Behind the cattlegrid – Ziplining Snowdonia and discovering Wales
“At the railway bridge reset your milometer on your car. You then need to go about 0.7 miles until you come to a couple of houses and a cattle grid. Just after the cattle grid the road forks into two. The sat nav. will try to take you down the left hand fork but please ignore and take the right hand fork.”
Our road trip through Wales starts adventurous. The sat nav. isn’t working and though the directions of our Air BnB host were very accurate we can’t find the right road to the railway bridge. In the meantime we have to keep in mind that in this country you drive on the left side of the road.
Chatter trough the car window
We are two hours late already so we decided to ask a Welshman down the road for some directions. The moment the man realises we aren’t from around there he looses his Welsh tongue and starts to talk in understandable English. Together we try to find out which way to go. Another man passes by and says he lives nearby the place we are headed. We can follow the man in his car but not after having a nice chat about the Netherlands and Wales through the car window. Within a few hours Wales and the Welsh took a little cosy spot in our travel hearts.
Stepping back in time
After taking a couple of muddy roads and opening two big wooden gates we drive up to a farmhouse made of black stone where we are welcomed by Giorgo, the new assistant of the homeowner. When we enter it feels like we are taking a step back in time. There is no central heating but it is warm, a big fire is burning in the living room.
The house is a traditional Welsh longhouse, built approximately 500 years ago. There are no corridors in the main house and it has 7 very large rooms. There is unpolished slate on the floor. The warmth of the fire, the house that looks like a museum (including a lot of artefacts), the humble kitchen and bathroom (with a beautiful bath and shower) made us feel instantly welcome here in the middle of the National Park of Snowdonia.
We wake up from the sounds coming from outside: Birds singing, a stream wandering through the countryside and the sound of sheep. We decide to go into Blaenau Ffestiniog for breakfast and get some work done. “What can I do for you today?” behind the counter stands a friendly Welshmen who could have been playing the lead in a blockbuster English romcom with his apron and his happy friendly face. “Bacon and eggs and a pot of tea please.” The man tells us all the cakes we see are homemade and it looks delicious. After breakfast we therefore order a chocolate and lime cake. The restaurant is on an hill above the station of The Ffestiniog and Welsh Highland Railways. The steam train railway stretches for 40 miles through the glorious Snowdonia National Park.
Ziplining with views on Snowdonia
In the afternoon we set off to go to Zipworld UK. Today we are riding a zipline through the mountains of Snowdonia. This particular zipline is called ‘The Titan.’ (We feel tough every time we say the name.) The Titan opened in June 2014 at Llechwedd Slate Caverns, near the historic slate mining town of Blaenau Ffestiniog where we ate our cakes. It’s the first 4 person zip line in Europe. After we arrive we have to stand on a scale to check our weight (ouch) and with our weight marked forever on our wristband (ouch, ouch) we have to get into our zipping gear. Overall, helmet, harness and goggles.
Alpha, Bravo Charlie
A bus takes us to 1,500ft where we see the first zipline. There are three in total: Alpha, Bravo and Charlie. We are the first ones to go. Sitting down in your harness feels kind of weird but it is comfortable. We are attached to the zipline (and checked twice), one of the crewmembers slides away the metal gate in front of us and counts down from three. There we go! The view is awesome, I see my boyfriend passing by. We thought this ride would give us butterflies and a real rush but that’s not what happens. It’s kind of relaxed somehow, zipping between the mountains of Snowdonia. Laying back and rolling yourself up like a ball makes you go faster. At the end of the zipline there is a breaking system so you don’t have to break yourself. It’s the scariest part of the zipline: the moment you hope the break system doesn’t fail. Though we miss the butterflies in our stomachs it was a really fun ride. We walk to the second zipline, which is the fastest one of the three.
– Three, two, one, GO!
Here we go again, holding our camera’s, trying to resemble a ball and feeling how the wind plays with us. While we are waiting for the others we get a good change to look around. You don’t have to go to asia to have a fun ziplining adventure. This is great! It’s time to go to the third zipline, ‘Charlie’ takes us back down the mountains. If you are looking for a thrilling ride you can take a ride with the other zipline on the premises: Velocity. If you just want to have a really fun day with lot’s of views on Snowdonia, you should go and have fun riding The Titan. All in all Zipworld UK is worth the visit.
We booked our room for two nights and it’s outside the main house, which means that we have to go outside to get to the bathroom in the main house. When my boyfriend wakes up in the middle of the night to go to the bathroom I decide to come along. ‘Just leave it, there is no one awake at this hour’ he says when he sees me struggling with my trousers in my sleep drunk state. I really need to go to the bathroom so I leave the jeans and step outside in my underwear. Just a few meters later we enter the house. I open the door to the living room and I look right into the eye of a man sitting there. ‘Ah you must be Karin and Martijn.’ Very aware of the fact that I’m only wearing a t-shirt and underpants I shake his hand and run into the bathroom. How is that for an awkward situation!
Fully clothed we start driving to see the rest of Wales. We don’t have that much time, so we decide to go south as quickly as possible. Our first stop is Aberystwyth. A holiday resort and also the administrative centre of the west coast. We take a stroll down the boulevard and eat a (very delicious) sandwich in town. Next up is a place called Rhossili. It takes us a couple of hours to get there which isn’t too bad because we’re driving through absolutely stunning landscapes. The winding roads, the crooked trees, the streams running through the green landscapes. The drive is beautiful. We listen to BBC radio and notice they really like there power balads. It is the day Harry Styles releases his first solo-single so when we arrive in Rhossili we know everything about the former One Direction bad boy and can’t get the melody of ‘Eye of the tiger’ out of our heads.
Rhossili feels like a fairy tale. It’s small village on the southwestern tip of the Gower Peninsula in Swansea. The sun is shining and there is not a cloud in the sky. The grass on the cliffs is soft and there are little yellow flowers everywhere. I lay in the grass wondering how I did not know this place existed.
The beauty of Wales is right next door and it has got so much to offer: Zipline through the awesome sceneries of Snowdonia, hike through the mountains, enjoy the sight of the cool steam train (or catch a ride with it). Eat pies, cakes, listen to the beautiful Welsh language (we tried to figure out how to pronounce some words, we failed). Wales and the Welsh make you feel very welcome, even when you are in your underwear. 😉