Six reasons to visit Betws-Y-Coed, Snowdonia
PUBLISHED: 09:52 26 August 2014 | UPDATED: 09:52 26 August 2014
Some great reasons to visit beautiful Betws-Y-Coed, Snowdonia
A journalist working for one of the national newspapers recently wrote a feature expressing her surprise that Wales was actually really rather nice. It seems there are restaurants serving good food and some companies make products that even people in London might want to buy. Who would believe it?
She doesn’t mention when she last visited – if ever – but her patronising views suggest it was some time ago and she didn’t enjoy herself. Well, frankly, that’s her own fault. She’s right that much has improved here in recent years, but only in the same way things have been made better in lots of tourist areas, even some parts of London have had a bit of a spruce-up.
Thankfully, though, much here has remained unchanged and unspoiled, such as the glorious Snowdonia National Park, almost 400 miles of beautiful beaches and scores of pretty towns and villages packed with fascinating places to visit and terrific places to eat and drink.
Yes it rains, yes there are sheep and yes, some people may still be haunted by memories of childhood holidays spent in a leaky tent or draughty caravan with no ‘mod cons’. But it doesn’t take much effort to find some of the many gleaming jewels in the Welsh crown.
So, for that journalist (now presumably safely ensconced back in the Big Smoke) and for anyone else unfamiliar with the gems on offer, we present a guide to Betws Y Coed.
The village, which stands in the east of the Snowdonia National Park, has a population of less than 600 but that number swells massively at weekends and in school holidays. Many visitors use the village as a base to explore elsewhere but there are reasons to stay local too.
And even when the car parks are full it is easy to get away from the crowds and to enjoy the peace and beauty of the countryside around the village, which is arguably the most spectacular you’ll see anywhere in the UK.
We have selected a few things to do in and around Betws Y Coed, which appear here in no particular order.
There are some big attractions in Snowdonia – none bigger than Snowdon itself – but as an exhibition in the National Park Visitor Centre proudly proclaims, there is more to Snowdonia than mountains. For another spectacular example of Mother Nature’s work, visit the Swallow Falls, near the A5 a couple of miles west of the village, where the Llugwy river crashes over a precipice. There are viewpoints on both side of the water and at busy times of year the car park will be full and you’re likely to find a queue slowly shuffling forward, cameras ready, to get the best view.
For some of the best views in Wales, head to Gwydyr Forest Park to the south of Betws. Once an area dominated by lead and zinc mining, there are still scars of the forest’s industrial past but the abandoned engine houses and reservoirs add to rather than detract from the beauty of the area. The Conwy, Llugwy, Lledr and Machno rivers flow through the woodlands which are popular with walkers and cyclists who follow the old miners’ tracks. The woods are also a great spot for picnics.
Take a ride on a miniature railway or a tramcar at the Conwy Valley Railway Museum where even those with only a passing interest in trains can find something to enjoy. The museum, which first opened 40 years ago, is next to the village station and is home to model railways and a café in a former buffet coach (but with better food). A number of old carriages in various states of repair chart the growth and eventual decline of the railways.
St Michael’s Church
The 14th century St Michael’s Church beside the river Conwy was rescued from complete decay 20 years ago. It was superseded by St Mary’s parish church in the late 19th century and by the time the Friends of St Michael’s was formed the old building has a leaking roof and was in a sorry state. The Friends group has since raised money and awareness and the church – the oldest building in Betws-y-Coed – is open every day until the end of October. The church has been closed for regular worship for many years but holds a couple of services a year and is particularly busy in September. This month the church will host its annual flower festival and a St Michael’s Day service on September 29.
The art of Wales
The scenery around Betws Y Coed is breathtaking whatever the weather and has been providing inspiration for poets, writers and artists for hundreds of years. Among the current crop of artists who find the muse in the mountains is Alison Bradley, who has a gallery in the centre of the village where she exhibits her stunning oil paintings and charcoal drawings of the local landscapes. Not far away, the Galeri Betws Y Coed showcases the work of artists, ceramacists and jewellers from across Wales.
Biking and walking
Whether you’re more at home in your walking boots or on your bike, there’s lots to explore with trails and paths from the Betws into the woods and the hills which surround the village. We particularly like the route to Llyn Elsi reservoir which sits in the Gwydir Forest above the village and offers incredible views to the mountains. The lake’s rocky islands and the trees which line its shore are usually filled with birds, particularly black headed gulls. Once two small lakes, local landowner Lord Ancaster gave permission for a dam to be built 100 years ago which created the reservoir to provide water for the village.
Where it is it?: The A5 passes through the village, while the A470 is just across the river and by train run from Betws to Llandudno Junction and Blaenau Ffestiniog.
Where to park: There are three car parks around the village but they which can get busy at peak holiday times.
Where to eat: There’s a decent choice of cafes, but we particularly like the 1930s art deco café at Conwy Falls, which serves local beers and cider and stone-baked pizzas.
Where to drink: The Pont y Pair Inn serves good beer and has a menu of reasonably priced locally produced food too.
Find out more: Snowdonia National Park Information Centre, Royal Oak Stables, 01690 710426, TIC.BYC@eryri-npa.gov.uk. Open Easter to October 9.30am-5pm