Adventuring in beautiful North Wales

A long weekend, promising weather forecast and an itch for a little exploration – an ideal excuse to fill the car full of gear and take off on a hostelling adventure. Read on to learn about Lily and Dom’s weekend of exploring North Wales…

The first stretch of our trip got us to the Ogwen Valley, just outside the town of Bethesda, where we would spend the first two nights camping at Ogwen Valley Bunkhouse. Beginning the trip we had no real objectives, other than climbing Snowdon, sitting around a fire and enjoying some peacefulness away from home. With a relaxed itinerary, we could play it by ear, picking and choosing whatever caught our eye or was recommended by the locals along the way.

On arrival at Ogwen, we were met with rain and winds, but the spirits were high and shortly after the tent was pitched. Our charming host, Gwyn, gave us a tour round and made sure we had everything we needed. Gwyn also told us a peculiar bit of local knowledge about the parking situation for walking up Snowdon- the carpark at Pen y Pass requires you to book a space in advance (?!) – a worry for another day. Showered and full of tea, it was time to call it a night, anticipating the tent views in bright daylight.

Photograph of Ogwen Valley Bunkhouse from the road, showing the Hostel sign and a sheep in the foreground.
Ogwen Valley Bunkhouse nestled amongst the Welsh hillside. The building is a converted chapel!

We woke to the sounds of grazing sheep around the tent. The rain had stopped and the wind had calmed down a little too. Strolling around the grounds we found a variety of seating, including a terrace by a pond that Gwyn himself had built – pretty and very much practical too. On-site parking is available here, both at the front of the house and at the campsite. Throughout our stay we were sharing the field with a couple of vans, so space is not an issue.

We headed inside the bunkhouse to freshen up and prepare for the day’s hike up the mountain. As guests were not staying in the bunkhouse that night we had access to the facilities that we needed, and the oppurtunity to take some good shots of the interior.

The kitchen setup at Ogwen Valley had all we needed to feel at home

A couple of coffees later we were on our way to tackle Snowdon which was a short 20min drive away. Having circled around a little, we managed to find an alternative parking spot in a layby on the side of A498 a few hundred metres away from the Pen Y Gwryd hotel – PayByPhone location 807996. It was about a mile away from the starting point, but only cost £8.50 for the 8 hours- not too bad considering the Pen Y Pas carpark’s prices!

The climb up Pyg Track was a challenging one, but the surroundings made it that much more enjoyable. It’s a great shame that no photo could ever translate just how spectacular the sights really were…

Hours and what felt like thousands of steps later the summit was, well, kind of, in sight – the final few kilometres we climbed completely surrounded by clouds. It was both a physical and mental battle, but we persevered and eventually made it to the top. Out came the stove, soups were warmed and tins of sardines were cracked, all to celebrate a great success. Shortly after the feast, we began our descent back into the sunshine, feeling chuffed with what had been achieved.

What ewe looking at?

Back at camp, with the skies clear and the warmth fading, it was time to make use of the firepit and wrap up the day. Firewood and kindling (all 16 kilos of it) were provided by Gwyn, and got put to use. Burgers (sourced from a nearby shop) were soon on the fire, just as the stars were beginning to peek out. Fed and watered it was soon time to curl up in the tent and give the legs a well-deserved rest.

On the third day, we said our goodbyes and set out to do some sightseeing around the north coast. Our first stop was beautiful Conwy. The first point of interest here was the old castle walls. Getting up to the top meant climbing more steps, but alas, it had to be done. Having made it to the top, the view of the town opened up. Looking over the rooftops we could spot lots of nesting seagulls which was really unexpected and cool!

Shows a seagull sitting in its nest on top of a chimney in Conwy
One of many gulls nesting among the rooftops of Conwy
Shows a person walking along the top of the castle walls that surround the town of Conwy
Lily walking the ancient castle walls

Strolling the streets we visited a few local shops, and with a commemorative Conwy magnet secured we headed back towards the harbour. While looking for ideas of places to visit the day prior, we stumbled upon some ads for a pirate festival that was supposed to take place throughout the weekend. And so, as we wandered towards the Liverpool Arms, a crowd began to appear, and the faint sound of shanties got clearer the closer we got. As it happened, the festival was beginning, and the musicians, The Amazing Old Time Sailors as we later found out, were putting on an excellent show. We had no choice but to grab a couple of pints and a sit down to enjoy the performance.

