Camping Inspiration: Adventure activities in North Wales
Snowdonia is an outdoor lover’s paradise and for campers coming to this area of Wales there’s an unending array of adventurous possibilities to enjoy.
It has long been the destination for experienced walkers and climbers but these days there are many other avenues opening up for adrenalin junkies.
You can find just about any sort of fun-packed activity you could want… with training thrown in too.
The list of adventure activities to be enjoyed is extensive but the most popular are mountain walking, scrambling, rock climbing, gorge scrambling, mountain biking, white water rafting, kayaking and canoeing, zip wire courses and even surfing at Surf Snowdonia and inland wave pool in the Conwy Valley on the site of an aluminium works.
And of course there is a network of stunningly located campsites where you can pitch your tent by lakes, fast flowing rivers, magnificent waterfalls, deep mountain valleys and beneath towering mountains that just beg to be climbed.
The smaller, farm style sites still prevail but they have better facilities than in the past and are well versed in catering for campers whose weekend ambitions involve spending as much time as they can in the great outdoors. There are larger sites dotted around too and they also offer great value for money. The sites in the mountainous areas attract like-minded individuals, and when you are not out on the hills you can mix with other adventurers and enjoy the general buzz this sort of place always has.
Within the National Park boundaries you get a little bit of everything, from breathtaking mountain vistas to deep glacial valleys, huge forests, awesome lakes with great water sports opportunities and fast flowing rivers with rapids and waterslides.
The northernmost mountain ranges are the most popular and include the Moel Hebog massif, Mynyedd Mawr and the narrow Nantle Ridge as well as the Snowdon Massif, The Glyderau and the wild and remote Carneddau.
The second area is the Moelwyn Range (around Blaenau Ffestiniog) and the third includes the oldest mountains in Wales (and some of the oldest in the world) the Rhinogs in the west - then there is the Arenigs, The Arrans and The Migneint which is very remote.
The southernmost mountain ranges includes the awesome Cadair Idris Massif, The Tarren Range, the Dyfi Hills and to the south east, the remote Berwyn Mountains.
There are lots of beautiful towns and villages to visit, eat, drink and just linger in the area. Beddgelert and Betws-y-Coed are deservedly popular and much-loved, but you should take time to check out Llanberis, Dolgellau, Llanwrst and Rhyd Ddu as well. And let’s not forget there are costal towns such as Aberdyfi, Barmouth and Harlech which open up the prospect of sea-based adventure sports such as water skiing, jet skiing, sand yachting and even surfing in places.
Mount Snowdon itself rises to 3,560ft/1,085 metres and is a magnet for thousands of walkers each weekend. You have to get up early if you want to find a parking space around its base and the sheer volumes of people attempting the climb is often enough to put off a lot of walkers - but everyone should climb it once! It is a magnificent mountain with a great variety of ways up, its own unique mountain railway trundling to the summit from Llanberis and even a café on the top.
Overall Snowdonia National Park consists of nine separate mountain ranges made up of over 90 peaks, and if you add to this over 100 lakes (and numerous rivers) you get to see the natural attraction for those who come here. Covering 823 square miles it was the first National Park to be designated in Wales and dates back to 1951. More than 26,000 people live within the boundaries of the Park and over half of them speak Welsh. The area attracts close to 4 million visitors annually and collectively they bring close to £450 million into the local economy.
The Park starts roughly south-east of the island of Anglesey and runs southward to a line running from south of Bala Lake to the coastal resort of Aberdyfi. The western boundaries follow the coast northwards from here to beyond Harlech. The eastern line runs from Conway in the north to near Bala in the south. Unusually for a National Park there is a hole in the middle around the town of Blaenau Ffestiniog. This was deliberately excluded from the National Park when it was set up to allow the development of light industry to replace the dying slate trade that gave the town its reason to exist.
GET OUT THERE!
