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Don’t squander the sunshine!

July 16, 2013
Pont-y-Pair, Betws-y-Coed, Sowdonia

Summer has arrived in the UK and the sunshine has produced the predictable headlines about barbecues selling like hot cakes, motorways melting, and heat alerts. The more important consideration though is what are you going to do to enjoy the sunshine?

Firstly, you probably want to avoid crowds; cities get uncomfortably stuffy when the weather turns this good so you may think of heading for the beach, but they get so crowded too don’t they? How about heading for Snowdonia?

The Snowdonia National Park is massive so you can always find a quiet spot to yourself. You could head towards Snowdon itself to enjoy the dramatic scenery and the beautiful valleys – how about a drive from Betws-y-Coed towards Capel Curig, turn left and there’s a beautiful valley with a couple of lakes with Snowdon right in front of you.

Or from Betws-y-Coed head towards Ty Hull (the Ugly House which isn’t ugly at all but full of character), turn right up the country lanes to Llyn Geirionydd, where you can have a swim to cool off and picnic on the grass by the lake.

If you want to abandon the car for the day and take a stroll, from Betws-y-Coed, head down to the shop called Rock Bottom and take the side road behind it. This quiet road will bring you out by Beaver Pool, cross the bridge and head up to Fairy Glen. There is a small fee to go into Fairy Glen, but after you’ve been down to try to spot the fairies, there are some wonderful picnic spots. Alternatively, carry on up the footpath and it will bring you out by Conwy Falls – you can visit the Falls themselves and the café was designed by the same person who did Portmeirion. Great coffee and cakes too!

Or how about just staying in Betws-y-Coed? Maybe have a little stroll around the village green in the morning and pop into the shops which take your fancy; we have lots of outdoor shops if your daysac needs replacing or you need a new sunhat, and lots of craft shops specialising in locally made crafts. After a spot of lunch, maybe a picnic on the village green or a refreshing drink in a local hostelry, you could wander down to the Pont-y-Pair bridge and go rock-hopping and have a paddle in the river. All rounded off with a Welsh ice-cream from Cadwaladers.

So start planning how you are going to make the most of the sunshine.

Snowdonia by public transport

July 5, 2013

Before following any suggestions, please check the appropriate public transport is running on the days and times you are going and that the attraction is operating.

Day Trip 1 – Snowdon Mountain Railway and Llanberis

view_from_snowdon_panorama-web2.jpg

Transport: S2 Bus

Ticket: Snowdon Sherpa day ticket or £1 per bus ride

From Betws y Coed, take the S2 bus towards Llanberis.

Suggestion 1: About 1 and a half to 2 miles outside the village of Betws y Coed, there is a famous waterfall, Swallow Falls – get off the bus at the Swallow Falls Hotel. There is a turnstile to see the falls with a small fee.

Suggestion 2: In Llanberis, if you don’t already have tickets for the Snowdon Mountain Railway go to the station and get tickets.  You may have some time before you can board a train.

Suggestion 3: National Slate Museum.  Whilst you are waiting for your boarding time on the Mountain Railway, visit the National Slate Museum where there are slate splitting demonstrations and talks, mine workers’ cottages set up for different decades, a water wheel and the workshops.

Suggestion 4: Electric Mountain.  Also in Llanberis is Electric Mountain.  A coach will take you inside the mountain to visit a hydro-electric plant which is built inside the mountain in huge caverns.

Day Trip 2 – Ffestiniog Railway

Ffestiniog Railway - copyright VisitWales

Ffestiniog Railway – copyright VisitWales

Transport: train and then the Ffestiniog railway

Ticket: on the first train, ask for a combined ticket to cover the Ffestiniog railway.

This is an enjoyable train ride through the Snowdonia National Park towards Porthmadog.

Take the train from Betws y Coed train station – buy the ticket on the train and ask for a combined ticket for the Ffestiniog railway.

At Blaenau Ffestiniog, change trains to the Ffestiniog Railway.  The trains are usually steam trains but occasionally diesel.  The train ride takes just over an hour through beautiful countryside – buy a guidebook to help explain what you are seeing.

In Porthmadog, you sometimes get as little as 35 minutes.  You could buy a sandwich and sit by the little harbour before getting back on the train for the return journey.

Alternatively, instead of going into Porthmadog, you can get off the train at Tan-y-Bwlch and go for a walk in the woods.

Or if you get off at Minffordd station, you can go to Portmeirion Village & Garden which is about a mile and a half from the station.

Day Trip 3 – Conwy Valley

Upper Conwy Valley

Upper Conwy Valley – copyright VisitWales

Transport: Bus 19

Ticket: ask if there is a day ticket

The number 19 bus journeys up the Conwy Valley on the west side of the River Conwy and there are a number of options along the way.

