Friday, 30 November 2012

Christmas Countdown

25 little days to go!
Gosh, where did 2012 disappear to? Here at the Oakeley Arms, we can hardly believe it's very nearly December already! But, we're all set for the countdown to Christmas - it'll be a busy few weeks for us here with Christmas menus, parties, dinners, buffets and presents, but that'll just make that big glass of fizz on Christmas morning taste even better.
So, in case you're stuck for ideas, here's the things that the month of December is just made for.......
  • Get writing that letter to Santa. It might take some time to convince him that you really have been good this year.....
  • Get that tree up!!
  • Start making the Christmas pudding and cake? Or alternatively, think about where to buy it from (anything for an easy life!!). For a selection of the best, click here
  • Snuggle up and watch a Christmas film! Yeah, forget about the cooking, shopping and list-making. Get festive Hollywood style and watch a classic - The Grinch, Love Actually, Santa Claus the Movie, It's a Wonderful Life.... Which is your favourite?
  • Write a list! Christmas is the season for list writing, so start yours today. Got several lists already? Then start a list of lists....
  • Go to a Christmas market - see this week's previous Oakeley blog post for our pick of the best.
  • Bake some Christmas cookies, mmmmmmmm!! Check out the BBC Good Food website for some great ideas.
  • You can open that chocolate advent calendar now, at last!!
  • Book tickets for a local pantomime. They'r behhhhhhhhhhhhind you! Find listings of what's on and where, click here.
  • Organise a Christmas meal for your friends. Can't be bothered to cook? No problem - come and check out the Oakeley's yummy Christmas menu!
  • Have a drink... go on, it's Christmas!!
And, if you need a reminder of the Christmas countdown, then keep this link somewhere handy.....
Image by MeiTeng on

Tuesday, 27 November 2012

Christmas Markets

A Winter Wonderland
Here at the Oakeley Arms we like to think we're pretty organised, but that's not to say that we don't suffer from the odd bout of Christmas chaos. As the big day draws ever closer we wondered what better way there was to escape from festive stresses than to have a jolly good day out; even better if that day out is at one of the UK's finest Christmas Markets and includes a BIG glass of mulled wine and a giant hot-dog, yum.
Image by Office de Tourisme de Colmar via Wikimedia Commons
There's not a lot that will induce the jolly yuletide spirit more than a fabulous Christmas market. They originated in medieval Germany but over recent years their popularity has spread across Europe, and now there are hundreds taking place up and down the country. You'll find bags of Christmas cheer, loads of craft and gift stalls, delicious hot and cold food, gallons of mulled wine and plenty to keep the kids entertained too.
There are lots of markets being held across Wales - here's our selection of the best, along with a few a bit further afield - you could always make a weekend of it! (Click on the market name text for more info - opens in a new window)

To find a Christmas market near you visit
Image by lizerixt on

Monday, 26 November 2012

National Tree Week

It's Tree-mendous

Here at the Oakeley Arms Hotel, we're surrounded by them and we love 'em. Some of them are really, really, really old, ancient in fact, and some are a little younger. Some are tall and strong, and some are short and squat. Noooooo silly, we're not talking about our regulars! We're talking about TREES!
And because it's National Tree Week this week (24th November to the 2nd December) we've gone "conkers" (sorry) for trees! This annual event is run by the UK Tree Council, and celebrates all things trees. It also marks the beginning of the winter tree planting season, so there are loads of special events taking place across the country.
Image by Ayla87 on
The Oakeley Arms is set on the edge of one of the oldest forests in Wales. Coed y Bleiddiau literally means "Forest of the Wolves" and legend has it that the last wild wolf to roam Wales was killed in the depths of these trees hundreds of years ago. There are several expanses of woodland that line the Vale of Ffestiniog, and all are within walking distance of the Oakeley Arms. Many are designated as Nature Reserves and they are remnants of the great Atlantic Oakwoods that would once have covered most of the European coast.
Today, you'll find an amazing variety of trees in these woods. The majority are Sessile Oaks, but you'll also discover a few beech, holly, hazel, birch and rowan trees. And not only trees live here. The humid conditions are ideal for ferns and mosses to thrive, as well as busy bird and insect populations. If you're really lucky you may spot a wild otter in one of the streams. One of the finest species of this forest though is the rare Horseshoe Bat that lives here, but you'll have to venture out at dusk to have a chance of spotting this shy creature.
So, celebrate National Tree Week in style. Go down to the woods today and see what you can discover. There are excellent woodland trails through many parts of the Meirionydd Oakwoods. You can find more information here and more details about the work of bat conservation on the CCW website.
Find out more about the work of the Tree Council and about National Tree Week here. There are workshops to celebrate National Tree Week taking place at Venue Cymru in Llandudno; find more info about that here!
Explore the vast expanses of forests close to the Oakeley Arms Hotel

