Last year we spent a long February half-term weekend in a gorgeous cottage in Snowdonia with our friends and their two children. Despite its rural location, there were lots of things to in Snowdonia National Park with little ones, aside from being in constant awe of the rugged, breath-taking scenery! Exploring from our rented cottage (9 miles from Tywyn), here are some of the things we got up to, that were a hit with the kiddos (and us!)
Get salty at the seaside
The beauty of Snowdonia National Park is that, not only do you have towering hills to gawp at, but there are long sandy beaches nearby – so you get the best of both worlds. Mountains meet coastline at Aberdyfi, where you’ll find sand dunes to play in, fish and chips on hand, plus yachting and golf if you’re into that sort of thing.
Plug postcode LL35 0RT into the Sat Nav and park in the large car park next to the beach. Also DO bring a change of clothes for your kids…we had a large parent fail which ended up with our ‘relaxed approach’ to letting our ‘kids be kids’ getting a bit sandy and soggy on the beach, take a turn when they proceeded to wallow like pigs in mud and roll themselves fearlessly into the sea. This would all have been well had I thought to bring spare clothing for them! Cue a scrabbling together of every available adult item we could spare so we could go to the pub with semi-respectable offspring in tow. My eldest was dressed in my jumper and my friend’s socks for leggings and we fashioned trousers for the youngest out of a hoodie, which kind of worked, although her butt kept falling out…
Hit the pub
If you’re peckish for pub food after a seaside stroll, I highly recommend eating at Riverside in the pretty village of Pennal between Machynlleth and Aberdyfi, a 15-minute drive away from the beach. It’s a fairly large, family-run child-friendly country pub serving up tasty food, and came approved by the owners of Y Felin (where we were staying), who are a wealth of information when it comes to this area of Snowdonia National Park.
If you’re in need of somewhere to watch the rugby (we had two very eager men in our party), head to The Railway Pub at Abergynolwyn. Resembling something akin to somebody’s front room, this is where the locals hang out – although strangely plenty of English – luckily for our husbands, so there wasn’t too much trolling after the England v Wales match…
I also liked the sound of T H Roberts – a café in an old listed ironmongery in Dolgellau which, the owners of Y Felin say, serves great coffee, teas, snacks and has board games too. Also on my bucket list for a future return trip is another of their recommendations – Bwyty Mawddach in Llanelltyd near Dolgellau, which does light lunchtime bites (as well as three course dinners) and has stunning views across the estuary and Cadair Idris.
Pennal, Snowdonia National Park, Wales
Hop on the stupendously scenic Talyllyn steam railway
The Talyllyn Steam Railway was the world’s first preserved narrow gauge railway. Starting at Tywyn 9 miles away from Y Felin, the train runs the scenic route via Dolgoch falls to Abergynolwyn and Nant Gwernol. You can of course choose whichever route you desire through the railway valley, but I’ll tell you ours which worked quite well.
Having missed the first train after a timetable/location mishap, we drove to Tywyn to catch the steam train from this seaside town following a bit of playground time (there is a small park with a cafe opposite the ocean, not far from the car park) back to Abergynolwyn. It’s a lot of fun riding in the old-fashioned carriages and peering out the windows on a beautiful sunny day – the route is eye-poppingly beautiful and if you buy a couple of ciders at the little Abergynolwyn cafe using the gift voucher they give you with your ticket purchase, then all the more merrier! There’s also a children’s playground where you can kill half an hour before getting the train back to Tywyn to pick up your car.
Another option is go to the Talyllyn Railway station at Abergynolwyn on the B4405, then take the Steam train up to Nant Gwernol Station and onto Towyn via Dolgoch Falls (a series of waterfalls that cascade down a wooded ravine), although this option wasn’t available for us with the timetabled half-term trains.
Head out on a countryside hike from the cottage
The owners of Y Felin had thoughtfully left several maps with marked routes for walks that can be taken straight out of the back door of the holiday cottage. One of them – which we did – is manageable with kids (if they’re willing to walk!) and takes you up behind Y Felin, following the track eastwards, past the spring and through woodland until you reach a wide open space with mind-blowing 360 degree views across the valley and towards Talyllyn lake. Look out for the stone with curious writing on it – we tried and failed to find it!
Explore an ancient castle
Castell Y Bere, built by Llywelyn Fawr in the 1200s, was the last Welsh castle to fall to the English. It is apparently walkable from Y Felin, but described as a ‘demanding’ walk, we figured the kids would never manage it. You can however, drive about 10 minutes from the cottage and park nearby (it’s signposted). It’s supposedly great for kids to explore with ditches, a well, towers and a drawbridge (although is said to be steep-sided), but sadly our two children fell asleep en route and we could not for the life of us wake them up! Too much fun and fresh air I imagine.
Nearby Corris Craft Centre (on the right of the A487 as you drive from Talyllyn to Machynlleth) has 9 craft studios, where kids and adults can get making! From learning how to make artisan gin at the Dyfi Distillery, to decorating your own Belgian chocolate and pottery painting, it’s a useful one to have up your sleeve if the weather is looking a bit iffy, but do bear in mind there is limited opening during winter time.
Explore underground slate caverns
We turned up to try this out as it sounded thrilling – boats that sail into underground slate caverns at King Arthur’s Labyrinth, only to discover it doesn’t open until 1st April 2019. Definitely one to put on the list for a return visit. Regular boats sail between 10am and 4.45pm and fill up quickly, but you can book online to avoid disappointment.
Watch the video of where we stayed in Snowdonia