In our biggest ever route expansion, 2017 is set to be a great year for Virgin Atlantic in Manchester. Thanks to two brand new direct routes to San Francisco and Boston launching at the end of March, and a new daily route to JFK starting in May, the USA will now be more accessible to UK travellers than ever before. And we’re equally delighted to bring the urban delights of Manchester to an entirely new market of US travellers. The powerhouse of northern England is not only home to cutting-edge culture, dining, shopping and entertainment, it’s also a gateway to the region’s national parks, including the beautiful Welsh wonderland of Snowdonia.Your romantic country escape to Snowdonia will set hearts aflutter. At just over two hours drive from Manchester, you’ll soon be exploring this outstanding area of natural beauty – so read on to help find your perfect spot for a relaxing short break in the Welsh countryside.
Snowdonia National Park is home to some of the UK’s most dramatic geological beauty. Kick things off at Conwy Valley and Hiraethog, where a rocky mountainous trek is flanked by thick forests, wooded gorges, mountain lakes and high moorlands that are out of this world. From there, slowly work your way to the western side of the national park at Ogwen Valley, where you’ll be treated to coastal views and paths around the lakes at Cwm Idwal. To finish off your valleys venture head back down to a more moderate level of walking at Tomen y Mur in the centre of the national park. This circular route will lead you from the shores of the manmade reservoir Llyn Trawsfynydd and across farmlands to the historic Roman fort of Tomen y Mur.
The natural beauty of Snowdonia National Park doesn’t stop there. See the spectacular Swallow Falls, one of the highest continuous waterfalls in Wales. Located on the River Llugwy near Betws-y-Coed, the falls are formed of two main bodies of water connecting together to create a giant water chute which makes for a perfect photo opportunity. If you’re after more water action then a hike to Dolgoch Falls in Gwynedd, Mid Wales is a must. The falls are part of a series of three waterfalls including the Nant Dol-gôch stream, which flows into the Afon Fathew. This secluded area is surrounded by the lush Fathew Valley and is shielded by trees, adding to the stunning untouched landscape.
King of my castle
Make your trip historic with a visit to Dolbadarn Castle. Built by the Welsh prince Llywelyn the Great during the 13th century, the castle is dominated by a massive round-towered keep, which offers amazing 360-degree views of the surrounding rugged mountains. Continue your history lesson at the Church of Saint Tawng at Llandanwg, an ancient medieval church with parts dating from the 5th century, set just back from the shore. From here, enjoy panoramas of sandy white dunes and picture-perfect beaches.
Visit the fantasy village of Portmeirion for whimsical Italianate architecture and views of the Glaslyn Estuary. This dreamy village provides a romantic backdrop for lazy strolls around the gorgeous Gothic Pavilion, Bristol Colonnade, Hercules Hall and Belvedere buildings. From there, head to the quayside to people-watch and take in the estuary panoramas. Don’t forget to stop by the central Piazza – Portmeirion’s centerpiece – with its Riviera-inspired houses, ornamental garden and campanile. It’s a picturesque paradise like nowhere else.
After a long day of exploring, consider staying in one of the traditional lodgings dotted all over the valleys. Upgrade your romantic break with something a bit different at the Cae Mabon eco retreat centre in the village of Fachwen, north of the national park. Set in an oak forest close to a disused quarry, highlights include on-site healing yoga workshops and a soak in the outdoor hot tub to truly unwind. Alternatively, take a look at the rustic log cabin accommodation at Trawsfyndd Holiday Village. Tucked into a hillside in the heart of the national park, the cabins overlook the Rhinog Mountains and offer easy access to all of Snowdonia’s natural riches.