Last Sunday we decided to make the most of the clear blue skies and take our five-year-old daughter Elsi on her first trip up Snowdon. We were all excited.
We hadn’t packed our walking boots, so the only way up was on the train – probably the desired route for most young families, but being married to a member of the Wales Mountain Rescue Team and a Mum of a five year old mountain goat, we would have actually enjoyed the walk!
Now I knew the Snowdon Mountain Railway was going to be expensive, but I didn’t expect it to be THAT expensive! It was £29 each for me and my husband and £20 for our daughter – a grand total of £78! Ouch! What annoyed me even more than that, was the fact that my husband was told that there wasn’t a discount for him as a member of the Mountain Rescue Team. These guys and girls who volunteer with the Mountain Rescue, give up their free time to train on a weekly basis, and are on call 24 hours a day to help save the lives of people on our beautiful welsh mountains. Lots of shops and attractions support these volunteers by giving them a small discount, but no, the train up to Wales’ highest mountain does not! I’m fully aware that it costs a lot to run and maintain this important tourist attraction, but come on guys! I wonder how many people are saved on Snowdon by the Mountain Rescue Team every single year?
When walking on to the train, I was gobsmacked to hear that all the announcements were solely in English, no word of Welsh! Were we really in Wales?! (Having googled their website and twitter feed, as far as I can see, these are English only platforms too) – I am steaming like a train as I write and remind myself of the anger I felt at the time! Am I the only one that thinks that this actually stinks?
On the positive side, the train ride itself was very pleasant, smooth, steady and the views were spectacular. The carriages themselves were full but comfortable, despite a lot of selfie sticks bashing you on the head! We enjoyed watching the tourists from all corners of the globe marvel at our stunning mountain views (after recovering from the cost of the ticket!). It was fun to watch the people climbing, running and struggling up the mountain as we passed too – it must have been challenging in that heat. #respect.
Unfortunately, the positives are now over. When we arrived at the top, we were informed that we only had 25 minutes to climb up the steps to the peak (via the café and shop),and get back on the train, as we could only catch this train back down! If we missed it we would have to pay an additional £22 to get back down on a different train, but we could only get another train down if there was space available! What?!
As far as I can see, the majority of people who choose to take the train to the summit do so because they have babies or young children, they are elderly or they simply couldn’t make it up here without this train. By the time you’ve queued to go up the steps to the top for your photo, visited the loo or grabbed a cup of tea (there’s no time to do both!) the guard’s whistling his whistle, and it’s time to spend another hour getting down on the train! After spending almost £80 getting up here, you would expect to have more time to enjoy the amazing views and relax – Especially if you’ve travelled half way round the world to get here!
I can honestly say that I am a very positive person, I usually never complain about things, but please, let me have one final rant before I summit up!! The shop at the top of Wales’ highest mountain, one of our most popular tourist attractions in Wales, is full of magnets, keyrings, t shirts, food and everything else you can think of to remember your ‘lovely’ (expensive and short) trip up the mountain. Standard. No surprises here. What did surprise me was the fact that they had no Welsh language products up there, you could only buy ‘I climbed up Snowdon’ or I Love Snowdon’ etc – none of them had any Welsh on them! I asked the shop assistant and his reply was, ‘No, we don’t have anything with Welsh on. That is a bit odd isn’t it?’ ODD – no, it’s a disgrace! When I went to the Great Wall of China I bought a Chinese fridge magnet. When I went to Italy I bought an Italian fridge magnet, but when I went up Snowdon I didn’t buy a fridge magnet as it wasn’t available in our native language! We have this photo instead!
So, now that I’ve let off some steam, would I recommend a spin to the summit on the train? If it isn’t an option to walk up the mountain and if I haven’t put you off, then yes – do it! The views from the top are stunning on a clear day, but I’m afraid that I spent the majority of my day feeling annoyed, shocked and disappointed. You certainly won’t catch me on that train again! I’ll be packing my walking boots from now on!
By Heulwen Davies, Mam Cymru.
*Copyright: Mam Cymru