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Step out into any of the popular car parks in North Wales and the likelihood is that whatever the weather you’ll see people heading for the summits of the major mountains. Pick any day and Snowdon will be there, with potentially thousands of people battling their way up in a gale, or slipping on the late spring snow. But there’s another way (a better way) of seeing the wonders of Snowdonia without always heading uphill. The National Park is more than just Snowdon; it reaches from Conwy, down past Porthmadog and all the way to Machynlleth. Cutting through these mountains are valleys rich in wildlife and history, and a long coastline interspersed with sandy estuaries. Here are three places to check out if you want half a day exploring in the north of the National Park:

Gwydyr Forest

If you’ve driven into Snowdonia from the east you’ve probably seen it, the great forest surrounding Betws-y-Coed. The area hides old lead mines dating back to the Romans, and the modern plantation makes space for native species and open heath. Nature has reclaimed the spoil tips and the old mine reservoirs are now peaceful lakes dotted around the forest, where birds of prey soar above the trees. There’s a network of paths and sign-posted routes through the area allowing you to explore easily. And there are few better places than the Alpine Café in Betws-y-Coed for a coffee afterwards.

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