Suggestion 1: Llanrwst is an old market town (the market is on a Tuesday but probably isn’t worth a special visit).  The town is interesting to wander around and places to visit include: the church and its Gwydyr chapel, the riverside and the National Trust’s Ty’r y Bont café.

Suggestion 2: Trefriw has an excellent working Woollen Mill where you can walk around the mill to see how raw wool is turned into tapestry and other products.  The Woollen Mill also has a shop and café.

There are also some excellent walks from Trefriw using the Trefriw Trails which are waymarked.

Suggestion 3: Conwy.  Conwy is an old walled town and you could easily spend a whole day in the town.  The castle is highly recommended and you can walk round the town walls.  There is a mussel centre on the quayside for fresh mussels.  Other attractions in the town include:

  • Aberconwy House – 14th Century house owned by the National Trust,
  • Plas Mawr – Elizabethan merchant’s house owned by CADW and
  • the Smallest House in Britain – on the quayside.

On the return journey, some buses go to Rowen INSTEAD of Betws y Coed so be careful you get on the right bus.

Day Trip 4 – Llandudno and the Great Orme

Llandudno copyright VisitWales

Llandudno copyright VisitWales

Transport: Train or Bus (Buses 84 or X1)

Ticket: ask if there is a day ticket

Llandudno is a Victorian seaside resort and apart from the shopping area has a great many attractions:

  • There are 2 beaches in Llandudno because it is on a peninsula.  The main beach is by the town centre but the quieter beach is on West Shore.
  • Great Orme – The Great Orme is a limestone headland which is a SSSI (Site of Special Scientific Interest) and has fantastic views from the top.  To reach the top (if you don’t want to walk), you can get the cable car or a tramway.  Alternatively, there is a tour of Marine Drive (the road round the Great Orme) which starts from near the pier.
  • For wet afternoons:
    • Llandudno Superbowl – ten pin bowling
    • Cinema – the cinema is at Llandudno Junction

Day Trip 5 – Snowdonia round trip

Caernarfon Castle

Caernarfon Castle

Transport: S2 / S1 bus to Llanberis, 88 bus to Caernarfon, S4 bus to Beddgelert, S97 to Pen-y-Pass and change to S2 back to Betws y Coed

Ticket: ask if there is a day ticket / rover ticket.

This is a circular tour of Snowdonia.

Take the S2 bus from Betws y Coed. The S2 usually terminates at Pen y Pass, which is at the foot of Mount Snowdon and is an excellent spot to see the mountain scenery. If the bus does finish at Pen y Pass, catch the S1 bus onto Llanberis but sometimes the S2 does go all the way through.

Get off the bus at the Llanberis Interchange and change onto the 88 bus to Caernarfon. There are a number of things to see and do in Llanberis (see Day Trip 1) but on this trip, we are just passing through – enjoy the scenery in the meantime.

In Caernarfon, the main attraction is obviously Caernarfon Castle. Caernarfon Castle is a 13th century castle and has a number of museums including the Regimental museum of the Royal Welsh Fusiliers and a museum about the Investiture of the current Prince of Wales in 1969.

If you have time after the Castle, walk down the hill towards the river where there is a station for the Welsh Highland Railway and you may see a steam train or two.

From Caernarfon, catch the S4 bus for Beddgelert. As the bus leaves Caernarfon, it goes up a hill and past Segontium Roman Fort. The Roman Fort is open to visitors (except Mondays) so you may like to stop off to have a look. Unfortunately the Museum is closed at present.

Beddgelert is a beautiful little village and has some interesting little craft shops. There is a small National Trust house by the bridge called Ty Isaf which is principally a shop for local crafts now. Take a wander down by the riverside and follow it down to Gelert’s grave to find out about Llewelyn and his dog, Gelert. Beddgelert is another stopping place for the Welsh Highland Railway so you may see the steam trains going through.

From Beddgelert, about a mile out of the village is Sygun Copper Mine. You can either walk or catch the S97 bus.

The S97 bus takes you from Beddgelert along the Nant Gwynant Valley. This is a wonderful route to view the mountains – the Snowdonia range of mountains will be on your left, with spectacular views down the valley.

