Bank Holiday in Blaenau Ffestiniog
Just up the road from Trawsfynydd is ‘the town that roofed the world’
After a couple of hours in and around Trawsfynydd and the lake that shares its name, I got back in the car and headed further north on the A470.
Blaenau Ffestiniog is known as the town that roofed the world due to the vast slate mining industry that once dominated the surrounding area. It rests in the middle of mountainous terrain and on almost all sides are hills steeped in slate and history.
The winding roads into the town bring you right to the centre, down a high street lined with independent pubs, shops and cafes. The town has two car parks on either side of the main street and there were plenty of spaces in both, lucky for me.
Before hitting the streets, I stopped off at De Niro’s cafe for some lunch. A very friendly atmosphere and good food, it was a great way to start the visit.
When finished, I walked back down the high street and down a path which followed the Ffestiniog and Welsh Highlands railway, a heritage railway that runs from Blaenau to Porthmadog and beyond.
There were no trains running, but a visit to the station was worth it for some good pictures.
The path becomes more of a trail the further away from the town you wander, and on the way back I ended up cutting down small streets and crossing a small bridge that takes pedestrians over the heritage railway.
The amount of grass and weeds growing on the bridge made it look like it had been left to be reclaimed by nature, but as the slate hills around the town had been left to the same fate, this bridge seems to fit in with what Blaenau Ffestiniog is all about.
It is very easy to get away from the crowds in this town. A ten minute walk down by the hills and you feel like the only person in town.
I tried to take an alternative route back into town, and this took me past Bro Ffestiniog Rugby Club where there was a match in progress. The looming hills running along in the distance made for a group backdrop at surely one of the most scenic sports grounds in the country.
Back in the town, I had a few minutes to get some more water and work out in which direction I would head in next. I spotted a sign for the Blaenau Ffestiniog Urban Trail that pointed towards the hills.
Following the trail, you go quickly from streets to hillside. A gradual incline surrounded by trees and shrubbery opens up above the town, with a perfect view of the wider area. You’re then tasked with picking the best walking route. Past old buildings and small ponds, there are stretches of uneven ground but with steady persistence, you can make it high up on the hills.
The sun was still relatively high in the sky when I reached the highest point of my work, but it was quickly heading down. The fading rays cascaded down the hills and across the town, shimmering off the slate on the roof tops and around the landscape.
I sat for a while on the slate hills and took many pictures, unfortunately no picture could do the actual scene justice. For 15 minutes or so, I was alone on the vast hill