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