Other places by public transport

Town / Village Public Transport Attraction
Bangor bus or train to Llandudno Junction – train to Bangor Bangor CathedralBangor Pier
Beddgelert S2 to Pen-y-Pass then S97 bus Sygun Copper MineWelsh Highland Railway (steam trains)
Blaenau Ffestiniog X1 bus or train Ffestiniog Railway (steam trains)Llechwedd Slate Caverns (bus goes past but about a mile walk from the train station)
Bodnant Garden (National Trust) X1 bus with approx. 19 minute walkOR X1 bus then 25 busOR train with about a mile walk Bodnant Garden
Caernarfon S2 / S1 bus to Llanberis Interchange then 88 bus to Caernarfon See Day Trip 5
Conwy 19 bus Conwy Castle and Town WallsPlas Mawr – Elizabethan HouseAberconwy House

Smallest House in Great Britain (on the Quay)

Conwy Falls (waterfall) 64 bus Conwy Falls (waterfall)Go Below (adventure trips down an abandoned Welsh mine)
Dolwyddelan train Dolwyddelan Castle
Gwydir Castle 19 bus Gwydir Castle, Llanrwst – Tudor Manor House
Llanberis S2 / S1 bus See Day Trip 1 for attractions
Llandudno 19 bus /or train See Day Trip 4 for attractions
Llandudno Junction 19 bus /or train RSPB Conwy Nature Reserve and bird sanctuary
Llanrwst 19 – 64 – S2 / or train Market town (market on Tuesday)Gwydyr Chapel in St Grwst’s ChurchAlmshouses Museum
Pen y Pass S2 bus Starting point for walks up Mount Snowdon
Penrhyn Castle Bus/train to Llandudno Junction / no.5 bus towards Caernarfon – leave bus at Llandygai (journey takes about 1½ hrs) Penrhyn Castle
Porthmadog X1 bus to Blaenau Ffestiniog, then 1B bus to Porthmadog ORS2 to Pen-y-Gwyrd then S97 to Porthmadog Ffestiniog Railway (steam trains)Welsh Highland Heritage Railway (steam trains)
Portmeirion Village & Gardens bus/train to Blaenau Ffestiniog then either: Ffestiniog Railway or 1B bus to Minffordd station – about 1.5 mile walk Portmeirion Village & Gardens
Swallow Falls (waterfall) S2 bus or about 1.5 mile walk Swallow Falls (waterfall)
Trefriw 19 bus Trefriw Woollen MillFairy Falls (waterfall) and Trefriw TrailsTrefriw Wells Spa (about a mile beyond the village)
Ugly House S2 bus – or about 2 mile walk Ugly House / Ty Hull – 15th Century house built within 24 hours
Welsh Mountain Zoo Train to Colwyn Bay (changing at Llandudno Junction) – shuttle bus runs from Easter to September – or about 1.2 mile walk Welsh Mountain Zoo

Public Transport in Snowdonia and North Wales – Rover tickets

May 11, 2013
North Wales Rover

There are at least 2 types of Rover ticket available for bus journeys in Snowdonia and North Wales and its important to get the right one for your trip.

The first one is the Red Rover Ticket. This is only valid on buses but not all buses.

The second type of Rover ticket is the North Wales Rover ticket issued by Arriva. This is valid on Arriva buses and on Arriva trains – the trains which run on the Conwy Valley line travelling between Llandudno and Llandudno Junction down the valley through Betws-y-Coed and on to Blaenau Ffestiniog are Arriva trains.

Here are more details about exactly which buses the different Rover tickets are valid on:

Red Rover Tickets

Traveline Cymru

The red rover ticket is a day ticket that you can use as many times as you wish during the day on selected bus routes.

The ticket can be used on:

It is not valid east of Llandudno.

How to buy a ticket?

You can buy a Red Rover ticket on the first bus you board on the day you travel.

Ticket price (from the 1st of April 2013) – Adult £6.80, Child £3.40

(Terms and conditions are subject to change at short notice)

North Wales Rover Tickets

North Wales Rover is an excellent value ticket that is being used by increasing numbers of people travelling by bus and train around North Wales. You can buy the ticket for 2, 3 or all zones.

The counties of Anglesey, Conwy, Denbighshire and Flintshire are represented as individual zones, but Gwynedd is split into 2 separate zones. Wrexham and Chester is one zone. There is also a zone that covers the routes between Machynlleth and Aberystwyth (Ceredigion North). All trains and most buses are included in the validity of the tickets within the relevant zones. The map showing the zones is available here.

How long can I use my North Wales Rover?

Each North Wales Rover allows one day train and one day bus travel.

How to buy a ticket?

Tickets can be purchased at most staffed railway stations and National Rail Appointed Travel Agents

Fares

2 Zones:          Adult £9.50                 Child £4.25                 Railcard N/a

3 Zones:          Adult £14.50               Child £7.25                 Railcard N/a

All Zones:       Adults £26.00             Child £13.00               Railcard £17.15

The above information was correct as at 11th May 2013.

Castles of Snowdonia and North Wales

April 5, 2013

North Wales is known for its many castles so I thought I would talk about the different styles of castles in North Wales.

Dolwyddelen Castle

Dolwyddelen Castle

The first castles had a wooden construction so not surprisingly have disappeared.

The earliest existing castles are from the Medieval period and had a square or rectangular construction.

