SnowdoniaCategory: Land + People
By J. В. North, В. Campbell, R. Scott
Although it is so firmly fixed in the popular mind that it is unlikely ever to be displaced, Snowdonia as a general term for the mountains of Caernarvonshire is not really necessary, for the English name Snowdon was given to the whole region, not to a single mountain. The Welsh name for the region is Eryri — popularly supposed to have been given because in the old times it abounded with eagles, Eryri in the ancient British language signifying an eyrie or breeding place of eagles. However, recently the Welsh name has been traced back to Eryr which in Welsh signifies the bank of a river or the sea shore, i. e. a rise of the land. This suggests that the name really means “the mountain land” or “the high land”.
The heart of this mountain tract rises above three thousand feet in a number of summits. A striking feature of the Snowdonian mountains, as they are viewed from the Anglesey side of the straits, is the comparatively even skyline to which they give rise. There are, to be sure, some conspicuous depressions in the line where rivers have cut deep valleys, and some isolated peaks that rise conspicuously above the rest, but they do not destroy the impression of continued massiveness for the elevated region as a whole. Together these lines appear like a section across a low and slightly asymmetric dome, somewhat like an inverted saucer. Although the dome, with its gentle slopes, appears to be unprom- isingly low, many of its mountains rise to more than 3.000 feet above sea level. That may seem trifling in comparison with the mountainous regions of other countries, but the effective height of a mountain is determined by the general level of the region from which it rises, and since Caernarvonshire is a maritime county, deeply cut into by rivers, the slopes are necessarily steep. In these circumstances, the peaks retain most of the magnificence that is associated with height.
Its structure and comparative isolation give Snowdon a characteristic pyramidal outline recognizable from many near and distant viewpoints, from some of which it appears gracefully symmetrical. The mountain is, however, penetrated on all sides by wild hollows with precipitous curving sides. The steep cliffs and the sharp ridges provide attractions for the climber and striking views for the walker, as well as for those who use the mountain railway. The two areas on either side of the Pass of Llanberis are more frequently visited than the neighbouring mountain tracts.
It may at first seem a matter for surprise that the magnificence of this area is due less to the rocks that remain than to those which have been worn away. As a guide said to Joseph Cradock when he toured some of the most romantic parts of North Wales in 1776, “Ay, master, this must have been an ancient country indeed, for you see, it is worn down to the very stone.”
From Snowdonia, London, 1949.