Starting from Exeter, the outward journey took us via the now toll-free Second Severn Crossing into South Wales, then north past the Brecon Beacons and through the beautiful rural scenery of Mid Wales, before arriving in the more rugged landscapes of North Wales, and our base in Llanberis.
Once based in our hotel in Llanberis there were a number of trips included in the basic holiday. On the first day we enjoyed a 2 hour boat trip along the Menai Straits. This presented us with sightings of porpoise, lots of seabirds, expensive homes on the banks of the Strait and views of the contrasting Menai Bridges. Other features of interest in the Menai Straits area we visited included Beaumaris Castle and Plas Newydd, a National Trust property whose principal claim to fame is its 58ft long mural by Rex Whistler.
Our second day was left free, but there were many options available in and near Llanberis to occupy us. One possibility is the Llanberis Lake Railway, a narrow gauge track running along one shore of Lake Padarn. Along its route is the Welsh National Slate Museum, originally the Victorian workshops associated with the vast Dinorwig quarry, and itself a fascinating relic of industrial archaeology containing among many other things a massive working water wheel of over 50 ft in diameter, the largest in mainland Britain.
There is also the option of visiting the “Electric Mountain”. This is the Dinorwig pumped storage hydroelectric scheme. The visit is closely supervised, no doubt for health and safety reasons given the scale and scope of the huge underground caverns visited. This massive civil engineering project entailed blasting some 12 million tonnes of granite and slate from within the mountains to create a massive subterranean turbine hall now housing six huge turbines and pipes and shafts. Its purpose is to faciliate the release of water from a lake up the mountain into a bottom lake, Lake Peris, through these turbines to generate a surge of electricity to cope with instantaneous peaks of demand on the National Grid.
Of course the key reason for staying in Llanberis is to ascend Snowdon. Llanberis is the bottom station of the Snowdon mountain railway some 2 minutes from our hotel, and a number of members availed themselves of the opportunity to visit the summit of the Mountain by this means. It is not thought that any Forum members attempted to walk to the summit; but younger visitors may well do so.
Our final day started with a short drive to Caernarfon where we boarded the Welsh Highland Light Railway. In old-style carriages on wooden slat seats this took us on a winding route through the beautiful landscape of the Snowdonia National Park, passing through the Aberglaslyn Pass to Porthmadog via Beddgelert. Once in Porthmadog the options included staying in the town itself to see what it had to offer, visiting the Boston Lodge railway engineering works, the world's oldest railway workshop, or visiting Portmeirion village.
The homeward journey took us through the spectacular landscape of the Llanberis Pass before a break in Llangollen. We then passed through Shrewsbury and Telford and then onto the M54 and the M6/M5 back to Exeter.
The trip turned out to be a great way of to getting to know other members better, exploring a distant and fairly inaccessible part of our varied country and a very enjoyable – but full-on - experience.