North Wales in a weekend: culture

The culture of North Wales is a rich and vibrant beast: all branches of the arts are well-represented in both languages; here there are innumerable galleries, theatres, museums and libraries; with many cultural activities taking place all year round.

Both country and coast are strewn with cultural sites. World Heritage sites, slate quarries and ancient shrines dot the landscape. You will see and hear the musical lilt of the Welsh language everywhere you go – if you know a few phrases, try them out! You won’t be disappointed by our response. We Welsh just love to share our cultural identity, whether it’s through words, music and art or new initiatives like Ein Treftadaeth (Our Heritage) which brings the past to life in many different ways.

Close to the ancient heart of Snowdonia – a landscape bursting with myths and legends – and just a short drive to the coast – with its lip smacking restaurants and thrilling watery-based activities – there’s many ways to get a taste of Welsh culture when enjoying a stay at the Royal Victoria Hotel.

Selecting just two cultural gems was tough but we think you’ll be pleased with our choices. We think they are really great places to get a taste of Welsh culture, so much so, they will have you coming back for seconds!

Museum North Wales

Saturday – National Slate Museum

The National Slate Museum, our first cultural hub, is just a short stroll from the hotel. As you leave the hotel, turn right, and then turn right again when you see the brown tourist signs for the museum. Follow the signs along a lush wooded lane, the museum is about ten minutes walk – take your time and enjoy the scenery, the views of Llyn Padarn and Peris are breathtaking!

The slate industry brought economic prominence to Welsh communities. During the Industrial Revolution Wales was an attractive proposition for ambitious innovators and forward-thinking businessmen. Slate wrested from the mountains of Snowdonia roofed buildings all over the world and rural Welsh communities, like Llanberis, became important centres of trade and commerce.

Learn more about our proud industrial heritage and get hands-on too at the National Slate Museum. Sitting on the shores of Llyn Padarn and adjacent to the charming Gilfach Ddu Station (a stop on the charming Llanberis Lake Railway) the museum occupies buildings that were once the workshops of the Dinorwic Quarry.

From craftsmanship and community, to strikes and suffering, the museum provides a unique glimpse into the lives of over three thousand slate workers and their families. Wander through the workshops and experience what it was like to work here at the height of slate production. The workshops have been left just as if the workmen have downed tools and gone for a break – it’s very authentic! Learn how to split slate with a master craftsman or visit Fron Haul, a row of quarrymens’ cottages, fitted out to reflect different periods in slate minings history.

Currently, the museum is home to Merched Chwarel, a project curated by a group of four female artists: Marged Pendrell, Jŵls Williams, Lisa Hudson and Lindsey Colbourne, whose work is connected to the quarries of North Wales where they each live and work. The exhibition aims to document the role of women in slate mining, exploring their physical presence in what was assumed to be a male-dominated industry.

If you want to take home a slice of welsh culture for yourself, visit Fframia. Next door to the museum, this workshop and gallery has been operating in Llanberis for over 20 years. It sells limited-edition art prints by celebrated Welsh artists such as Keith Bowen, Gerald Gadd, Rob Piercy and William Selwyn. Choose from a wide range of images that include landscapes of Snowdonia, cottages, castles and Welsh rural life.

Sunday – Yr Ysgwrn

Yr Ysgwrn in Trawsfynydd is not your typical Welsh farmhouse. The home reflects a period of social, cultural and agricultural history intrinsic to the story of Wales. Beloved bard Hedd Wyn’s life and death are representative of an entire generation of young men from Wales, Britain and Europe, who made the ultimate sacrifice during the First World War.

From the hotel, Yr Ysgwrn is around 30 miles away, and can be reached by heading south along A498 and A4085. The drive takes about an hour, meandering through Snowdonia National Park and along the Afon Colwyn.

The reason that Yr Ysgwrn is such a cultural hotspot is because of its devotion to preserving the bardic tradition, Welsh language and culture. Hedd Wyn was the bardic name of Ellis Humphrey Evans, a young man killed on the first day of the Battle of Passchendaele in Belgium (31 July 1917). Shortly after, the National Eisteddfod took place in Birkenhead on Merseyside. As today, the greatest prize and honour for poets in Wales was to win the Eisteddfod Chair. In 1917, the honour was posthoumously awarded to Wynn for his poignant poem, Yr Arwr (The Hero). When his name was announced, there was no answer. Instead, the chair was draped in a black cloth, witnessed from the stage by the then Prime Minister and war-time leader, David Lloyd-George.