Monday, 19 November 2012

Museum for Hedd Wyn

A National Treasure
One of Snowdonia's most famous literary figures, Hedd Wyn, became a hero when he was killed during the First World War. Ellis Humprhey Evans, or Hedd Wyn, his pen name as he was better known, was born in Trawsfynydd; just a stone's throw from us here at the Oakeley Arms Hotel.
Last week saw the news that his childhood home, a cottage near Trawsfynydd called Yr Ysgwrn has been awarded a grant to help transform the Grade II listed building into a museum to commemorate the poet's life and works. A museum will ensure that the historic cottage is protected for future generations to learn more about the legacy of one of Wales' greatest heroes.
A memorial to Hedd Wyn in Trawsfynydd village
Hedd Wyn was born into the wild landscape of nineteenth century North Wales in 1887. He grew up on a remote sheep farm and by the time he was 14 years old had finished school and was working as a shepherd with his father. He began writing poetry at an early age, undoubtedly inspired by the rugged landscape around him. He won his first county Eisteddfod prize at the age of just 19 under the pen name of Hedd Wyn (literally meaning White Peace) but his ambition was to win the coveted and highly revered chair of a National Eisteddfod.
Hedd Wyn had no intention of joining the Army; in fact, he was against the war. But, the conscription laws deemed that the family had to send at least one of their sons to the war effort. Ellis volunteered to save his brothers and in March 1917 he joined the Royal Wlech Fusiliers. He continued to write though, and by July he'd finished his entry for that year's Eisteddfod.
He posted his poem "Yr Arwr" (The Hero) along with his future hopes and dreams, and prayed for success. But tragically, just 16 days later, Hedd Wyn was killed in action during the Battle of Passchendaele in Northern Belgium. He was just 30 years old.
Hedd Wyn was posthumously awarded the chair at the National Eisteddfod that year. The winner was announced and the author asked to step forward. When nobody did it was revealed that the poet had been killed in action. The dark and empty chair was forlornly draped in black cloth and sent to his parents' home in Trawsfynydd.
Hedd Wyn has since become recognised as one of the most important and influential Welsh language poets in history.
Find out more about the story of the grant and the museum on the BBC news website here
Gwae fi fy myw mewn oes mor ddreng,
A Duw ar drai ar orwel pell;
O'i ôl mae dyn, yn deyrn a gwreng,
Yn codi ei awdurdod hell.
Pan deimlodd fyned ymaith Dduw
Cyfododd gledd i ladd ei frawd;
Mae sw^n yr ymladd ar ein clyw,
A'i gysgod ar fythynnod tlawd.
Mae'r hen delynau genid gynt
Yng nghrog ar gangau'r helyg draw,
A gwaedd y bechgyn lond y gwynt,
A'u gwaed yn gymyg efo'r glaw.
Hedd Wyn

