In early 2023, I seized a last-minute opportunity to visit my friend Emma in the UK who I hadn’t seen in four years. I found a a cheap, last-minute flight from Madrid to Birmingham on Ryanair and we were reunited for the first time since being together in Australia. She picked me up at the airport and we drove west to Wales, a new country for me to tick off the list. It was an enchanting weekend adventure, filled with hiking, hearty food, and fairytale landscapes dotted with sheep and crumbling castles.
Here are some of my favorite parts of the time we got to spend together exploring Wales and Snowdonia National Park.
Whenever I am traveling with people, more often than not, I am the one who does most of the planning of the trip. This time around, however, I had the total pleasure of being the passenger along for the ride! Emma did an amazing job planning our weekend in Wales, and having a car gave us the freedom we needed to explore the national park, enjoy the hiking, and see the sights we wanted to see. If you’re looking to climb Mount Snowdon, the tallest mountain in Wales, consider our itinerary as a way to conquer it in a fun weekend.
Accommodation near Snowdon
Maes Madog Cottages in Betws-y-coed
For travelers looking to summit the tallest peak in Wales, Snowdon, I would highly recommend staying in the nearby town of Betws-y-coed and renting a room at Maes Madog Cottages. These charming converted farm stables have everything you need for a quaint weekend away — fully equipped kitchen, clean and functional bathroom, cozy couch and comfortable bed. It’s nestled right in the green hills on farmland, just outside the town. The owner was very friendly and provided us with some delicious chocolates, Welsh cakes, and a bottle of Prosecco!
Things To Do around Betws-y-coed, Wales
Llyn Elsi Hike
This lovely hike is accessible right from the town of Betws-y-coed, winding up a hill behind a church. It’s a steep climb, but fortunately not a long one, and there are benches for resting along the way. You’ll make your way upward through a mossy forest and eventually end up at a beautiful lake. We arrived just in time for sunset, and it was an extremely peaceful hike. I think we only passed one other group of hikers the whole time.
Eryri/Snowdonia National Park
The largest national park in Wales, Eryri, also known as Snowdonia, is a must-visit when exploring Wales. The national park is home to nine mountain ranges and it comprises over 800 square miles, covering a significant portion of the total land area of Wales. Beyond climbing Snowdon, there are castles, museums, and a bunch of other hiking and natural wonders to explore in this national park.
There are many different trails you can take to reach the summit of Snowdon, the tallest mountain in Wales. We hiked the Pyg trail to reach the summit of Snowdon which sits at 3,560 ft. The Pyg trail is a popular route, starting at Pen y Pass, with a lot of groups and individuals clamoring up at midday.
Parts of the track were snow covered (this was in January, I am not sure if it’s considerably warmer during the summer months), and some parts of the hike were a treacherous scramble. If you have crampons, bring them! They can be useful to pop on for some of the snowy and icy portions of the trail to avoid slips and falls.
The hike took about 4 hours to reach the top, and we took little breaks along the way for snacks and drinks and admiring the changing views. It’s a cliche but it’s very true that you can experience all types of weather in just an hour in Wales — it was full clouds and rainy when we started, but by the time we reached the top, we had sunshine, a rainbow, and even a cloud inversion. It was amazing.
On the way down, instead of taking the Pyg Track, we opted for the Miner’s Track. It was a steep initial descent that became more flat and winding at Llyn Teyrn, a glassy lakeside trail which took us back to Pen y Pass. It gets the name “Miner’s Track” because it was originally built to access the Britannia Copper Mine, and ruins still remain that you can see while you walk along. I think the whole day of hiking was around 6 hours, including ascent, breaks at the top, and descent. It was a full day of moderate to difficult physical activity, but totally worth it for the amazing views.
I wouldn’t say this castle is a “must-do,” but being from the US where castles are in short supply, I still enjoyed the visit to these ruins. Herds of sheep dotted the green hills like pearls and no one else was around as we walked across some farmland to reach the front steps of the castle. It’s likely that this castle was built in the 13th century, and it functioned as a guard post. It’s underwhelming but it was still cool to see.
Pubs in Betws-y-coed
This is a cool dog-friendly pub in Betws-y-coed, with a large outdoor and indoor seating area. We didn’t eat here but stopped in for cocktails and they were great! It was a nice pub atmosphere with friendly service. Stables Bar is right in the main area of the town. They locally source a lot of their menu items and offer some Welsh pub classics. I had a
Pont Y Pair Inn
After a day full of hiking, nothing sounds better than a big, hearty British meal. I went for a steak and mushroom pie that came with a heap of mashed potatoes and peas, drinking it down with an Aspall cider. I had never tried it and it was crisp and refreshing, much needed after a long day of hiking. This spot, Pont Y Pair Inn in Betsw-y-coed is a lovely, homey spot for the pub classics. The service was friendly as well, and they have a pool table and patio.
Overall, Wales is a magical place to visit on a weekend! I am very lucky to have amazing friends in England who are down for a last-minute road trip from Birmingham to Snowdonia National Park. I’d love to go back again someday and spend more time exploring other cities and sights of Wales, so if you have a must-see or must-do recommendation, please leave it in the comments!