20 Fascinating Facts About Snowdonia

Facts about Snowdonia Image of Snowdon from across Llynnau Mymbyr lakes North Wales UK
Snowdon and its neighbouring peaks from Llynnau Mymbyr in Capel Curig

Facts About Snowdonia

Snowdonia National Park is one of the most beautiful areas of Wales, its rugged peaks rising just a few miles from the sea to Snowdon, or Yr Wyddfa,  the highest mountain in Wales and England. It’s also full of spectacular lakes, forests, castles and extraordinary beaches. Here’s our selection of 20 facts about Snowdonia to reveal a little more about this stunning part of the world.


1. Snowdon is the highest mountain in Wales and England

Image of Snowdon or Yr Wyddfa in winter North Wales UK
The summit of Yr Wyddfa – Snowdon – is to the left of frame

At 1,085 metres (3,560 feet) above sea level, it’s the highest mountain south of Scotland. It’s 21 metres higher than its nearest competitor in Wales, nearby Carnedd Llywelyn, while the highest mountain in England, Scafell Pike, reaches a height of 978 metres.

See Also: Wales Bucket List


2. The Welsh Word For Snowdonia Is Eryri

Eryri bears no etymological resemblance to the English name for the National Park, and there are ongoing discussions about its origins.  The Welsh word for eagle is eryr, and as a Welsh speaker I’ve always thought it meant ’home of eagles’. It has also been suggested that the name may have Latin origins, with the word oriri meaning ‘to rise’. However, the use of eryr elsewhere, including Foel Eryr, the ‘Hill of the Eagle’, in the Preseli Hills in north Pembrokeshire leads me to lean towards the Welsh origin of the word.


3. It Has The Wettest Place in Wales – And Often The UK Too

The village of Capel Curig, a few miles to the east of the Snowdon massif, unsurprisingly cops more than a fair share of rainfall.  It doesn’t tend to flood – the water gushes down past Betws-y-Coed to the Conwy Valley, where any flooding tends to happen. However, there are plenty of gaps in the weather to enjoy the view to the Snowdon Horseshoe, our title image for this article.


4. It’s The Third Largest National Park In The UK

The Snowdonia National Parc – Parc Cenedlaethol Eryri in Welsh- is the third largest in the United Kingdom, behind the Cairngorms in Scotland and the Lake District in north-west England. It’s 2,142 square kilometres in area, or 823 square miles. It extends from Conwy Bay in the north to Aberdovey and the Dovey estuary to the south, a distance of around 70 miles.

See Also: 35 Fun Facts About Wales


5. Snowdonia Is Made Up Of Nine Separate Mountain Ranges

Image of the Glyderau range in Snowdonia North Wales
The Glyderau are one of the three highest ranges in Snowdonia

One of the most intriguing Snowdonia facts for kids is that the National Park is made up of nine different mountain ranges.  The three northernmost ranges -the Carneddau, Glyderau and Snowdon massif are all very close to each other, and contain all the peaks in Snowdon ia over 3,000 feet in height. The Moelwynion (or Moelwyns, around Blaenau Ffestiniog) and Moel Hebog range, around Beddgelert, are close by, while the others – the Rhinogydd (Rhinogs), Cadair Idris massif, Aran Fawddwy range and Dyfi Hills – occupy the southern part of the Snowdonia National Park.

See Also: Landscapes In Wales


 6. Blaenau Ffestiniog – The ‘Exclave’

Image of Blaenau Ffestiniog town overshadowed by heaps of slate spoil Gwynedd Wales UK
Blaenau Ffestiniog in the shadow of immense heaps of slate debris

One of the more curious Snowdonia facts is that there’s a ‘hole’ in the map. The land within it is excluded from the National Park – it’s the slate quarrying town of Blaenau Ffestiniog and immediate surrounds.  It was considered something of an eyesore, with the landscape heavily scarred by slate slag heaps but every cloud has a silver lining – the town is now close to gaining UNESCO World Heritage Site status, along with several other sites around the county of Gwynedd.

