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Snowdonia is a historical region and national park that encompasses Wales’ most mountainous region. Popular with British for weekend getaways, the international exposure of Snowdonia is growing every year. It’s not hard to see why, Snowdonia is an exciting, mesmerizing and must-see destination.
Looking to plan a trip to Snowdonia? Here’s what you need to know.
When to Visit Snowdonia
Snowdonia is a year-round destination. An oceanic climate means the region rarely experiences extreme hot or cold weather. For example, the town of Porthmadog has a year-round average high of 55F and low of 45F, for example.
The weather is warmest May through September. Winter is a bit colder, with very short days at that latitude. You may see the occasional snowfall, especially at elevation. Spring is pleasant and autumn brings some pretty autumn colors along with the shorter days.
Just remember – it’s is often overcast and damp, even in summer. Pack and outfit yourself sensibly, with layers, rain gear, gloves and hat, all times of year.
How to Get to Snowdonia
Snowdonia is only a few hours from any of the largest cities in England or Wales, and is easy to reach by road, rail or by air. If you’re coming from Ireland, you can even take a ferry.
For our guide, we’re focusing on four main towns for basing in: Betws-y-coed, Barmouth, Nant Gywnat/Beddelgert, and Bala, all of which serve as good points for which to jump off on adventures.
By Train: While there are train and bus connections to various parts around Snowdonia, the mountains mean it’s not well serviced by train. You can get to Barmouth in just over 3.5 hours from Birmingham. Betws-y-Coed can be reached from London in about 5.5 hours, with a couple of changes. We rarely take the train to Snowdonia though, and we recommend renting a car and making the drive on your own – it’ll be much easier to get around, too.
By Plane: Snowdonia is less than two hours’ drive from Manchester and Liverpool, and only 2.5 hours from Birmingham. These three international airports service dozens of cities throughout the UK and internationally.
By Car: Snowdonia is easy to access from the rest of Britain, with good roads. We recommend a car to get around, as the tiny roads and relatively infrequent (when there is any) bus services mean that having your own car is a real benefit.
Where to Stay in Snowdonia
Snowdonia is a large National Park, and the options for where to stay are endless. We have outlined four locations that we’ve enjoyed staying, though there are more. If we were pressed to choose where to stay, we love Betws-y-Coed or Barmouth.
Betws-y-Coed is located at the northeastern corner of Snowdonia, making it a good jumping point for the many outdoor adventures in the north part of the park; it’s under 30 minutes from the trailhead to Snowdon itself. There is tons of lodging, some good eats a few gear rental shops you can hit up before heading out on your adventures.
For classy digs, check out the Craig-y-Dwerden Riverside Hotel – a 4-star hotel perched on 16 acres of gardens above the River Conwy. You’ll be put in some pretty luxurious, refined rooms, some of which have whirlpools or hot tubs, and get some delicious breakfast as well as afternoon tea (if you’re around).
Less luxurious lodging can be found at the Fairhaven Guest House, a cozy BnB with simple-but-cozy rooms and delicious breakfast. They even have bike storage on site, so you can just ride right up and spend the night.
For a simpler stay, head to the Vagabond Bunkhouse; it’s a cozy hostel with both dorm beds and private rooms. There’s a full kitchen for preparing your own meals, a cozy lounge with fireplace and bar, and on-site bike storage – as well as bike rentals. The prices are pretty great, too.
Finally, consider staying at the YHA hostel in Betws-y-Coed. Though located about 2.5 miles from the train station at Betws-y-Coed, it is a great hostel. The camping pods, booked out well in advance, are really special.
Barmouth is a charming seaside town on Cardigan Bay, where the rolling mountains of Snowdonia meet the white, sandy beaches and inlets of the Irish Sea. This is a great place to combine a beach holiday with some walking.
In sunny weather, Barmouth relaxing beach town. When wet and stormy, it’s a great place to see turbulent, stormy seas. It’s also a great spot to hit up the southern part of Snowdonia, close to a few of our favorite hiking spots.
