11 August 2021

Slate trail: the verdict

I have described our adventures on the Slate Trail in detail in the previous few posts. But I thought I'd give a bit of an overview as well! Maybe a good one to remember, and maybe people who intend to walk it might have use for this knowledge. So what do I think of the Slate Trail altogether? I think it is rather marvellous! It takes you through all the important North Welsh slate provinces, and it really tries to take you through them in a beautiful way. And it makes sure to send you through the villages, so you might support the local economy, and enjoy whatever that economy has to offer. So I'd recommend it to anyone who is interested in slate quarrying, and everyone who is just interested in walking through the amazing North Welsh landscape.

I do think the trail misses one trick, though. The book that describes the route says very little about slate! If you send someone through every slate area of importance, then you are in a perfect position to tell them something about it. And additional booklet that has information about the various quarries would be a really valuable addition! There is so much of interest to say about them all.

Cwmorthin incline and spoil heap

Regarding the route; which bits did I think were the best? In chronological order, these were the bits that stood out for me:

1 between the road to Manod and Llyn Morwynion

The road to Manod quarry goes through beautiful valley, but it is a asphalt road, so I don't count it as one of the best bits itself. But this soon as you leave it to climb up the slope on the side you get that valley from a more beautiful vantage point. And it is a bit of a remote area. Maybe I just liked it because it was pretty much the only part of this kind of empty landscape with traces of quarrying in it that I have never seen before. If you like this kind of landscape you will love the Croesor valley! But that one I had seen many times before. And this part of the road even has a hillfort on it…

The empty valley between Cwm Teigl and Llyn Morwynion

2 Rhosydd-Croesor

I knew this bit before, of course, but it is so beautiful I can't not mention it here. Rhosydd is an amazing area in its own right, but you get there over a very wide path that used to be a railroad. From Rhosydd onwards you are on cute winding paths through wild terrain. And you are pretty much as high as you will ever get on the entire trail. The landscape is stunning! And when you descend to Croesor you get that amazing valley to look at as well. Croesor also provided us with the most beautiful camping spot we had along the way.

Kate approaching Croesor; the picture doesn't even do the landscape justice

3 Nantlle-Waunfawr

From Nantlle you walk through the quarries to the top of the plateau. These quarries are lovely! And from there you have a largely empty landscape all the way to Waunfawr. Some of it is only wide gravel roads, but most of it is on cute little paths. You could tell these paths would probably be very sloppy and squishy in the wet season, but they were firm underfoot for us. Again; maybe I just liked it because I was relatively unfamiliar with it. But it really is beautiful!

Lots of nothingness all the way to Waunfawr

Given that I think some stretches are better than others and must some that were not my favourite, and these were generally the ones where you walk either on is full roads or on wide gravel roads, especially if they go through woodland. The hard surface hurts your feet, the wide roads doesn't give you that sense of isolation, and if you are in woodlands your view is rather limited. And the bits with the most mileage of this kind are: Beddgelert-Rhydd Du, Betws y Coed-Fairy Glen, Conwy Falls- Cwm Penmachno, Drws y coed - Llyn Nantlle. I am aware you can't always avoid this kind of road but maybe some expectation management is a good idea.

the only wide gravel road I actually took a picture of; this one is just south of Blaenau Ffestiniog

Have I learned other things along the way? I think I have! I have a more positive view on freeze-dried meals than I had before. The best one in both my view and Kate's was freeze-dried vegetable chipotle. It beat anything I could rustle up! And I have tried, and approved of, a new hiking snack: honey roasted cashew nuts. Sweet enough to satisfy a hiking-induced sugar craving, but not so sweet it gives you a sugar high or a woozy stomach. I'll be bringing them again next time!

enjoying chipotle

Something else I want to try in the future is have a better phone, and have OS maps on it. I would still bring a paper map as you get a lot better overview on one of those, but having your route on a small screen is actually quite useful! I am due a new one in autumn; maybe then I'll become a more tech savvy hiker…

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