Alice Hughes explores some of the best locations for a Snowdonian summer break away from it all, recommending some unmissable epicurean hotspots along the way.
Where better to start than Snowdon itself? Base camp for most walkers attempting Wales’ highest peak, Llanberis offers a wealth of activity for adrenaline junkies, including centres for climbing, canoeing and diving. And no visit would be complete without a post-hike pitstop at Llanberis institution Pete’s Eats, where tea is famously served by the pint in their giant, branded mugs. Accompanied by a fried egg butty, it’s a glorious ritual after a bracing hike. Once you’ve freshened up from conquering Snowdon, the Bryn Tyrch Inn in nearby Capel Curig is a great bet for supper, a recent Wales Pub Of The Year with good food and even better views.
Far less trodden than the more northerly part of the region, southern Snowdonia is an underrated gem. Dolgellau, a handsome market town gloriously nestled between estuary and mountains, is an ideal base for discovering this part of the world. For daytime activities, Coed Y Brenin is the largest dedicated mountain bike trail centre in the UK, while those looking for more sedate diversions will be captivated by the Mawddach trail, a footpath that takes in the disused railway line along the estuary from Dolgellau to Barmouth, and that will suit walkers of all abilities. A short hop from the trail is the high-end Mawddach Restaurant, which focuses on fresh, locally sourced produce and whose huge windows overlook the majestic sweep of the Cader Idris mountain range. Beer aficionados are catered for by Cader Ales, who do tours of their micro-brewery during the summer months (booking ahead essential).
There’s a real buzz about Llanrwst this summer, which is playing host to this year’s National Eisteddfod. Alongside this celebration of Welsh culture, there is plenty to tempt visitors away from the Maes. The self-styled Blas Ar Fwyd – Welsh Food Hub – is a foodie Aladdin’s cave, with its shelves reading like a roll call of the finest producers in Wales. Across the road from the deli is its sister shop, the Amser Da Cafe Bar, where customers can enjoy classic Welsh cuisine with a modern twist. On a more traditional note, the restored 15th-century house Tu Hwnt i’r Bont, now an idyllic tearoom on the banks of the River Conwy, is worth a visit for the historic surroundings alone. However, its culinary bona fides are just as sound, with the recipe for its delicious, chunky scones a well-kept secret. Further afield, Bodnant Food Centre – a sprawling complex that includes a cookery school and a well-stocked farm shop – is just a short drive away, a perfect rest stop en route to picturesque Conwy.
Harlech is famous for its miles-long golden beach, medieval castle and spectacular views of the Llŷn peninsula. With Castle Cottage, its foodie reputation is also secured: this restaurant with rooms offers sumptuous fine dining with a seasonal focus. Opt for the inventive and reasonably priced tasting menu for the best value, and book into one of their rooms for a luxurious coda to an outdoorsy day out in Snowdonia. just up the road from Harlech, Italianate-style village Portmeirion is hardly a well-kept secret, but not all visitors will be aware of the two excellent, award-winning restaurants onsite, in particular the Art Deco Hotel Portmeirion, whose vegan table d’hôte menu is impressively substantial.