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A Welsh winter wonderland: the inspiring landscapes of North Wales

Published on 2 Dec 2022 by Amy Greenwood

As we move into winter here in Eryri (Snowdonia), our eyes are drawn inevitably upwards to our mountaintops. The first snowfall of the season is always breathtaking. But regardless of the time of year, how well do you know your way around the peaks of North Wales?

Our beautiful national park – at 823 square miles it’s the largest in Wales – is home to soaring mountains, great lakes and dense forests. But it’s not all about Yr Wyddfa (Snowdon), you know.

Eryri – is home to a whopping nine mountain ranges, including fifteen peaks above 3,000 feet. So if it’s snowy peaks you’re after for your winter holiday cottage getaway, you’re in the right place.

There is nothing quite as lovely as cosying up in front of the woodburner when outside looks just like Narnia. Bring on the hot choc! If you’d like to know a little bit more about the landscapes you’re looking at, snuggle up and read our quick guide to our favourite North Wales mountains.

The Carneddau

First off, how you say it. Carneddau is pronounced something like Car-neth-aye and it means the cairns.

Bounded by Deganwy and Conwy in the north, the Conwy valley to the east, and the Ogwen valley to the west and south, the Carneddau are a wide expanse of mountain and moorland to the north of the Snowdonia National Park. 

These beautiful hills are home to some of the biggest mountains in Wales. The highest summit of the range, Carnedd Llywelyn, stands at 1064m – just 21m lower than Yr Wyddfa. 

Expect grassy whaleback humps rather than the rugged peaks of the Yr Wyddfa massif, with some beautiful lakes and forests to explore in the foothills – Llyn Crafnant is one of our favourite winter walks. Look out for the Carneddau’s resident population of wild ponies, who will come down to the lower levels of the hills when the snow begins to fall.

You’ll get great views of the Carneddau mountains from cottages near Conwy and Betws y Coed. Check out our favourite cottages with great views of the Carneddau.

The Rhinogydd

What is it that draws you to a day of walking in the hills? If it’s the appeal of getting away from it all, keep on reading (though please be very careful when walking in the winter – even at the lowest levels – our weather can be brutal!).

The Rhinogydd – often anglicised to Rhinogs – is a chain of low mountains which stands at the south western edge of Eryri. One of the most rugged upland landscapes in Britain, it is a beautiful, tranquil place which takes on an extra-special magic in winter. 

The word ‘rhinog’ translates as ‘threshold’, but this is no man-made passing place. The hills are notoriously quiet and uncrossed by any road. Most of the vegetation management is done by sheep and a population of wild goats.

Moel Ysgyfarnogod is the most northerly of the Rhinogydd mountains. Translated into English, the name means bare hill of the hares. It is remote, heathery, grassy terrain, cut by streams and lakes. You can see why the hares might like it, and we certainly do too. A blissful place, but extra-caution in winter, and bear in mind you probably won’t have a phone signal).

You’ll get great views of the Rhinogydd mountains from holiday cottages around Harlech, Dyffryn Ardudwy and Llanbedr. Check out our favourite cottages with great views of the Rhinogydd.

The Glyderau

The spectacularly dramatic Glyderau mountains stretch from the village of Mynydd Llandegai near Bethesda (home of Zip World Velocity) south east to Capel Curig.

Boasting five of Wales’ fifteen summits over 3000 feet, these are rugged, rocky, mountains and home some of the best scrambling and climbing in the UK. 

The Glyderau is where you’ll find Tryfan (917m), a hands-on granite giant and one of the finest mountains in Wales (not to be attempted in winter!). You can find out more about Tryfan – including how you can win the freedom of the mountain – over on our secret mountains blog.

You’ll get great views of the Glyderau mountains from cottages near Llanberis. Check out our favourite cottages with great views of the Glyderau. 

The Moelwynion

The Moelwynion – also known as the Moelwyns – sit in the centre of Eryri, extending from just north east of Porthmadog to Moel Siabod near Capel Curig. 

These craggy summits are characterised by their boggy bottoms (sounds delightful), moist hollows and disused slate quarries. They also offer some of the best mountain views in Wales, with superb vistas north to the Snowdon horseshoe. 

Perhaps the most picturesque peak of the Moelwynion is the summit of Cnicht. It should be pretty obvious why it is known as “The Welsh Matterhorn”. Read more about Cnicht on our secret mountains blog

If you prefer to admire your mountains rather than scale them, try the lovely circular walk around the Tanygrisiau Reservoir in the Vale of Ffestiniog, which has wonderful views of these mountains.

You’ll get great views of the Moelwynion mountains from holiday cottages near Porthmadog. Check out our favourite cottages with great views of the Moelwynion.

Mountain Safety

Whilst we love looking at our snow-capped mountains, we don’t recommend walking in them during the winter unless you are very experienced and fully kitted out with winter kit. Even at lower levels, all the usual safety advice applies: never go into the hills without the right gear. Our bare minimum recommendations would be waterproofs, spare layers, food, water, gloves, hat, map, compass, mobile phone and whistle. Make sure you check the weather before you depart, and if possible, tell someone at home which route you intend to take and what time you expect to finish. You should always thoroughly research your route so that you have the best possible idea of what to expect.

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