This photo is of Dolwyddelen Castle constructed in the early 13th century; it was constructed by Llewelyn ap Iorwerth, also known as Llewelyn the Great and is a Welsh built castle.

Dolwyddelen Castle

Dolwyddelen Castle

The castles were always very strategically placed and Dolwyddelen Castle was sited on a rocky outcrop so it had a good outlook over the length of the valley and would therefore be able to see anybody coming from a considerable distance.

The problem with square or rectangular castles was that attackers found that if they dug away the foundations under the corners of the castle, they could get the castle to collapse.

So the answer was round castles.

Dolbadarn Castle

Dolbadarn Castle

Dolbadarn Castle in Llanberis was constructed by Llewelyn ap Iorwerth sometime before 1230, so early to mid 13th century. This illustrates the second stage of castle building namely round castles. There were originally additional buildings but the round tower would have been the main defensive stronghold.

A development was apsidal or D-shaped castles where one end would be rounded for defensive purposes and the other end would be squared off for more practical living purposes. Examples are Ewloe and Dinas Bryn, both of which haven’t survived the test of time particularly well, but Criccieth has survived better.

Criccieth Castle

Criccieth Castle

Criccieth Castle is regarded as a bit of an anomaly. Criccieth is a Welsh-built castle of the early 13th Century but it is not clear why they built it. Obviously its built on a prominent viewpoint and would guard the port, so it was probably to guard the access to supplies brought by sea.

There is some disagreement as to which parts of the castle are Welsh-built and which are later English-built renovations. The twin round towers forming the gatehouse are believed to be part of the original Welsh castle and the castle follows the D-shaped castle design of the time.

Flint Castle

Flint Castle

This is Flint Castle. Rather than a Welsh-built castle, this was one of a chain of English built castles built by Edward I. The chain of castles started from Chester and it was intended they should each be within a day’s march. Flint Castle was the first castle in the chain.

Rhuddlan Castle

Rhuddlan Castle

It seems to be a mixture of styles as its rectangular but with 3 round towers and a 4th stronger square tower.

Another castle in the chain built by Edward I was Rhuddlan castle.

Another stage of castle building now started with concentric castles. Stronger defences were required so the castles were built with a double castle wall; a castle within a castle. The inner wall was higher than the outer wall and the castle was defended from the higher inner wall. Concentric castles did not mean they were round; they varied in shape according to the terrain. They usually had a large tower with extra defences and therefore particularly strong.

y Castle copyright VisitWales

Conwy Castle copyright VisitWales

Conwy Castle was another castle in Edward I’s chain of castles. The trend had been to build concentric castles but whilst Conwy was an important strategic site, there was no space for the building of additional defensive walls.

Instead, the castle was built following the natural contours of the rock and there are 8 large defensive towers. Conwy also has a town wall with a walkway so the guards could walk around the town wall to different lookout points.

Caernarfon Castle

Caernarfon Castle

There is a particularly well-placed viewpoint on the wall looking down the river to the estuary so they could see if any enemy ships were coming.

Conwy Castle and Caernarfon Castle were built around the same time but their styles are obviously very different. Conwy Castle has a plethora of round towers whilst Caernarfon Castle is a concentric castle and has polygonal towers (many sided).

One of the features of Caernarfon Castle is the sheer size of the castle.

Beaumaris Castle

Beaumaris Castle

The chain of English-built castles constructed on the orders of Edward I continued onto Anglesey. This is Beaumaris Castle and it was the last castle built and the largest which about three quarters of an acre inside which would have given enough space for the royal party to live there together with their considerable defensive and administrative entourage. However, the focus moved away from North Wales and the royals never moved in and the castle was never completed.

Beaumaris is a concentric castle but illustrates the move towards lower exterior curtain walls but additional defenses were used, such as a moat.

Denbigh Castle

Denbigh Castle

This is Denbigh Castle. Whilst Edward I was building his chain of castles along the North Wales coast, there was intended to be a ring of castles and Denbigh is part of that ring. Denbigh Castle was built about 1284 – late 13th century. There was an earlier castle but it was on a different site and nothing of it remains.

The first phase of building was rather half-hearted and the second phase commenced in early in the 14th Century. The curtain walls were built higher and thicker, and twin towers were constructed to guard the gatehouse. Ideas were obviously taken from earlier castles: Criccieth also has twin towers guarding the gatehouse, and polygonal towers were presumably copied from Caernarfon Castle.

A number of features illustrate its intention of providing modern facilities suitable for a nobleman or a King, including carvings and a luxurious complex of rooms, as well as drains!

This is not an exhaustive list of castles in the area, I haven’t mentioned Harlech, Chirk or the many castles where little or nothing remains visible but hopefully when you visit this guide will help explain the differences.