COED Y BRENIN VISITOR CENTRE
Dolgellau LL40 2HZ
Llechwedd Slate Caverns, Blaneau Ffestiniog LL41 3NB
WALKING, CLIMBING AND GENERAL OUTDOOR ACTIVITIES
PLAS-Y-BRENIN NATIONAL MOUNTAIN CENTRE
Plas-y-Brenin, Capel Curig, Betws-y-Coed, LL24 0ET
WHITE WATER RAFTING AND KAYAKING
NATIONAL WHITE WATER CENTRE
Canolfan, Tyweryn, Frongoch, Bala LL23 7NU
WAVE POOL SURFING
Conway Road, Dolgarrog, Conwy LL323 8QE
TREE TOP AND ZIP WIRE ADVENTURES
ZIP WORLD PENRYN QUARRY
Bethesda LL24 0HX
ZIP WORLD FFOREST
Betws-y-Coed LL24 0HX
ZIP WORLD SLATE CAVERNS
LLechwedd Slate Caverns, Blaenau Ffestiniog LL41 3ND
GWERN GOF UCHAF
Capel Curig, Betws-y-Coed, Snowdonia LL24 0EU
Few sites come more dramatically located than Gwern Gof Uchaf set as it is in Snowdonia’s Ogwen Valley beneath the awesome mountain of Tryfan and surrounded by the 3000 ft/914 metres tops of The Glyders and The Carneddau summits. Gwern Gof Uchaf is a true adventure camping site set in 750 acres of farmland. Cars have to be left on the track next to the camping field and gear carried to your pitch which makes it more suitable for smaller tents. There are no electric hook-ups but there are showers and toilets and the site has a bunkhouse.
LLYN GWYNANT CAMPSITE
Nant Gwynant, Caernarfon, Gwynedd LL55 4NW
A true adventure lover’s site on the shores of Llyn Gwynant and the banks of The Afon Glaslyn, Llyn Gwynant Campsite is also set below the slopes of The Snowdon Massif and is surrounded by towering mountains. There is a shop at reception and the site has a good toilet and shower block plus a laundry. The camping fields are spacious and flat but cars have mostly to be left in parking areas and gear carried to your pitch. Larger tents have specific areas allocated to them and if you want an electric hook-up it must be booked in advance.
TYN CORNEL CAMPING SITE
Frongoch, Bala LL23 7NU
Tyn Cornel Camping Site is a great base for Southern Snowdonia and, as it is on The River Tyweryn next to The National White Water Centre (where you can go white water rafting and kayaking), it is a real adventure lover’s location. It is also handily placed for The Arenigs and The Arran mountain ranges. The site has two fields – one for tents and a second narrower field for caravans and tents who want electric hook-ups. The toilet and shower block is centrally located and very clean and the site has belle tents and pods to hire too.
NEED TO KNOW
5 TIPS FOR ADVENTURERS
1. If you are going to try something you have no (or limited) experience of go with a club or group who are well equipped and experienced. Or better still, hire a guide or professional to take you. A search of the internet will produce enough hits to enable you to choose someone
2. If visiting a designated outdoor activity centre (whatever the activity) make sure you take careful note of the safety briefing and any instruction given. And once out on the activity stick to the rules and act sensibly.
3. Make sure you have the correct and proper equipment for whatever activity you choose to partake in. And ensure you know how to use it. For instance if mountain walking don’t rely on a mobile phone to navigate by, have the correct map for the area you are in plus a compass and know how to read the map and how to use the compass.
4 . Know your limitations. Don’t act stupid and push yourself too far and end up in irreversible and dangerous situations. Know when to call it a day and turn back. You can always come back another time – you can’t if you’re dead.
5. Don’t go out alone. It sounds romantic but most adventure activities are best enjoyed in a group (large or small) where you can watch out for each other and someone can go for help if things go wrong. Know the procedure for calling out mountain rescue if needed and make sure you carry a basic first aid kit.