the walls, turn left at the Albion Pub and stay on this road. If you’re in a wide vehicle you might want to find Sychnant Pass Road from outside the town walls instead!

What starts as an unremarkable road becomes interesting as it climbs higher and reaches the open land of Conwy Mountain. Turn a corner and suddenly, wow! Where did that come from? The hillsides fall away steeply and the road clings to the slopes as it drops down to Capelulo, giving stunning views of the North Wales coast and Anglesey beyond. Follow the road as far as Penmaenmawr and then either rejoin the A55 or spend some time on the sandy beach.

Look out for: Pensychnant Nature Reserve, a 120-acre site forming part of a Victorian Estates (note, closed Mondays and Tuesdays).

Top tip: best driven from Conwy towards Capelulo to make the most of those sea views. There is parking at the top but it is limited and can be popular with those in the know! Don’t try this if the A55 is blocked as many drivers (sadly) use it as a short cut.

Sea in front, mountains behind, the Sychnant Pass is an incredible drive all year round.

Also point your wheels to…

The Crimea Pass (or Bwlch y Gorddinan) on the A470 between Betws-y-Coed and Blaenau Ffestiniog. This is a quick road but why drive fast when there’s so much scenery to enjoy? Check out the tiny railway station at Roman Bridge and the castle at Dolwyddelan.

The drive from Capel Curig to Beddgelert doesn’t include a mountain pass as such, but we’ll argue the case that this is one of the most beautiful mountain drives in Britain. Drive from Capel Curig along Dyffryn Mymbyr (A4086) for iconic views of Snowdon’s peaks (can you name them all?). Stop at the lay-by past the Llanberis turn-off at Pen-y-Gwryd for more views down to the lake in Nant Gwynant. Then carry on, downhill, through Nant Gwynant and more wonderful scenery before arriving at Beddgelert.

A short drive with big impact, the Crimea Pass is unmissable on a visit to Snowdonia.

Images courtesy: © Copyright Ian Taylor and licensed for reuse under this Creative Commons Licence, © Copyright David Quinn.