We interview Alex Kendall, author and creator of The Snowdonia Way Guidebook, a long-distance trail route through Snowdonia from Machynlleth to Conwy.
The guidebook to walking the Snowdonia Way in Wales, published by Cicerone, is a long-distance route through Snowdonia National Park from Machynlleth to Conwy. All 156 km (6 to 8 stages) of the low-level route takes you via Pass of Aberglaslyn, Ogwen Valley and Aber Falls. Or for the more adventurous the mountain route is 122 miles in 9 stages, including Cadair Idris, Snowdon and the Glyderau.
Q – Hi Alex, before we jump into the exciting Snowdonia Way could you tell our readers a little about yourself and your walking background?
A – I’ve been walking in the mountains for my whole life, beginning when I was very young on trips to Wales and Austria. I was lucky enough at University to join an excellent hill-walking club, which really allowed me to go all over the UK. Despite being based in London, we went everywhere from Dartmoor to the Cheviots for the weekend, and further afield in the holidays. The University owns a mountain hut in Snowdonia, so that was a frequent destination, and how I began to discover the big mountains. I did my ML in 2011 and then my Winter ML last year, and even when not working I’m always walking or planning future trips. I moved to Wales nearly 3 years ago, and now live near Bethedsa, so now I can get into these mountains whenever i want!
Q – What initially inspired you to crate the Snowdonia Way route?
A – I find it inspiring how many long-distance trails there are in the UK, especially in the north of England. I think most people have heard of the National Trails, but the hundreds of others are ideal walking routes, accessible to a huge variety of people, and take you to places you’d never otherwise go. I wanted to create something similar for Snowdonia, as there was no low-level walking route running through the National Park. The route, starting in Machynlleth and finishing in Conwy, just jumped out at me – it feels like a natural walking trail.
Q – Southern Snowdonia is oft overlooked in favour of the northern honeypots of Snowdon, Glyderau and the like. How would you say the Snowdonia Way introduces the south for someone that’s never experienced it?
A – The south of Snowdonia is very different to the north. It feels wilder; there are fewer people, the mountains are surrounded by expanses of moorland and forest; and yet there are some very accessible peaks. I imagine if you ask most visitors to name one peak south of Snowdon they might know Cadair Idris, but apart from that it’s a great unknown. The Snowdonia Way does a good job in giving people an introduction to the south – they’ll see the Rhinogydd, Cadair Idris, the great conifer forests, the flanks of the Migneint, and discover that the trails are just as good as in the north of the Park. There are also some excellent places to stay, most notably Dolgellau, so if people don’t know it they’ll definitely be inspired. The glimpse people get of the Mawddach estuary should be more than enough to bring them back!
Q – The Cambrian Way by AJ Drake is considered the mountain connoisseurs walk of Wales. How does the Snowdonia Way differ from the northern section of this LDP, and what would you give it as a strapline?
A – The main route of the Snowdonia Way is totally different to the Cambrian Way, as it sticks to the valleys, and heads over passes rather than over peaks. This was my intention, to create something that would appeal to long-distance walkers who didn’t necessarily want to head over the mountains. It also means it’s more accessible in bad weather and during the winter. The mountain route that I describe alongside the main Snowdonia Way has many similarities to the Cambrian Way, but goes over fewer peaks and has some easier days (Moel Siabod for example). The Cambrian Way is harder than the Snowdonia Way mountain route – there was no point trying to equal it, and now hopefully we have three levels of trail for those who want to experience Snowdonia from end to end!
Q – Back in June 2015 part of the Mud and Routes team walked the alternative section of the Cambrian Way between Pumlumon and Cadair Idris via Machynlleth detailed in A Cambrian Way –by Sale (that’s been out of print for years). We did so while wild camping, is this route suitable for those looking for nights under the stars too?
A – Yes it’s perfectly possible to wild camp on the Snowdonia Way, but probably easier to do so on the mountain route rather than the main route. I have wild camped on a few days, and all it takes is some adjustment, as each stage naturally ends in villages, so you’d need to stop before them or keep going for a bit to make it work. But anyone used to wild camping wouldn’t have a problem finding excellent locations. There are even fine possibilities on the main route.
Q – The Snowdonia Way is no small undertaking, but what level of walker would you expect to be able to complete this route?
A – The actual route is just a little bit more strenuous than the West Highland Way, so anyone of average fitness and determination can complete it. Walkers should be used to walking on undulating terrain with a day pack for 7-8 hours per day. Each stage ends at a town or village with facilities, accommodation and public transport. So it’s possible to plan rest days at any point on the route.
Q – Is it possible to tackle The Snowdonia Way at any time of the year? And what time of year would you recommend walking it and why?
A – It’s possible to walk the main route at any time of the year, though some facilities are shut in the winter. My favourite month for walking is April – warm but not too hot, and the perfect mix of long days with the option of walking at sunrise and sunset without being out too late or too early. Having said that, any time is great to come to Snowdonia!
Q – There are a number of stand-out sections to the Snowdonia Way, which are your favourite?
A – My favorite day is Stage 3 of the main route, starting in Trawsfynydd and finishing in Beddgelert. There are so many incredible places you visit – Trawsfynydd Lake, the Rhinogydd, the Vale of Ffestiniog, and then an afternoon of looking out at both Tremadog Bay and the Moelwynion before the final miles along the river Glaslyn. The transition from high moorland, down to the estuary and then into the wooded foothills of Snowdon gives a great journey, and Beddgelert is a very special pale to finish the day; you really feel in the heart of the mountains.
Many thanks to Alex for his interview, The Snowdonia Way Guidebook is available to buy now as a first print by Cicerone.
We’ve added Snowdonia Way route to the Mud and Routes database, so you can download the full gpx for your own use along with the guiebook, and you’ll also need the appropriate OS Maps, which are: