Hidden depths: the best lakes in Snowdonia

North Wales is the destination of choice for many who want to reconnect with nature, see beautiful views and be immersed in a mythical, enchanting environment. One aspect of the landscape our guests find irresistible are the many lakes that thread through the bedrock of Snowdonia.

The lakes of Snowdonia are unmissable if you’re staying with us and, best of all, many are within easy reach of the hotel. Several local legends were either inspired by or were said to have occurred in and around these lakes so there’s an enchanting tale to hear if you want to discover something new too.

Each harbours its own story – some heroic, some frightening – and all offer a great day out complete with beautiful views or the challenge of a new walk. History, discovery or activity; the lakes of Snowdonia have it all.

Best for… families

Llyn Geirionydd

Llyn Geirionydd promises a quintessential family day out. Hidden in Gwydir Forest just outside Llanrwst, it will take your breath away when you first catch sight of it.

You may have heard of the legendary Welsh bard, Taliesin. He lived on the shores of the lake… when he wasn’t busy entertaining at least three different Welsh kings with his unmatched singing voice that is!

Geirionydd has ample picnic space but parking can be a struggle because of its popularity with families, walkers and watersports enthusiasts. There is plenty of room to paddle, to lay out your picnic blanket, hamper and sun loungers. The water is chilly, but you’ll soon get used to it! Kids love exploring this fairytale of a place, and a walk around the lake after lunch will ensure they’ll be ready for a snooze as soon as you return to us!

Best for… accessibility

Llyn Cwellyn

Suggesting Llyn Cwellyn might be cheating, as it is a man-made reservoir that supplies drinking water to parts of Gwynedd and Anglesey rather than a lake. You’ll find it on the Gwyrfai River in Nant-Y-Betws, and for accessible lakeside strolls, Llyn Cwellyn is unbeatable.

The Janus Path takes you through the woodland alongside the very edge of Llyn Cwellyn and will show off outstanding views of Llyn Cwellyn and Mynydd Mawr to one direction, and the imposing Mount Snowdon to the other. Wheelchairs and prams will have no trouble here, as there is a boardwalk that’s fully suitable for you to use.

Best for… views

Llyn Crafnant

Since Victorian times, generations of visitors have visited the Gwydir Forest to walk the woodland paths and fish in the crystal clear waters of the nearby rivers.Llyn Crafnant lake is almost a mile long and can be found in a beautiful valley where Gwydir Forest kisses the lower slopes of the Carneddau mountains. Like Llyn Cwellyn, Crafnant is a reservoir, too. This one once supplied water to nearby Llanwrst.

At the head of Llyn Crafnant is one of the finest views in north Wales, across the lake to the mountains above. Beautiful in every season, you must ensure you have a camera – your friends won’t believe you’ve been somewhere so pretty!

Best for… natural history lovers

Llyn Idwal

In 1954, Cwm Idwal became the first National Nature Reserve in Wales and its popularity has endured with those who enjoy nature walking, climbing, fishing and geology.

Llyn Idwal is a deep hollow filled with crystal clear waters that was sculpted by ice through the process of glaciation. The area is internationally renowned for its rock formations and its rare and fragile plant life. If you visit, we encourage you to have a look at the landscape and think about how it was formed. Follow the folds and faults and marvel at the tumultuous forces which pushed up these mountains 450 million years ago. More recently, the last Ice Age gouged out Cwm Idwal’s massive natural amphitheatre.

The polished boulders, the moraine and the enormous scree slopes all contribute to the drama of the lake, but the wildlife is fascinating too, and just as old! Beyond the reach of the local goats, there’s an abundance of rare Arctic alpine plants, including the moss campion, Snowdon lily, alpine lady’s mantle and purple saxifrage.

We love Llyn Idwal, but please bear in mind that all routes are uneven underfoot and the terrain can be difficult even in good conditions, so make sure you’re game for a challenge and wearing suitable footwear.

Best for… walking

Llyn Elsi

Beyond the good-natured bustle of Betws-Y-Coed, this idyllic mountain lake of Llyn Elsi is hidden amidst the mixed fir and broadleaf woodlands high above the village. As you ascend towards the lake, please don’t curse us! The route is steep to begin with and then levels out, don’t worry. As you reach the water, turn right towards the Ancaster Memorial to be rewarded with wide ranging mountain views of Snowdonia. The work in total is 4 miles and taking the terrain into account, it should take a couple of hours to complete.

The lake is only a small one, but that’s part of its charm. It feels like you’ve discovered a great secret. The path closely follows the lake with views of the island that supports nesting seagulls and geese. On the more elevated spots, you can see for miles! One of the reasons we think that Llyn Elsi is such a good walk is because there are plenty of pubs to reward yourself with a refreshing pint or crisp glass of wine after a good leg stretching in wonderful surroundings!

