If there’s one afternoon that sums up our Real Family Holiday (RFH) at Rhyd-y-Creuau, in Snowdonia, North Wales, it’s the led three-hour hill walk we enjoyed with half a dozen initially reluctant children.
Barring one seven-year-old, who had two days earlier impressively fulfilled an ambition by climbing (very nearly) to the top of Snowdon, I don’t think any of the other children were unusual in not being very keen to take on a long walk.
Yet at the end, having crested an impressive craggy mountain-like hill, seen sheep, chickens and cows at close waters and found enough thick mud to squelch through to keep any sow happy, many of them agreed with their parents that it was a highlight of their stay.
At £5 per family the walk was one of the daily additional cost activities offered by the RFH centre on top of the free one.
The kids (and some adults) were cleverly distracted from the initial incline by being set the task of making a memory stick of their walk. They had to choose a stick and use a piece of yarn to tie interesting items to it along the way, ensuring they only gathered things that were not living.
After that, it was as if the blood was flowing and the legs moving and I don’t think there was another moan. The kids chattered away, were engaged and excited by what they found around each twist of the walk which went through a wooded area, through open fields and opened out into an area of impressive views.
I wouldn’t have been brave enough to set out on such a long walk with my seven-year-old in any other circumstances but it proved not only can it be done but it can be enjoyable for all.
The area around Rhyd-y-Creuau is incredibly stunning with deep gorges, slate mountains and lush hills. I’m convinced a drive we did to Llanberis could credibly be added to a ‘drives of your life’ list. There we visited the engaging and free National Slate Museum. On the way back we stopped off at Swallow Falls in Betws-y-Coed.
Betws-y-Coed is a lovely little place and just around the corner from the RFH centre. Earlier in the week we enjoyed an afternoon there, beginning at the pretty bridge in the village where there are smaller waterfalls, scrambling on the rocks at the edges and walking a little way along the river.
Swallow Falls is Betws-y-Coed’s biggest crowd-puller and can, I understand, be accessed by continuing that walk from the village. I suspect that would be by far the best way to see them.
We got easy and instant views of the impressive falls via the roadside coin operated turnstile (£1.50 per person). It’s a useful option if you’re short of time or accompanied by tired little legs but viewing the falls from manufactured stairways and staging feels like the cheat it is, making a natural attraction a bit sterile.
Almost as impressive as our Llanberis drive was our trip to Portmeirion – a unique coastal village that was an architectural experiment in beauty and was used for filming of the 1960s TV show The Prisoner. At £28 for the three of us to get in, it felt pricey, but it’s a memorable, enchanting place and we’re glad we experienced it.
RFH Rhyd-y-Creuau is another centre where you leave feeling you have only scratched the surface of what it and the surrounding area has to offer. We met a family who stayed a fortnight and still felt there was much left undone.
The centre is so well organised and spotlessly clean, the food and cake plentiful and the gardens and grounds compact enough for children to roam whilst offering lots of new corners of surprise. Indoors there was an abundance of areas to sit and enjoy a quiet board game as a family, a drink – either brought with you or from the bar in the well turned out quiet/adult room and an area for the kids to be noisy together if they wished.
Every day could easily and happily be filled without even looking further than the well-structured and typically high standard activities. Wild art saw us colouring pictures using what we could find around us – berries, grass, mud. The team games were excellent, teaching us all something about determination, communication and, most importantly, the art and remedy of hearty laughter. On offer also was shelter building, orienteering, bushcraft survival skills, gorge scrambling and so much more.
On our last morning we took part in ‘Life in the River,’ dipping in the water and then analysing our finds with the use of a powerful microscope linked to a computer screen. The spot where we collected our finds, a little pebble-covered river nook a five-minute walk away, was a tiny, previously undiscovered beauty spot all of its own. Then the little wriggly dots we found in the water were magnified into dragon-like creatures of colour, fangs and multiple legs that had us gasping with delight. What a perfect metaphor for how much more there was to discover in the area.