This past weekend we took a nice trip to Wales and stayed with some friends in an old farmhouse. And by old farmhouse, I mean really old! It was originally built some time in the 1600s and is a Grade II* listed building. Here is the site for the farmhouse cottage because it was really cool and I totally recommend staying there: http://www.northwalesholidaycottages.co.uk/WebsiteContent/conway-property-details.aspx?Property=GILAR&AvailBuild=.
A listed building basically means it has some sort of historical significance, and the Grade II* is the particular listing. To read more about the specific listings, you can check out this site: http://www.english-heritage.org.uk/caring/listing/listed-buildings/ But basically, all you need to know is that this was a really cool old farmhouse that had tons of character and is still out in the middle of North Wales on a working farm.
We drove over to Wales after work on Friday, so we didn’t do much that evening except make dinner and hang out with friends. The crew on this trip consisted of Alex (it is actually her cousin’s farmhouse), Kevin, Dave, Rafa, Fritz, Doug, and me. The farmhouse comfortably fit all 7 people.
Friday night consisted of making dinner (the farmhouse had a surprisingly up to date kitchen) and teaching everyone about s’mores! Yes, believe it, they do not have s’mores in the UK. I think the problem is that they are missing one of the key ingredients: graham crackers. However, we substituted digestive biscuits and they worked just fine. Notice how cool the farmhouse looks in the pictures below. We just loved hanging out in the living room by the fire.
Saturday was our day of adventure. Despite it being freezing cold temperatures, we decided that we were going to attempt to hike up Snowdon, the highest mountain in Wales at 3,560 feet. Doug and I have already done Ben Nevis (blog post), the highest mountain in Scotland at 4,409 ft, so it was only fitting that we attempt Wales. I wouldn’t normally be up for such an intense hike on such a cold day, but the British mindset is starting to rub off on me. The Brits realize that you can’t wait around for good weather (because there never is any…), so you just have to brave it and go about your activities. So off we went to Snowdon.
It was about a 45 minute drive from the farmhouse to Snowdon, so Doug showed off his driving skills since he is now a licensed UK driver! He passed his driving test on Friday, and only had one minor fault, so I guess he’s officially a better driver than me (I had two minor faults).
The car park (aka parking lot to Americans) at the bottom of the path we had chosen was actually already full by the time we got there, so we had to park at another car park that added an extra 30-40 minutes of road walking onto our hiking time. Ahh, why is it always so hard to park in the UK?
Our plan was to take the Pyg trail up and the Miner’s path down. The British people in the group decided on that, so I was trusting their judgement.
Even at the beginning of the hike, there were some incredible views.
As we made our way up, we realized that this was going to be no easy feat. The top of Snowdon was completely shrouded in clouds.
Even though the hike was pretty hard, Rafa wasn’t finding it challenging enough, so he decided to split with the group and go up another route (Crib Goch) which is basically a cliff’s edge. Nobody else wanted to go on the very dangerous route, so Rafa decided to go on his own. We were pretty sure this was the last time we were ever going to see Rafa, so I took one last picture of him as a keepsake.
So we headed along our ways and got some more spectacular views.
As we made our way higher, the path got more and more treacherous. The path was slowly getting lost in ice and snow, and the visibility was getting pretty bad.
At some points, we were literally on our hands and knees trying to climb up ice and snow.
Shortly after this point, we decided that we could go no more. The visibility had gotten extremely bad, the snow was coming down hard, and we just couldn’t go on without ice picks and other such equipment. We decided that Snowdon had defeated us and it was time to turn around.
We took a different path down, the Miner’s track, which is supposed to be quite easy, but was pretty treacherous at the beginning. A lot of snow had fallen on top of ice patches, so you couldn’t really tell where the ice was and where it wasn’t. After a couple of slips and falls, I decided to just go down on my bum. Eventually we made it down the hardest part and reached a nice frozen lake. We chilled (literally) there for a bit, took some pictures, had a picnic, and radioed Rafa to see how he was getting along. Luckily, he was doing well, had made it pretty close to the top, but planned to come down and meet us at the lake.
Once Rafa rejoined our group, we continued our way down Snowdon. It only got easier and warmer as we went which was nice. Alex kept up our energy with a constant supply of sugar.
We saw some cool old structures that used to be part of the miner’s buildings.
And we all made it down safely. I would call the day a success even though we didn’t make it to the top of Snowdon. We’ll see if we have a chance to try it again, hopefully in the summertime when the weather will be better. However, I’ve heard that it can get really crowded in the summer and you are basically in a queue going up the mountain. We also need to attempt to go up Scafell Pike, which is the highest mountain in England at 3,209 feet.
We ended with a stop at a pub, a few outdoor shops, and then headed back to the farmhouse. We had another nice evening there, with a good home-cooked dinner and some games around the fire.
On Sunday we did some sightseeing. First we went to Conwy and then on to Llandudno. Conwy is this nice town on the coast that has city walls and a castle dating to the 1280s, built by English King Edward I. We visited the castle and walked the walls (just over 1 km). Oh, and they also have the smallest house in Great Britain, which I knew about because of Steve’s blog post.
After the castle, which was pretty cool, we checked out Great Britain’s smallest house and walked the walls.
After Conwy, we drove about 10 minutes to the Victorian seaside town of Llandudno. This is a proper British holiday town, complete with palm trees; Victorian architecture; boardwalk with arcade; rocky, cold beach, and enormous, vicious seagulls.
When we first arrived, I was pleasantly surprised by how beachy the town looked. All the colorful facades and palm trees tricked me into thinking it would be warm outside. However, as we made our way to the pier to have our picnic, we realized it was agonizingly cold, especially with the wind from the ocean whipping in our face. In fact, I think I was colder eating that picnic than the picnic the day before on Snowdon.
As we were trying to wolf down our sandwiches and cookies, the seagulls kept creeping closer. Before we knew it, they were hovering over our heads and making dive bombs for the cookies in our hands, or in my case, in my mouth! Seriously, a seagull came swooping in for the cookie as I took a bite, and if it weren’t for my lightning fast reflexes, I probably would have lost my nose (or at least the cookie). We had to abandon ship and run for the arcade.
After warming up in the arcade, we braved the cold, wind, and seagulls, and headed back out for a walk down the boardwalk. Luckily, we made it and were rewarded with some coffee at the cafe on the end.
Once making it back down the boardwalk, we had one last stop at the arcade before heading home.
Overall, a really fun weekend. It was nice to travel with some good friends and get to know some others better. Wales was an easy 2 hour drive away, so I suspect we’ll be making some more trips there.
Next up is Liverpool (attempt #2), so hopefully it doesn’t snow and we can actually make it there!