Hedd Wyn is just one of a long line of honoured bards that stretch back to the first chairing, possibly in 1176! Not only do the books, poems and chairs at Yr Ysgwrn represent the bardic tradition in Wales, but also one of the oldest languages and cultures in Europe.

The farmhouse has been renovated, along with the famous Black Chair, and the visitor centre houses an exhibition that charts the impact of war on the community. The farm itself is home to the man responsible for keeping the memory of Hedd Wyn alive – his nephew Gerald Williams.

When visiting Yr Ysgwrn, you really get a feel for how people used to live in rural Wales. In addition to the farmhouse, there are hourly guided visits, a tea room and shop, an exhibition of Hedd Wyn’s work, Yr Ysgwrn family and the Trawsfynydd community, and a short film about the effects of the First World War. All of Yr Ysgwrn’s public buildings are accessible to wheelchairs and prams.

The Royal Victoria Hotel enjoys the perfect setting for embarking on North Wales’s best adventures. Book now and start planning your unforgettable weekend adventure.

Image courtesy: Yr Ysgwrn by © Copyright Alan Fryer and licensed for reuse under this Creative Commons Licence.

Tackle the top 3 Grade 1 scrambles on Snowdon

Perhaps you’ve already walked up Snowdon and you’re looking for a new challenge. Maybe you’ve tried a little scrambling and you’re keen to try some more.

Then why not head back to Snowdon?

This fabulous mountain also boasts some great scrambles. You’ll beat the crowds off the main paths and still have all that stunning scenery to admire.

Here we outline three Grade 1 scrambles, meaning they are the “easiest” of scrambling routes. Please do not make the mistake, though, of thinking any scramble is easy. Apply the same rules for safe walking in the mountains even more so if you’re considering clambering over steeper rock. One of these scrambles – Grib Goch – combines scrambling with a huge dose of exposure on a knife-edge ridge. If your knees are already trembling at the thought, perhaps avoid that one for now.

So let’s leave those main footpaths on Snowdon and head for a little adventure on the rocks. Ready?

1. Y Gribin Ridge

 

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As the surfaced section of the Miner’s Track reaches the glacial lake of Glaslyn, look left and note a fairly broad ridge mixing rock with grass that narrows and steepens as it heads towards the bwlch (pass) between Snowdon summit and the fearsome-looking ramparts of Y Lliwedd (East ridge) further to the left. This is Y Gribin Ridge (marked Cribau on the Ordnance Survey Explorer map), and it’s where you are heading for a short but enjoyable Grade 1 scramble.

Cross Glaslyn’s outflow stream and head for the ridge, where you immediately have the option of trying out some easy scrambling on rock or keeping to a footpath. There’s a flatter section at around 650m where it’s worth a stop to catch your breath.

Ahead, the ridge steepens considerably. This is the true scramble of Y Gribin, but it’s not very long. Head for two rock outcrops and like most ridge walks, following the crest is the best option. Look for smoothed or scuffed rock and small scree scars of footpath between steps (rocky ledges) – this is your best route. Scramble up a series of steps until you reach the twin outcrops. You can choose to climb between them or avoid and keep to the right. The nice thing about Y Gribin, if you’re just starting out, is that there is frequently an alternative route to take if you’re not feeling confident.

The ridge ends quite suddenly, emerging onto a grassy slope. Head up and past a small pond and soon you reach the Watkin Path following its ascent from Cwm Tregalen. You made it! Now you have a choice – keep right and head for Snowdon summit, follow the Watkin Path back down to Nant Gwynant, or keep left and tackle another of our Grade 1 scrambles, Y Lliwedd.

2. Y Lliwedd

 

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From Llyn Llydaw, Y Lliwedd appears an impenetrable wall of rock with two summits, uninspiringly known as East Peak and West Peak. Yet if you’ve ever walked the Watkin Path, you’ll know that on the other side, the slopes of Y Lliwedd – while still formidable – are far less precipitous. In many ways, scrambling Y Lliwedd makes the perfect practice run for tackling Crib Goch.

