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Mount Snowdon - North Wales

Mount Snowdon is situated in picturesque Snowdonia National Park in North Wales, an area of outstanding natural beauty. In Welsh, Mount Snowdon is called 'Yr Wyddfa', which means 'The Tumulus', 'The Tomb' or The Monument', because it is said that it is the tomb of Rhita Gawr.

Mount Snowdon - North Wales

Mount Snowdon - North WalesRhita Gawr was an ancient warrior king who, legend has it, conquered all the other 30 kings of Britain, cut off their beards and made a full-length cloak of them. He supposedly met his doom when King Arthur climbed to the top of Mount Snowdon and killed him.

Snowdonia is called 'Eryri' (eryr means an eagle, plural: eryrod). The landscape and the environment are a protected area.

Snowdon is not that high for the tallest mountain in what is known as a mountainous country, since it stands only 1,085 metres (3,560 feet) high, although it is the highest in the UK outside Scotland. It is said that Thomas Johnson was the first person to reach the summit in 1639, but that is like saying that Columbus discovered America when there were already people there before him.

In fact, no-one actually knows who the first person was who reached the top, although we do know that it was mined for copper for millennia from the Bronze Age on. Mines, shafts and even buildings are ample evidence of that.

Each year 350,000 people reach the summit on foot and by the narrow-gauge train. The peak can be extremely wet and cold with fierce winds. In fact, the buildings at the top of the mountain can by covered by ice and snow between November and April.

Before the Snowdon Mountain Railway, ponies used to take those tourists who would not walk to the summit of Snowdon to enjoy the view. Sir Richard Moon and Mr George Assheton Smith were responsible for the idea of the Snowdon Mountain Railway - Sir Moon as a way of boosting tourists with a railway line, and Mr Smith as he realised that tourist cash may compensate him for the loss of income from his declining mines.

They imported a fully working 800mm gauge mountain railway from Switzerland. The railway remains the only rack and pinion railway in the UK. It has toothed racks in the centre of the track that engage with cogs under the carriages.

The only accident on the railway occurred on the day that it was opened to the public in 1896. Engine Number 1, Ladas, derailed and plummeted down a slope. The crew jumped from the engine and survived, and the guard applied the hand brake to the carriages and brought them to a halt on the track.

Unfortunately, one of the passengers panicked and jumped from the carriage, falling onto the tracks and under the wheels. He later died from his injuries. However, the drama wasn't quite over yet, as just as the carriages stopped, the engine following behind (Enid, which is still operating today) hit them from behind!

The railway was closed for investigation, but since the day that it reopened the following year, there have been no further accidents. Not only that, but since that date there has never been another Engine Number1 on the Snowdon Railway!

Weather permitting the trains run from mid May to the end of October right to the summit, but from mid March, and a little way into November, stop at Clogwyn. Trains start running at 9am and continue until late afternoon.

The whole area of Snowdon, with its legends and mythology are fascinating. Very little has actually changed there for thousands of years. There is a railway and the buildings are more modern, but one can still feel what the locals must have felt all that time ago when they talked of Celtic fairies, ogres, gods, magicians and Druids.

The eeriness is not frightening, but it is palpable and enough to make a suspicious person think several times.

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by +Owen Jones