Whether gazing at the stars beneath Snowdonia's recently protected night sky, exploring its mountainous landscape for rare animals or simply escaping your local concrete jungle, this is the perfect clean-living getaway. Rent a car from our Bangor branch and you’ll find an area of Wales sprinkled with charming villages steeped in history and surrounded by beauty.
Imagine it. You’re in a picturesque Welsh valley standing in front of a lake typical of these parts — it’s calm, it’s beautiful, and it’s what you expect of Snowdonia. Out of nowhere the hydraulics whizz, water stirs and a perfectly formed metre high wave appears from the centre of the lake, much to the excitement of the eagerly waiting surfers. Missed it? Not a problem, there will be another wave along shortly.
When you’re standing on the site of a former aluminium smelter turned artificial wave pool, it’s hard not to feel a strange sense of pride for human invention. The head coach of the Surf Snowdonia centre is Jo Dennison, a multiple British and Welsh surf champion. The centre caters to all levels of experience and can house up to 144 people at a time in "surf pods" — a truly different kind of family getaway or stag/hen weekend.
Ask anyone who’s visited Snowdonia what their favorite villiage is and nine times out of ten they’ll say Beddgelert. A place famously known for its legendary hound, its picturesque setting makes a perfect visit for those seeking a respite from demanding city life. It’s untouched and full of quaint guesthouses perfect for serene walks or simply a bit of time to think.
A lot of walking will undoubtedly work up an appetite and just outside the village, on the A498, is the wonderful Caffi Gwynant. Wood burning fires and homemade carrot cake is the order of the day, with local ales for those who fancy a post-walk tipple or frothy cappuccinos for those that don’t. It’s warm, it’s friendly and by all means it sums up Snowdonia down to the tee.
Most known for being the setting for the late '60s mystery "The Prisoner," Portmeirion has a story unlike any other Welsh village. Designed and built by Sir Clough Williams-Ellis between 1925 and 1975, the village was built in homage to the Mediterranean way of life and was rumoured, although fervently denied to be based on the Italian village of Portofino. Regardless of inspiration, the seaside spot is definitely one to charm.
The village is open to visitors between 9:30 a.m. and 7:30 p.m., and kids under 5 years old are free, which makes complete sense once you are in. The buildings are playful and exciting and give parents a chance to take the little ones on a magical tour of the fairy-tale village. It is a happy relief from the surrounding miles of woodland and is a must visit for those looking for something on the quirkier side of this pleasing part of Snowdonia.
When you think of Snowdonia the thought of beautiful, long sandy beaches aren’t the first image that comes to mind, but Barmouth on the west coast offers one that rivals the best in Britain. Its tagline is ‘for Mountain, Town and Sea’ and it definitely delivers the stunning estuary of the River Mawddach sitting prettily below the mountains.
It’s a great chance to park the car up and rent a couple of bikes. The surrounding areas are full of trails such as the Mawddach Trail following an old railway line, deserted since the reshaping of the British Rail system in the early sixties, which used to link Barmouth with the north-west, train window views at leisurely cycling pace!
Although not actually in the national park, Corris has to be included for its dazzling list of different things to do. For a small slate village with just over 700 people, it boasts a surprising wealth of attractions. Head to the Centre for Alternative Technology (CAT) for a master class in saving the planet. From futuristic interactive displays to less futuristic composting and waste management, it’s an inspirational place that is run completely on renewable energy, of course!
For those who like to do things a little more underground, take the rare chance to go down into the old Braich Goch slate mine, first worked in over 130 years ago and abandoned by the miners around 40 years ago. You will be guided through the underground tunnels in groups of no more than 10 by a guide who takes you through the rich history of Welsh slate mining.