Wales

Snowdonia: Where dreams are hatched and challenges met?

Sunrise over the Snowdonia national park as view from the summit of Snowdon Image copyright Getty Images

Theresa May has claimed a walking holiday in Snowdonia gave her the space to make the decision to call a snap election. But what is it about walking in Snowdonia that inspires people?

Its peaks have been featured on coins, immortalised in poetry and recently lauded the best view in the UK.

Hundreds of thousands of visitors visit Snowdonia every year, drawn by the wilderness and views.

And now it has another place in history - the location where Ms May decided it was time to send the country back to the election boxes again to get a post-Brexit mandate.

Snowdonia has been visited for centuries by explorers, artists, adventurers and poets for inspiration and remote spaces to think in.

Prolific walker Wordsworth described having a religious experience when he climbed up Snowdon in his early twenties. While Charles Darwin's week-long walk across Snowdonia helped frame much of the Victorian scientist's approach to his legendary sea voyage on the Beagle.

Image copyright MARCO BERTORELLO
Image caption Theresa May and husband Philip have previously gone on walking holidays in Wales, as well as Switzerland - where they were photographed last year

Artist JMW Turner honed his skills as a landscape artist on five visits to Snowdonia between 1792 and 1799, travelling on foot and horseback for weeks in the region to seek out ever-more dramatic scenery.

Artist Dr Peter Bishop, who is an expert in the art history of Snowdonia, said although the mountains have drawn generations of artists to the area, many first came for practical reasons.

"Snowdonia was closer than the Alps," said Dr Bishop. "When the Napoleonic Wars started it was easier for people to get from London to Snowdonia than to Italy, then mountains became more fashionable and a market started for works based on Snowdonia.

Image copyright Getty Images

"The draw remains though, Snowdonia is quiet and it gives you vistas which are very good for the soul. It gives you solitude and a place to escape and it does give you time to think, often with rain in your face and a gale blowing full-pelt."

And it was this space to think Ms May said she got on a walking holiday in southern Snowdonia with her husband Philip when she changed her mind about the need to have an election, when she had previously ruled one out.

"Before Easter, I spent a few days walking in Wales with my husband, thought about this long and hard and came to the decision that to provide that stability and certainty for the future, this was the way to do it - to have an election," she told ITV News.

It is believed to be at least the fourth time the prime minister has holidayed in the region.

In an interview with Wales Online last month she said: "Walking in Wales is an opportunity to get out and about and see scenery and clear your mind and your thinking. We stay in a hotel and try to walk every day. Walking is about relaxing, getting exercise and fresh air."

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This connection between walking and creative thinking has been explored by Stanford University researchers who concluded: "Many people anecdotally claim they do their best thinking when walking. We finally may be taking a step, or two, toward discovering why."

Charity Mind has published a report showing the benefits of walks in the country on reducing depression and raising self-esteem.

And Joe Irvin, chief executive of the Living Streets charity which promotes National Walking Month in May, said: "Walking clears the head, and lets you day dream, reflect and sort out problems."

Snowdonia National Park's slogan taps into that sense of mental well-being - Lle i enaid gael llonydd in Welsh - which, translated is Somewhere for the soul to be still.

And workers at the park believe Ms May carefully chose one of the more remote locations in the area to do her thinking on her most recent trip.

She visited Dolgellau in south Snowdonia on this trip, which is less busy than climbing up Snowdon - a big draw for visitors with 600,000 people reaching the summit each year.

Image copyright Erfyl Lloyd Davies

Snowdonia

  • There are 1,497 miles (2,409km) of public footpaths in Snowdonia
  • Snowdon is the tallest mountain in England and Wales, standing at 1,085m (3559ft) above sea level
  • Snowdonia National Park is 823 square miles
  • There are more than a hundred lakes more than an acre in size in Snowdonia

Source: Snowdonia National Park

Mair Huws, head of access and wardens at Snowdonia National Park, said: "There are lots of places in Snowdon where you can get the solitude to think and get that awe inspiring wow factor from the views.

"There is a huge push at the moment for people to do more physical activity and measure that physical activity with watches and technology, so you know how quickly you have gone up a mountain, and how far you have walked.

"But I think what a lot of people find from walking and being there is that mental fitness and agility.

"It gives you something which is harder to measure, but it is to do with your mental well-being, that feeling of being at peace, it gives your brain the time to think."

Image copyright Getty Images

Snowdonia has also been an important location for explorers to hone their skills with the first group of climbers to successfully ascend Mount Everest in 1953 training there.

Adventurer Bear Grylls has praised the Welsh mountains for the challenges they can present both physically and mentally.

He said: "Snowdon is an international icon and encapsulates the spirit of Wales and the Welsh people. It's a place where dreams are hatched and challenges fulfilled."

And although it may have been where the prime minister's idea was hatched, her challenges will lie on the campaign trail rather than the isolated wilds of north-Wales.

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