WATERFALLS, FAIRY GLENS & FOREST TRAILS
Snowdonia National Park is one of the most popular hiking destinations in Wales, which is why we’re here! We arrived this morning after a short train ride from Conwy and headed straight out to explore the area around Betws-y-Coed, the village we’re staying in. We ended up walking along the River Llugwy for a few miles, through vividly green forests, across a few sheep-filled fields, and past some great waterfalls. This is just such a beautiful part of the world!
Betws-y-Coed is northern Wales’ most popular inland holiday town*. It sits where the River Conwy meets its 3 tributaries flowing from the west, the Llugwy, the Lledr and the Machno. Much of it was built in Victorian times, and all the buildings in the centre of the village (including the B&B we’re staying at) are constructed from the dark grey slate that is everywhere around here. It’s all just so cute!
*Not that it’s busy, at least not at this time of year. No doubt once school holidays are in full swing it gets busier, but for now the town is bustling without being congested and crazy.
Betws-y-Coed means “prayer house in the wood” in Welsh, an apt name as the village most certainly has a great “prayer house” (i.e. St Mary’s Church), and a lovely wood (i.e. Gwydyr Forest).
Betws-y-Coed is the principal town Snowdonia National Park* so it’s really well serviced, but still has a great country village feel to it. It’s also in a wonderful setting – surrounded by rivers, dense woodland and magnificent mountain scenery.
*Like most national parks in the UK, Snowdonia is inhabited. More than half the land area in the park is farmland, but this is interspersed with generous swaths of forest and “wilderness”. To ensure the longevity of these areas there are significant limitations on what construction can be carried out within the bounds of the national park. Basically families who have farmed here for generations continue to do so, but no new development can occur. On an island as old and populated as Britain, this seems like a good way to ensure the preservation of both land and culture.
Snowdonia National Park is the largest national park in Wales and boasts the highest mountain in Wales (Mt Snowdon – 1,085m), and the largest natural lake in Wales. We’re going to hike up The Mountain (as it’s referred to here abouts), sometime in the next few days, but today we focussed our energies on exploring Gwydir Forest and the banks of the River Llugwy.
It was just lovely, watching the crystal clear waters of the river flow beneath ancient bridges, around dark grey rocks, and under the overhanging canopy of trees.
At one point the river waters were channeled through a narrow canyon and then down over a set of cascades – Swallow Falls they’re called. We stopped there for a snack and to enjoy the sound of the water crashing down over the rocks.
Our walk also took us through Gwydir Forest. This dense woodland was just the kind of place every child pictures in their mind when they read stories about fairies and the like. Oak, birch, and ash trees, interspersed with lush green undergrowth, buttercups, daisies, and bright purple foxglove flowers.
We were out walking for about 4 hours overall; not a huge day, but a good way to start our stay here in Snowdonia. It was a wonderful way to spend the afternoon and we can’t wait to do more of it over the next few days!