Getting to Y Lliwedd is best achieved either by using the Watkin Path, Y Gribin ridge or by any of the routes to Snowdon summit and then dropping down the Watkin Path to Bwlch y Saethau (Pass of Arrows).

Assuming you’ve taken the Watkin Path from Nant Gwynant, where the path turns left on the ridge, head right towards Y Lliwedd. The best fun to be had is to follow the crest of rock which will provide some exposure, especially the drop towards your left and Llyn Llydaw far below. In scrambling terms, this is pretty straightforward and you shouldn’t have any difficulties. If in any doubt, there is an obvious path lower down on your right hand side.

You’ll be surprised to find a small patch of grass at the summit of West Peak (898m). Stop to enjoy the views! The descent is again fairly straightforward, though with a few larger steps you’ll need your hands as well as feet to climb down.

Following the slightly lower East Peak (893m) the path descends steeply back to the southern shore of Llyn Llydaw. You can make this section as easy or challenging as you like, though you may have already had enough excitement for one day! Turn right past the green hut and follow the Miner’s Track down to Pen-y-pass.

3. Grib Goch

 

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“Red ridge” is the most popular of our Grade 1 scrambles, but also the longest and most challenging. While the scrambling is not difficult, crossing the ridge requires a head for heights, strong nerves and – unless you really know what you’re doing and you’re properly equipped – good weather. There are plenty of videos on Youtube of people walking the ridge. If it looks too much, don’t try it. Unlike our other scrambles, there is no “escape route” – once you’re on the ridge, that’s it!

There are several ways to approach Crib Goch, though here we’ll focus on the most popular and straightforward. From Pen-y-pass, follow the Pyg Track as far as two styles and a faint path heading right by a fence line. Follow a well worn path before the start of the scramble route.

Now you’re hands-on, with ledges and steps to contend with. Keep as close to the true crest as you can – veering right or left can lead to more difficult scrambling. Soon you will reach the so-called “bad step” which will test your foot and hand-holds a little more. You can avoid it by keeping left, but if you can do this, you will know that you can tackle the rest of Crib Goch’s scrambles.

If you’re heart isn’t racing yet, it soon will be – you’ll reach the knife-edge ridge of Crib Goch. To your right are sheer cliffs, to the left steep scree. How are your legs? You can walk right along the top or, if that’s too much, drop down a few feet to your left where there is a path and use the ridge as a hand-hold as you pick your way along. Don’t feel embarrassed if you choose to walk it this way – the path just below the top has been formed by many others before you doing exactly the same thing!

The exposure is serious along Crib Goch, greater than most if not all Grade 1 scrambles in the UK (and more than many higher grades of scramble, too). But take your time, have confidence in yourself, and enjoy this exhilarating experience.

Exposure is not all Crib Goch has got in store for you – there are three rock pinnacles to tackle along the way, too. They are fairly straightforward to navigate – for the first, follow an obvious gap in the rock to the left. You can avoid the second altogether or give it a go using really good hand-holds. Tackle the third via a series of obvious ledges, working from the left hand side at the base towards the right near the top.

Congratulations – you’ve made it across Crib Goch! At grassy Bwlch Coch you can drop steeply down to the Pyg Track on your left and either head back to Pen-y-pass or carry on to the summit. However, most people continue on and up Crib-y-Ddysgl, which involves more scrambling and gradually less exposure. From the summit of Crib-y-Ddysgl it’s an easy walk around to Snowdon summit. Well done – you’ve completed one of the greatest Grade 1 scrambles in the UK!

Parking and access

All three of our scrambles are accessed via Pen-y-pass and the Pyg and Miner’s Tracks. This poses your first problem of the day – parking! Unless you are a really early riser, chances are you will not get a space at Pen-y-pass.

We strongly recommend you park in Llanberis or Nant Peris and use the Snowdon Sherpa bus service, or (on Saturdays from Easter to October) the Park and Ride service from Nant Peris or Pen-y-Gwyrd. Do not be tempted to park on the verges around Pen-y-Gwyrd – parking is now forbidden except in marked pay-and-display areas.