North Wales’s craggy peaks and lonely lakes are a tonic at any time of year, but they’re loveliest in spring: dainty wildflowers carpet the woodlands, waterfalls thunder and the grass glows on sunny days. Half a million people climb Mount Snowdon every year, but it’s easy to escape the crowds in Wales’s oldest national park and walks range from soothing ambles to tough hill trails. If hiking isn’t your thing, there’s also mountain biking, paddleboarding, gorge-scrambling, kayaking, caving and whizzing down record-breaking zip lines. When it pours (there’s a reason these hills are so green), take cover in quirky cafés and cosy pubs.
The best things to do in Snowdonia
Moel Siabod Café in Capel Curig is a one-stop shop for hungry hikers: generous breakfasts, packed lunches, lardy cakes, maps and free advice from the friendly owners. In Beddgelert, Caffi Gwynant serves up gorgeous brunches in a converted chapel. But choose wisely – you may struggle to waddle anywhere after the buttermilk chicken waffle slathered with maple butter.
Zip World has transformed a disused slate quarry and mine into adventure playgrounds. Hurtle head first down the world’s fastest zip line at Penrhyn Quarry. Not mad about heights? Scale underground waterfalls, traverse mineshafts and zoom down the world’s longest and deepest zip lines on Go Below’s caving trips.
Book a table at Olif in Betws-y-Coed for Welsh tapas and towering burgers. Try the fiery Y Ddraig Goch (Red Dragon) burger which is topped with Snowdonia Red Devil cheddar, locally made chorizo and giant onion rings. Hangin’ Pizzeria, just by Betws-y-Coed station, does a crispy, wood-fired Welsh Rarebit pizza as well as more conventional 12-inchers.
The Snowdonia Sherpa bus transports ramblers between villages and trailheads. Hop off at the National Trust’s Ogwen Cottage, which is the starting point for two glorious walks: a challenging trek up to Llyn Idwal, a crystal-clear lake surrounded by hulking cliffs; and a leisurely stroll around Llyn Ogwen – King Arthur’s sword Excalibur is said to lie at the bottom of its lonely waters.
There are plenty of historic pubs stocking North Wales’s new craft beers, but check out the gin list too. Snowdonia boasts several distilleries including the award-winning Aber Falls, which does tours and tastings. Step back in time with a pint of real ale at the Pen-y-Gwyrd Hotel, a memorabilia-stuffed inn at the foot of Snowdon that hasn’t changed since Sir Edmund Hillary used it as a training base for his Everest expedition in 1953.
Spy Ireland, Scotland and the Isle of Man from Mount Snowdon’s 1,085-metre summit. A dinky century-old train pootles up it several times a day, but that top-of-the-world feeling is even better when you’ve walked up. Plus you can justify an oggie (a Welsh pasty) and a slab of homemade cake from the café. For the most dramatic views, take the steep Llwybr Pyg (Pig Track) up, winding past glassy lakes and rocky ridges.
The phrase ‘five-star hostel’ sounds like a contradiction until you step inside The Rocks at Plas Curig. It has everything you expect from a hostel – dorms, a drying room for damp boots, a huge self-catering kitchen – but the aesthetic is more boutique hotel, with bold colours, snug corners and a roaring wood-burning stove. Not to mention the excellent selection of local ales and a firepit for balmy nights. Each bunkbed has its own curtain and bedside lamp so you can cocoon yourself. Or there are double and family rooms for those who value their privacy. Hike straight out the front door in the morning – the hostel sits in the shadow of Moel Siabod, one of Snowdonia’s most scenic peaks. At the end of the day, you can watch the sun set behind Mount Snowdon. From £22.50 a night.