If you missed the first part of my mini travel series on our long weekend break to Wales, then you can click here to have a nosy around the cottage that we stayed in and see what we got up to on our first day.Our second full day (Saturday) saw us planning to get up early and head for climbing Snowdon. We wanted to try and avoid doing it on our penultimate day in case we were feeling especially stiff for a long drive home, however we awoke Saturday morning to it being pretty rainy. Unable to get the early start we needed we decided to have a bit of a lazy morning and plan out what we were going to do. The rain was due to clear a few hours later and we decided we would hop on the steam train which was in Blaneau-Ffestiniog (the town we stayed in) down to the coast for the day.
We headed down to the train-station on foot to give the dogs the chance to fully empty their bladders before sitting on a train for an hour. We were a little nervous about how the train journey would go – Dexter hates being in the car, but as we learned over the weekend, really loves public transport and sat happily throughout the journey there and back.
The train definitely wasn’t cheap, however given the rest of our weekend was based around walking and free activities it meant that we didn’t feel too guilty about a train ride. Return tickets were £25 per adult and the dogs were charged at £3, limited to sitting in the third class carriage (where we would have chose to sit anyway!). We found a nice big table for four where the dogs could sit under the table and out the way… in theory, they crawled under neighbouring chairs and chose to lay in the middle of the aisle at times while the staff graciously told us not to move them and stepped over them.
The train was full of character and vintage charm, with wooden carriages, seats were cosy and comfortable with super cute wooden tables which featured the map and stops on the train’s route . Through the trip there was some brief information on the railway and the stops along the way – pointing out which of the many, many hills and mountains was Snowdon in the distance. And table service for drinks – both ways we enjoyed a cuppa on the go.
The train journey took around an hour each way which saw us arriving into the town of Portmadog around lunch time. We didn’t have food packed with us so we trotted off to find somewhere to grab something and go – we also realised we run out of poo bags (for the dogs, not us) so we actually ended up stopping into Wilkos and had some half-decent sandwiches whilst we were there. Our plans for Portmadog were head to Black Rock Sands – a gorgeous open beach that dogs apparently love and go crazy for – but upon our arrival looking up directions we realised it was an hour walk away (cough, Ben did not do his research properly) – and the last train back was at 4pm so with the walk there and back we were really too restricted to get onto the beach.
Instead we had a walk around a little man made water reserve before taking a through-route through a field. The views were gorgeous but it was hands down the most horrible walk ever – once we veered away from the edge the field it became quite unstable and wet underfoot. Before long I’d unexpectedly sank and had wet dripping feet and socks, I was grumpy, in pain and nearly in tears and was very thankful when we made it back to the train station and was ready to go home. Needless to say the dogs were boggy and ecstatic with their adventure through the fields, but it’s a walk I would not choose to repeat.
On the way home the weather had cleared and we had better views over the hills and was able to see the scenery. In summer the views would have been even nicer as we crossed through trees, next to waterfalls, over roads and looking over towns. The dogs were well exhausted and quiet on our journey back.
Once we were off the train, we walked back the cottage, the dogs immediately collapsed again for the night. I promptly headed to the shower after putting my walking boots on the radiator to dry out. In the evening we settled in to the most disappointing Chinese Takeaway ever (to be fair it wasn’t reviewed great online, but choices for takeaways were so limited!), we watched a few movies before switching off for the night for the big climb.
Easter Sunday we woke up to the sun shining and the skies clear – we had a hearty breakfast and headed over to Snowdon planning to take the easier route called “Pen-y-Pass” to the top. We were expecting that there wouldn’t be that many mad people on Easter Sunday climbing – especially as early as we were there, but arrived to a full car park and had to go down the road a few miles to the park and ride, where there were buses and taxis available to take you back to the top. We decided to get a bus up (thinking it would be cheaper, but the price per person turned out to be the same as the taxis!) where the dogs were well fussed by strangers and it was yet again another mode of public transportation they enjoyed.
Pen-y-Pass is deemed the beginner route to the top and whilst I’m no mountain climber I obviously walk a lot with the dogs – I think you definitely have to be willing to either take your time and do the walk over 6+ hours or be fit. Like I said in earlier posts I was still half recovering from a Chest Infection (and I’m still getting over it a month or so on!) and it didn’t put me in best stead for the walk.