The next stop in mind was Llandudno. Obligatory sea-side ice creams, vanilla and a mint, were obtained before heading back to the car. Before heading into Llandudno itself, there was another stop we had to make – the Rest & Be Thankful cafe posted on a cliff side, halfway up the Marine Toll drive. No particular reason for the stop, other than a charming name, the possibility of spotting seals and some guaranteed photo opportunities. The toll set us back £5.50, but it was all worth it in the end – the views were spectacular, and despite there not being any seals out, we weren’t exactly rested, but were indeed thankful.

Image of Lily pulling a pose on the headland, with sea in the background
Standing on the end of the world… at Rest and Be Thankful

Back down in Llandudno, it was business as usual, at least as far as seaside town visits go. We walked the pier, visited the arcades and watched seagulls pinching people’s chips. 

It was time to get back on the road for the final drive of the day, heading to the Bunkorama bunkhouse in Barmouth. The drive took us down some pretty, and surprisingly quiet main roads right through Snowdonia. One kebab stop and two hours later we made it to sunny Barmouth and took a turn up a steep and narrow road towards Bunkorama- and what a stunning place it is! Greeted by the golden hour sunlight, this picturesque little bunkhouse is surrounded by the most spectacular headland views. 

Photo of Bunkorama bunkhouse in the evening sunlight
Breathtaking views of Bunkorama…

We were welcomed by Graham, who showed us around the facilities and gave us a second piece of local knowledge. This time it was a matter of booking a taxi a day in advance, should we decide to wander out into the town for some beverages and not have the capacity to climb back up the mountain at the end of the night. Having thanked Graham for the tour and wisdom, we settled in, played some cards and watched the sunset. And with that, another eventful day came to a close.

Early the next morning, camera in hand, I hiked up a trail to a nearby viewpoint. Despite the weather forecasts anticipating rain, the weather was calm and dry. Complete silence, uninterrupted by the distant droning of cars is rare to come by back home, so it’s always a real pleasure being able to sit down and let the mind rest a while.

Landscape image of Barmouth bay
Early morning shot of Barmouth Bay

Feeling content, with a few more photos in the Wales collection, it was time to return back to base and tick off some chores. The kitchen was fully equipped with all of the cooking and cleaning necessities. As for the appliances, a kettle, toaster, fridge and a hob were all there, so it would definitely be possible to cook some big meals without any issues. There was also plenty of seating space available both inside and out of the communal space. Can’t forget the visitor’s guidebook – we found plenty of handy tips and local knowledge, including locally recommended walks and coastal paths to explore on your days out. There is a fantastic short footpath leading from Bunkorama straight down into Barmouth and the beach, super useful for an evening stroll to get some dinner.

Toilets and showers were really close by – three of each, but one of the pairs was reserved for the pod guests. 

The cosy kitchen setup at Bunkorama

The main goal for the next day was to visit Beddgelert, to find out about the local legend of Gelert the brave dog. On the way, we stopped off for diesel at a garage roughly six miles away from Bunkorama – something to bear in mind when out in these parts of Wales, is that fuel stations are not all too common. At Beddgelert, we had a look around at all the pretty things for sale at the woodcraft shop and tried on a few funky hats. Gelert’s grave was close by, and we paid it a visit. The headstone explained the whole story and it was indeed a sad one (no spoilers, don’t worry). Soon after we followed some signs for the Sygun Copper Mine where we went on a tour. This was one of the highlights of my trip, the self guided tour allowing visitors to peruse through the abandoned mine at their leisure and explore the underground workings through audio recordings.

After another comfortable nights stay at Bunkorama it was time to pack up and head home. One last tourist stop we had to do however was a visit to Harlech castle, unfortunately the weather didnt hold out today so much of it was spent sheltering under the castle walls rather than on them! What a spectacular castle though, it was a really beautiful last stop before the long drive back to Sheffield.

Final hurrah at Harlech before heading home!

With the car packed, bellies full and thirst for adventure quenched we said goodbye to lovely Wales.

About Lily Oldfield

Lily is a forest schools teacher and artist who appreciates the quirky side of travel. Read her blogs for some unusual escapades and curious photos...