Although a UK "staycation" has been the majority of the population's backup plan for their summer getaway, our short break to Wales is something that has been in the pipeline for the longest time. Ever since purchasing a Zip World voucher for my boyfriend's Christmas present we have been planning to spend a few days in Snowdonia and tick hiking up Snowdon off of my bucket list in the process. Whilst the trip did have to be slightly postponed until restrictions had been lifted, last week finally saw us take that road trip and have the best few days up in the mountains. My only other real mountain experience was trekking the GR221 in Majorca, a stark contrast to the rainy Welsh countryside. Even though the weather was considerably more miserable, the terrain was just as simultaneously breathtaking and challenging as I had hoped and I loved every minute.
Day one: Conquering Snowdon
Hiking Snowdon has been on my bucket list for a long while now and so I was more than excited to set off on this expedition on a fresh, August morning. After much deliberation, we decided to opt for the Rhyd-Ddu route up the mountain and take the Rangers Path on the way down. To get back to the car in Rhyd-Ddu we also had to add on around 3km at the end, making our route 15.75km in total. Given it was prime holiday season, we wanted to avoid the masses using the main paths up and so opted for one of the quieter routes. Alongside this, I feel much more comfortable doing steeper ascents than descents making this ideal for my preferences.
The route up was extremely enjoyable, ascending fairly gradually to begin with on a stone path through grassy and rocky terrain with various small waterfalls and amazing views of the lake below.
The path only began to host a steeper ascent as you ventured near to Bwlch Main. Before reaching this steeper, zig-zag section, there was an open, flat area that provided some incredible views of the scenery below. We made the most of this, taking plenty of photos, as the cloud set in heavily as we headed up to Bwlch Main. Now, if we had not been covered by cloud and I could see the drop on either side of the ridge, this may have been quite terrifying. However, the path across was well defined and didn't involve any kind of scrambling, just steady feet. On a beautifully clear day, I imagine this route to the summit is quite incredible. Unfortunately, we didn't get the full effect of Bwlch Main due to the poor visibility, but I enjoyed the challenge and variability it brought nonetheless. The final hike up to the summit was steep and intense, but it surprisingly came quicker than I expected as the outline of the railway building emerged from the cloud.
Reaching the summit provided such an elated feeling, having wanted to achieve it for so long. Unfortunately, again, we had zero visibility from the top, which was quite gutting after the long ol' hike up. However, it definitely did not detract from how pleased I was. Setting off back down and we realised we had made the right decision not using the Miners, PYG or Llanberris paths, as before branching off for the Rangers path, the route down was an incredible amount busier. Once we had joined the Rangers, the path was a very gradual descent all the way back down with some beautiful views once we had dropped below the clouds. Our detour route back to the car was quite the wet one, venturing through water-logged fields and small streams, but still a pleasant one.
Overall, I loved hiking Snowdon and would recommend it to anybody who wants to give it a go. The scenery is gorgeous and makes all of the hard work more than worth it. Different paths are better for different fitness levels and so finding the one that works best for your abilities is key. Also, as we experienced, it is amazing how suddenly the weather can change as you ascend higher up a mountain. With that in mind, even if you start off on a sunny day, be sure to carry enough kit for all weather types.
Day two: Zip World Velocity 2
Our main aim for the trip, as mentioned beforehand, was to use our Zip World vouchers for Velocity 2. If you are unaware of Zip World in Snowdonia, Velocity 2 is the fastest zipline in the world, reaching speeds of up to 100mph, as well as being the longest in Europe. As soon as I saw it advertised, I knew my boyfriend would love the adrenaline kick this provides. As for me, I wasn't completely convinced. That said, I knew I wanted to push myself and give it a go. Upon arriving at Zip World and seeing the height of Velocity 2, starting 600m up on the side of a mountain, my initial thought was "no way". In person, it looked so much higher and more terrifying that I initially imagined. However, after a slick and well organised system to be kitted up, we were soon queuing up for the smaller, 'practice' zip line. I have to admit, doing this one first helped a lot. I felt extremely safe and in excellent hands with all the staff and I enjoyed every second of the 30 we were whizzing down. Without doing this practice one, I dread to think if I'd have chickened out of Velocity 2 or not. But, instead, I was bounding with adrenaline filled excitement onto the army truck to take us up the mountain.
After a 15 minute bumpy journey up the mountain, the dread hit all over again when you realise just how high up you are. Unfortunately, for the majority of time we were waiting at the top, the weather was atrocious and nothing much could be seen of the surrounding views. Having said that, thankfully once it was our turn to be strapped up the clouds had mostly lifted and the visibility was much better. For me, the scariest part is when you are dangling at the top, staring down the steep drop towards the quarry below. As soon as they finish their countdown and set you off, it was incredibly fun! Undoubtedly it was an experience like no other, providing the biggest adrenaline rush of anything I have ever done. The speeds are insanely fast, but I always felt safe and could enjoy the incredible views and feelings. In total, the zip line itself it only lasts for 55 seconds, and boy do they go by quickly. I would recommend Velocity 2 to anybody, because the enjoyment and experience it provides is top notch!
Day three: Tackling the Glyders
Our final day in Snowdonia saw us taking on another day of mountain hiking. Our route consisted of climbing Glyder Fawr, traversing across to the summit of Glyder Fach and heading back down. For me, this hike was much more physically challenging than Snowdon, making for a tough day. However, I Ioved (almost) every minute! Our initial ascent up Glyder Fawr was steep but following a fairly well defined, rocky path which made the clambering less technically difficult yet still physically tiring. After this, the route became a lot less defined and consisted solely of scree, but with just an intense incline. This I found difficult, yet challenged myself to persevere and made it successfully to the summit of mountain one.
The track across to Glyder Fach was easily to follow with no real incline or decline. By this point the clouds had also lifted, leaving us with incredible views stretched out for miles across all of Snowdonia. Once we reached Glyder Fach, we of course had to stop for a photograph on the popular balance rock before beginning our descent. Due to my preference for the lesser steep declines, we took a longer route to the bottom, but one I was very grateful for. Although it was still quite steep in places, it was much more manageable for my abilities. Additionally, it gave some beautiful views of Tryfan to our right, making for some great photo opportunities. Our final descent saw us losing the path slightly, resulting in us having to clamber down the side of a waterfall. I'd advise anyone walking this route to not end up in that scenario since it wasn't the most enjoyable section, but we made it back down to the car nonetheless. Another successful day in the mountains!
I absolutely loved our time in Wales. Hiking is something I thoroughly enjoy, especially when I feel myself being physically challenged because the endorphin rush afterwards is amazing. The scenery throughout the whole trip was incredible and couldn't even be spoilt by the disappointing weather we endured. We stayed in Bwets-y-Coed, somewhere I had never been before, which was lovely. A small, cute town with everything you need to have a comfortable few days. Although quite touristy, we managed to avoid the mass of the crowds due to being out in the daytime and only venturing into the town towards evening.
Where are your favourite hiking spots in the UK? Let me know in the comments below.