February 7th, 2018
About 18 months ago here on the Oakeley blog we shared the exciting news that an all new trail was set to open in North Wales (you can read the original blog post here). Well we’re thrilled to tell you that now, the Snowdonia Slate Trail opens and is fully accessible to walkers and trail runners.
But just what is the Snowdonia Slate Trail? It’s an 85 mile circular trail that explores some of the most important history, heritage and scenery of the local area. The route starts at Porth Penrhyn near Bangor and ends at Bethesda and attracts walkers to villages such as Llanllechid, Bethesda, Dinorwig, Llanberis, Waunfawr, Nantlle, Rhyd Ddu, Beddgelert, Croesor, Ffestiniog and Penmachno. The path passes by a number of social enterprises and community run facilities and provides opportunities for people to gain a better understanding and appreciation of the slate heritage of the area.
The route is split into 13 sections, and because it runs through the heart of Snowdonia, it’s not always a flat route shall we say…. but the stunning scenery more than make up for the ups and downs and hilly challenges. The route uses existing rights of way and public footpaths that will take the walker through historic mining communities like Blaenau Ffestiniog, Bethesda, Capel Curig and Betws y Coed. The trail hopes to appeal to long distance walkers as well as those wishing to complete shorter day routes and will have a wealth of information about the local slate industry and it’s importance, both culturally and economically.
Slate mining, was of course one of the principle industries in North Wales in the nineteenth and early twentieth century, if not the most important industry. From the end of the 1700s to the beginning of the 1900s the slate mining communities of Snowdonia were thriving, bustling and dynamic. North West Wales had over 60 different slate mines (including Penrhyn Slate Quarry, which at the end of the 19th century was the largest slate quarry in the world). The industry as a whole employed almost 20,000 people and many more communities and industries depended upon it.
The life and times of a typical quarryman and his family weren’t easy. Days were long and tedious and the work was often dangerous. Men worked for not much money and life was tough, but the communities thrived on a spirit of survival and co-operation. They formed tightly woven, mainly Welsh spoken non-conformist communities that were rich in culture, song and storytelling.
Sadly, the slate industry in Snowdonia has all but died away. There are small pockets were slate is still quarried but true Welsh slate has been priced out of the market by cheaper foreign copies. After years of decline and in some areas, depression, rural projects like the Zip Wire projects in Blaenau Ffestiniog, are helping to re-generate these communities that have already been through so much. It’s these special communities that the new Snowdonia Slate Trail wishes to celebrate and bring to life.
Indeed, the Oakeley Arms itself owes it’s existence to a wealthy slate mining family. We were once part of the Plas Tan y Bwlch Estate, a country mansion and grounds built on the riches of the slate mines by one of the most prominent mining families in North Wales. You can read more about the history of the Oakeley Arms here.
And read more about the Snowdonia Slate Trail, including maps and information on facilities along the way at https://www.snowdoniaslatetrail.org/