All the castles mentioned are easily accessible from Betws-y-Coed Snowdonia and the Bryn Llewelyn Guest House makes an ideal base for visiting them.

Photo Gallery – places to go and things to do in Snowdonia

March 8, 2013
Betws-y-Coed Snowdonia

Betws-y-Coed Snowdonia

Betws-y-Coed – the starting point.

Betws-y-Coed is at the hub of the road network which makes it an excellent base for exploring the Snowdonia National Park and North Wales.

How green is my valley seems appropriate …

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Snowdon from the South

Snowdon from the South

Snowdon is of course the focus of the Snowdonia National Park. If you don’t fancy walking up, there is the Snowdon Mountain Railway. Alternatively you can take a very enjoyable drive around the Snowdonia range of mountains to see the fabulous scenery.

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Ffestiniog Railway

Ffestiniog Railway

Another way of touring around Snowdonia is to catch a steam train. This is the Ffestiniog Railway which goes from Blaenau Ffestiniog to Port Madog.

Rosa Lady Emma Hamilton

Rosa Lady Emma Hamilton

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For a pleasant stroll in a beautiful garden, Bodnant Garden is a wonderful starting place …

Other gardens are Portmeirion, Brondanw and the wildlife garden at Ty Hull.

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Conwy Castle copyright VisitWales

Conwy Castle copyright VisitWales

Castles galore, this is Conwy Castle but there’s also Caernarfon Castle, Beaumaris Castle, Harlech Castle, Dolwyddelen Castle, Dolbarden Castle …

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Eglwsbach Show

Eglwsbach Show

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There are events on a regular basis from Agricultural Shows, art and craft fairs, book fairs, food festivals, the list is endless.

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Llandudno copyright VisitWales

Llandudno copyright VisitWales

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There are lots of traditional Welsh villages to visit such as Beddgelert, Llanberis and Dolwyddelen worth visiting, and the seaside is only a short ride away too …

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This is just a few of the sights of Snowdonia to whet your appetite. Snowdonia needs to be experienced …

Bryn Llewelyn Guest House

Betws-y-Coed, Snowdonia

Tel: 01690 710601

www.bryn-llewelyn.co.uk

Days out on the Conwy Valley Railway line

March 6, 2013
Conwy Castle

Betws-y-Coed Snowdonia is at the hub of the road network making it easy to reach the many sights and attractions of the Snowdonia National Park. However, sometimes it’s nice to leave the car parked at the B&B where you’re staying and have a car-free day. So let the driver have a rest from the car, so he or she can look at all the sights too, and let the train take the strain.

As to train tickets, if you want to make various stops on the Conwy Valley railway line, the best option may be the Arriva Rover ticket. The Arriva Rover ticket allows you to hop on and off the train but for buses is principally restricted only to Arriva buses. Tip: if you want to hop on and off buses for the day, ask for a Red Rover ticket instead but this doesn’t cover the train.

Firstly, do you want a day’s sightseeing, a day’s walking or a bit of both?

Great Orme Tramway copyright VisitWales

Great Orme Tramway copyright VisitWales

For sightseeing from Betws-y-Coed, there are a number of stations on the Conwy Valley Line worth a stop including Llandudno, Llandudno Junction for Conwy and going south, Blaenau Ffestiniog and Dolwyddelen.

Llandudno is a Victorian seaside town. The station is located just a short walk from the High Street and the promenade. The High Street has lots of Victorian influences with some lovely ironwork and features lots of smaller shops and not just the big chains. If you aren’t interested in the shops, head for the Prom, which is lovely and wide and gives you great views of the bay as you walk down to the Pier where there are some old-fashioned fairground type stalls and little kiosks – a bit of candyfloss may be the order of the day!

From Llandudno Pier, you can take a ride on an old bus round the Great Orme for views of the sea, take a land train over to West Shore which is a lovely sandy, quiet beach, or take the tram up the Great Orme. Tip: by the tram station is a fish and chip shops called Tram & Chips which is recommended and has won awards.

Conwy Town walls copyright VisitWales

Conwy Town walls copyright VisitWales

Another place easy to get to is Conwy. Take the train to Llandudno Junction and walk over the bridge across the River Conwy for Conwy Castle and the walled town. Conwy Castle is a medieval castle; someone once said to me, if you asked a child to draw a castle, you would get a picture of Conwy Castle, and they were right. It is worth doing to the walk around the town walls as well as you get some excellent views over the estuary to the river mouth. For shopping, again Conwy has a range of little specialist shops which are great for something unusual. If you are a seafood fan, if you go down to the river front where you can buy mussels freshly caught from the water – in season of course!

