It was just before my birthday in May that I was speaking to my mother on a Monday night as usual when she made an unexpected offer – a combined birthday present for me and hubby of a weekend away, whilst they look after the children. An offer that was very quickly accepted and so the search started.
Hubby usually works until 5.30 on Fridays in Birmingham City Centre so part of the problem in choosing the destination was going to be how we got the kids to Liverpool and get to our destination without losing half the weekend to travel. Various ideas bounced around from the Lake District to short hop flights to either Dublin or Amsterdam. Finally, we decided on North Wales and found a great deal at the Legacy Royal Victoria Hotel in Llanberis (Bed, Breakfast and Evening meal included with a free bottle of wine on your first night). From the time we made that decision, we had one eye on whether we should attempt climbing Snowdon. A quick visit to Go Outdoors in Wolverhampton, where walking boots were purchased (at a discount since we were unexpectedly able to use father-in-law’s membership card even though he was the other end of the country and knew nothing about it!) and we were set up for the challenge and only the weather would stop us.
A quick reorganisation of hubby’s shifts at work later and we were ready to go. The Friday started with the kids grabbing their backpacks for the train trip to Liverpool, where we were met by Grandma.
Despite the amount of planning that goes into these things, I still managed to leave too early to catch my trains to North Wales and ended up with an hour to kill in Chester. What a shame – such lovely shops, I didn’t know what to do with myself!
Hubby escaped work on time (which is a miracle in itself) and set off in the car to meet me. Unfortunately, it was also the weekend of the V Festival in Staffordshire, so routes were quickly replanned. It still took a while for him to reach me, which gave me the opportunity to have a quick look around Betws-y-Coed.
By the time he arrived, however, the heavens had opened. This only added to the beauty of the area and as we approached Llanberis, we were both amazed by the way the water was pouring down the side of the mountains (and there’s a convenient parking place on the road which enabled us to stop and take photos!)
For the size of the hotel, it’s surprising to realise that it was built as a hotel as it gives the impression of being a stately home that has been converted (which isn’t a criticism). I checked in and booked in for our evening meal whilst hubby parked the car. The room wasn’t large, but it was more than sufficient for what we needed with an en-suite shower room. The free bottle of wine was also waiting for us; however we decided to chill out before heading towards the dining room (via the bar).
The smaller dining room gave the impression of providing a great view, although due to the weather conditions we were only treated to some amazing skies as night fell. The menu was also well thought out. One menu for customers on the inclusive deal, but another menu as well. We could have used up to the value of our inclusive meal against the other menu, but we found the variety of the inclusive menu so good, we stuck to that. Over dinner, we decided that as long as the weather was no worse than we had encountered on the way in, the ascent would be on.
Morning arrived to the realisation that we’d both slightly overdone it on the alcohol the previous evening. Even so, we decided that the weather was good enough to give it a go and after a hearty cooked breakfast, we set off, pausing immediately outside the front door of the hotel to put our waterproofs on as it started to rain.
One of the beauties of the hotel is that it’s almost at the bottom of the Llanberis trail. Knowing that it was about 4.5 miles to the summit, hubby turned on the Runkeeper app on his iPhone to track our time and distance and we set off.
The start of the ascent is a tarmac road, but it’s still quite steep. Hubby started to stride off (as usual) and stupidly, I tried to keep up. By the time the road petered out, I needed a rest and fortunately, there were some picnic tables outside a café I could use and as hubby checked his phone, we realised we hadn’t yet done half a mile!
After a couple of minutes, we set off again. It felt like the gradient wasn’t as severe (either that or we were just walking slower!) It’s fair to say we made steady progress even though we were taking regular rest/photo breaks). The Llanberis trail broadly follows the route of the Snowdon Mountain Railway and as we approached two miles, we reached the point where the railway goes over the top of the trail.
Soon we were at halfway; however this is where the gradient started to steepen. In places it was like we were walking down a stream as water poured down the mountainside before diverting off the path onto a more direct route down.
