Snowdonia, known in Welsh as Eryri (Land of the Eagles), is a land of high peaks, steep, plungingvalleys and open moorland bounded on the west by the Lleyn Peninsula and the Cardigan Coast. Rocky mountains,glacial lakes, waterfalls and wilderness compete for attention.
Prehistoric man and Celtic chiefs left their mark here. The Romans built roads and forts. Pilgrims visited. TheWelsh Princes of Gwynedd reigned from mountain strongholds-armies disappeared into the vastness of the remotecountryside, eluding their enemies. The English came to conquer and marked the landscape by building castles.
Today's visitor can experience the culture of the past while enjoying the beauty of today. Snowdonia NationalPark's 840 square miles (1351 sq. km) stretches from the Conwy river in the north to Machynlleth in the south andeastwards to Bala. It includes the mountain ranges of Tryfan, the Glyderau, the Moelwynion, Aran and Arennig,Cader Idris and the most well known mountain, Snowdon, the highest peak south of the Scottish border at 3560 ft.(1113m.)
Bangor, an historic university and cathedral city, lies at the eastern entrance of the Menai Strait. This ancienttown began in 525AD with the building of a monastery. There's an ornate Victorian pier-considered one of Wale'sfinest-that provides a delightful countryside view. The Museum of Welsh Antiquities contains collections ofprehistoric, Roman and other northern Wales finds. Nearby Penrhyn Castle is a country house pretending to be acastle. It was built for the slate magnate Lord Penrhyn and completed about 1834.
The town of Caernarfon is famous for its castle and medieval walls. The walls are 766yds (700m) long and arealmost complete. They include eight towers and two gateways. Caernarfon Castle, on the Menai Strait, is the siteof the investiture of the Princes of Wales. The first Prince of Wales, King Edward's son, was born here in 1283.More recently Prince Charles was invested here.
Encircled by Caernarfon, the Roman fort of Segontium-once the most western in the Empire-was occupied from 77Ad toc394AD. The foundations are all that remain today.
Llanberis is a popular mountain centre in the National Park. It is flanked by two lakes, Llyn Padarn and LlynPeris. The beautiful Llanberis Pass is a not-to-be-missed driving adventure. From Llanberis, take the rack andpinion railroad to the summit of Mt Snowdon. It's a scenic wonder on a clear day.
The Welsh Slate Museum is at nearby Pardarn Country Park. On view are the foundry, fitting shop, smithy, sawmill,carpenter's shop, pattern loft and all the old machinery used to dress the slate. Most spectacular is the 50.5 ft(15.4m) diameter water wheel that provided the power in the workshops. Roofing slate was made here for all ofBritain.
The Snowdonia National Park Visitor Centre is located at the Old Stables in Betws-y-Coed, a popular resort. Thereare many interesting bridges in the area. The iron Waterloo Bridge, built in 1815 by Thomas Telford, is inscribed'This arch was constructed in the same year the battle of Waterloo was fought'. The famous Swallow Fallsand its chasm are nearby. To the south of the village is the Fairy Glen, a narrow gorge of the River Conwy.
Blaenau Ffestiniog, once the centre of the slate quarrying industry, is now a tourist attraction. At the LlechweddSlate Caverns, Victorian mining conditions can be observed, and you can learn how slate was mined on the Miner'sTramway tour or the Deep Underground tour.
Beddgelert, a wooded stone village located amid steep mountain slopes, lakes and wooded hillsides, was featured ona stamp in 1997 and won a Gold Award for villages in a Europe in Bloom competition. It's a desirable location forexploring the Snowdon mountain range.
Bala Lake, the longest lake in Wales, is a popular watersports centre. A narrow-gauge railway skirts the southernshore. This town was, at one time, the centre of the Methodist Church movement.
The Cardigan Coast and Bay area is known for its sandy beaches and holiday resorts. Barmouth is an old harbourtown made popular by the Victorians. Look for the bridge built in 1866, with its 113 trestles and enjoy the famousPanorama Walk.
Porthmadog was a 19th century terminus for shipping slate. Nearby Black Rock Sands provide a beach playground.Portmeirion is a famous Italianate village near Porthmadog.
Harlech Castle was made internationally famous by the song 'Men of Harlech'. It is now a World Heritagesite. Part of its appeal is the viewpoint it commands from its 200ft high crag over Cardigan Bay, the Lleynpeninsula and the mountains of Snowdonia.
The Lleyn Peninsula is an area of remote bays and cliffs, wildlife- inhabited islands and coastal resorts. Thelargest coastal town is Pwlleheli with a long sandy beach and marina. It's a popular holiday resort. The old townstill hosts a market, and the harbour is filled with pleasure craft. Nearby, in Aberech, is a large medievalchurch.
Aberdaron is the most westerly village on the Peninsula. It, too, has a sandy beach. Bardsey Island, two miles(3km) off the end of the peninsula, is an ancient place of pilgrimage.