Sitting at the dinner table on a Friday evening in June, we were talking about what we might do at the weekend. We were struggling to come up with anything more exciting than just taking the dog out for a walk, which was a shame because the weather forecast was looking good and we didn’t want to waste a good weekend.
I was flicking through my iPhone weather app, where I’ve still got the forecasts saved for everywhere we’ve been on holidays recently and I noticed something we don’t often see – two days of completely unbroken sunshine and warm temperatures in Snowdonia, our favourite UK destination.
It was already 7pm but, with most of our camping gear stored in a trailer that we can just hook on to the back of the car, we decided it might be possible to do an extremely last-minute, impromptu camping trip to Beddgelert and enjoy the rare weekend of hot sunny weather in what’s normally the wettest (but in our opinion still the most beautiful) part of the UK.
A quick check on the website of Beddgelert Campsite showed they had space available and we could book online, so we made the booking for one night and frantically started packing all our stuff, ready for an extremely early start in the morning.
We live in Southampton on the south coast of England and the car journey to Snowdonia is just over 5-hours without traffic. On occasions when we’ve done it during the daytime with traffic, it’s taken us up to 8-hours, so we always get up mega early to get the driving done whilst most other road-users are still asleep – it’s much quicker and less stressful this way and means the kids can go back to sleep in the car and miss half the journey too.
So we got up at 4am Saturday morning, loaded up the car, hooked up our camping trailer and by 5am we were speeding off up the M3 to Snowdonia.
It’s an ideal time to do this kind of long journey; you can get through so many more miles so much more quickly when there’s no-one else on the roads.
After a quick stop off for a roadside bacon roll near Shropshire, we found ourselves rolling in to the familiar and always mind-blowing scenery of Snowdonia National Park by about 10am – a time when we’d still have been sat in our pyjamas having breakfast on a normal weekend!
The weather forecast was spot on and even by this time it was warming up nicely with not a cloud in the sky. We’re used to seeing Snowdonia mostly shrouded in cloud so to arrive here and see it on such a glorious day already proved the early morning and long drive to be well worthwhile.
Check-in at the campsite wasn’t until after 2pm so we parked up by the side of the Watkin Path – a trail that starts from just outside Beddgelert village and winds its way past the most beautiful waterfalls and up to the summit of Snowdon itself.
Grabbing our packed lunch, we headed off up to the waterfalls which are on the lower part of the mountain track.
If we were tired from the 4am start, this was the best way to wake up – jumping and leaping in to the river and standing under the waterfalls, cooling off and waking up in the most spectacular fashion!
We spent hours here just relaxing, laying in the sun, playing in the river and the waterfalls, having lunch and enjoying the phenomenal views.
- Click here for our separate post on this beautiful spot and how to find it.
I wondered what we might otherwise have been doing at home. Children probably watching mindless YouTube videos or even still lazing in bed if we’d not made the snap decision come here.
Eventually we packed up our stuff and walked back down to the car, heading to the campsite to set up the tent.
With our huge tent and all the equipment and supplies for a family of six plus a dog, this is a few hours’ work and never a fun experience! The stress of setting up the tent is always something I’m keen to forget so I’ll say no more on that subject and instead focus on the memories of the beautiful Welsh countryside on such a stunning weekend.
Once the tent was up we spent some time relaxing and recovering on the campsite before heading down to Beddgelert village for some dinner in a riverside restaurant, after which we walked along the river, finding spots to stop and sit, throw stones, paddle in the water and take in the glorious views.
The next morning was the perfect camping morning. We were woken up by the sun pouring in to the tent and unzipped the door to clear blue skies, warm sunshine and the smell of bacon cooking on camping stoves all over the site.
After cooking up a fry up on the camping stove and finishing the washing up, it was time to pack everything away again. We only had one night and wanted to get everything packed up back in the trailer so we could make the most of the rest of the day before heading home in the evening.
We made the short drive from the campsite to the car park of Aberglaslyn Pass, from which there is a brilliant path along the bottom of a gorge carved out of the mountainside by the Glaslyn River.
Sometimes we come here to find the river thundering and roaring through the gorge after weeks of rainfall. Today, after several dry, sunny days, the river was relatively low, making for plenty of places to easily and safely swim.
What a way to refresh and revitalise yourself after a night in a tent! You can typically complete the Aberglaslyn to Beddgelert walk in about an hour or so, but we took our time and spent ages stopping by the river, paddling, swimming and eating lunch before turning around at the half way point and heading back to the car park and, from there, off in a different direction to another favourite spot of ours.
- There’s full details of the Aberglaslyn Pass walk in our separate post here.
From the Aberglaslyn car park you have the choice of either walking along the gorge or heading to the right, up the hillside of Cwm Bychan. We walked for about 15-minutes up Cwm Bychan to a small waterfall, which you can climb down to and sit beside and which also has a pool of water ideal for paddling in.
With the temperatures pushing 30-degrees, it was the most amazing spot to just lay down on the picnic blanket in the sun, with the children happily playing in the water and chasing after dragonflies. When the sunbathing got too hot, you could just stick your head under the waterfall for an instant cooling.
One of my favourite things about this particular part of Snowdonia is the total lack of any mobile phone reception. There’s literally nothing – just ‘no service’ for the entire time we’re here.
Yes it can be a bit inconvenient but I love seeing how different the children are without access to their phones and the internet. They spent the whole time playing together, chatting and basically having ‘real life’ fun and it’s brilliant to watch.
Ours range in age from 8 to 18 and they all get on so well with each other when we’re away on holiday. We’re always amazed at how they manage to make up games to play and things to do out of absolutely nothing but their own imaginations.
It seems a bit like that sort of thing rarely happens at home these days with the constant presence of phones and internet but here, where mobile signal can’t penetrate the mountains and valleys, you get to see a different side to them and it’s great to see, on occasions like this, that it still exists!
By the end of the day, after we’d finished our walk, looked around the shops in Beddgelert and had the obligatory ice creams from the famous Glaslyn Ices shop, it was time for dinner in ‘Cafe Glandwr’ – a favourite of ours for years for their great range of home-made pizzas.
We headed back to the car and started the long journey home at about 6pm, which was a good time to be driving on a Sunday evening with minimal traffic; finally arriving back home at about 11.30pm.
A pretty late night considering it was straight back to school and work the next morning, but being a bit tired the next day was a small price to pay for a brilliant weekend, loads of great memories – and all for a very low cost too.
This little trip gave us a taste for looking out for ultra last-minute opportunities to get away whenever the weather’s looking good and circumstances allow. You should give it a try whenever you can!