Thursday, 15 November 2012

Red Kites of Mid Wales

Kite Flight
The red kite is one of Wales' most majestic birds. These beautiful birds of prey are elegant and graceful as they swoop and soar above the mountains, ever watchful for the next catch. The fact that Red Kites were once on the verge of extinction in Wales, only adds to their mystical air.
We don't spot them here at the Oakeley Arms very often, but you don't have to travel far to find them. These days, there are healthy breeding populations in mid Wales, which is just a short journey from the Oakeley Arms.
The plight of the red kite starts in medieval times, when they were deemed as scavengers and vermin that lived on rubbish and food waste, and indeed in Scotland in the 1400s, King James ordered that Red Kites should all be destroyed, so much were they abhorred. By the early 1900s, there were just a few breeding pairs left in the UK, in South Wales, but since the 1950s, a sustained programme of breeding and protection has enable the red kites of Wales to rise again. Today there are thought to be over 1,000 breeding pairs of red kites in Wales.
One of the best places to see them is at the Bwlch Nant yr Arian feeding centre near Aberystwyth in Mid-Wales. This Forestry Commission site in the heart of the Cambrian Mountains is a favourite spot for the red kites, thanks to the wild woodland and craggy moors.
Image by Tony Hisgett on wikicommons
Bwlch Nant yr Arian was first established as a red kite feeding centre in 1999, and it now attracts around 150 of these wild birds every day. The kites are fed on offcuts of meat from a local butcher, and not only does it provide an essential source of food, but it also encourages the birds to gather together.
Feeding time is quite a spectacle, and not to be missed! Feeding takes place at 2pm every day during the winter months (3pm in the summer).
Find out more at the Forestry Commission website here and read more about the beautiful red kites from the RSPB here.
Bwlch Nant yr Arian is approximately an hour's drive from the Oakeley Arms Hotel. For public transport options see or ask staff for assistance.
Image by Chriss Denny on wikicommons

Tuesday, 13 November 2012

National Kindness Day

Got to be kind....
Did you know that today is National Kindness Day? No, we didn't here at the Oakeley Arms either, but we're fast thinking up some good deeds we can do for the day.
National Kindness Day comes from the World Kindness Movement (WKM) which was started in 1996 in Japan. The idea is that business, corporations, greed, fortunes and economies are  all forgotten for a day, and instead the focus is on being kind and doing kind deeds to create and inspire a nicer, more harmonious world.
As part of last year's event, more than 30,000 flowers were given out to strangers on the streets of Singapore and in Australia, a mass-hug was organised on Bondi beach. But, the emphasis of Kindness Day isn't necessarily about grand gestures and expensive presents, it's about the small things that make a difference to another person's day.
Here are some ideas for little acts of kindness:
  • Offer to help an elderly or vulnerable person nearby
  • Clear our your wardrobe and take your unwanted items to a local charity shop
  • Put out some bird seed as a kindness to the local birds!
  • Buy a sandwich and give it a homeless person
  • Spend 10 minutes thinking kind and positive thoughts for a friend or relative who needs them.
  • Offer to take your best friend out for lunch, for no other reason than "just because".
  • Be kind to the planet - make a pact to buy a bag for life and not use plastic bags in future.
  • Smile and say "good morning" to a stranger (not if it's in the evening, obviously.... or they'll be extra kind to you and  lock you up!)
  • Buy an extra box of pet food and take it to the local animal shelter.
  • Let someone who looks in a hurry go ahead of you at the queue for the till
  • Buy your husband/wife/partner/girlfriend/boyfriend/grandmother/aunty their favourite chocolate bar.
  • Start filling a shoe-box with christmas gifts for a charitable cause.
  • Help a friend with a DIY project, walk their dog or baby-sit for them
  • Give your unused pay&display ticket to another car as you leave the car park
  • Bake some biscuits or cakes and leave them out for the postman/binmen/courier
  • Buy a drink for the person stood next to you at the bar
  • Make a small donation to charity, or put your change from your shopping in a charity collection tin.
So, as we're thinking about what little acts of kindness we can do today, we'll just be ummmm hanging out here at the Oakeley bar, hoping for an act of kindess ourselves!!
You can read more about Kindness Day and Kindness UK here
Be kind to birds today....
Image by twitchtoo on

