Three day camping trip in Snowdonia, exploring Porthmadog, Beddgelert, Portmeirion, Criccieth and Bangor!
Choosing where to camp
I always loved camping as a child, I can remember lots of excellent summers spent with the family around North Wales campsites. Hating to have two weeks off for the school Easter Holidays and nowhere to go, I booked a last minute campsite in Snowdonia national park (https://www.campingintheforest.co.uk/wales/snowdonia/beddgelert-campsite). Despite it being only a matter of selecting a piece of grass to pitch a tent, finding a suitable campsite took a surprisingly long time. I refused to spend more than £20 a night for our four man tent, and Julia refused to drive more than two hours away from home. I also wanted to be within ten miles of the sea, which narrowed it down significantly.
What to Pack?
Tent (borrowed from my Dad), two sleeping bags, two air beds, an air bed pump, a portable stove, a head torch, a lamp, rock pegs for the tent (essential), citronella incense sticks (essential for scaring off the bugs!), pots and pans, plastic containers, plastic cutlery, washing up liquid and sponges, clothes for warm weather, warmer clothes for at night, towel and toiletries, books and games for entertainment, sandals to slip on easily, coffee sachets that don’t require milk, easily cooked food (pasta, noodles, soup), and finally chargers that can be plugged into the car.
Day One (travelling in and Porthmadog)
We had booked a slot to arrive by 1pm which was slightly optimistic, we didn’t leave our house until 11.30am and it was at least a two hour drive. The drive was a scenic one, along the North Wales coast past Colwyn Bay, going past fields and fields of lambs as we entered Snowdonia National Park. We found the campsite easily and it did not disappoint, we were able to pitch up next to a stream (we later discovered this was a bad idea as the noise of a trickling stream when you’re trying to avoid a wee when it’s 2am and freezing outside is very difficult).
After setting up the tent and having a look around the campsite, it was about 4pm and we decided to explore Porthmadog, a 20 minute drive away and somewhere we had often visited to go crabbing on the harbour years earlier. Arriving around 5pm in a small Welsh town, understandably almost everything was closed. However, we did manage to get some chips (most of them were thrown at seagulls to see if they could catch them mid flight) and spent some time in a tiny arcade on the 2p machines. Unbelievably, after starting off with 50p and playing for 20 minutes, we were told it was closing. I speedily inserted all my remaining 2ps into the machine, only for me to get a massive win and I ended up walking out of the arcade 10p richer than when I went in, unheard of when gambling with 2ps.
We had a scenic drive back to the campsite where there wasn’t much to do except read a book and wonder what the neighbours were up to.
Day Two (Beddgelert, Portmerion and Criccieth)
We woke up fairly early, I braved the showers, which were actually very clean and a perfect temperature, just a ten minute walk away from the tent up a steep hill (you needed a shower once you had reached them).
Breakfast was a fried egg butty on the stove, Julia managed to cover the stove in egg as she insisted on cracking the egg on the side of the pan ( ”they were stubborn eggs and the plastic knives looked too weak!”), otherwise drama free.
We (I) decided that it would be nice to stop and explore Beddgelert on the way to Portmerion as it looked so pretty when we were driving through yesterday. Despite it being freezing, it was beautiful. We sent postcards home and saw Gelert’s grave, the story of Gelert is one which made me uncomfortably sad as a child and still does now, if you’re interested you can read it here: http://www.beddgelerttourism.com/gelert
Beddgelert is a village with a population of around 500, and is a lovely unspoiled place to stop and have food in one of the pubs, cafes or tea houses, or browse the shops. I think I found my favourite shop, I could’ve bought everything in there, Beddgelert woodcraft had a range of hand-carved objects at very reasonable prices with very friendly staff. We didn’t stay long as we had planned to make the most of our only full day in Wales, but we had time to send a couple of postcards. I would have loved to have gone to a free harp recital that was going on in the church at 2pm, but it would have meant sacrificing going to Portmeirion or Criccieth.
A 20 minute drive from Beddgelert is Portmeirion, an amazing little model village, designed by the architect Clough Williams-Ellis, inspired by an Italian village. It is a colourful and fun settlement standing on the edge of the cliff, in contrast to the bland and vast estuary which lies below.
Entrance is £12.50 for adults, and we spent a couple of hours wandering around the village and gardens, stopping for lunch in the ‘town hall’ cafe. The village ended up being a unique collection of donated statues and parts of buildings from all over the world, with everything in miniature but making up for its small size with vibrant colour.
Williams-Ellis was an eccentric, with Portmeirion being his life’s work. He intended to use the village as an example of how buildings can be built into the landscape without taking over and destroying the scenery.
I would definitely recommend Portmeirion as a place to see if you are in Snowdonia, I haven’t seen anything quite like it anywhere else.
After Portmeirion, we took a trip down memory lane to Criccieth, a town where we had spent many summers growing up. It should have been a short drive from Portmeirion, but Julia doesn’t like turning around when she has missed a turn off, it’s an ongoing joke that she will just keep going like nothing is wrong until we are in the next town or we see a rare roundabout and go all the way around it. When we finally made it to Criccieth, we walked along the beach, next to the castle on the hill.
It’s strange how many memories come flooding back when you are stood in the same spot, I remembered going to restaurants and cafes as soon as I saw them, which I wouldn’t have been able to tell you about five minutes before seeing them.
After walking along the beach, we stocked up on supplies at one of the only open shops (it was almost 7pm) and drove 20 minutes back to the campsite to cook tea, which was pasta. Somehow we managed to cook the pasta badly, which I didn’t think was possible to do, but it ended up very chewy. Luckily, we had good drinks as compensation for the disappointing food.
Day Three (driving home and exploring Bangor)
We had to be out of the campsite by 12pm, so most of the morning was spent packing up the tent. We decided to drive home via Bangor. I’ve been to Bangor before, but the last time was probably around ten years ago. It was a lot smaller than I remembered, we drove around the town centre about 4 times before Julia found somewhere she liked to park. Luckily, during the several times driving around the town centre, I’d seen a pub I liked the look of for lunch- The Feral Cat.
I had a veggie burger which was homemade and reasonably priced. After lunch we explored a local antique shop where I bought a couple of old postcards, and nipped into the cathedral for a look around.
Overall, a really nice few days in a beautiful part of the UK!