In May I took Steve to the Snowdonia National Park in Wales for a few days for his birthday. It was one of those birthday presents that ends up being as much of a present for yourself as it is for the other person (the best kind!). Hiking has been a fast growing passion over the last year or so for me and I’d wanted to do a mountaineering course for ages and definitely wanted to fit it in before our french road trip at the end of summer, so we could go hiking in the mountains there and feel confident enough to enjoy it. We both wanted to go to Wales anyway so it seemed like perfect timing to combine it with the traditional birthday trips we try to go on. I don’t think a mountaineering course was on his birthday trip wish list, but he indulged me and I think he may have even enjoyed it!
Being novice hikers and not really feeling confident in finding our way around a mountain or two, I booked with Expedition Guide (run by Rob Johnson) for 2 days worth of private guiding. Having worked with Rob to produce some blogs for Simply Hike back when I was working for them, he was my go to guy! However, the man himself was already booked on our date so he introduced us to his friend Huw Gilbert who was to be our guide. (Huw actually has his own guiding business and I realised afterwards that if I had found him myself it would have worked out cheaper as Rob charges a bit more, but I appreciated Rob finding Huw for us and making the whole process really easy. Definitely check out Huw’s website if you’re interested in private guiding as well).
On the first day we stayed at Can-y-Afon with the lovely Sandra and her husband at their home/B&B in Capel Curig. We sat with them in their garden for a cup of tea and chatted for a while. They told us all about their amazing lifestyle here in Snowdonia where they breed Welsh Ponies and run their little farm. We then went for a drive to explore the area and have dinner before an early night. We only stayed there one night as the hostel we picked originally was booked up on our first night so we needed to stay somewhere else for one night. It was a shame to leave but Plas Curig Hostel was also very nice, but our hosts at Can-yr-Afon were so lovely and welcoming, it was a bit like staying with family and their home was beautiful and cosy.
The next day after a home cooked breakfast from Sandra, Huw met us at the Moel Siabod Cafe next to our Hostel and took us on a hike up Moel Siabod. I found the ascent pretty tough (coming from Kent you don’t really get used to climbing mountains – that’s my excuse anyway!) but once we were up there we were rewarded with amazing views before heading into fog and touching the summit cairn. Huw taught us some map reading and navigation skills and we used these to help us find our way to the summit. We scrambled up a ridge to the top which if i’m honest I found absolutely terrifying, but it was good for me to face my fears as we headed into the cloud. The journey down I found much easier but afterwards we were both completely knackered, we went to eat in a restaurant and then headed straight to bed before it was even dark at the Hostel.
Y Garn was the next mountain we tackled together on our third day, legs already aching from the day before. The journey up was very different from Moel Siabod, a lot rockier but more beautiful – with views down over the lakes at the bottom. As we hiked Huw taught us about the mountain flora and the history of the area – I think Steve had developed a bit of man crush by this point, hanging on Huw’s every word (he is a pretty impressive bloke!) It was a steep slow climb through the cloud to the summit, when I got to the top I felt a bit disorientated by the cloud and felt like I would be sucked of the edge. Anxiety always tries to ruin amazing things like this for me, but once we were on the move again I felt fine and started to enjoy it again. A cool thing was that we could hear the rumble of army jets flying below us, I imagine on a clear day that seeing them from above would be pretty amazing! This was to be our last day with Huw but we still had a day and half to explore by ourselves.
I guess it wouldn’t be a trip to Snowdonia without going to Snowdon so on the third day we started to hike up the Llanberis Path – the easy route to the summit (which wasn’t our first choice as we’d liked the sound of the PYG trail but the Pen-y-Pass car park was full) but we only got half way. We knew the weather was about to turn so began to make our way back down, our legs were pretty sore by this point anyway after the previous days. We made it just in time before the heavens opened! We drove to Anglesey in the afternoon in the grey wet weather which turned out to be pointless, as visibility was so poor we didn’t get to see the island at its best. We soon came back and ate at what we think is the best restaurant in Betws-y-Coed, ‘Bistro Betws-y-Coed‘. Here I tried pigeon for the first time – which turned out to be just as good as steak!
On our last morning we finally did something a little more ‘Steve’ and we went on the Snowdon Mountain Railway (there had to be trains involved somewhere!) We took the train to the Snowdon Summit, taking about hour to get to the top. It was nice to sit back, enjoy the views and rest our weary legs but we had made the mistake of walking alongside the same track the day before so the views hadn’t changed much in 24 hours! Luckily when we got to the top the cloud cleared so we could see some lovely views across Wales. I’m glad we went up Snowdon but it definitely wasn’t my favourite mountain, it was very commercial especially as there was a restaurant/café at the top! I wouldn’t mind climbing it again from a different trail just to see if it can offer anything else, but it wont be a priority.
After the train trip it was time to leave this beautiful place, after we had both truly fell in love with it. It did make me think that – when places like this exist in the UK, why do people choose to live anywhere else? It’s a good job they do, but you get my point…
For two days private guiding it was £450 but if you get a group together you can split the cost of this to make it a little more bank balance friendly, but to me it was worth every penny as now we feel confident enough to explore the mountains ourselves!
I highly recommend both places we stayed and the Bistro in Betws-y-Coed for great service and amazing food, feel free to email me or comment if you’re planning a similar trip and have any questions!