See Also: Things To Do In Blaenau Ffestiniog


7. Two World Heritage Sites?

Image of Harlech Castle Snowdonia North Wales UK
Harlech Castle and the stunning backdrop of Snowdonia

Snowdonia may be about to become home to two UNESCO World Heritage Sites. One of the castles in Snowdonia, Harlech, is part of the Castles of Gwynedd World Heritage Site which was created in 1984  -the first in Wales. Two of the other three – Caernarfon and Conwy – are on the fringes of Snowdonia, while the other, Beaumaris Castle, is within sight of it on the Isle of Anglesey.

The landscapes of the Welsh slate industry have also been nominated for inclusion on the World Heritage List, with a decision expected some time in 2021. These include the quarries around Blaenau Ffestiniog, the Nantlle Valley,  the remarkable Ynysypandy Slate Mill and sites south of Cadair Idris in southern Snowdonia.

See Also: Castles In North Wales


8. The Snowdon Lily Grows There

The Snowdon lily – Gagea serotina –  is an Arctic-alpine flower found in isolated pockets in the higher reaches of Snowdonia – often in fairly inaccessible spots such as precarious cliff ledges. It is very rare and I’ve not seen one in around twenty visits to the mountains during flowering season (June and July) and never seen one. It’s more common in the Alps, North America (where it’s called the common alplily) and across Central Asia.


9. Pen y Gwryd Hotel – A Retreat For Mountaineers

Image of Pen y Gwryd Hotel  in Snowdonia Wales
Pen y Gwryd Hotel in the heart of Snowdonia

The Pen-y-Gwryd Hotel, just below the turn-off for the Llanberis Pass, is a historic haven for mountaineers. It was where the successful 1953 Mount Everest expedition, led by Edmund Hillary and Tenzing Norgay, stayed while training on Snowdon and the surrounding peaks. The peaks in Snowdonia may be much smaller than the Himalayas, but provide similarly challenging conditions, including the difficult Crib Goch ridge. The Hotel has a room full of mountaineering memorabilia, including many items donated by the Everest expedition team.  It’s a gorgeous time capsule – they only take telephone bookings, not online.


10. Charles Darwin Made Some Vital Discoveries In Snowdonia

Image of Cwm Idwal valley, Llyn Idwal lake and Pen yr Ole Wen mountain in Snowdonia
The magnificent glaciated Cwm Idwal and Pen yr Ole Wen

Darwin visited the hanging valley of Cwm Idwal, just above and off the Ogwen Valley, as part of his research for his magnum opus, On The Origin Of Species. When he first visited in 1831, he noticed many tiny fossils of sea creatures, indicating that these rocks were under the sea. When he returned a decade later, he realized that the valley had been formed by the action of ice on rock – which was also true of the classic U-shaped valley of Nant Ffrancon just below.


11. Welsh Gold Is Mined In Snowdonia

Gold has been mined in southern Snowdonia, particularly along the Mawddach river, since the 19th century. One mine, Clogau St David’s, remains operational, and is located near the village of Bontddu, roughly halfway between the towns of Dolgellau and Barmouth. Clogau have also purchased the Gwynfynydd mine, at Ganllwyd to the north of Dolgellau.  Welsh gold was famously used for the wedding rings of the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge in 2011.


12. Snowdon Is The Only Mountain In Snowdonia To Have An English Name

Sometimes referred to as Mount Snowdon, its Welsh name is Yr Wyddfa, meaning the resting place, and it’s used more often than its English name by locals, the majority of whom speak Welsh. One of the less widely known Snowdon facts is that it’s the only peak in Snowdonia to have an English name, which is derived from the Old English snaw dun, meaning ‘snow hill’ or ‘snow dune’. 


13. Adam and Eve on Tryfan

Image of Tryfan from the floor of the Ogwen Valley
Formidable Tryfan dominates the Ogwen Valley

Tryfan, in the Ogwen Valley, is one of the toughest mountains in Snowdonia to climb. It’s more of a scramble than a hike, with several steep rocky sections to negotiate. Eventually you’re rewarded with the superb view from the summit, but in some people’s eyes, you still haven’t quite conquered it. Two ancient pillars of rock, Adam and Eve, stand around 5 feet (1.6 metres) apart, and it’s said thet you only conquer Tryfan when you jump between the two. Overstep it and you’re a goner – it’s a long way down there to the valley floor.


14. The Translator of The Bible Into Welsh Was Born There

One of the most fascinating and underrated places to visit in Snowdonia is Ty Mawr Wybrnant, a remote stone medieval house in the forest above the village of Penmachno. It’s the birthplace of William Morgan, who went on to become Bishop of nearby St Asaph, and who translated the Bible into Welsh in 1588.


15.Betws-y-Coed Was Home To An Artists Colony

Image of the Pont-y-Pair bridge in Betws-y-Coed Wales
The picturesque Pont-y-Pair bridge spans the incredibly loud rapids of the Afon Llugwy

Betws-y-Coed’s origins go back to the 13th century, but it wasn’t until the early 19th century that it really started to grow. Thomas Telford’s A5 road passes through the village, inns were built at various points along the route and the picturesque village was discovered by watercolour artist David Cox, who frequently spent whole summers there, inspiring many other artists to visit. This was the first artists’ colony in Great Britain and it continued for over a century until the 1930s.

See Also: Things To Do In Betws-y-Coed


16. Narrow Gauge Railways

Many of the narrow gauge railways are concentrated in Snowdonia, and some, including the Ffestiniog Railway and Welsh Highland Railway, were originally used to transport slate from the quarries to the ports. The Snowdon Mountain Railway is the best-known, taking passengers from Llanberis village to the summit of Snowdon. Also look out for the Llanberis Lake Railway, the charming Talyllyn Railway and the Fairbourne Light Railway, all of which are great for kids.


17. Here Lies A Loyal Dog

The pretty village of Beddgelert owes its name to an unfortunate dog, Gelert, which is buried just outside the village. According to a folk tale his owner, Prince Llywelyn the Great, killed Gelert, having heard his child cry then seen the dog’s mouth covered in blood. He assumed the worst and killed the dog, only to discover that the dog had saved the child and killed an intruding wolf. Llywelyn was stricken with remorse, and buried the dog – Bedd Gelert simply means ‘Gelert’s Grave’.

See Also: 15 Picturesque Villages In North Wales To Explore


18. Snowdonia Has Some Amazing Beaches

Image of Harlech beach Snowdonia
Not just the castle – stupendous Harlech beach

There’s a lot more to Snowdonia than mountains, with many lakes, forests and beaches. The main beaches in Snowdonia are on the Cardigan Bay coast, and include sublime Harlech Beach in the north, Llandanwg with its ancient church in the sand dunes and the glorious stretch of beaches around the village of Dyffryn Ardudwy. The best beaches near Snowdonia include the family-friendly beach at Barmouth and the fantastic Llyn Peninsula beaches to the west of the National Park.

See Also: Best Beaches In North Wales


19. The Historic A5 London to Holyhead Road Runs Through It

Many visitors from England opt for the A5 road as the best means of getting to Snowdonia.  It’s a route of historic importance, having been designed by Thomas Telford, the ‘Colossus of Roads’. It passes his Pontcysyllte Aqueduct and the lovely town of Llangollen, eventually reaching Snowdonia just before Betws-y-Coed. It passes through some exceptional scenery, especially the Ogwen Valley and Nant Ffrancon between Capel Curig and Bethesda.


20. Bird Rock

Bird Rock – Craig yr Aderyn – is a former sea cliff now lying marooned 4 miles inland up the Dysynni Valley. It’s remarkable because, despite its distance from the sea, it’s still used by cormorants as a nesting place – the coastline in the vicinity (around the seaside town of Tywyn) is fairly flat, so they still return there, thousands of years after the sea retreated.

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David Angel
David Angel is a British writer and photographer who has been travelling and photographing Europe for over 25 years.  His work is regularly featured in worldwide media including the BBC, the Guardian, the Times and the Sunday Times.