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Daily Destination: Take a hike in King Arthur’s back yard in Wales

Melissa Burdick Harmon
October 16, 2013

Ask almost anyone in Wales where to go for a great walk, in a country known for great walks, and odds are good that you will find yourselves in Snowdonia National Park in northwest Wales.

There, you can explore 823 square miles of nature in the raw—from more than 100 icy cold lakes to seriously snow-capped mountains to sweet little villages that have remained unchanged for more than a century. How far off the beaten path will you be? You will be far enough that you will hear plenty of people speaking the very musical-sounding Welsh language, totally unlike any other language in the world. The park itself is timeless, with a background rich in the myths and legends that are such a part of Welsh culture. Locals claim, with perfectly straight faces, that dragons once roamed Snowdonia, and if that isn’t enough of a wow factor, they will tell you that King Arthur (of Camelot fame) once lived in the area. And who is to say that that isn’t true?

Walking the many trails in this 823-square-mile park is lovely any time, but this year, on October 26 and 27, energetic, scenery-loving folks from every corner of Great Britain and beyond will come to participate in the annual Snowdonia Walking Festival. Start in the pretty little village of Betws-y Coed, where you can meet one of the local experts who knows every corner of Snowdonia, and who will lead you on your journey while sharing special knowledge of the trees and lakes and wildlife and mountains, of the myths and legends, and of the villages.

Those who want to join the fun but aren’t keen to climb can hop aboard the Snowdon Mountain Railway, an old-fashioned steam train, in nearby Llanberis, which has been chugging up Mount Snowdon since 1896. At the peak, you will be 3,560 feet above sea level and will see views for days. You may even, perhaps—at least according to local folklore—spot a dragon. Cap off your adventure with a visit to the nearby, and delightfully Medieval, Conwy Castle, the town still ringed by walls constructed in the 13th century.