Ffestiniog Railway

Ffestiniog Railway

From Betws-y-Coed, if you head South instead, you can go to Blaenau Ffestiniog to see steam trains. The Ffestiniog Railway starts at Blaenau Ffestiniog so you can catch another train if you wish, or just pay a visit to see the impressive old trains as they puff in and out of the station. Tip: if you have an Arriva Rover all-zones ticket you get 50% off the Ffestiniog Railway.

Another station worth a stop is Dolwyddelen. Dolwyddelen also has a Medieval castle and this is a true Welsh castle where most of the castles in North Wales were built by the English.  Dolwyddelen castle was built by Prince Llewelyn and seeing the castle in the landscape is truly breathtaking.

If you would prefer a little exercise in your day, another option is to take the train a couple of stops down the line and then walk back to Betws-y-Coed.

Dolwyddelen Castle

Dolwyddelen Castle

Catch the train to Dolwyddelen and you can then walk back along the river to Betws-y-Coed which would take about 3 hours. From Dolwyddelen station, turn right along the single track road, through the farm-yard. The path then goes into open countryside and eventually joins another single track road passing a few isolated farms. Follow the road to Pont-y-Pant station – where you can catch the train back if you wish. Or continue along the road keeping to the right hand side of the river, following the path which hugs the river bank and admiring the waterfalls and rapids on the way. You will eventually join the another single track road which leads you back to Beaver Bridge and the A470. Turning left at Beaver Bridge along the side road, it will lead you back to Betws-y-Coed.

Llanrwst Church

Llanrwst Church

Another option is to get the train to North Llanrwst station. Walk back on yourself through Llanrwst and over the hump-backed bridge. Carry on down the road about 500 yards and turn left at the T-junction which is signposted for Betws-y-Coed. A short distance along is Gwydir Castle which is a 15th Century manor house which is worth a look. Afterwards, cross the road and take the track up to Gwydir Uchaf Chapel. Proceed along the forestry track next to the Chapel. There are some waymarked walks in the forest so you can follow the Yellow posts back to Betws-y-Coed via Llyn Parc. Before you start the day, you may like to visit Betws-y-Coed Tourist Information Centre and pick up the Gwydir Forest Park leaflet which has details of the waymarked walks – it is recommended not to purely rely on the posts. If you are staying with us, Bryn Llewelyn Guest House, we are happy to lend you a copy of the leaflet.

Bryn Llewelyn Guest House,

Betws-y-Coed, Snowdonia

Tel: 01690 710601

www.bryn-llewelyn.co.uk

Motorbikes in Snowdonia

February 18, 2013
Dragon Rally Snowdonia

Snowdonia is generally acknowledged as a great place for motorbikers as the roads make for a superb ride.

Our many motorbiking visitors won’t necessarily have heard about the Dragon Rally, which is one of the top events of the year.

Dragon Rally is a motorbike rally which is held every February and has been held annually since 1962, so this year’s was the 52nd making it the longest running motorcycle event in the country.

The idea came from the Elephant Rally which is a motorcycle rally held every Winter in Germany and the Crystal Run held in Norway. Apparently someone suggested having one in the UK and the Conwy Motorcycle Club took up the challenge.

The purpose of the Rally is simple – motorbikes. To talk about them, to look at them, ride them and enjoy your passion about them, so this isn’t for the fine weather motorcyclist who only brings out their motorbike in the Summer. To enter the Dragon Rally site, you have to arrive by motorbike.

Dragon Rallyers Snowdonia

Dragon Rallyers Snowdonia

The hardy souls camp at the Dragon Rally site – yes in February, even in the snow. Alternatively, you can visit the site during the day and then find a warm bed for the night in a local B&B – but make sure you pre-book or you might be camping after all.

The event is always over-subscribed so if you want to give it a try, you need to go onto the website in about the middle of October and then send off a cheque for tickets. The tickets are limited to 1,400 each year currently as otherwise the organisers get swamped and can’t cope with the amount of organisation needed. So book early.

However, if you miss out on getting tickets or you aren’t interested in getting the goody bag supplied by the organisers, the event generally revolves around Betws-y-Coed where the motorbikers congregate both during the day and in the evening, so come anyway, find yourself a bed for the night (again make sure you pre-book) and enjoy the atmosphere with the like-minded motorbikers in town.

Bryn Llewelyn B&B welcomes motorbikers. We have a private car park located at the rear of the house. If you would like to enquire about a room, we can be contacted on 01690 710601 or our website is at www.bryn-llewelyn.co.uk

Adventure in Snowdonia

February 8, 2013
ZipWorld Snowdonia

Sometimes a little excitement does us all good. Snowdonia is known for its fabulously dramatic scenery, the Medieval castles, and pretty Welsh villages. But how about something to get the blood pumping a bit more?

