Snowdonia National Park, Wales

Get facts, photos, and travel tips for Snowdonia National Park from National Geographic.

Published 2 Nov 2017, 09:16 GMT
Walkers in Snowdonia National Park pass an abandoned slate quarry.
Walkers in Snowdonia National Park pass an abandoned slate quarry.
Photograph by P. Wolmuth, Report Digital-REA, Redux

Name: Snowdonia
Location: Wales
Date Established: 1951
Size: 823 square miles (2,132 square kilometers)

Did You Know?

Park of Peaks This Welsh landscape of mountains and valleys, forests, and lakes is punctuated by the park’s namesake peak. Snowdon, or Yr Wyddfa in the local Welsh tongue, stands at 3,560 feet (1,085 meters) and is the highest point in Wales and England. The Welsh name for the larger park is Eryri (the Highland), and nine mountain ranges cover fully half of Snowdonia with a breathtaking array of jagged peaks, gorges, and windswept uplands.

King Arthur Connection King Arthur is the region’s most legendary inhabitant. It was on the top of Snowdon itself that, it's said, he fought an epic battle with the king-killing giant Rhita Gawr. Rhita Gawr’s resting place, under summit rocks, presumably lent the mountain its ancient Welsh names Yr Wyddfa Fawr (the Great Tomb) and Carnedd y Cawr (the Cairn of the Giant).

From Seafloor to Mountain Peak The park’s towering mountain peaks were part of ancient oceans. On the summit of Snowdon, fossilised shell fragments reveal that this rock was on the seafloor some 500 million years ago. More recently, during the last ice age, glaciers reshaped the landscape by excavating many of the park’s valleys about 18,000 years ago.

Estuaries While best known for its mountains, Snowdonia also includes three estuaries, Dyfi, Mawddach, and Dwyryd, which offer 23 miles (37 kilometres) of coastline to explore.

Welsh Tongue More than 26,000 people live in Snowdonia, and more than 60 percent of them speak Welsh, one of Europe’s oldest languages. The tongue is evident in a list of picturesque place-names, such as cwm (valley), bryn (hill), pentre (village), and aber (river mouth).

Ancient Attractions Visitors can experience part of the region’s long human history by visiting Neolithic burial cairns or Roman forts, such as Tomen y Mur. More recent historical remnants include all the trappings of a slate industry that once brought wealth to the region’s prominent families.

Lake Train Train enthusiasts (and families) might make time for a trip on the Bala Lake Steam Railway, which offers a scenic 9-mile (15-kilometre) journey along the shores of its namesake lake. Keep your eyes peeled for a sighting of the lake's resident monster, “Teggie.”

How to Get There

Two main rail lines access the park, the Cambrian Coast Line and another running from Chester to Holyhead. These routes are themselves connected by the scenic 13-mile-long (21-kilometre) Ffestiniog Railway. Buses also access the park; the Journey Planner can help you fix a route by public transport.

When to Visit

Snowdon’s summit can be reached via the Snowdon Mountain Railway, which has its terminus in a sparkling summit visitor centre that is the highest building in Wales and England. Views stretch as far as Ireland on a clear day, but the trains only run in season, typically from mid-March until late-October.

How to Visit

Leave the driving to others and take advantage of the Snowdon Sherpa bus service. These convenient routes cover northern Snowdonia and link its communities, scenic spots, trailheads, and attractions. Riders can use the Sherpa for one-way walks or cycle rides, hopping on and off as often as you like for one low daily fee.

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