The clue’s in the name… Surely the big draw of Snowdonia is Snowdon; in this post though I would like to offer some love to the lesser known reaches of Snowdonia, namely southern Snowdonia and the area around Cadiar Idris.
I had first visited this area many, many years ago on a childhood family holiday. After driving what seemed like the entire length of the Welsh coast we finally settled on a campsite at the base of Cadiar Idris. It is undoubtedly a beautiful setting, the facilities are somewhat rustic but oh my does the setting compensate. Tucked in next the epitomy of a babbling brook and nestled at the foot of the Minfford Path up Cadair Idris its location is absolutely idyllic. Pleasingly on my second visit that campsite (including facilities) had not changed at all from my memories of 15 years ago.
On this occasion we had arrived at the campsite after indulging a long held curiosity with the idea of Portmerion. During the above holiday I was frequently denied the opportunity to visit any of the tourist attractions so tantalisingly described in the leaflet display at the campsite so it is fair to say I was pretty excited to fulfill ambitions to visit some of mid wales best tourist attractions in combination with a long overdue summit of Cadair Idris.
‘Like Welsh Disneyland’ or more officially ‘An architect designed Italianate Welsh Village’. Portmerion is pretty damn weird. Home to hipster cool Festival No 6 in September, on most normal days it seemed to be visited by predominately middle aged couples holidaying in mid wales. It was every bit as odd as I had hoped. Like a Barratts home development made by someone who had potentially taken too many mind altering substances. It is undoubtedly in a beautiful location and the architecture and buildings do mix in with the setting rather than detract from it. However I’m not quite sure they complement or enhance it. Nonetheless it is certainly worth a visit, even if just for the double hand wave we got from the gatekeeper on leaving.
On summit day of the family holiday I woke up with an almighty crick in in my neck. I tried to wiggle it and found I couldn’t. Massive disappointment. As my Dad and Sister set up off the mountain my Mum enterprisingly tried to source some Ibuprofen. This meant I had unfinished business with the mountain. Thankfully with the addition of an inflatable pillow to my camping arsenal I woke up with a fully mobile neck and was ready to go. The weather was beautiful, the climb just the right steepness, the views spectacular, the fellow walkers friendly and the descent grueling. All in all a spectacular mountain day. My favourite character was the gent who seemed highly disappointed that he was sharing the mountain – he claimed that he had taken over 50 mountain selfies and this was one of the very few that had other people in them. He seemed most perturbed. Clearly he hasn’t caught on to the fact that more and more people are discovering how awesome the mountains are.
Centre for Alternative Technology (C.A.T)
Another stalwart of the leaflet display. As a child if I could have picked one attraction to visit this would have been it. I remember the leaflet clearly – you had to go in a cliff railway to access it and once there who knew what magical treasures were up the hill. It seemed to be like the magic faraway tree only a bit more organic. I was bitterly disappointed when a visit was denied all those years ago. However, it was certainly worth the wait. The cliff railway was charming, the setting was beautiful and to top it off I had the best vegan pie (in fact probably one of the best pies) I’ve ever had at the cafe. What I really loved (apart from the beautiful mountain views and gardens) was that it so clearly practiced what it preached. It was a working community; there was evidence everywhere of work in progress and I loved the idea that it would never be finished. I also found out they do short courses – I’ve already got my eye on a few.
It helped that the weather was stunning for all of these excursion but even had it not be this part of Wales is so peaceful and I can vouch for the fact that it is pretty much unchanged in the last 15 years. That makes it somewhere definitely worth exploring. The lady who owned the campsite had been there since 1982 and gave the most stunning description of living in the moment. She told us:
This is my favourite time of year. When you look around you can see hundreds of shades of green. Everything is new and each plant or tree has its own unique shade in May.
A lovely reminder to look around us, spend time in one place and relish the changes that nature brings us.