The coolest place to stay in Barmouth is Tyr Graig Castle, a 4-star spot sitting on a cliff overlooking the sea. Rooms are luxurious– yet still affordable for a hotel this nice. They serve free breakfast and the restaurant serves up good eats with ocean views.
Crystal House Hotel is a relaxed BnB, perfect for unpretentious lodging in the center of town. The breakfast is superb and the location even better – right across the street from the beach. Doesn’t get better than this for most of us.
Finally, if you’re looking to shack up in a cheap (but super-clean) hostel, Bunkorama is a quick drive (about 1.5 miles) out of town, overlooking the ocean. You can snag a bunk for as little as 15 a night, get access to the lounge, BBQ are and kitchen. There also campsites and cabins for rent. Great for those just passing through, backpacking or biking their way through Snowdonia.
The village of Nant Gwynant sits at the base of Snowdon, making it a popular spot for walkers, backpackers and climbers – and a great spot to base yourself for some of our walks. It’s about 4 miles down the road from Beddelgert, a larger village with more amenities.
If you’re looking for classy comfort in of these two villages, we suggest the Royal Goat Hotel. This family-run spot has simple but comfortable rooms, with breakfast and parking are included. Decently-priced and a short walk from all Beddelgert has to offer.
We also really like the Bryn Eglwys Hotel. In a converted farmhouse just outside of town, it has large and cozy rooms in a pastoral setting. Double rooms and family-sized rooms are available, breakfast is included, and pets are welcome.
Finally, if you just want to stay as close to the action as possible (and by action we mean the trails), check out the YHA Snowdown Bryn Gwynant up in Nant Gwyant. Run by the Youth Hostel Association, this hostel has both private ensuite rooms and dorm-style bunks in an old stone Victorian mansion, which is pretty cool. Breakfast and dinner are served, and you’re only 3 miles from the Watkin Path to Snowdon, so it’s prime for getting an early start on the climb. (There’s another excellent YHA hostel a few more miles up the road at Pen-y-Pass).
Bala is on the far eastern side of Snowdonia and is the easiest to get to from London. It’s not as close to many of our top hikes, but is a great spot for visiting some of the lesser visited parts of the region, as well as for whitewater rafting and kayaking down Afon Tryweryn.
For comfort, you’ll like staying in the White Lion Royal Hotel. It isn’t fancy, but the rooms are large, spacious and comfortable. The breakfast in the morning s really good, and the food at the grill is great. The staff was super nice, too – great, welcoming hospitality.
You could also stay at the Plas Yn Dre. Cozy and traditional, it’s the best-ranked hotel in Bala, only a short walk from the lake. You’ll love warming up by the fireplace in the lounge after a chilly day on the river.
Backpackers will feel right at home at the perfectly-named Bala Backpackers hostel. It isn’t fancy, but it’s a clean place to rest your head for the night – and it’s cheap. You’ll likely meet some cool, interesting people to chat to, too.
Where to Eat in Snowdonia
We love going out to eat in Snowdonia. Obviously, a cozy pub is a great option anywhere in the UK, but we find a cozy pub lunch extra special in Snowdonia, especially after a great walk. There is also great, fresh seafood, especially in some Barmouth Restaurants.
For a small town, there’s a pretty good selection of eats in Betws-y-Coed.
If you’d like to try some traditional Welsh food, we suggest the aptly-named Bistro Betws-y-Coed; they have some classics like risotto, mushrooms and veal, as well as some more-modern selections, as well.
Fine dining can be had at the Llugwy River Restaurant, located at the Royal Oak Hotel. They have a selection of classic Welsh eats, among others, and are known for using fresh, local ingredients, rotating the menu for what’s in season.
If you just want to grab a sandwich or kebab to-go, try Bwyd i Fynd; they’ve got everything from kebabs to breakfast sandwiches, to grilled Welsh cakes. After a day on the trail, head over and grab an ice cream cone, try their homemade fudge, or get a jar of their jams.