A little after three miles, the path flattened slightly as it passed under the railway again and all of a sudden, I was reminded that I was on the side of a mountain because the path was right on the side of a precipice. Neither myself nor hubby were prepared to go anywhere near the edge, although we both remarked that we were glad the weather wasn’t great and the cloud cover was low. Although it would have been fabulous to climb in the dry being able to see all around, but it was certainly helpful not to be able to see how steep the drop was!
The gradient from here to the summit was quite steep and hubby was getting a little frustrated at the amount of times I needed to stop, and whilst I knew he was right to point out it was harder to keep restarting after a stop, I also knew if I was going to get to the top, I was going to have to do it my way. I knew I just needed to put one foot in front of the other, and keep breathing – although as Hubby said I couldn’t seem to do both at the same time! Fortunately, I wasn’t the only one taking regular breaks and one of the walkers coming back down reassured us that it was only going to be another ten minutes before the gradient shallowed again.
As the amount of people around us increased, we knew we were almost there and finally we made it. I couldn’t face queuing up to make it to the absolute summit, knowing what I’d just accomplished was enough for me. Even so, hubby insisted on going and for a brief moment was the tallest thing on land in England and Wales.
For a pretty miserable day at the summit, the visitor centre was rammed but we managed to fight our way through to the gift shop where we bought ourselves a couple of certificates to commemorate our ascent.
The Snowdon Mountain Railway website states there is no guarantee they will be able to accommodate downward travel and therefore if you walk up, you should expect to have to walk back down again. Hubby had reminded me of this regularly whilst we were going up, however I was optimistic and given the gradient of the way up, I really didn’t want to have to go back down if I could help it. A really unhelpful guy at the top told us where we could enquire, but warned us that it could be a two hour wait if we got on at all! The other surprise was a group of pensioners who got off the train, realised the visitor centre was packed and just got back on the train to go back on again, which seemed pretty pointless to hubby and me.
We managed to get tickets down the mountainside on the train and squeezed into the guards van at the back of the train as this was the only space left.
Hubby was interested in the radio messages being broadcast on the walkie talkies in order to convey the 11 trains (7 steam, 4 diesel) up and down the mountain on the single track railway. (Our train was called “Yeti” or ‘Mobile 10’).
As we came down the mountain, it became clear that the weather had improved significantly and we could also see the Llanberis waterfall, which could only be heard from the path. The guard was kind enough to tell us how we get to see it at ground level. All too soon, we arrived back at Llanberis station where it was bright and quite warm.
Even so, I was quite cold so I treated myself to a pink hoodie. Hubby’s main objection to it was the colour on the grounds that he wasn’t going to be able to nick it!
After some lunch in the station café, we went back to the hotel to freshen up grinning at each other like Cheshire Cats. For anyone familiar with “The West Wing”, we randomly kept saying “Who Da Man” and “It’s done and we did it” to each other. (See here – if you’re confused!)
Our first stop was to the waterfall. The official signposts were to take you to see it from above; however the guard’s directions led us to see it from below. The power of the water rushing off the nearby mountains was immense.
We then had a general wander around Llanberis. For a small place, there’s a lot attractions, but we were content to just wander around slowly before returning to the hotel again for a well earned beer.
We sat down for our evening meal again in the small dining room, which really did provide a great view. After a tiring day, we retired to bed, having consumed slightly less alcohol than the night before.
Sunday began as a pleasant morning, so we deciced to find the ruined castle in the hotel grounds. The castle was called Dolbardarn, and dates from the 13th century.
After another hearty breakfast we checked out of the hotel, the plan had been to slowly meander round the coast of North Wales and meet up with the Grandparents and the children around the Colwyn Bay area. After driving to Caernarfon, hubby decided to head to Anglesey… for the sole reason of going to Llanfairpwllgwyngyllgogerychwyrndrobwllllantysiliogogogoch.
As we started to make our way around North Wales, the weather took a turn for the worse and so plans were quickly changed.
We met up with the Grandparents and children in Chester – which was fabulous, but a story for another day.
After climbing Snowdon – we’re both filled with an amazing sense of achievement. I certainly have in my head that if I can do that, I can do anything I put my mind to.
We both are still grinning every time we think of it – so on that note: CHEERS!