All About That Base: Betws-y-Coed, the Gateway to Snowdonia National Park

Destination - Wales, Snowdonia NP

After a very relaxed, restful week in England’s lovely Malvern Hills, Nick and I have returned to Wales for another few days, although this time to the fringes of Snowdonia NP.

What’s been on the ol’ adventure agenda for Wales, Part 2? Well, for Nick it’s been a training course in paddlesport journey leadership, while for me it’s been woodland wanders, waterfall ogling, and…the UK’s only alpine coaster?! Yes indeed!

Read on for more…

If you’re thinking about making a trip to north Wales, 1) do it, it’s great, and 2) definitely consider making Betws-y-Coed your adventure base camp. The village, tucked away in the forested Conwy Valley near where the Rivers Llugwy and Conwy meet, is one of my favorite places in the UK. 

The Gwydyr Forest and the many waymarked trails that course through it are a major draw for me, personally. I love a good amble through forested hills and valleys – being surrounded by echoing birdsong, spotting some of the many mosses, fungi, and lichen that dwell in the shadows of the trees, stumbling upon hidden waterfalls and streams and pools. There are good ambles a-plenty to be had here, many of them beginning from quite near the village centre itself.

Pont-y-Pair, the 15th-century (!) stone bridge crossing the River Llugwy near the centre of Betws-y-Coed, makes for a prime starting point to a handful of trails of varying lengths. If you’re after a short stretch of the legs, I recommend the 1/2 mile or so boardwalk loop called Coed Tan Dinas which winds here and there between 100 year old Douglas fir trees as it follows alongside the river. There are several benches and picnic tables along the way, as well as some nice signs about the different types of trees in the area with information both in English and Welsh. 

If you’re up for a walk that is a little bit longer, continue onto the Snowdonia Slate Trail, found by going through the metal kissing gate at the far end of the woodland loop trail. The gate could be easy to miss as it is a little bit tucked away behind some boulders, near a set of two picnic tables by the riverside. Following the Snowdonia Slate Trail will take you to an old Miner’s Bridge over a gorgeous gorge (…sorry, I couldn’t resist…), which you can see in my snapshot below.

Other more substantial hikes in the area that I can recommend from experience include:

+ Pen-yr-Allt Trail – A 4.3 mile loop that takes you through evergreen forest and across hilltop meadows, and includes some unimpeded views of Moel Siabod in the distance. 

+ Cyrau Trail – This thin 1.5 mile loop seems to somehow have a lot more up than down to it and the path is a bit rougher on account of a lot of rocks and roots, but the view points along the way are well worth the work to get there. There are two major view points along the way overlooking Betws-y-Coed and the Conwy Valley.

+ Llyn Elsi Trail – Unlike the other trails mentioned here, this 3.5 mile lollipop-shaped loop starts behind St. Mary’s Church in the village centre. Walk past the remains of stone houses long since reclaimed by nature and be greeted by the echoing knocks of woodpeckers as you make your way up to the lake at the top of the hill. Once you’ve reached the top, you’ll suddenly have a clear view to surrounding mountains as Canadian geese and a variety of sea gulls honk and squawk with abandon from their little islands dotted around the lake.

There are of course loads more trails to trek a bit further away, all throughout Snowdonia NP. If you’d like to use public transport to get around, the Snowdon Sherpa bus service offers day tickets for £5 which allow you to hop on and off at a variety of trailheads (such as Pen-y-Pass, popular starting point for several of the routes up Snowdon).

And, of course, one doesn’t need to fill their days with hiking in order to get their adventure fix!

While in Betws-y-Coed I visited Zip World Fforest, an adventure theme park (of sorts) where you can, among other things, experience the UK’s only alpine coaster. I gave it a whirl (…three, in fact…), and I loved it! Sadly, I didn’t capture any photographs or video whilst on it, as I was pretty much the only person who followed the rules and stashed her valuables away before getting on the ride. I figured it out only too late that the rules *pirate voice* ‘be more like guidelines, argh’…!

Anyway, folks, many thanks for reading! More to come soon. Until then, happy adventuring to you!


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