ACTIVE | Surfing, Glamping and a Weekend of Fun at Surf Snowdonia, Wales

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The summer was grudgingly underway and just before the school holidays, we were invited to visit Surf Snowdonia, for a weekend of surfing and glamping.

A weekend of glamping and surfing In the middle of the mountains? Heck yeah!

Our stay

Friday 8th July to Sunday 10th July 2016

The location

Surf Snowdonia is in the village of Dolgarrog, north east of the Snowdonia National Park, in the Conwy Valley region. This puts it not far from the A55. Our satnav took us faithfully to the right spot based on postcode alone, which is always a relief. One side of the road has houses and little shops. Some of the houses peer down over the valley from the side of the mountain. The other side of the road is the Surf Snowdonia complex; comprising the Eco Village of glamping pods, hot tubs, the sauna, the wave lagoon and the main buildings on the other side of the lagoon (cafe, soft play, reception, restaurant, and the surf academy building).

The site itself used to be an aluminium factory and it has been beautifully recovered from an industrial site to something much more family friendly. I won’t wax lyrical about too many details of the site – you can find that out for yourself if you’re interested in the site’s history. I’m going to talk more about our experience there.

Once on site you need to check in at the main reception to get your wristbands. These are programmed to allow electronic access to the gates of the Eco Village on the other side of the wave lagoon and they are also your key for your pod. This was really fascinating for our 8 year old, who always wanted to hop out and activate the gate or run ahead to be the first one home to the pod!

The glamping accommodation

The pods are a good size. I’d describe them as modest but then I’m used to a 5 metre bell tent just for the adults. There are two rooms to each pod, one open space inside the front door and a second space at the back, separated by wall and a blackout curtain. We had plenty of space as two adults and one child. There’s storage space under the two single beds in the front room, and a bit of space in the back room that wasn’t taken up by the double mattress. Mattresses were supplied and were decently comfortable.

On the first night we adults gravitated to the back room with the double mattress but on the second did better with our daughter in the back room and the adults on the single beds. It stopped us disturbing her if we went out to the toilets in the night. There was plenty of room in that back room for a travel cot or travel playpen instead of putting the mattress down, had we been travelling with a younger child instead.

Surf Snowdonia Glamping Pods

Lighting on the site is very good and constant throughout the night so it’s easy and safe to pop to the shower block and toilets if needed. The pods have astroturf surrounding them on three sides so no mud to slog through. The very best thing about the pods was that they were snug and dry and warm – very cosy.

I would say that we struggled a bit keeping the light out of the pods. The front door has a roll blind that leaked a little light around the edges. The curtain dividing the two rooms was a great blackout material, but the little window at the back had no blind and at this time of year this meant light at 4.30 in the morning. Light leakage is good if you have little ones who won’t sleep without a nightlight but not so awesome for us adults who are more sensitive. If our daughter had been much younger, her waking up so early would have blown any chance of a good return to sleep and it would have been a long grumpy day ahead with her. On the second night we jury rigged a cover for the back window and made sure to close the roll blind at the front as tightly as possible.

At 8 am the wave machine in the lagoon starts up. It’s not very noisy however neither is it silent.  If we’d wanted a lay in, it could have been difficult. When we go again we’ll likely ask for a pod at the back of the site, further away from the wave lagoon so it will be a little quieter.

Breakfast over at the main building is provided free of charge with every pod booking. The food is good but not as great in terms of quality as the evening meals are. Pretty soon the cereal process should be moving to individual boxed portions so that kids can help themselves and be more independent with their meal.


Staying at Surf Snowdonia gives you access to all the great stuff on site. The toilet and shower block is very modern, very spacious and very clean. There is currently no family wash space, however I’m told that the management are starting work on a shared wash space area with access to washing machine and tumble drier.

There are 2 hot tubs and a sauna on the same side of the lagoon as the pods. Neither are bookable, you just turn up, all are signed for ages 12 and over.

A well lit path around the lagoon later and the main surfing complex has a cafe building. There’s a surf shop above it but more interesting to us was the soft play area. We didn’t test this out – at 8, her mood for soft play can be a bit hit and miss. There’s a ball pit area for younger ones but you won’t be able to keep your eyes on your kids if they go up and to the back as it’s fairly large. Currently the soft play area is £3 for unlimited access.

The main reception building houses the bar and restaurant, as well as the surfing changing rooms and wetsuit hire.

The restaurant needs to be booked in advance, although having said that we were seated even though they had lost our booking from the evening before. There is a kid’s menu although I can’t say we were offered one, which turned out fine because it meant we ordered the best pizza we have ever had. Seriously.

Amazing pizza at Surf Snowdonia

Go there and order the pizza. SO GOOD!  The food from the restaurant is superb quality and the service was really good even though they were very busy. If you need a kid’s menu and one isn’t offered, do ask because they do exist. We’re told that soon colouring packs will be available for little ones while they wait for their food too.

Surfing Lessons

And, of course, the surfing. Staying on site puts you in exactly the right spot for accessing Surf Snowdonia’s surfing lessons. We went ahead and squeezed in a beginner lesson on the Sunday morning before we headed home.

Surf Snowdonia

Surfingsurfing is awesome. Even for middle aged introverts who wear prescription glasses constantly. You can’t wear glasses in the water but you can wear prescription goggles. We used to get ours: their service was really prompt with advice about which lenses to order and the total cost rocked in at about £20 per pair of goggles. Way cheaper than we originally thought it would be. So very much worth it to be able to access such a great morning of surfing, and we can also finally go swimming without fussing with glasses straps.

