Snowdonia is a mountainous region in North West Wales and also a national park, one of three in Wales. It contains the highest mountain in Wales, Snowdon at 1085 metres/3550 feet in height. It is a region of outstanding natural beauty with some breathtaking scenery. There are nine mountain ranges in Snowdonia which cover over half of the national park’s surface. There are also river gorges, waterfalls valleys, and forests. Lakes are another feature of the region where several hydro-electric schemes have been built. The region is very popular for hiking, mountaineering, white-water kayaking, and other outdoor pursuits.
Snowdonia's importance in the conservation of habitat and wildlife in the region reflects in the fact that nearly 20% of its total area is protected by law. Rare mammals in the park include otters, polecats, and the feral goat. Rare birds include ravens, red-billed choughs, peregrines, ospreys, merlins, and the red kites. The Snowdon lily is only found in Snowdonia National Park, where it is a rare and protected species. Another species unique to Snowdonia is the Gwyniad, a freshwater fish of the salmon family.
The Snowdon Mountain Railway departs from Llanberis. This spectacular 6.5 kilometre/4 mile, approximately 2.5 hour train journey climbs 3500 feet up Snowdon and is the only rack-and-pinion railway in the UK. Walking, the most spectacular way up Snowdon is via the Crib Goch arete but it is not for the faint-hearted, and not unless you know that the weather might hold up. Another route includes the Llanberis Path which follows the train track.
There are a number of castles in Snowdonia which date from the 12th and 13th Centuries. They were constructed at the time of the battles by the Welsh Princes of Gwynedd to resist the rule of King John. Most of the English-built castles form the "Ring of Steel" around North Wales and lie outside the National Park.
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