5 Things to do in Betws-y-Coed
Betws-y-Coed, also known as the ‘Gateway to Snowdonia’, is magical. For some, the enchanting forests and winding rivers that encircle the village make it seem like the backdrop to a Disney fairytale. For others, it has a charming Alpine feel, owing to the dense evergreen Gwydir Forest and glimpses of snow-tipped mountains.
Whether you’re a Disney princess or apres-ski afficionado at heart, Betws should be on your must-visit list on any trip to North Wales. It’s the perfect place to while away a few hours and see the region at its best, whatever the weather or time of year.
Arriving at the village by train, the sense of other-worldliness is immediate. The pretty, olde-worlde station is right out of a storybook, festooned in colourful flowers during the summer and a hive of activity out of season, being at the heart of the village. From here, you’re perfectly located to explore all the town has to offer, from its many shops and tourist attractions, to its wonderful natural wonders.
If you decide to alight the train at Betws-y-Coed, we’ve come up with five of our favourite things to do. All within easy walking distance of the station, you can enjoy your stopover without watching the clock.
1 – Railway museum and miniature train
This is a must for any train enthusiast. The museum is packed with vintage railway artefacts and information, model railways for train buffs to play with and a well-stocked model shop.
For the kids (and young at heart) there is a miniature steam train, which takes you on a scenic, eight minute journey around the beautiful landscaped grounds. Keep an eye out for the wild rabbits – they can often be seen hopping around the pond!
The children can have a go at driving Toby the Tram, or play on the dodgems and rides. If you fancy a bite to eat, visit the buffet coach cafe, situated in an old standard gauge railway carriage – it’s quite an experience.
2 – Conwy Falls and the Fairy Glen
This area of outstanding beauty is, without a doubt, one of the main natural attractions of Betws-y-Coed (Swallow Falls on the Afon Llugwy being the other) and within easy walking distance of the village. Conwy Falls, located just outside the village centre, is the finest spot to experience the river in all its power and glory.
Impressive and very dramatic, it can get quite busy during the summer months. To get to it, you need to go down the path next to the Fairy Glen Hotel, just off the A470. It’s a fifteen minute walk from the car park, and there are a few steep stairs to navigate (which can get a little slippery when wet) so sensible footwear is a must!
Nearby is the Fairy Glen, a tranquil spot hidden among the trees, like a well-kept secret. Photographers will love the picture opportunity – the glen is eternally beautiful in the ever-changing light of the wood. The kids will have no trouble imagining the glen’s magical namesakes darting about, hiding in the secluded gorge, in the lush foliage and under the waterfalls.
3 – Llyn Elsi walk
Llyn Elsi is a stunning mountain lake about an hour’s walk from Betws-y-Coed centre. The trail follows a Forestry Commission road up through the forest, it’s not particularly demanding but the gradual uphill gradient will get the less-athletic puffing! That said, we think it’s the perfect walk for novice or inexperienced walkers to enjoy the majesty of Snowdonia without having to stray too far from civilisation.
Starting behind St Mary’s Church, the route takes you up past industrial ruins and through the forest before bringing you to the lake, which acts as a reservoir for the town. Make a circuit of the lake then head back down to the the village for a well-earned drink at the Stables Bar in the Royal Oak Hotel. It’s the social hub of the village for tourists, outdoor enthusiasts and locals alike.
NB the walk is suitable for children, but not for pushchairs or wheelchairs.
4 – Shopping
Betws-y-Coed is a great place for a spot of retail therapy and the village has a huge selection of shops, that belies its size. There’s a fine selection outdoor shops, several souvenir and craft shops, a couple of really interesting galleries plus several independent boutiques, delis and food shops.
We particularly love Anna Davies, the largest independent retailer in the area, stocking homeware, fashion, jewellery, gifts and souvenirs.
In need of outdoor gear for all those wonderful Welsh walks? Betws-y-Coed is the place to go. With several to choose from including Cotswold Outdoors (main store and discount store), Cunninghams and Rohan, you’ll be able to pick up whatever you need.
For cute and quirky gifts, you could try Candles Power (every type of candle you can possibly imagine) or Craft Centre Cymru, selling a range of traditional Welsh crafts, clothes and soft furnishings or Cwmni Cacen Gri for delicious, homemade Welsh cakes and other baked goods.
5 – Sappers Suspension Bridge
The Sappers Suspension Bridge is a fascinating 1930s bridge crossing the Afon Conwy. The original wooden bridge was washed away in a storm but this one – constructed with flexible metal cables – is very much still standing and something of an off-the-beaten-track surprise for visitors.
It’s located in a peaceful part of the village, adjacent to the historic 14th century St Michael’s Church, from which the village derives its name. Betws-y-Coed means ‘prayer house in the woods’ in English.
When you cross over, the bridge swings in time to your footsteps; it’s perhaps best done on an empty stomach! Imagine the fun kids have on it, making it sway!
The bridge crosses the river as it begins to widen on its journey towards the Conwy Estuary and the Irish Sea. The waters here are deep and dark, a world away from the foaming splendour of Conwy Falls, but just as beautiful. Soak up the atmosphere and keep an eye out for fish and birdlife.
It’s a really peaceful spot and a great place to end your visit to Betws-y-Coed.