‘Eryri’ (literally translated it means ‘home of the eagles’) is the Welsh name for the Snowdonia National Park, a wild region of dramatic, soaring peaks, surging rivers and tranquil valleys. A stronghold of the Welsh language, the region is a mecca for hikers, climbers, kayakers, cavers, mountain bikers and adrenaline sports enthusiasts.
The mountain which gives the region its name, Snowdon (Welsh: Yr Wyddfa), is the highest mountain in Wales or England and, therefore, receives the lions’ share of visitors. There is a ‘park and ride’ service to the trailheads from the nearest village, there is even a cog railway up the mountain and a bar near the summit. At the height of the holiday season and on sunny summer weekends thousands of walkers and train riders visit the mountain each day. It is very tempting, in the light of these numbers, to turn your nose up at Snowdon but it does have some magnificent ridge walking and scrambling and some very challenging rock climbing. The view from the summit is awesome, if you happen to be up there on one of the few days that it isn’t shrouded in cloud!
If you do visit Snowdonia in the high season, why not use this mass obsession with Snowdon to your advantage. Snowdonia is a sprawling area dotted with a large number of spectacular mountains and wild areas. The Moelwyn mountains offer wild, lonely walking and stunning views.
At busy times, I head straight for the Ogwen valley, a steep sided valley sandwiched between the ‘Glyders’ and the ‘Carnedds’. The most striking mountain on the Glyders is Tryfan and the higher Glyders are accessed by ‘Bristly Ridge’ which is just how it sounds!
Hidden from view and nestling in the shadow of the Glyders is Cwm Idwal, a glacially sculpted ‘hanging valley’ containing a picture perfect lake (geologically speaking, a Tarn) Llyn Idwal. A path snakes its way up from the lake to the seemingly impenetrable wall of the Glyders, but if you look carefully there is a fissure, the Devil’s Kitchen, with a rocky staircase up through it. If you’ve just watched ‘the Hobbit’ this route might concentrate your mind. In 35 years, I have yet to meet a dragon!
On the other side of the valley, across Llyn Ogwen, is the forbidding steepness of Pen yr Ole Wen but once you have reached the top of this particular bastion you find yourself on an undulating whaleback ridge with several peaks of 0ver 3000 feet and beautiful sea views. Do the whole thing and you can end your walk in historic, medieval Conway (Welsh: Conwy), with its stunning castle. Ah yes, as well as all of the adventure sports and spectacular scenery, Snowdonia is absolutely crammed with history and is home to some of Britain’s finest castles; Conwy, Caernarfon, Harlech to name but three.