On the rails - trains, trains, trains.
You’ll be surprised where those rails take you in this part of the world (we’ve already mentioned some on the previous pages). One railway even steams its way to the top of Snowdon. The Himalayan-style rack-and-pinion Snowdon Mountain Railway from Llanberis is ‘without doubt one of the most spectacular railway journeys’, says The Good Britain Guide. And when you get to the top there are not just the views to admire. You can also visit the stunning new Hafod Eryri Visitor Centre, designed to blend into its unique summit setting.
Llanberis is double-fortunate. It’s also home to the Llanberis Lake Railway, which runs on a scenic route through the Padarn Country Park. And in Porthmadog you’re truly spoilt for steamy choice. As well at the Ffestiniog and Welsh Highland lines (see previous pages) there’s the delightful little Welsh Highland Heritage Railway which comes with an outstanding range of railway memorabilia and exhibits. Porthmadog is also a handy place for hopping on to the Cambrian Coast mainline railway that runs along Cardigan Bay’s beaches, estuaries and headlands all the way from Aberystwyth to Pwllheli. Back in narrow-gauge land, the Bala Lake Railway is another gem, travelling sedately beside Llyn Tegid for over four miles. And deep in the Dyfi Forest at Corris enthusiasts have breathed new life into a little line originally built to serve the local quarries. The smallest of the lot in terms of gauge is the Fairbourne Railway, running across the dunes at the mouth of the Mawddach Estuary.
Penrhyn Castle, the National Trust mansion set in magnificent grounds on the outskirts Bangor, was recently voted one of the top five historic attractions in Britain by Which? History comes alive here in ways that entertain all the family.
Do-it-yourself car tour
To get you started, here’s a suggested day trip of southern Snowdonia by car from Dolgellau. Follow the A470 as it climbs up over the spectacular Bwlch yr Oerddrws mountain pass to the forest village of Dinas Mawddwy. Take the minor road over an even more dramatic pass – Bwlch y Groes, the highest in Wales – to Bala. Ride Bala’s little railway, or enjoy a picnic beside the lake before following the A4212 to Trawsfynydd. Return to Dolgellau on the A496 coast road. But will you have enough time to call into two very special places en route – Portmeirion and Harlech Castle?
Sports and leisure centres – for indoor and outdoor activities
We have many modern, well-equipped centres, so you’ll never be far from one. Many have indoor pools and most have sports halls, squash and badminton courts and outside sporting facilities (tennis courts etc). Some even have climbing walls: Arfon Leisure Centre (Caernarfon), Arfon Tennis Centre (Caernarfon), Bangor Leisure Centre, Bangor Swimming Pool, Bro Dysynni Leisure Centre (Tywyn), Bro Ffestiniog Sports Hall, Bro Ffestiniog Swimming Pool, Dwyfor Leisure Centre (Pwllheli), Dyffryn Conwy Leisure Centre (Llanrwst), Glan Wnion Leisure Centre (Dolgellau), Glaslyn Leisure Centre (Porthmadog), Hamdden Harlech and Ardudwy Leisure Centre, Llandudno Junction Leisure Centre, Llanrwst Swimming Pool, Pavilion Leisure Centre (Barmouth/Abermaw), Penllyn Leisure Centre (Bala), Plas Ffrancon Leisure Centre (Bethesda) and Plas Silyn Leisure Centre (Penygroes).
Discover Gwynedd’s Wildlife
Our website has lots of information on nature and wildlife, mountains and sea, woods and rivers and new places to discover. Learn about the Manx shearwater, Atlantic grey seal, harbour porpoise, chough, raven and much more. www.discovergwynedd.com
The green way to go
First port of call has to be the Centre for Alternative Technology, the pioneering ‘eco-village of the future’ in the woods near Corris. Green is just one of the rich palette of colours at Bodnant Garden, the National Trust jewel in the Conwy Valley. Portmeirion’s arty Italianate architecture, the creation of Sir Clough Williams-Ellis, is complemented by the most amazing gardens, a combination of South Seas romance and Rain Forest fecundity. Sir Clough also poured his unstoppable imagination into nearby Plas Brondanwg’s gardens.
Get yourself a guide
Many members of the Wales Official Tourist Guides Association (Wotga) have the prestigious Blue Badge guide qualification for all of Wales, while others hold regional or site-specific Green Badge qualifications. Get the inside story on the Snowdonia Mountains and Coast area by using their services. Green Badge Guide Carole Startin, for example, runs tours that include a ‘Horrible Histories’ and ‘Right Royal Tours’ of Caernarfon - www.funtoursnorthwales.co.uk