The new kid on the block is ZipWorld which is advertised as the longest zip wire in the Northern Hemisphere no less. The zip wire is at the Penrhyn Quarry near Bethesda and there are two zip wires; there is a ‘short’ one at 450 metres and then for the daring, the Big Zipper is 1,750 metres, that’s over a mile and they are estimating the top speed at 80 miles per hour …

Penrhyn Quarry is a working slate quarry. At one time over 2,000 men worked here with the main pit being over a mile deep and the slate was transported away from the site by narrow gauge railway to a port for transportation overseas. The quarry is still the largest working slate quarry in Europe and you will see both the industrial heritage and the current workings of the slate quarry. The quarry also has a place in the history of workers’ rights as in 1900 the workers went on strike for three years in the longest dispute in British industrial history.

If you would like to test out your adventurous side before heading for ZipWorld, how about TreeTop Adventure in Betws-y-Coed?

TreeTop Adventure have a range of adventure activities. There is a rope walkway through the trees with various obstacles along the way including going through tyres, a mini-zipwire and a plummet at the end. They also have a PowerFan Plummet which is a Parachute simulator, plus the Sky Ride which is a giant swing. A child friendly version of the rope walkway for 4 to 8 year olds is available too.

Go Below Snowdonia

Go Below Snowdonia

Another attraction for the adrenaline junkies is Go Below who organise caving trips. This isn’t pot-holing though; Go Below have access to old mines through which they organise trips. In order to travel through the mine, there are various different forms of transportation! Including rowing across an underground lake in the dark with only a head torch to show the way, abseiling to the deepest point of Snowdonia, zip-lining across the water, and climbing near vertical shafts. They run two different trips: Underground Challenge and the Challenge Xtreme, so take your pick and give them a ring.

How about if you prefer two wheels to two feet?

There are a number of mountain bike trails in the area – the Marin Trail and the Penmachno Trail are the most well-known – and there are a number of other trails which are listed on the web and in books. The number is increasing all the time and there is talk of another 2 at least near Betws-y-Coed. But even mountain bike trails don’t hit the mark for some people so how about downhill?

For those who haven’t tried it yet, simply forget the uphill bits on the mountain bike trails and imagine just doing the downhill bits. As fast and furious as you dare … the website says it is an “unforgettably bonkers experience”.

The Mountain Bike Centre is at the Llechwedd Slate Caverns just outside Blaenau Ffestiniog. There are two Red downhill routes and two Black downhill routes, with an Uplift service available to save you having to ride back up to the top after each run.

So whether you want to try something new, push your adventurous side a little more or find a new experience, there is something for everyone in Snowdonia.

Photography in Snowdonia

November 15, 2012

Snowdonia is an obvious place to visit with a camera in hand as there are so many possibilities; the mountains in all their glory on a beautiful Summer’s day but for photographic purposes a few clouds can make an even better picture. One guest was annoyed that the sun came out as his speciality was scenery through the rain! Dry is probably better but the mist rising out of the trees is beautiful.

So you’re coming to Snowdonia with camera ready – where are the best spots to go?

Let’s do Snowdon first of all.

Snowdon from Rhyd Ddu

Snowdon from Rhyd Ddu

From Betws-y-Coed, take the A5 north and at Capel Curig take the A4086. You will go down the Dyffryn Mymbyr Valley past a couple of lakes* and where the road bends to the left, carry on, which is the A498. Snowdon is now on your right and a short distance down there is a car park on your right which juts out and gives excellent views down the Gwynant Valley. You won’t see the top of Snowdon from here but across the valley is the start of many of the footpaths up Snowdon.

The best place to see the top of Snowdonia from the bottom is Rhyd Ddu. From the car park, continue on down the road into Beddgelert**. At the T-junction by the bridge, turn right and go a couple of miles to Rhyd Ddu. It is signposted because there is a train station there for the Welsh Highland Railway. From the station, you can see the café at the top of Snowdon.

If you don’t mind a walk – about a mile there and a mile back – from Rhyd Ddu station, walk past the station and take the footpath towards Snowdon Ranger. There are some disused quarries with views to the top of Snowdon.

Llyn Gwynant

Llyn Gwynant

*    The A4086 give several possibilities so could be worth a stop. Ahead of you is a good panorama of the mountains – the Snowdonia range will be towards the left and the Glyderau range towards the right.

**  When the road drops down to the valley you will drive along Llyn Gwynant. This lake on a still day gives good opportunities for reflections.

I’m not going to dwell any longer on mountains because there are so many possibilities and you will find plenty of photogenic spots yourself just by driving around.

For a more industrial heritage look, how about a slate mine? Dinorwig Slate Mine above the village of Llanberis gives lots of opportunities for pictures of industrial heritage and viewing points over Llanberis and the entrance to the hydro-electric power station. Probably the easiest way to get access to it is to drive up to the village of Dinorwig. From Dinorwig village, you will see the slate mine to the east. Take the road towards the slate mine keeping to the top road where it forks. There is a car park at the end which looks like a roundabout! Follow the footpath signs along a disused tramway.

