Snowdonia’s sparkling winter wonderlands

Christmas in Betws y Coed

Betws y Coed looks as good as trendy French ski resorts Morzine or Courchevel in the snow.

 

In the words of our very own national treasure, Tom Jones, baby, it’s cold outside!

If, as many weather pundits are predicting, Winter 16/17 turns out to be a bit on the chilly side (remember 2010?) people everywhere will be talking about the prospect of a white Christmas.

Because of our small size and proximity to the coast, North Wales enjoys an extremely temperate climate all year round making white Christmasses here few and far between. Even in mountainous parts of our region – thankfully – hard winters are rare; although snow on the peaks of the Snowdonia National Park is a view we are privileged to enjoy from the hotel year in year out!

Snow, wherever and whenever it falls, transforms our surroundings and there is no greater transformation than when it falls here. North Wales, a rugged and gentle landscape by turns, becomes a truly magical place. Wander the streets of Betws y Coed and you could be mistaken for thinking you are in a stylish Alpine resort. Hike the hills surrounding Llanberis and you could be ‘north of the wall’ in a bleak and dramatic scene from blockbuster TV show, Game of Thrones.

Come with us on a sparkly seasonal walk through some of our favourite North Wales winter wonderlands. Grab a warm coat, pop on your toasty socks, and let’s make some snow angels!

An alpine stroll in Betws y Coed

Lit up by twinkling Christmas lights and decorated to celebrate the season of goodwill, Betws y Coed looks as good as trendy French ski resorts Morzine or Courchevel in the snow. This village, pretty any time of the year, really comes into its own dressed up with a covering of the white stuff.

Take a walk along the riverbank from Pont y Pair to the Miner’s Bridge. It’s accessible part of the way and takes in a variety of winter scenery including icicle-laden waterfalls, icing sugar meadows and silent, sparkling evergreen forest. A visit to Betws in the snow is as close to taking stroll through a Christmas card as you’ll ever get, this side of the North Pole!

After your walk, warm up with a hot drink and a hearty meal at the popular Stables Bar at the Royal Oak Hotel, a mecca for hikers, bikers and shoppers to Betws y Coed.

Ffestiniog Railway – the magic begins!

The Harry Potter movies have become synonymous with Christmas TV and we invite you and the family to recreate the snowy journey of the Hogwarts Express right here in Snowdonia.

Take a trip on the historic Ffestiniog Railway, from Porthmadog to Blaenau Ffestiniog, for a blizzarding, wizarding experience. Along the way you will see frozen lakes and waterfalls, magically turned to gold by the piercing winter sunlight. Look up and the view will quite literally take your breath away; white mountain tops wreathed in mysterious winter mists.

Throughout December, you can join Santa at one of several special events held on the Welsh Highland Railway as he trades in his sleigh for steam to meet children, young and old, on a special festive trip. With presents for the believers and mince pies for everyone else, it’s a really fun and memorable family occasion. Owing to the popularity of the Santa Trains, booking is essential!

Pace or peace in the Gwydir forest

If just the sight of the white stuff starts you daydreaming about hitting the slopes, then you should make the perilous journey up to Nant Bwlch yr Haearn when the snow sets in. Okay, so you can’t strap on your skis but you can take advantage of the Marin Trail and all the thrills this world-renowned mountain biking trail has to offer. A test of skills in any weather, the route is particularly tricky and even more challenging in icy conditions.

If you’re more aprés-ski than thrillseeker, you might prefer to explore the area on foot. Managed by Natural Resources Wales, the Gwydir Forest has well-maintained paths through brooding pine forest and across sparkling, silver moorland.

With the snow lying all around, a pale blue sky above and silence, but for the drip-drip of melting icicles, we think it’s as close to a winter winter wonderland as you’ll ever get.

Image courtesy of: Bob Abell and licensed for reuse under this Creative Commons Licence.

Our pick of North Wales fireworks displays in 2016

fireworks-804838_960_720Bonfire Night is a uniquely British custom that has been celebrated for hundreds of years. Each year, Brits up and down the country mark this significant day in our history by hosting or attending fireworks displays big and small, public and private.

Organised firework displays are much easier and typically more impressive than anything you can hold in your own garden and often include other entertainment such as music, food stalls, a public bonfire, and somewhere to keep dry if the weather turns.

If you do decide to have a garden display though, be safe. Only light one firework at a time, using an appropriate lighter, well away from spectators, and never return to a lit firework. Duds and spent fireworks should never ever be thrown on the bonfire. Make sure you’re prepared: read the full Firework Code here.

There are lots of public North Wales fireworks displays going on over the next couple of weeks, here’s our pick of the best.

North Wales Fireworks: Friday 4 November

Parc Eirias in Colwyn Bay is hosting its dazzling annual display on 4 November from 7pm. This is one of the biggest displays in Conwy County. We advise you to plan your journey in advance as there are a number of roadworks surrounding the venue that could potentially cause congestion on the night. Admission is free but donations are welcome, with half the proceeds going towards the Firefighters’ Charity.

Criccieth’s bonfire and fireworks takes place near Dylan’s Restaurant at the end of the town beach. The bonfire will be lit at 6.30pm with fireworks at 8pm. Hot street food is available along with live music and children’s entertainment. Entry is free but donations are encouraged to pay for the fireworks.

North Wales Fireworks: Saturday 5 November

Bonfire Night itself is a Saturday this year, and there are plenty of celebrations due to take place on Guy Fawkes Day proper.

 

Caernarfon’s annual display takes place near the historic castle and starts from 7pm. The viewing area is the Slate Quay and Promenade.

There will be a family-friendly firework display and bonfire party at Bodafon Farm Park and, nearby, Penmaenmawr Sailing Club are hosting their annual display. The evening kicks off at 6pm with hot food and refreshments, with the bonfire lit at 6:30pm and the main event exploding into life at 7pm.

In Beaumaris there is a bonfire from 7pm and fireworks from 7:30pm, with live jazz music beforehand, continuing into the evening. There is a £5 charge for adult spectators, with under-12s admitted for free, but the funds raised are set aside to go towards paying for next year’s display – a great way to support this local community.

In Holyhead there’s a professional display on Penrhos Beach in association with Capital FM and priced at £3 for adults, with children again admitted for free and all proceeds going towards good causes in the area. This display starts a little earlier than the others – entry is from 5:45pm, the bonfire is lit at 6:15pm and the fireworks go up at 7pm, so don’t be late!

North Wales Fireworks: Saturday 12 November

It’s unusual to see firework displays scheduled other than on Bonfire Night (or the nearest weekend to it) but Llanrwst bucks that trend by holding holding the town’s annual Firework Spectacular a week later.

It’s free to watch from Glasdir Car Park, with the pyrotechnics being set off on the opposite river bank from 7pm, guaranteeing spectators are at a safe distance to take in the full spectacle overhead.

Hot drinks and food are available from 6pm and the main display itself is expected to last an impressive 20 minutes, making it well worth a visit if you’re in the area in mid-November.