Late, May, early June is a wonderful time for wildlife and wild flowers here on the Mawddach Estuary. The sea thrift is clinging colourfully to the rocks. Wild strawberry plants spangle the sides of the Mawddach Trail with their white flowers.
We’ve been lucky to see an otter fishing as the tide was coming in and Bottlenose Dolphins have been spotted just round the coast. The Cardigan Bay Marine Wildlife Centre Monitors the dolphins and you can get lots of useful information about them, and keep up with recent sightings, on their web site. If you’re lucky enough to spot some of these wonderful creatures on your visit here, why not consider supporting their welfare through the Adopt a Cardigan Bay Dolphin scheme?
The camp site blackboard has recorded some good spottings recently!
Housemartins are building their usual nests under the eaves of the B & B and cottages. It’s wonderful how they return every year. Their chirruping is a very pleasant and calming sound I think!
Welsh Highland Railway runs from Caernarfon to Porthmadog through incredible scenery
Running between Beddgelert and Rhyd Ddu at the foot of Snowdon is Lôn Gwyrfai, a 4 and half mile route for walkers, cyclists and horse riders. Some parts are accessible for wheelchair users too.
It’s a wonderful route for a there and back cycle on your mountain bike or hybrid. Parking can be tricky at busy times in Beddgelert so it’s a good idea to park at the steam train station at Rhyd Ddu. Bike to Beddgelert for a well deserved ice cream at Glaslyn Ices and a mooch around the amazing emporium that is Beddgelert Woodcraft.
If you’re in need of refreshment on the way back up the hill, there’s a beautiful spot well off the beaten track serving hot and cold drinks from one of Snowdonia’s oldest houses. There’s also an interesting photography gallery in an old cow shed!
Another great way to experience this route is to walk from Beddgelert and then catch the steam train back to the village. The start of the route is about 45 minutes drive from Graig Wen.
As we perched on a platform, leaning against the wind and watching a rain cloud move across the mountains towards us, we started to wonder if this zip wire thing was such a good idea.
The safety’s gates opened, 3-2-1 -GO! And there was no going back. Squeals of excitement fought the roaring wind as we launched into a panoramic vista of slate mountains toward the Snowdonia coast. This was certainly a staff outing to remember!
It’s a real thrill, but Blaenau Ffestiniog’s Zipworld Titan is not as scary as you might imagine. You feel incredibly secure in the safety harness, the upbeat young staff are professional and reassuring, and the first, 1k long zip line is not too fast and frantic to frighten anyone. The adrenalin gets pumping as the lines get steeper and speedier as you move down the mountain, but by then you’re feeling confident enough to really enjoy the ride.
Zip World Titan is less than 40 minutes drive from Graig Wen. You zip down four at a time and you’re sitting up rather than hurtling headfirst as you do at Zipworld Velocity which is about 90 minutes drive from Graig Wen.
Los Angeles based gossip columnist Perez Hilton has recently dubbed Wales “the most fun place on earth”.!With theses zip wires, Bounce Below, a unique subterranean trampoline attraction and world class downhill mountain bikes trails all sharing the atmospheric quarry landscape, he’s not far wrong. Zip World Titan takes a couple of hours to complete but if some members of your group don’t fancy it, there’s loads more stuff to do on site. As well as shops, cafes and slate cutting demonstrations you can take a tour underground to learn more about the tough lives of the slate quarry men who shaped this landscape at Llechwedd Slate Caverns.
Both the Zip Wires and Bounce Below are highly popular so we strongly recommend booking before your holiday here. There’s excellent information on both web sites about age, height and weight restrictions. Gift vouchers are available too – the experience makes a great present for a special occasion. And the oldest person to take part on the zip wires has been aged 94 years – so far!
At the top!
Cader Idris is the beautiful mountain just behind us. It is 892 meters high – not quite as big as Snowdon but a good challenge for a family walk and far less busy. Graig Wen presents children aged 10 years and under with a special certificate if they climb up Cader Idris. Congratulations to Roy and Sheila Lane with Grandchildren Ella, Nell and Amber Lane and Katie Smart – they all made it to the top and back safely via the Pony Path. We felt that Grandparents probably deserved the certificate too!
Dining al fresco on Whit Bank holiday at Graig Wen
Finally the sun comes out this Whit Bank Holiday and stays out all day. This evening everyone has been sitting outside enjoying the sun, watching the house martins swoop up from the Estuary and sipping a drink. The weekend has seen a fair few downpours but it hasn’t stopped our guests getting out and having fun, as shown by the above comment left in our visitor’s book today.
Things guests have told us they’ve done over the past few days include taking the steam train up Snowdon (a bit cramped and cloudy), walking up Snowdon (exhilarating), rocketing through clouds on a zip wire at 90 mph (really exhilarating), sheltering in TH Roberts cafe in Dolgellau with Meg’s wondrous cakes, watching the Dyfi Ospreys from the stunning new observatory, exploring the slate mines at Llechwedd, and listening to the nightjars churring and owls calling across the valley from the comfort of their beds here at Graig Wen.
Good to know rain hasn’t stopped play…
Congratulations to Anna and Neil who became engaged this weekend during their stay with us. Neil popped the question on the summit of Cadair Idris on a stunningly clear sunny Easter Saturday. We colluded with Neil, providing an ice pack keep a mini bottle of bubbly cool in his ruck sack on the way up there! Smiles all round.
