LLANBERIS, ten miles west of Capel Curig, is the nearest you’ll get in Wales to an alpine climbing village, its main street thronged with weather-beaten walkers and climbers. At the same time, this is very much a Welsh rural community, albeit a depleted one now that slate is no longer being torn from the flanks of Elidir Fawr, the mountain across the town’s twin lakes. The town is inextricably linked with Snowdon, the highest British mountain outside Scotland.
Hardened outdoor enthusiasts sometimes dismiss Snowdon (3560ft) as overused, and it can certainly be crowded in summer when a thousand visitors a day can be pressed into the postbox-red carriages of the Snowdon Mountain Railway, while another 1500 pound the well-maintained paths. But this fine mountain massif sports some of the finest walking and scrambling in the park: hike early, late or out of season if you want a bit more solitude.
The Snowdon Mountain Railway
The Snowdon Mountain Railway is Britain’s only rack-and-pinion railway, completed in 1896. Trains (sometimes pushed by seventy-year-old steam locos) still climb to the summit in just under an hour from the eastern end of Llanberis to the smart summit café (mid-May to Oct). Inside is a bar and a post office where, for a few pennies, you can enchant your friends with a “Summit of Snowdon – Copa’r Wyddfa” postmark. Times, type of locomotive and final destination vary with demand and ice conditions at the top: to avoid disappointment, buy your tickets early on clear summer days.