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Green thrills

We find out what put Snowdonia’s Bryn Elltyd on the map for green adventurers and families
Green thrills

This article first appeared in our spring ’18 issue of MyGreenPod Magazine, The Conscious Revolution, distributed with the Guardian on 04 May 2018. Click here to subscribe to our digital edition and get each issue delivered straight to your inbox

One-third of the slate used in the Industrial Revolution came from within a mile of a small B&B in Blaenau Ffestiniog, inside Snowdonia National Park in North Wales. We drove a Tesla Model S to visit the Bryn Elltyd eco-guesthouse to find out more about how the area’s transformed to become a dream destination for green thrill-seekers.

The Tesla test drive – see what Jo Wood and Luisa Zissman thought of the Tesla Model S

Outdoor adventures

Only a handful of the mines in the area are operational today; the slate industry was hit badly in the first world war and Blaenau Ffestiniog, which had relied on exports to Germany, was hit particularly badly. Following a recovery fuelled by the post-war demand for new houses, the outbreak of the second world war led to a severe drop in trade.

But the cavernous mines had other uses which, as well as bringing extra income and jobs to the area, have cemented Blaenau Ffestiniog’s reputation as an outdoor adventurer’s paradise.

The warren-like structures of the Manod (Cwt-y-Bugail) mine at Blaenau Ffestiniog are so expansive that treasures from the National Gallery and the Tate were hidden inside for safeguarding during the war. A few years ago, Zip World recognised the potential of these hidden gems and leased the caverns of a nearby mine, Llechwedd, in an extension of its adventure experiences in the area.

The slate caverns are now home to ‘the world’s greatest underground zip line and adventure course’; Titan, a four-line zipping experience that takes you down the mountain and Bounce Below, a trampoline experience inside the caverns.

There are more local hiking opportunities than you could shake an Ordnance Survey map at and Mount Snowdon – the highest mountain in England or Wales, with views all the way to Ireland and Scotland – is only half an hour away by car. Add to that the abundance of local waterfalls and kayaking, surfing, bouldering, cycling, rambling and climbing opportunities and you’ll see why this area is popular with families and fitness fanatics alike.

Click here to find out why Bryn Elltyd Eco Guesthouse is a MyGreenPod Hero

Easy access

When we’ve got our hands on a Tesla, we like to head for the wilderness to show range anxiety isn’t an issue with these beauties: you can get anywhere from 334 miles (75D) to 409 (P100D) miles away on a single charge. Bryn Elltyd was one of the first destinations in Wales to get a Tesla charger – but if you think think you’d be cut off here in the foothills of the Moelwyn mountains, you’d be wrong.

The Ffestiniog Steam Railway track curves round the lake of the neighbouring hydro station and Bryn Elltyd is on a bus route: there are eight buses per day and the road’s gritted if there’s a risk of snow.

The prolific local mines, which include zinc, silver, copper and gold as well as slate, provide another advantage for anyone with kids or reduced mobility. Many of the routes up the mountains have been tarmacked for mine access, meaning they’re accessible with pushchairs and bold wheelchair-users (with help). Our two-year-old had no trouble and would have bagged the peak at the rear of the guesthouse if the weather hadn’t made us turn back.

An award-winning stay

It’s not just the natural riches on Bryn Elltyd’s doorstep that make this B&B a green traveller’s dream: owners John and Ceilia have won top awards for the work they’re doing to keep their guesthouse – complete with sauna – carbon neutral.

The retired teachers from Coventry have earned the Green Tourism Gold Standard and one of only 160 UK Superhomes Carbon Saving Awards. They’ve also won two of the Considerate Hotelier Sustainability Awards that have gone out to big-hitters such as The Savoy.

Yet according to John, only about 20% of Bryn Elltyd’s visitors are attracted by the B&B’s eco-credentials; the rest – including us – are drawn to its beautiful location and leave impressed by how luxurious a ‘green’ stay can be.

Click here to view rates and availability at Bryn Elltyd.

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