A mist op­por­tu­nity

GEMMA JALEEL dis­cov­ers his­toric cas­tles and breath­tak­ing views from the sum­mit of Snow­don

Solihull News - - TRAVEL -

S TEAM trains, cas­tles and red dragons all make for an amaz­ing ad­ven­ture – and luck­ily North Wales has them in abun­dance. When we told our lit­tle girl we were tak­ing a trip to see all three, she couldn’t con­tain her ex­cite­ment.

North Wales is just a two- hour trip from where we live, mak­ing it the per­fect place for a great week­end away.

So we set off on a rather windy day to check off the first des­ti­na­tion on our ad­ven­ture – Snow­don Moun­tain Rail­way ( SMR) in Llan­beris.

Llan­beris is a lovely lit­tle town to ex­plore with a colour­ful pa­rade of shops on the high street, the Na­tional Slate Mu­seum and the Lake Rail­way.

Now those of you with three- yearold Thomas and Friends fans will un­der­stand why my daugh­ter was so ex­cited – in fact, SMR was the in­spi­ra­tion for the Culdee Fell Rail­way on the Is­land of Sodor.

But 60mph winds meant the ser­vice to the sum­mit of Snow­don was can­celled and the train was only go­ing half­way – so the help­ful staff at the ticket of­fice trans­ferred our tick­ets to the fol­low­ing day.

At a loose end and too early to check into our ho­tel we de­cided to seek out the next place on our North Wales must- do list – a cas­tle.

KING OF THE CAS­TLE

CAERNARFON is a 15- minute drive from Llan­beris with a huge World Her­itage cas­tle cre­ated by King Ed­ward I in 1283 when he re­placed the motte and bai­ley cas­tle with the stone struc­ture which still stands to­day.

The spec­tac­u­lar lo­ca­tion on the River Seiont is also in touch­ing dis­tance of An­gle­sey and one of Wales’ most impressive fortresses.

Ad­mis­sion to the cas­tle starts from £ 8.95 for adults and £ 5.80 for chil­dren with un­der fives go­ing free.

But if you’re on a tight bud­get do not de­spair you can still ad­mire the gi­gan­tic cas­tle and town walls and take a walk through the charm­ing nar­row streets with an ice cream in hand.

We also stopped for lunch at the Black Boy Inn and were very im­pressed – just £ 8.50 for a main from the lunch menu – I had fish and chips and the hubby had a mixed grill – you can’t beat good pub grub.

Here we also spot­ted the third item on our list – red dragons fly­ing on flags across this proud Welsh town.

TIME TO CHECK IN

TEN- MIN­UTES from Caernarfon is the Seiont Manor Ho­tel where the River Seiont also flows through the grounds. It wasn’t the warm wel­come we were ex­pect­ing due to a bit of a wait at re­cep­tion and a mix- up over our book­ing, but we were im­pressed with the Seiont Manor, which has a rich his­tory dat­ing back to the 1800s and is set within 150 acres with 28 bed­rooms, and a 40ft in­door swim­ming pool with sauna and small gym.

Our room was a huge ju­nior suite with a mas­sive comfy bed, sofa and French doors lead­ing to a Juliet bal­cony look­ing on to rolling hills and graz­ing sheep – sim­ply per­fec­tion. The en­suite bath­room was also spa­cious with a full- size bath, shower, toi­let and bidet.

With time to burn be­fore din­ner, we ex­plored the huge manor house with an impressive bar area and wood- pan­elled lounge.

We also took ad­van­tage of the com­pli­men­tary heated pool for an im­promptu swim­ming ses­sion, much to my daugh­ter’s de­light.

We had din­ner in the Ll­wyn Y Brain res­tau­rant and the food was fab­u­lous.

For starters, my hubby and I chose the white­bait (£ 5) and Welsh rarebit (£ 5) and for mains, he opted for the smoked salmon tagli­atelle (£ 14) and I had the beef and ale pie.

All dishes were re­ally rich and filling but we still man­aged to squeeze in dessert with salted caramel creme brulee (£ 7), sticky tof­fee pud­ding (£ 7) and ice nougat par­fait (£ 7) all con­tenders, be­fore I opted for a sim­ple ice cream se­lec­tion.

We re­ally en­joyed our ho­tel stay, but the cus­tomer ser­vice was in­con­sis­tent through­out and at times we felt like we were an in­con­ve­nience to some of the staff.

TO THE SUM­MIT WE GO

WE were booked on the 10.30am steam ser­vice to Snow­don’s sum­mit and this time we were in luck – it was safe to go to the top.

Snow­don Moun­tain Rail­way has been run­ning for more than 120 years and re­mains one of the most pop­u­lar ways to reach the sum­mit, 1,085 me­tres above sea level.

The jour­ney takes an hour to the top ( in­clud­ing stops to shoo wan­der­ing sheep off the track) with a 30- minute stop and an hour com­ing back down with amaz­ing views across the moun­tain­side.

We were be­ing pushed by loco num­ber five, rid­ing in the aptly named Moun­tain Goat car­riage but un­for­tu­nately, we had to en­dure mis­er­able weather with poor vis­i­bil­ity and rain.

There was an eerie mo­ment when the steam engine ap­peared to look like a ghost train against the dense white mist and fog – like the Hog­warts Ex­press in Harry Pot­ter, it was mag­i­cal.

But it was all part of the fun and my lit­tle girl loved be­ing so close to the sheep and waving to brave and rather sat­u­rated walk­ers march­ing through the foul weather to the top of Mount Snow­don.

When we ar­rived at the sum­mit, the beau­ti­ful panorama was stolen from us by the thick cloud.

But even so, the ex­pe­ri­ence was more thrilling be­cause we were so high in the clouds.

And the sum­mit cen­tre was buzzing with fell- walk­ers nurs­ing pip­ing hot choco­lates in their hands telling tales of their trek up the moun­tain.

On the ride back down, our lit­tle girl fell asleep with all the ex­cite­ment.

She woke up just in time for us to grab a hot dog at the Plat­form Grill be­fore pick­ing out a sou­venir from the gift shop – a stuffed red dragon.

A damp and foggy start to their jour­ney on the Snow­don Moun­tain Rail­way only added to the magic for Gemma and her fam­ily

A cosy, stylish room in an impressive ho­tel was the per­fect base for ex­plor­ing his­toric Caernarfon Cas­tle

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