Where King Arthur and His Knights Lie in Sleep
Blessed though it is with picturesque towns and coastal hamlets, Wales is most famed for stunning interior landscapes, and the Snowdonia Mountains offer unparalleled grandeur and beauty. King Arthur’s spirit is said to watch over towering Mount Snowdon, where (according to legend) his Knights of the Round Table lie sleeping. At 3,560 feet, it is the second highest peak in Great Britain after Scotland’s Ben Nevis. Unlike American national parks, Snowdonia is inhabited. One of the villages within its sprawling terrain, Llanberis, is the departure point for the steep one-hour trip (4-5 miles) aboard the Snowdon Mountain Railway (a three-hour trek by foot is a popular alternative); Britain’s only rack- and-pinion railway has been making this run since 1896. It stops just 70 feet short of the summit, leaving the final stage a short and easy ascent for the weak of knee.
From the top on a clear day you can see much of the park’s 840 square miles of varied landscapes and as far as Ireland’s Wicklow Mountains, 90 miles away. This is some of the country’s most spectacular scenery and there is the opportunity to walk windswept moorland, sail on mountain lakes, bicycle on marked routes, and enjoy a vast range of natural beauty and wildlife.
Rugged peaks and wooded valleys join 27 miles of coastline, but place of honor goes to Mount Snowdon itself, the highest of the park’s fifteen peaks over 3,000 feet. Its Welsh name, Yr Wyddfa, means “tomb,” referring to the grave of Rhita Gawr, the legendary giant slain by King Arthur.