Travel Review: High-octane adventure in the heart of beautiful Snowdonia
Surfing conjures up images of sandy beaches and salty blue seas with seagulls overhead.
Yet here I was in the middle of a lush, green valley in Snowdonia, with buzzards rather than seagulls circling above us, watching surfers tackle enormous waves. And I was about to tackle them myself.
Adventure Parc Snowdonia opened as Surf Snowdonia in 2015, creating the world’s first inland surf lagoon in the Conwy Valley.
It revolutionised adventure tourism when a £25 million investment saw it add a host of other high-octane activities to the site, including mountain biking and skateboarding, paddle boarding, ziplines, climbing and indoor caving.
The complex is just a 90-minute drive from the Shropshire/Welsh border. And when the Hilton Garden Inn opened on the rebranded Adventure Parc Snowdonia last year it provided a new opportunity to enjoy a short break there to add to the already popular glamping pods.
We had a fabulous weekend at the site. Following a beautiful journey through Llangollen and Betws y Coed, we were soon at the Parc, nestled in the hills.
At its centre is the huge freshwater lagoon where the water-based activities take place.
It is fed by the adjacent hydro-electric plant, its pipes coming down the hill in front of the lagoon.
Before it fills the 300-metre lagoon the water passes through the giant turbines of the RWE hydroelectric plant in Dolgarrog – and helps to power around 20,000 households per year.
Experienced surfers, paddleboarders and swimmers can pay for waves or still water time on the lagoon. But as surf beginners we opted for a lesson. Hubby and I, in our 60s, were the oldest, although we were assured that recently one lady had a lesson for her 80th birthday. The youngest were teenage brothers who had taken to boards at the Lleyn Peninsula earlier in the week.
The dry land instructor was fantastic, showing us how to lie on the board and how to ‘pop up’ to standing. That’s when I knew I would struggle!
Then it was out to the lagoon itself. While advanced surfers were enjoying their time in the middle of the lagoon catching the enormous waves at their height, we were close to the ‘shore’.
I am a confident swimmer who enjoys body boarding, but my nerves were jangling as I heard the noise of the wave approaching.
“Paddle”, shouted the water instructor and within seconds, wipeout! The second time, wipeout again but on the third wave I stayed on.
The next half hour saw our team bond with laughter and encouragement from each other and cheers as, one by one, people managed to ‘pop up’ and stand on the board.
The adventure wasn’t over as it was a quick change and onto the zip wire, a wonderful flight above the lagoon. Then it was a short walk to check-in at the Hilton Garden Inn.
Luxury at an affordable price, Hilton Garden Inns are worldwide. Modern interior design and layout makes you feel relaxed immediately, whether in the bar, restaurant or your room.
The Zephyr’s bar and grill restaurant continued the modern theme and we enjoyed a wonderful evening over a steak and locally sourced cheeses.
Our adventure continued the next morning with a lovely couple of hours in the aptly named Wave Garden Spa. Not one for winding down, there was something about an outdoor hydrotherapy pool in the centre of the beautiful Snowdonia scenery that was instantly relaxing.
Adventure Parc Snowdonia is perfectly placed to explore the wider area. The centre revolutionised adventure tourism, and the Hilton Garden Inn and a luxury spa opened last year. Recruitment is now under way as the adrenaline-fuelled complex looks to welcome around 100,000 visitors this year.