For something totally different, drop down in to Llanberis and head for the car park by the National Slate Musuem. The cliff face of the former slate mine is now used by climbers – seeing them climb the almost sheer slate is fascinating.

To a Tomb with a View

October 15, 2012

Tiny Capel Garmon has been inhabited for thousands of years.  The most striking memorial to the earliest inhabitants is the chambered long barrow to the south of the village.  Built over 4,000 years ago, it’s a communal burial chamber where generations of Neolithic farmers were interred, high up on this ridge above the Afon Conwy.  A jumble of small fields and ancient boundaries draw the walk down to the river gorge where thundering waterfalls mark the meeting of the rivers Machno and Conwy.  Centuries-old, mossy oak woods clothe the banks here, perhaps evoking a sense of other-worldness in the Victorians who christened the area the Fairy Glen.  It remains today an enchanting promenade amidst cool woods and rushing waters.  A final climb up a steep, wooded path returns us to the village secluded in the knobbly hills.

Panorama from Capel Garmon

Panorama from Capel Garmon

Distance: around 4 ½ miles (7 km)

Time: allow 2-2 ½ hours

Terrain: mostly easy paths and lanes; steep ascent near the finish

Parking: limited roadside parking in the village

Walk south of the compact little village, passing the White Horse Inn on your left.  Ignore the first fingerposted footpath and continue several hundred paces further to a second, a short way past the drive for Maes y Garnedd Farm.  Climb the ladder stile here and stick close to the fence on your left.  A kissing gate gives access to a path beside and beneath a line of oaks; walk past these to and through the farmyard in the middle distance.  At the far side go up the driveway to a sharp bend.  Here, look right for two decrepit kissing gates and some worn signs for “Burial Chamber”.  Turn left along the field edge here, slip through the gate half way along and head for the railed enclosure visible ahead.  It’s a superb setting – who’s to say that our forefathers didn’t appreciate the stunning panorama of mountains as much as we do?  Allow time to appreciate the work and craft that went into the construction of this monument.

Look beyond the enclosure for a stile into an adjacent field.  Walk ahead 30 paces and then look left for a fingerpost standing amidst a rocky outcrop.  Climb to this and walk to and through the kissing gate some yards beyond.  Keep ahead through the band of oaks, looking for another fingerpost mid-field.  This points the way right along a winding farm road.  Descend this to another fingerpost indicating a diversionary path around the farm, dropping to a stile into a tarred lane.  Turn right down this and simply stay with it all the way down to the main A5 road.  It’s virtually traffic free and enables a fine panorama of Siabod, Cnicht, Yr Aran and Snowdon to be appreciated to the full.

Turn right and tread warily along the A5 as there’s no pavement.  Almost immediately, on the opposite side of the road, is the entrance to the thundering Conwy Falls and a handy café.  If this doesn’t appeal then stay on the A5 for a further 150 yards to a chevron road sign at a bend.  Carefully cross over here and look for the path leaving the far end of a small pull-in.  This strikes gently downhill and away from the road, magnificent beech and oak sheltering the deep gorge down to your left.  This is the Conwy and is a constant, noisy companion for the next mile or so.  Remain on the main path through several gates and stiles; the path develops into a wider lane.

At a gateway, there is a choice.  If you have time to visit the Fairy Glen, with its spectacular gorge, then turn left through the covered gateway (nominal charge of 50p), exploring this Victorian favourite before returning to this spot.  The main route turns to the right from the original gate, a waymark pointing the way up a fenced path beside the house and then up the slope behind to reach the A5 once again.  Cross straight over to a gap in the wall just left of the driveway to Bron Haul.  This narrow path is, surprisingly, classed as a bridlepath – miniature Shetland ponies may just stand a chance!  This well-defined path climbs fairly steeply along the woodland edge before passing old posts to enter the woodlands.  It’s a switchback of a path that eventually emerges on to a forestry road.  Turn right along this, pass the barrier and then a gate across the lane and then follow this undulating lane through pleasant knolly countryside all the way back to Capel Garmon.  Turn left to return to the village centre.

For a finale, make a point of visiting the churchyard – if you walk across to the wall on the far side there is a splendid view over the Conwy Valley.

It is also possible to walk to Capel Garmon and the Neolithic Tomb from Betws-y-Coed. Starting from the south side of the Waterloo Bridge, there is a footpath sign leading up some steps. Ask us for further directions or if you are staying with us, we can lend you a book.

Adapted from: Superb walks from the heart of the Conwy Valley published by Conwy County Borough Council on behalf of Snowdonia Mountains & Coast

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