The walk starts as a steady winding incline on a wide pathway, it’s a comfortable walk and compared to other routes you’re not having to scramble around on an uneven surface. We kept the dogs on their leads for the entire of the way up there which helped pull us up to the top but we were unsure as to how well they were also going to cope with the hills (we’re from such a flat area of the country that molehills are basically marked on the map as a gradient). The boys were all well behaved and patient with me being slow, thirsty and coughing. There was one point where I got severe pins and needles in both of my legs and had to stop as I didn’t feel in control of my feet and thought I was going to start tripping over the cobbled paths.
Even as a beginner walk – it didn’t stop the views from being beautiful. The walk starts as a steady incline which has views of the hills surrounding Mount Snowdon, the sun was shining over the hills and it made for a very beautiful walk and yet again I was too hot and de-robing – (proudly the only person towards the end not wearing a coat). the route levels out as you pass over a lake…. which yes – Charlie of course dived into promptly. If you are a beginner and struggle this would have been a semi good place to walk to and turn around without too much strain (and still seeing some lovely scenery on the way! After this walk started to get steeper and rockier under foot. About 3/4 of the way up I declared with tears in my eyes I didn’t think I could continue so Ben encouraged me to keep going a bit further before we stopped half an hour for lunch and for me to pull myself together.
Whilst we were hoping to make it all the way to the top we learnt from other people coming back down that we would have needed clamps and ice picks to make it on foot which we were unprepared for – so we made it pretty much as far as we could go and that will be a journey for another day. There was a second lake just below where a steep area called the zig zag starts and lots of paths meet together, it’s narrower, busier and more rocky and we didn’t think the dogs would handle it too well. So we enjoyed the lake, Charlie watched another spaniel painfully jumping into the snow melt lake and was very happy to be let off the lead to jump in (in fact as you see from the picture below he didn’t even wait to be let off the lead!) – although he was definitely shocked at the temperature.
The walk down was much easier and took us around 1.5 hours to get down versus the 3 or so hours to get up. We decided to let Charlie off the lead for most of the way down and he thoroughly enjoyed not staying to the path and running up and down the hills (playing fake fetch – he’s a stupid dog who is easily entertained, we didn’t dare throw a ball and it end up rolling forever!). I do think it’s a walk that most people could manage however you either have to be well prepared in Winter or do it in better weather in summer.
Don’t underestimate the importance of walking boots and comfortable leggings/trousers. Start early and prepare to take regular breaks if you’re struggling. Sitting down for 5 minutes every 20-30 minutes may have been annoying to some but I wouldn’t have made it without it and it would have been far less enjoyable if I was powering through it breathless and in pain. I do recommend being full over a chest infection too.
Once we arrived at the bottom I found a toilet and did the most needed pee break of my life (there’s none between the bottom and the very top!). We decided to get the taxi back down to our car after finding out it was the same price as the bus and it was yet another mode of transport that Dexter had no issue with. We got back to the car and headed back to home via a semi scenic route but after our phones said we’d done 15k steps and the equivalent of 78 flights of stairs we were pretty much done for the day.
At home it was another case of the dogs collapsing for the night, us putting our our pyjamas early and glad that we had a prepared roast ready to just put in the oven with no effort. Guess what? Another night of movies on the sofa was in order and I was dozing off early. After biting off the head of my white chocolate rabbit easter egg.
The next morning we woke up to a heavy coating of snow, Ben and Charlie dosed off on the sofa and it was clear that we were not going to be out of the cottage quite on time! Once we’d finally packed up and got out of the cottage as quickly as we could the snow on a bank holiday weekend on already ropey roads meant that our journey home felt like it took forever!
One of the things I really wanted to do this year was travel to more this year within the UK to places we’d not been (or not been in such a long time!) and this was the perfect stop to discovering things “on our doorstep” (even though it was a 4-5 hour drive! So much so that our lovely break away has caused us to book a holiday with my parents, sister and brother in law to be this year in August to go back to South Wales, Pembrokeshire – an area we spent a lot of time in as kids and teenagers but Ben has never been and neither has my sister’s fiance, so it’s a trip we’re all looking forward to!