Thursday, 8 November 2012

Snowdon Railway

Classy Carriage!
This week has been an exciting one for the Snowdon Mountain Railway - one of the area's most popular attractions, and just a short hop from the Oakeley Arms Hotel. The railway has taken delivery of some shiny new railway carriages - the first new carriages in almost 100 years!
The Snowdon Mountain Railway or Rheilffordd yr Wyddfa has been trundling from Llanberis up and down Wales' highest mountain since it opened in 1896. The railway cost nearly £64,000 to build, which in today's money is over £5 million! It is the only rack and pinion type of public railway in the UK, and during the summer months, the busy carriages are packed with tourists and sightseers who wish to travel in style to the top of Snowdon.
The Snowdon Mountain Railway was opened as a way of bringing visitors and trade to Llanberis, and there was a great deal of excitement on the day of the grand opening, but tragically disaster struck when a carriage left the track and lost control. Sadly, a passenger was killed when they jumped from the carriage. The railway was closed until the following year, when it re-opened to great anticipation; it has been a favourite of visitors to Snowdonia ever since.
The current carriages on the railway have been with the railway since 1923. Of course, they've been modified, repaired and adapted since then, but the new carriages will mean a potential increase in passengers, and comfort!
The railway is now closed for the winter months, but will re-open in the Spring when the four new carriages will be unveiled.
Snowdon Mountain Railway
Image by Mike Shields on wikicommons
You can find out more information about Snowdonia Mountain Railway, as well as updates, news, prices, booking and history on their website, click here.


Tuesday, 6 November 2012

Self Catering Special Offer

Winter offer at the Oakeley Arms Cottages

Our fabulous holiday cottages here at the Oakeley Arms in Snowdonia are perfect for a last minute winter break, and right now, we've got a special offer on all bookings of the three bedroom cottage between now and December 17th 2012. You can book the cottage for 7 nights for just £450 - the cottage has three bedrooms and sleeps six people. That's just £75 for a magical week in Wales!

We've recently renovated our once derelict stable buildings into stunning holiday cottages set in the Oakeley Arms Hotel grounds. These charming self catering cottages in the heart of Snowdonia are enchantingly named after local mountains and rivers (don’t worry we’ll help with the pronounciation!)

Traditional furniture and original features mean that the cottages contain an abundance of charm and period style, but modern and quality fixtures mean that you won't have to compromise on style or practicality.

You’ll be greeted with wine and cakes on arrival and bed-linen and towels are provided. All you have to do is relax and enjoy the fabulous views across the Vale of Ffestiniog.

The cottages are within easy reach of the area’s popular attractions and local towns.

For more details and to book see our website or call us on 01766 590 277
Hurry! Offer ends 17th December.

