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Snowdonia is the largest of the three National Parks in Wales and features some of the most spectacular mountain ranges, lakes, rivers, and wildlife. Overflowing with history and culture, the National Park is visited by nearly 4 million people every year.  

With so much to see, learn, and do, let’s take a look at some of the most interesting facts about Snowdonia National Park.

1. Snowdon Was Once Submerged in Seawater

Snowdonia has a unique geology that tells a story of volcanic eruptions, tectonic movements, and glacial activity. But the most fascinating geological fact was discovered in the rocks of Cwm Idwal. 

500 million years ago Snowdon was submerged under seawater. On the summit, shell fossils were found that provided evidence of underwater volcanic activity which forced large rocks from the seabed up to the surface. This event is said to have formed many of the mountains we see today including Snowdon1 (source: The Geology Society).

2. Snowdonia is Home to One of the Rarest Species of Lilly 

The National Park is world-renowned for rare species of animals, plants, insects, and fungi. Some of the species and habitats are of international importance and the park authority works hard to protect them2 (source: National Parks UK).

Among the rarest plant species is the Snowdonia Lilly (Lili’r Wyddfa) found only at the highest peaks. This wildflower is recognised by its small, white cup-shaped flowers which grow straight out of bare rock crevices and mountain ledges. Today, the Snowdonia Lilly is one of the most endangered plant species and can only be found in a small handful of places.

3. Snowdon is Wales’s Highest Mountain

Not only is Snowdon the highest peak in Snowdonia, but it’s also the highest mountain in both England and Wales.

It’s by far the most famous mountain in the national park with over 60,000 people visiting every year to climb to the summit. At 3,560ft above sea level, spectacular views of the landscape unfold at the summit, with the magnificent peaks of other mountains rising about the deep valleys below3 (source: Visit Wales).

If you don’t fancy the hike, the Snowdon Mountain Railway is one of the top attractions in Snowdonia. It can take visitors to the summit for a more relaxed way to enjoy the views of Snowdon.

4. Welsh is Spoken by 58% of the Park’s Population

At the heart of the unique culture of Snowdonia National Park is the Welsh language. Welsh is one of Europe’s oldest languages and the language of everyday life for most people living in Snowdonia’s communities. 

58% of the population of Snowdonia speak Welsh, with the proportion as high as 85% in some areas of the national park, this is far higher than the average across Wales.

Despite facing many threats throughout history, the Welsh language has survived and is the official language of Wales, it is also recognised as a native language by UNESCO although they have said it’s ‘unsafe’ due to the domination of the English language4 (source: UNESCO).

5. One of the Largest Goldmines Was Discovered Near Dolgellau

Snowdonia has a rich industrial heritage which is made evident by its unique landscape. Many kinds of minerals are hidden in the mountains including lead, zinc, copper and gold. One of the largest goldmines in Snowdonia was discovered at Gwynfynydd near Dolgellau. 

More than £44 million worth of gold was extracted from Gwynfynydd between 1884-1998! The first gold was discovered at Dolgellau in the 1850s and led to a huge gold rush over the years that followed. Today the remains of the goldmine can still be seen by visitors to Dolgellau5 (source: Snowdonia National Park).

6. Llyn Tegid in Snowdonia is Wales’s Largest Lake

Wales’s largest natural lake Llyn Tegid in Y Bala is one of the park’s most popular attractions. The lake measures 5 miles long and half a mile wide making it the perfect place for water sports activities such as paddleboarding, canoeing, and windsurfing.

The history of Llyn Tegid is also steeped in folklore. Some believe that the lake was named after Tegid Foel, a cruel mythical king. The kingdom he ruled is said to have been submerged because of his evil nature6 (source: Wikipedia).

7. Snowdonia Has the Highest Percentage of Rainfall in Wales

Rainfall in Wales varies widely but the highest average totals are always found in the uplands of Snowdonia. Over 3,000mm of rainfall is recorded every year, making it the wettest place in Wales7 (source: Met Office).

Of course, the high level of rainfall adds to the unique climate in Snowdonia and makes the area a perfect habitat for many unique species of wildlife, plants, and insects. 

8. 17% of the Park’s Area is Woodland

Although the national park is most famous for its mountainous landscape, it has around 34,600 hectares of woodland – 17% of the total area! Home to a wide variety of plants and wildlife, these forests are rich with conifer and broadleaf trees. 

The woodlands are important habitats for many species of fungi and moss including Lichen a living organism that converts carbon dioxide into oxygen. These forests are a valuable natural asset for improving the air quality and providing shelter for a variety of animals8 (source: Snowdonia National Park).

9. Home to 23 Miles of Stunning Coastline

Snowdonia is an area overflowing with all kinds of dramatic landscapes. This includes over 200 miles of stunning coastline with breathtaking beaches and sea views9 (source: Visit Snowdonia). The Mawddach and Dyfi estuaries are part of the UNESCO Dyfi Biosphere Reserve for outstanding environmental quality.

With 870 miles of coastal paths, Wales is the only country in the world that has a complete, uninterrupted path along its entire coastline. From some of Snowdonia’s beaches, you can see dolphins, seals, and other rare marine life.

10. The National Park Includes 9 Mountain Ranges

With a landscape that has formed over millions of years, Snowdonia national park is a paradise for hikers and ramblers. It’s home to 9 mountain ranges and 15 peaks above 3,000ft10 (source: Snowdonia National Park).

The National Park Authority has 1,497 miles of approved paths that provide the best way to fully immerse yourself in Snowdonia’s unique landscape and enjoy the views from all angles. The 9 ranges include Snowdon, the Glyderau, the Carneddau, the Moelwynion and the Moel Hebog. To their south within the wider national park are the Rhinogydd and the Cadair Idris, Aran Fawddwy, and the Arenigs11 (source: Wikipedia).

11. Snowdonia Features Two UNESCO World Heritage Sites

Wales, as a whole, has four UNESCO sites and two of them are found inside Snowdonia National Park. The vast landscape of Snowdonia National Park is full of historic castles and industrial quarries. 

Harlech Castle (shown above) was built between 1282 and 1289  by Edward 1 during his campaign against the Princes of Wales. It sustained several battles over the centuries and was designated a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 198612 (source: UNESCO).

In July 2021, the Slate Landscape of NorthWest Wales was nominated as the second UNESCO World Heritage Site in Snowdonia. The slate landscape is an important cultural landscape and exhibits the way people have lived and worked over many centuries13 (source: Llechi Cymru).

12. Charles Darwin Carried Out Research Around Snowdonia

Charles Darwin is world-renowned for his scientific discoveries and theories. But as well as being a biologist he was better known as a geologist.

In 1831, Darwin accompanied by his professor of geology Adam Sedgwick went on an expedition to the Carneddau Mountains. During that trip, he developed skills that would later assist him to form the basis of his research on the Galapagos Islands. For example, the geological discoveries from the Carneddau were crucial in his research aboard the Beagle, on Quail Island14 (source: P. Lucas, Archives of Natural History, Vol. 29, Issue 1, 2002).

Kieren is the founder and editor-in-chief of Wales Guidebook. Originally from rural Mid-Wales, he has lived all over the country from Cardiff to Wrexham. A true Welshman, Kieren created this site to share his passion for Wales and help others discover this beautiful country.