Take lots of towels. Do be wary of the bottom of the lagoon if you’re a first timer. It’s a rough artificial liner and the depth changes in places to help the physics of shaping the perfect wave, unlike sand or earth it has no give when you tread on it and in places it’s a little slippery in the shallows. I scraped the top of my foot, but the rest of my family were fine. Kids under 12 can go on the regular lessons but I really recommend getting your mid-sized child onto a dedicated kid’s lesson slot if you can. I felt a lot more secure with my mid-sized child on the wave lagoon than I think I would have been with her on the sea, for a very first lesson at the least.

Surf Snowdonia

The lessons are paced fast: at beginner level there is a wave every 3 minutes and you are encouraged to try and catch all of them. There are six to a group with one instructor. The instructor we had was very clear, very patient and very helpful.

Fellow introverts: trust me. Don’t worry about the word ‘adventure’ on the front page of the Surf Snowdonia website. It’s perfectly lovely. If you can swim, go try; do a beginner and then consider some freestyle time to book freestyle surfing time where you’ll have time to sit on the board and really get a feel for the water moving under you and learn when you need to start paddling.

Out and about – Llechwedd Slate Caverns

The only extra activity we had booked ahead was a Deep Mine tour at Llechwedd Slate Caverns. This is a journey 500 ft underground to discover how the slate mine was originally discovered and mined through the Victorian era and into the present. There is just enough light and sound technology in play to keep the tour fresh but the guide was the focus, and was extremely knowledgeable and personable. Do wear the bright blue overalls you’re offered. It’s chilly down there and some of the floors are muddy: wear sensible shoes.

Llechwedd Slate Caverns

Afterwards we were shown how slate can be manually split, and lunch at the cafe was pretty tasty. We both had Lobscows, which is a traditional lamb stew, and it was really filling especially on a very damp day. Sadly the weather was against our going on the Quarry Explorer – which is a shame as we were looking forward to being loaded in the back of a truck to drive up over the quarry heap.

We learned very quickly to find the A5 running over the mountains from Betws-y-Coed area through Capel Curig to Bethesda and ultimately Bangor. The scenery going over this route is extraordinarily beautiful and even in the rain we stopped and parked up at Lake Ogwen so that we could have a gentle stroll up onto the mountains. We wanted very desperately to go hike but the weather and a family cold in the brewing made us be sensible. We spent as much time there as we could and are definitely going back there in the future.

Out and about near Surf Snowdonia

Going over the A5 put us in Bangor and we stopped to have a light tea at Kyffin in Bangor. Apart from a slight start caused by an old boarded up shop front with the same name just over the road, I’m pleased to say we had a nice hot drink and snack in the real Kyffin. It’s well rated on Trip Advisor and we loved it: individual and such a great choice of drinks and snacks.

Gwydir Castle

Gwydir Castle was an unplanned stop – we were driving past and I happened to see peacocks on the crenelated chimneys and stopped to look when we noticed it was open to the public. We had to go in. As well as the gardens, part of the house is open to the public and you are allowed to ramble around at your own pace. It’s a Grade 1 listed early Tudor courtyard house, in 10 acres of garden.

Castle Snowdonia

Situated right next to Gwydir Forest it isn’t surprising that there are a number of beautiful trees on the ground subject to protection orders. We found both grounds and house to be well kept and maintained despite having had to recover from several serious floods in recent years.

Well worth a stop and they also have accommodation available too (no children under 12).


We drove reluctantly past the Ugly House Tea Room and their bee-friendly garden and woodland, resisted the lure of the very famous Swallow Falls waterfalls, and had no time to visit the Conwy Valley Hedge Maze. Most of all, we didn’t have the time or the right equipment with us to face the mountain walks safely near Lake Ogwen in the wet weather with low visibility. Don’t even get us started about the railways and the eponymous Snowdon itself. All these lovely things must wait for us to go back again.

There is so much to do in this part of Snowdonia. We just ran out of time!

It’s quite possible that Snowdonia is now our most favourite place to visit. There’s just so much there to do and go to see that I struggle to see how any holiday there could get repetitive.

Our verdict

The Surf Snowdonia site itself is nicely geared up for families with kids aged 12 and over. The family friendly vibe for children aged under 12 was a little hit and miss but it is clear that the site is working hard towards improving this. Soon there should be a new inflatable assault course for ages 5-12, a bungee trampoline, family wash space, a laundry area and colouring sheets with crayons at meal times. Even better for making family memories last in print, the photography team should soon be offering group pictures as well as photography taken while you’re on the water.

Order the pizza and if you loved it as much as we did please do make sure to send your compliments to the kitchen. The staff were really friendly and hard working and they helped to make it a great stay.

Surf Snowdonia

I feel the glamping pods are a must-have to stay over if you’re surfing and a decent place to sleep over while exploring the surrounding area even if you’re not surfing.

We’re definitely going back to Snowdonia. There’s a mountain range there that has our name on it. And when we do, we’re very likely to stop by Surf Snowdonia again.

Visit the Surf Snowdonia website.

Our thanks to

Surf Snowdonia and Lou McWatt for inviting us; Llechwedd Slate Caverns and Lou McWatt for inviting us, and for supplying the great press image for Llechwedd after a critical camera lens fogging incident; The staff at Surf Snowdonia from front desk to kitchen to surf instructor; The staff at Ysbyty Gwynedd A&E who kindly reviewed a very bad finger sprain to make sure there was nothing broken.







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