The One That Didn’t Go As Well, Bus Tour to Snowdonia, Wales
Liverpool to Wales
The entire time I was planning my trip to Cardiff I was highly annoyed at not finding reasonably priced tours to northern Wales. Since looking at stunning pictures, I found in myself a fierce desire to visit Snowdonia. Snowdonia is one of the national parks in Wales and I was sure it would be breathtaking (Spoiler: the good part of the trip is that it was!). I left from Liverpool as the only tours I could find that included Snowdonia that weren’t $300+ left from England as opposed to southern Wales. Thus, my bus tour to Snowdonia, Wales, started off in the Beatles hometown! I later learned the reason there were not tours to Snowdonia is that tour companies in Wales have restrictions for how long they can drive in a day. Which is rather nice but also annoying 😛
The website was highly misleading and I was naive, primarily. When it said “Cruise tour” and based on some of the information on the website, I was somehow lead to believe it was a little boat cruise to various locations where we would then get a bus inland. Okay, this is completely my fault, obviously not. No, they meant it was for people getting off cruises who wanted to see more of Wales. Ah. Cruise people.
Here was the crux of the matter. I had never met cruise folks besides one of my aunts. If this is an example I’m not sure I’ll ever be tempted to take a cruise in my life. Spoiled families abound, and the guide was honestly awful. The guide found a way to say everything three times in slightly varied ways and got very testy about time. We all arrived back within the reasonable time frame the website gave but the guide actually scolded a couple who returned on the dot instead of two minutes early. All-in-all, not great. But I digress, onto the stops.
Conwy was the first stop, and really, what an idyllic little seaside town. It was at this point that I completely (already) gave up on having anything to do with the guide and cruise people. I ran off by myself, completely ignoring any attempts to gather the 50+ people together to go to the castle. I did not go to the castle because I had already seen Raglan and it did not look terribly different. Instead, I spent my time wandering atop the fortress walls (SO MUCH FUN!!), snacking on delicious cheese from a cheese shop, and purchasing a bottle of mead for myself and my father. I recommend Conwy, well worth the stop.
Snowdonia National Park was seriously beautiful. It was one of those moments in myself where I felt completely at peace. As the crowd wandered up the carefully stoned path, complaining about everything and sighing that “well, I guess it’ll make a good photo,” I saw a divergence in the path which lead to this:
Guess which way I went? The rocky climb took me first to an amazing gorge where silence reigned, and then to the top where I found sheep and grassy knolls with an unparalleled view of the mountains. I could see the group in the distance and considered fording the shallow stream that would eventually take me to them, but decided that could potentially end in disaster and instead made my little mountain-goat way back down. Wonderful. Despite the people, this was fully worth it.
Betws-Y-Coed, While this is technically a village in Snowdonia I honestly can’t say it feels it. It was by far the worst and saddest location I have ever been to in any country. I found myself wondering if anyone actually lives in the village or if people just commuted to serve the massive amounts of tourists. Hundreds of people crowded into a tiny village, constantly being dropped off and picked up – by the time I made it to the little prayer house the village is named after the graveyard actually felt angry. I couldn’t blame it. I actually gave up and went to sit in the bus 15 minutes early. As such, I can’t really recommend this village.
Pontcysyllte Canal Aqueduct, this stop was cool, walking across a canal bridge (literally, a canal going over a bridge) it did not feel like a full stop. Most bus tours that I have now been on feature at least four full stops and then a few photos. This trip did not have any photo stops and we were rushed through the Aqueduct so I didn’t even have time to get to the other side despite being the first one on it. We didn’t have any time for anything else and back to Liverpool we went.
In conclusion, I recommend paying for longer bus tours to northern Wales because it is absolutely worth seeing, perhaps a two-day tour to really explore. This is the location that I think is most suited to renting a car if you are able.