Snowdonia Slate Trail: Part 1 – Bangor to Llanberis

I heard about this Trail late 2017 on social media and thought I’d love to walk it. Starting in Bangor and walking a ‘leaf-shaped’ route (including stem) the route passes through several well-known areas within Snowdonia – Llanberis, Bethesda, Nantelle, Llan Ffestiniog etc.

I decided, as I only had one day, that I’d walk the first two sections Bangor to Bethesda and on to Llanberis before getting the bus back to Bangor.

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I’d love to have walked the complete 83-mile route but time will not allow this year and I just wanted to get out and walk.

The trail starts at Porth Penrhyn, near the castle, along the quiet tree-lined cycleway along Lon Las Ogwen river.

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There’s no official starting monument, but one is planned. Waymarkers show the way.

Along the first part of the route, there are several signs to explain about the slate trade and how horses were used on the viaducts to move large quantities to the port for shipment elsewhere.

The first part of this route is low level, flat and absolutely beautiful. I met a couple of dog walkers and runners but it was peaceful overall. There were a couple of geocaches along this route, in fact along all of the routes, but none connected to the route. Hopefully, someone will decide to plan a series along this part connected to the trail as I passed a lot of opportunities for them to do so.
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So I happily strolled along, following the guide book’s instructions until I reached the A55. Now in the book, it states that you keep the A55 to your left… which I did, and ended up at the A5/A55 junction! Only then did I look at the map within the guidebook and saw that it should have said ‘Right’, not ‘left’. Luckily, I’m a good navigator so it didn’t take long to cross and field and rejoin the route where I was meant to be. Later on, looking at the website and just about the email the error, I found that they already knew about it:

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I learnt two lessons that day. One, check the map as well as the description and two, check the website before travelling out! Rookie mistakes.

Continuing on, I found a good geocache and crossed Afon Ogwen, where I took a moment to admire the bridge’s structure and the river views.

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Moving on, I followed various signs that took me through a small village then into Bethesda high street where everything was closed as it was Sunday! So, no cup of tea for me at Caffi Coed y Brenin (king’s wood cafe), which the guide recommended.

This section didn’t seem like it was the 6.3miles the book suggested it was. I suppose because I was enjoying the countryside so much and making detours to find road junctions and geocaches my mind wasn’t aware of the distance.

I pushed on the Llanberis. As I had left Bangor at 8am I knew I would have time to walk both these sections in a day and get the bus back without hassle.

At the High Street, I continued on to walk along the river and up the road towards Mynydd Llandegai. Here I passed one very noisy dog who was awoken from his guard duties at my presence outside his area.

Passing through the small hamlet of Gefnan, I was now on the access ground and into open moorland. It was at this point that the clouds decided to open and rain (gently) upon me. The cows I encountered took one look and wandered off, probably in search of dryer ground elsewhere.

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So, plodding along and crossing many bogs and streams (that seemed to find my feet easily), I pondered about the slate trade around this area. It is evident to see the impact it has had on the countryside due to the heavy quarrying, with large chunks missing, but also its usefulness in terms of building houses, fences etc.

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My GPS decided to die on me so it didn’t record all of the route sadly. I’m surprised it even managed 5 hours. I have yet to find where I have packed the charger in my van so it may stay dead for a little while longer…

Near the end of the route, it takes you through parts of the 800 acres, Padarn Country Park with some stunning views over Llyn Padarn, a 3 mile long, 30m deep glacial formed lake that we visited a few days before on the course.

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Totally found a geocache at this point.
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The country park is dotted with ruins of old buildings belonging to the workers that once used the railways there.

On the boundary of the county park, I found the Quarry Hospital – a museum housing the restored ward, operating theatre and various gruesome 19th Century hospital equipment that once served the slate miners who were injured in the nearby quarry.

I didn’t have time to properly look inside the Slate Museum. I arrived at a leisurely pace at about half-past three, taking in the various geocaches, museum and old buildings whilst on route, and the Slate Museum was only open for another half an hour, so decided that I’ll come back another day to look inside and ride the Llanberis Lake Railway (though I did have a sausage roll at the station).

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The bus ride back was simple enough. The buses don’t run late in Snowdonia I found out, so made sure I was there on time. A bargain price of £3 one-way 50-minute journey from Llanberis to Bangor with bus wifi! It took a very scenic route through some very tiny villages (never have I been on a bus that needs to reverse to turn around).

So, that’s my first weekend in Bangor done! This upcoming weekend the entire PGCE trainee group is off to a residential centre, so I’m sure that will be fun.

I thoroughly enjoyed myself on this route and will look to complete the next section Llanberis to Beddgelert (20miles) another free day.

Just Joanne

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