A summer full of sand castles, swimming and ice creams is every child’s dream. But if, as a parent, you want to include some educational attractions in your summer holiday itinerary, this article is just for you!
Young minds are like sponges, soaking up new information at a scary rate. Why not take advantage when you bring your children to Snowdonia during the school holidays?
After all, just because it’s the summer holidays, this doesn’t have to mean that learning must grind to a halt…
If you’re visiting Snowdonia with children this summer and want to ensure there’s a bit of learning going on alongside making sand castles and eating ice creams, here are some of the region’s top educational attractions you could visit.
1. Mined the gap
Mining and quarrying have been a major part of Snowdonia’s history for centuries, often literally shaping the landscape that we see today. Although these industries have been in decline for many years, they have left behind some fascinating sites which, in modern times, have become excellent visitor attractions.
National Slate Museum – this big attraction in Llanberis gives you a glimpse into life as a quarryman in times gone past. Look out for special activities (like craft workshops) during school holidays.
Llechwedd Slate Caverns – this attraction in Blaenau Ffestiniog offers a wonderful way to experience life as a Victorian miner: an underground train journey narrated by the ‘ghost’ of a twelve year old boy who worked at Llechwedd.
Corris Mine Explorers – at this attraction in Corris, Southern Snowdonia, you’ll be kitted out with safety gear and, with an experienced guide, explore old slate mines and see discarded machinery and tools.
Llanfair Slate Caverns – just outside Harlech, these huge caverns are really awe-inspiring – especially when you consider they were created by workers who had only candlelight to illuminate their work!
Nant Gwrtheyrn – at the beginning of the Llyn Peninsula is a little quarrying village that was abandoned when the industry slowed down. It’s been restored as a Welsh language learning centre, but there are also displays about the village’s industrial past as well as local folklore.
2. Full steam ahead
The steam railways are a fundamental part of Snowdonia’s industrial heritage, for it was by rail that the slate and other mined materials were transported to the ports where they were shipped out to the rest of the world. A trip on a steam train in Snowdonia is always a treat, and there are plenty to choose from!
Snowdon Mountain Railway – this railway, as its name suggests, ferries passengers from the station in Llanberis to the top of Snowdon – the easy way to enjoy the biggest mountain in England and Wales!
Talyllyn Railway – take a journey through the stunning countryside of Southern Snowdonia, with picnic breaks at beauty spots including breathtaking waterfalls.
Welsh Highland Heritage Railway – this fun attraction in Porthmadog offers you the opportunity to ride the trains but also learn about them during tours of the engine sheds.
Ffestiniog and Welsh Highland Railways – a favourite way to see Snowdonia’s beautiful countryside, and on a dry day if you’re at the ticket office early enough you may even get to ride open carriages – what a treat, especially if you’re planning to take photos!
Llanberis Lake Railway – take a trip around the shores of Llyn Padarn, through the Padarn Country Park and past Dolbadarn Castle.
Fairbourne Miniature Railway – this 12.25 inch gauge railway has connected Fairbourne Village to the Mawddach Estuary for over a hundred years. From the estuary you can catch a ferry to Barmouth and explore this traditional seaside resort which is home to one of Snowdonia’s best beaches.
3. If stones could speak…
What child doesn’t love castles? They’re just so fascinating, and really give a child’s imagination a good workout. Wales has more castles per square mile than any other country, and a good proportion of them are in Snowdonia. If the stones of these castles could speak, such stories they would tell!
Caernarfon Castle – one of the castles in Edward I’s ‘iron ring’ around North Wales, this castle has distinctive striped walls and is also home to an additional attraction, the Royal Welch Fusiliers’ Museum.
Harlech Castle – another of Edward’s fortresses during his campaigns against the Welsh, this clifftop stronghold is the venue of re-enactments and other events throughout the school holidays.
Criccieth Castle – this was a Welsh castle, built by the Princes of Gwynedd as a defence against invaders. It sits dramatically on a promontory jutting out into the sea at Criccieth, a popular seaside resort.
Dolbadarn Castle – the iconic tower, which is pretty much all that’s left of this Welsh castle, sits among dramatic landscape at the heart of the Snowdonia National Park.
Conwy Castle – this imposing structure sits in the centre of the historic (and very beautiful) town of Conwy. A walk along the top of the town walls offers an opportunity to see the town from a different perspective.
Who says museums have to be boring? We certainly don’t! Snowdonia has some great museums and interpretation centres, offering something a little different to keep minds of all ages enthralled.
Lloyd George Museum – learn about the life and works of the great statesman, David Lloyd George, at his childhood home. Dress up in Victorian costumes and learn what school life was like during that era.
Gwynedd Museum and Art Gallery – see some of the fascinating artefacts that have been uncovered during archaeological digs around Gwynedd, and see exhibitions of works by local artists.
King Arthur’s Labyrinth – not really a museum as such, but this attraction offers a really fun way to learn about local folklore – you’ll hear stories of the life and deeds of King Arthur, while taking an underground boat trip.
Porthmadog Maritime Museum – learn about the area’s seafaring past, and look at artefacts relating to the maritime history of the region.
Dinorwic Quarry Hospital – if your children have an interest in ‘horrible histories’ and the more macabre side of education, this attraction is ideal as it includes a fantastic collection of Victorian medical equipment.
5. Marvellous machinery
‘How things work’ is a subject that fascinates most youngsters, and Snowdonia has several attractions that appeal to the mechanically-minded.
Centre for Alternative Technology – learn about living sustainably, via a number of hands-on exhibits that help enquiring minds discover the importance of living an eco-friendly life.
Trefriw Woollen Mills – learn how wool is spun and woven to make cloth for clothing, blankets and other goods. Depending on what time of year you visit, you can see the machinery in action.
Electric Mountain – far beneath the ground, take a tour of the hydro-electric power station and learn how the power of water can be harnessed to make electricity.