Also, don’t forget to jumpstart a day on the trails with a hot brew from the Alpine Coffee Shop. They’ve got some great breakfast and pastries, and you can also swing in for some afternoon tea.
Like seafood? The Captain’s Table cooks up fresh seafood just feet from the beach (that’s how you know it’s fresh!) in casual digs at great prices. They have plenty of gluten-free options, and the halibut is delicious.
If you just want something quick and casual, check out Murray’s Café Bar for coffee, breakfast and lunch, or Harbour Fish Bar for classic British Fish and Chips.
Food choices are a bit more limited here. Hebog Eat is a great place to grab a casual bite, with burgers, soups, salads and sandwiches. The outdoor seating is great on a sunny day, and people love the cheesecake!
Glaslyn Ices has delicious ice cream you should check out after a day hiking or biking. Great for the kids. Unfortunately, they recently stopped serving pizza.
Tanronnen Inn also has a bar and restaurant, serving up classic pub fare, beers and more. It gets lively at night, too! A great place to unwind after a long night.
Bala has perhaps the most eclectic dining options on our list. Bala Spice serves up authentic Indian food in a modern and fun environment – we love curry, so this is worth checking out. Be warned they only take cash.
Fish and chips? Head to Badell Aur restaurant. Want to try some Italian? Y Cyfnod Café and Bistro is fantastic; breakfast, lunch and dinner, authentic Italian cuisine paired with some fresh local food. Don’t forget to swing by for a cappuccino for breakfast!
What to Do in Snowdonia
Most visitors to Snowdonia go for the excellent walking, with a trip up Snowdon on most tourists bucket list. There’s hundreds (or more) of kilometers of good walking in Snowdonia, all over the park; you can see our favorite hikes here.
If there is one hike you cannot miss, it’s the trip up to the top of Snowdon itself. If you’re bringing the family, you may want to hike Llyn Ogwen, north of Snowdon. It’s a pretty easy hike suitable for all ages and skill levels, but circles around a scenic lake and gives you some unbeatable views of Tryfan and Glyderau.
If you’re staying in Barmouth, there’s a great hike up to the top of the mountain above the town, where you can look out across Cardigan Bay and the Irish Sea and down at the Afon Mawdacch estuary.
Backpacking and camping is a great way to see the park but bear in mind that much of the land in Snowdonia is privately owned.
Right of way for hiking is guaranteed, but you are only allowed to “wild camp” with the permission of the landowner. If they ask you leave, you are obligated to move on. If you do receive permission to camp anywhere in the park, be sure to follow the usual rules: camp at least 100 meters from any water source, as well as from buildings and houses. Clean up your trash and respect the landowner’s property.
Snowdonia is a veritable mountain bike paradise and a magnet for adrenaline junkies from all over Britain. There’s lots of good downhill and cross-country biking, and even some single-track, across some classic British terrain with expansive views. Several businesses offer bike rentals and shuttle service to the top of many great trails.
If you’re staying near Nant Gwynant, you can rent a bike and get a shuttle from Antur Stiniog in Blaneau Ffestiniog, or head over to Coed Gwydr in Betws-y-Coed. If you’re staying at Barmouth, check out the Dyfi Trails; the closest bike shop is Dollgellau Cyles in Dolgellau.
Whitewater Rafting and Kayaking
One reason to stay in Bala is that you’re only minutes from some of the best, most exciting whitewater rafting in Wales, on the Afon Tryweryn. It’s 19km of Class III rapids and waterfalls, and very popular with many kayakers because of the nearly unlimited access to the headwaters.
What Else to Know About Visiting Castle Provincial Park?
- The weather in Wales – especially near the coast – is frequently wet, cloudy and foggy. Bring good raingear, including rain pants and extra layers. Visibility is also frequently limited up high, and it can be easy to lose your bearings.
- As Snowdonia consists mainly of farmland, you’re bound to come across sheep grazing in the hillsides and in the valleys during your hikes. Sheep farming has been big in Wales for almost a millennium, so respect them and remember you’re in their territory.