Awesome autumn in Llanberis: our favourite things to do when the leaves fall

And, just like that, autumn is upon us! With the cosy season officially starting this week, social media timelines are chock full of glowing candles, grinning pumpkins and steaming hot chocolates – all iconic emblems of this transformational time of year.

We’re so lucky here in North Wales that every season delivers something memorable to experience; that’s why we pride ourselves on being an all year round destination. Autumn is no different. So dig out your scarf and wellies, your big coat and your woolly hat, and let’s run through our favourite things to do around our hotel this autumn. 

autumn in Llanberis

1. Go for a walk

You don’t need to be a hardened hiker to access stunning vistas and tranquil landscapes when staying at the Royal Victoria. There are several fantastic walks within a stone’s throw of the hotel that can be enjoyed by walkers of all ages and abilities. 

If the weather’s looking a bit iffy or you’re not keen on making an ascent, take the Lon Las Peris walk around Llyn Padarn. This meandering 8km flat route is suitable for wheelchairs, buggies and bicycles, and rewards with beautiful views of the village and surrounding slate landscape.

If you don’t fancy walking too far, take a stroll through the hotel grounds and visit the medieval Welsh castle of Dolbadarn. Once the seat of Welsh princes, the fortress served as the guardian of the Nant Peris valley against invaders. Learn more about Dolbadarn’s history here

Feeling more adventurous? Explore some of the waymarked trails of the Padarn Country Park. There are a variety of routes to choose from, all taking in some interesting natural landmarks and relics of Llanberis’s slate mining past. 

Go for an autumn train ride up Snowdon

2. Take the train up Snowdon

We think a trip on the Snowdon Mountain Railway should be on every visitor’s bucket list when visiting Llanberis! 

Sadly, COVID restrictions have prevented the train from travelling all the way to the summit this year but there is still a daily service running to Clogwyn, the railway’s halfway station. From here you can enjoy the near 360 degree views of Snowdonia and Gwynedd or you can continue to the summit on foot via the Llanberis Path*.

Weather permitting, the train will run until the 31st of October when the railway will close until Spring 2022. As such, booking is strongly encouraged! You can book tickets here

*Please note: you should be suitably prepared if you choose to make the ascent to the summit. We have some handy tips for winter walkers here

star gaze in Snowdonia this autumn

3. Go stargazing in the Snowdonia National Park

The Snowdonia National Park was named an International Dark Sky reserve in 2015 – becoming just the tenth area in the world to be given this award. To date, there are only 13 Dark Sky Reserves in the world – proving what a prestigious honour this is and just how unique our national park is! 

Stargazing requires no specialist training or equipment – as long as you can see the stars you can stargaze! What is important, however, is to view the cosmos in an area with minimal light pollution, making sparsely populated Snowdonia the perfect location to stargaze. 

With the skies constantly changing throughout the year, it’s possible to stargaze all year round and always see something new. However, we think autumn is a particular good time of year to watch the night sky. Nightfall comes early, the sun and moon hang low in the sky and, unlike in deepest winter, it’s not too cold to be outside after dark. 

If we’ve inspired you to reach for the stars this autumn, grab your binoculars and read our blog on the best spots for stargazing in Snowdonia. 

The Conwy Valley in autumn

4. Drive through the falling leaves

What’s autumn without falling leaves? Colour is synonymous with autumn, thanks to the myriad falling leaves that spiral and swirl all around us for a few short weeks. There are several iconic locations around the world that come to mind when we think of autumn leaves and colour – New England, Canada and Japan to name but a few. 

But we’ve got autumn leaves by the barrowload right here too. On our doorstep and around Llanberis, ancient sessile oak woodland clothe the hillsides in a warming palette of toasty browns and burnished golds. 

But for the real autumn show, you need to hop in the car and go a bit further afield. The Conwy Valley, with its mix of evergreen and deciduous forest, puts on a spectacular show each autumn and is just a short drive from the Royal Victoria Hotel. Stop off in the quaint alpine village of Betws-y-Coed for the ultimate in autumn feels; here the Gwydyr Forest rises steeply on all sides transforming the valley into a treasure chest of seasonal colour. 

And remember, if you didn’t get a picture… it never happened! We’ve got some excellent advice for autumn photography right here on our blog so you can record your autumn memories to keep forever. 

Stay with us this autumn

We think the Royal Victoria Hotel is the perfect base for exploring Snowdonia this autumn. Located at the edge of the Snowdonia National Park and at the heart of UNESCO’s slate heritage landscape, our hotel offers easy access to the best days out and experiences this autumn. Book your stay today