The Llanberis Pass is the narrowest, steepest and craggiest of the Snowdonia passes. It slices its way beneath the sheer flanks of Mount Snowdon and Glyder Fawr, passing through slopes littered with huge boulders and slabs. This inhospitable terrain, once feared by intrepid travellers, is now easily traversed by the modern A4086, which passes through the idyllic, lakeside village of Llanberis. 

Most of Llanberis’ visitors are drawn to the village by its proximity to Mount Snowdon, at 3560ft, the highest peak in Britain South of the Scottish Highlands. The footpath from Llanberis to the peak is the easiest, but not the shortest, route to the summit. Depending on your level of fitness and expertise, there are several routes to the top, some less demanding than others. Many choose to use the convenient Snowdon Mountain Railway, which has grunted its way to the summit since 1896, using steam and diesel locomotives. Whichever method used, on a fine day, Snowdon promises some of the most outstanding panoramas in the UK.

Those without a head for heights will find plenty to do in Llanberis, for the village is blessed with many attractions, both natural and man-made. 

Not one but two lakes, Llyn Padarn and Llyn Peris, run parallel to Llanberis giving the village a serene appeal. Rising from the lakes are the steep slopes of the scarred mountain Elidir Fach. Carved into the mountain are huge stepped terraces, a testament to man’s endeavours to extract the mountain’s natural commodity, slate. Llanberis owes its existence to the production of high quality slate, which for two centuries, until 1969, was shipped around the world, at times employing 3000 men.

Running alongside the North shore of Llyn Padarn is the narrow gauge railway, Llanberis Lake Railway, whose steam and diesel locomotives run along the track bed of an earlier railway, which once transported slate to the sea. Llyn Padarn is surrounded by Padarn Country Park, a nature reserve and Site of Special scientific Interest, with thick woodlands and way marked paths, often leading to old slate workings and their associated industrial remains. Within the park is the period furnished Quarry Hospital, which includes an operating theatre, used to hastily patch-up quarry worker’s injuries. 

The workshops of the defunct Dinorwig Quarry, now house the Welsh Slate Museum. A display of machinery and methods used to extract slate from the quarries, including a 50ft diameter waterwheel. A row of four quarrymen’s cottages have been transported and reassembled, from nearby Tanygrisiau and furnished in the style of historical periods. Close by, is the drowned Vivian Quarry, a dramatic beauty spot and a popular destination for scuba divers.

Deep within the mountain, huge chambers and miles of tunnels, hidden from view, house the Dinorwig Pumped Storage Hydro Station. Water is pumped from Llyn Peris, during low electricity consumption periods, to a reservoir at the top of the mountain and released again, to produce instant electricity, when demand from the national grid is high. Fascinating guided tours start from the Electric Mountain exhibition area. Three ancient, wooden boats with interesting histories are also displayed within the exhibition.

Dolbadarn castle built in the 13th century, for Llywelyn the Great, stands as a sentinel to the entrance of the Llanberis pass. Now mainly in ruins, this unusual castle, built in a Norman style by a native Welsh prince, is well worth a closer look. 

Visitors have, since the slow decline of the slate industry, reinvented Llanberis as a major tourist centre, with a diverse range of attractions to keep them busy. Llanberis is perfectly situated in the midst of spectacularly natural beauty and is a must-see destination for many. With too much to do in one day, Llanberis is worthy of an extended stay and has a wide choice of accommodation to suit every budget.

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