Must be something romantic about this magical area. This weekend we also welcomed back Caroline and Mike who spent their wedding weekend with us a couple of years ago. They returned bringing their baby son.
And we are looking forward to welcoming Sarah and Prys and their friends and family when they spend their wedding weekend here at Graig Wen at the end of August. They were here too on Friday, measuring up for their marquee…
Here’s a link to some lovely pictures of Simon and Val’s wedding celebration weekend here last year:
CADER KIDS CLUB
Graig Wen presents children aged 10 years and under with a special certificate if they climb up Cader Idris
Cader Idris is the beautiful mountain just behind us. It is 892 meters high – not quite as big as Snowdon but a good challenge for a family walk and far less busy.
Idris is the name of a Welsh giant and “cadair” is the Welsh word for chair – so Cader Idris is a giant’s throne! Why not walk up and see if you can find him?
The Pony Path to the summit is clear to follow and keen children aged 7 years and upwards should be able to enjoy the walk with their families. It takes about 5 hours to climb to the summit and back down – maybe a little longer with children.
Please remember mountain weather conditions change quickly so check the forecast, wear sturdy footwear and clothing and take appropriate supplies. Please ask at reception for more details when you are here.
One of the lovely things about Graig Wen and The Slate Shed B & B is that there are lots of walks in Snowdonia National Park you can do from here without having to use a car at all. As long as you can manage the steep track from our site to the Mawddach Estuary and back, then there are many walks suitable for different abilities and ages.
Yesterday I walked along the Mawddach Trail for a while where the dogs can run off their leads and there’s sweeping views across the beautiful estuary. During late Spring all along the trail there’s pink Sea Thrift, yellow Bird’s Foot Trefoil and wild strawberries coming out. The swallows and housemartins are diving through the air and swans and oystercatchers dabbling around the reeds.
We headed up Arthog waterfalls through the cool woods and out onto the uplands. The ancient stone clapper bridge in the picture is a beautiful spot to dip your feet in the stream and eat your packed lunch. Once here you can choose various routes to explore the foot hills of Cadair Idris, with many offering epic views across Barmouth Bridge and Cardigan Bay. Walks in this area taking in hidden valleys, abandoned chapels and quarries and lovely lakes are wonderful to do even on days when the cloud is low.
If you are staying here please do come into reception and ask us for tips on walks and we will be happy to share some of our favourites with you. The Snowdonia National Park web site is a good source of ideas for walks and the following walks described on their site are all within close reach of Graig Wen and The Slate Shed B & B:
Foel Ispri Path
One of our highlights of 2012 was our bike ride through Wales from Holyhead to Cardiff. Despite choosing possibly the wettest week of the wettest summer on record to cycle 300 miles, we loved every minute. Well, maybe there were a few challenging moments like Sarah’s saddle shearing off, being lost on muddy mountain bike trails above Cardiff on touring bikes, and our web site being hacked en route, but pretty much it was fab.
Cycling through some of the loveliest scenery in Wales included some stiff climbs through Snowdonia, the Cambrian mountains and Brecon Beacons. We are new to long distance biking so it was tough sometimes but exhilarating too. We’ve definitely caught the bug now.
Thanks to the various mates who joined us for different parts of the trip who did a great job of keeping up morale on those long climbs. Also to the support team of random friends and family who helped out with refreshments, repairs, dog and Graig Wen sitting.
Most importantly, thanks to everyone who sponsored us. A total of £300 was donated to Zanokhanyo Children’s Safety Home in South Africa. It’s not a huge amount of money but it can make a big difference to a small organisation. The money is enough to pay for one of the children to have clothes and an education for a year.
Well worth getting wet for.
John & Sarah get set
We have decided that it’s time to explore the length and breadth of our little country called Wales. The best way in our opinion to do this is by bike. So on the 26th June Sarah and I will leave Graig Wen in the capable hands of our team and set off from Holyhead in North Wales to head south. Eight days later we should arrive in Cardiff.
The route we are taking is called the Lon Las Cymru or Dragon’s Back, and is a journey of 400km/ 250 miles. We travel from Anglesey down the coast through Snowdonia. And then out and over the remote hills of mid Wales before tackling the Brecon Beacons to finish in the capital city.
Whilst this will be a challenge for us, and some of the friends who will be joining us, we also hope to enjoy it and would like to raise some money for those who face far greater challenges in life.
In the past we have raised money for Cancer Research and we support the Wales Air Ambulance. However whilst talking to Tom, John’s brother in law, about his work with a small children’s home in South Africa, we decided we would like to support them.
Zanokhanyo Children’s Safety Home in Cape Town is run by Nolu and one volunteer. Nolu, an unemployed community worker, founded the home in 2005. She was troubled to see children living on the streets without food, after her parents had died of HIV/AIDS. She opened her heart and took the children into her home and began looking after them. Everyday her life revolves around taking care of the 26 children to the best of her ability.
We know that any money we raise will be go straight to the charity and make a big difference to the kids including helping them get an education. As a small organisation ourselves we know what a big difference a little help can achieve.
If you would like to help you can donate in reception or online via Graig Wen’s Facebook page
You can follow our journey on Twitter at @graigwen1868