Monday, 5 November 2012

Winter Walking

Stay Warm, Stay Safe
So, winter is definitely here in Snowdonia. It's suddenly come upon us like a blizzard from nowhere. Although it's brrrrrr cold, we're not complaining because the view here from the Oakeley Arms Hotel across the hills and mountains is a beautiful winter wonderland.
It got us to thinking about a spot of Snowdonia winter walking - there's nothing better than packing a bag with a thermos flask of hot coffee and loads of fleecy layers, and heading out into the hills. But, with the cold and snowy weather arriving quickly last week there were several rescues from the Snowdonia mountains over the weekend, some of them in very bad weather.
When the sun is shining and the sky is a crisp winter blue, it's difficult to imagine that seemingly from nowhere, storm clouds can gather on top of the mountains and thick mist can swoop down, obscuring the path and the route to safety. So, it's essential to be prepared whilst out on the hills - at any time of year, but particularly in winter when the conditions dramatically increase the risk. Sometimes, specialist knowledge or equipment is needed to stay safe.
Here's some top tips to stay safe in the hills this winter:
  •  Consider and study the forecast carefully. Conditions change quickly in the mountains, so it's best to be prepared and know what to expect. It also pays to be realistic about the forecast and your abilities. If you've never navigated or walked in winter conditions before, then it's best to seek advice before you head out.
  • Plan ahead - plan your route, including a quick route off the hills if you need it in an emergency
  • Tell someone about where you're going, who with and when you expect to be back.
  • Winter mountain walking is not really something that should be undertaken alone, unless by a qualified or experienced guide or mountain leader.
  • Dress and pack appropriately - sounds obvious, but while you might be as warm as toast in one jumper at the bottom of the mountain, conditions can quickly change at the top. You should wear several layers that are easy to take on and off, and pack a warm, dry overcoat. Don't forget tick socks, hats, gloves, scarves and pack some basic safety equipment like a first aid kit, whistle, reflective blanket and torch.
  • No winter walking should be undertaken without a map and compass (and the ability to use them of course!). If you have a GPS, so much the better, but it's always better not to solely rely on them - a compass never runs out of battery or has signal failure!
  • Wear good, sturdy boots! With crampons or snow grips if necessary.
  • Pack a flask of hot drink and some high-energy snacks.
  • For real winter-walking skills, why not sign up for a course or some lessons from a qualified guide? Our recommended local guide is Alwen Williams at Welsh Mountain Adventures, but you can also find details of courses at Plas y Brenin - the National Mountain Centre.
  • And finally - enjoy, and take care! Winter walking can be a hugely rewarding and satisfying experience, and it's a great time to explore the mountains without the summer crowds!
A snowy Glyder Fach
Image by jigsawit on
See you on the hills!
You can find more information about the work of the Llanberis Mountain Rescue Team here, as well as safety hints and tips.
The Snowdonia National Park also have some great mountains safety guidelines on their website, click here.
Please note that the above information is intended as guidelines only. Mountain walking of any kind should only be undertaken in good conditions with the correct equipment and safety procedures, and is entirely at readers' own risk. The Oakeley Arms Hotel cannot be held responsible for any consequences arising from the use of these guidelines.

Friday, 2 November 2012

Bonfire Night

A Penny for the 'guy

"Remember, Remember, the 5th of November" so the saying goes, but as we are fast approaching another fiery celebration of Guy Fawkes, we got to thinking here at the Oakeley Arms about where it all began.....
Of course, you know it all began when Mr Fawkes tried (and failed miserably) to blow up the houses of parliament on the 5th November 1605. But what's so special about this incident that we are still celebrating it in style over 400 years later?
Guy Fawkes was one of a group of Catholic protesters, who wanted to kill the Protestant King of England, James I, and replace him with a Catholic king. Of course, the plot failed and the thankful king allowed his supporters to celebrate by lighting bonfires in towns and villages across the country. By the following year, an act of parliament (known as the Act of Thanksgiving) had been passed that declared that the 5th of November should be a public holiday (although attendance at church was mandatory) because it was believed that James' survival was largely down to divine intervention.
Guy Fawkes himself....
However, it wasn't long before the celebrations took on fervent religious connotations, with many Protestants using the day to voice their anti-catholic views, with violence and disorder often breaking out.
Thankfully these days, the celebrations are less about religion and more about enjoying a crisp winter's evening, warming food and drink and a cracking bonfire and firework display.
But, don't forget to plan carefully and take care, so you can enjoy a stress-free and happy Bonfire Night for all the family. Here are our top tips for staying safe:
  • Plan your bonfire night carefully - from where to let off the fireworks to where your guests will stand and who's in charge of lighting the fireworks.
  • Store fireworks in a closed box and take out one at a time when you need them. Keep them away from heat sources and naked flames.
  • Never throw a firework, and never go back to it once it's been lit.
  • Don't use paraffin or petrol to light a bonfire. And make sure it's out completely before you leave it.
  • Make sure children have got thick gloves to wear whilst holding a sparkler, and never give a sparkler to children under 5.
  • If in doubt about hosting your won firework party, then why not look up your local firework display and head there instead!

You can find out more information about safe fireworks here, and make sure you have a night to remember, for all the right reasons!

Image by alko on