I don’t tend to leave the country much. And by ‘much’, I mean that I haven’t left the UK since I was seventeen. Or possibly eighteen. I definitely went to Morocco when I was seventeen, as part of a Geography A-Level field trip (my sixth form was a bit posh). And one girl nearly died from alcohol poisoning (twice) and we stayed in a casbah in the High Atlas overnight, and we rode camels into the Sahara desert and I found out that a couple of hours on a camel is enough to prevent your lower back and legs from working properly. I generally think of that as the last time I left the UK, but I did go to the Netherlands as part of an orchestra I played with, and we played on a barge going up and down a river as part of some festival or something. I was in that orchestra until I was 18, but I think that trip took place earlier, because I remember me and a couple of the others taking advantage of being able to buy beer while under 18, and also I stopped drinking at all when I turned 18 (no horrendous story about that, I just decided I didn’t like alcohol).
Side note: Dutch lager is HORRENDOUS. And by horrendous I mean it’s like Budweiser, but worse.
Anyway, I’m 33 now and haven’t left the UK for fifteen years. This isn’t because I have anything particular against the rest of the world: it’s more because I rather like the UK, and there’s still plenty of places I want to see here. It had been eight years or so since my wife and I had been to Wales, so after several years holidaying in the Lake District (with a year where we went to Devon, which we combined with being wedding DJs for two friends) we decided to go back. What follows is a brief account of what we did, along with some photos, because North Wales is a lovely place and you should probably go there.
DAY 1: Snowdon
The weather forecast was looking grim for a week ahead, particularly when you consider that we like to go walking, so we decided to take the bull by the horns and climb Mt Snowdon on the Sunday, our first full day. Snowdon is the highest mountain in England and Wales, at slightly over 1000m high. The best-known path follows the route of the mountain railway coming up from Llanberis, but we decided we wanted a possibly quieter and certainly more scenic route, so we aimed to start from Pen-y-Pass in the Pass of Llanberis, to make it a 7.5 mile round trip instead of 10 miles or so.
Unfortunately, we hadn’t counted on everyone else getting their early and packing out the car park, so we had to park a mile and a half further down the mountain and added three miles to our journey. Nice planning, Team Brooks.
The Pyg Trail that we were on involved a fair bit of steep climbing, and was PACKED, but we made it to the top and were rewarded with some impressive views, as the cloud had agreeably rolled away over the course of the day.
There’s a cafe at the summit that does some rather nice and reasonably-priced food, and then we descended again to find some food at Betws-y-Coed, a town just north of where we were staying.
DAY 2: The Thrill of Rhyl
Rhyl is a town on the North Wales coast, and I won’t lie, it’s pretty grim. We went there because our legs and feet were bit sore from Snowdon and we thought we’d take a look around the Seaquarium there, given that it was meant to rain a bit. We got in for half price thanks to a voucher so it was only a tenner for both of us. That was pretty good, as it’s not the largest thing in the world and a tenner each would have seemed a bit much. But we got to see Harbour Seals:
And I nearly got eaten by a shark:
DAY 3: Betws-y-Coed and Swallow Falls
On the Tuesday we decided to take a walk up in the hills around Betws-y-Coed and up to Swallow Falls. Betws is one of North Wales’ more touristy little towns, but it’s still lovely despite that.
DAY 4: Lake Vrynwy
Lake Vrynwy is an RSPB bird reserve around a reservoir that’s just east of the Snowdonia National Park. We did a shortish (5 mile) walk around a trail that was actually nowhere near as pretty as we’d hoped: the lake itself is lovely but the trail turned out to be a forestry one, trees obscured the lake for most of the way and we encountered loggers. Got a couple of decent pictures, though:
The best view actually came on the drive back to our holiday cottage, though:
DAY 5: Colwyn Bay and Holyhead
On the Thursday we decided to do more of a drive-around, and so went for a stroll on the beach at Colwyn Bay before heading to Holyhead on Anglesey, where we looked out over the Irish Sea to see Ireland (surprisingly). We also visited the South Stack RSPB reserve, although we were sadly far too late in the year for the plethora of nesting seabirds that you get in spring.
I also go what I thought was a rather nice shot of the clouds and sky looking south towards mainland Wales.
DAY 6: Welsh Mountain Zoo
The Welsh Mountain Zoo is the national zoo of Wales (apparently). We found it last time we were in Wales and weren’t expecting much, but were very pleasantly surprised. Although it only has a small area to work with it has several interesting species and seems to have a very good approach to what it does. Some of the enclosures are slightly old-fashioned but it’s very clear that this is because they need funding to bring them up-to-date, which they have appeals for. They know what they want to do and the animals on display seem happy, and quite willing to be out and about in front of visitors. This might be because we went on an off-season week day, and so it was quieter, but it was still a good indication that the zoo is well-run.
Now, obviously, if you want 40-degree heat or whatever, then perhaps I can understand going abroad for your holidays. However, if you want nice scenery and varied activities, I still think there’s a lot of mileage to be had in the UK.