Waterfall walks in the Conwy Valley
The beautiful Conwy Valley and the steep wooded hillsides of the Gwydir Forest are, unsurprisingly, home to many waterfalls. They vary from 50-metre-high, dramatic whitewater falls, to deep, secluded gorges with broad, cascading falls.
These three waterfall walks are all easily accessed from the main Conwy Valley Railway line, take around 3 hours or less and all finish with a pub or cafe in close proximity. Perfect for a car-free weekend outing!
None of the walks are fully off-the-beaten-track but it’s advisable to take plenty of water and snacks to keep energy levels up. The walks follow mostly decent forest trails or roads, however, suitable footwear is a must, as well as a waterproof coat. The weather can’t be trusted in the hills of Wales!
Grey Mare’s Tail and Llanrhychwyn Church
Get off at Llanrwst North station to embark on this historic 8km circular walk which crosses the Conwy Valley and heads up into Gwydyr Forest and the hills above Trefriw. Visit the ancient church in Llanrhychwyn, where none other than Llewelyn the Great attended services when staying at his hunting lodge in Trefriw.
You should allow around 3 hours to complete the walk and you’ll need to be reasonably fit – it’s steep in places.
From the train station head toward Gower Bridge, which takes you over the Afon Conwy to the village of Trefriw. You’ll find an information board with a map of all the local walking routes here, so take a look to get your bearings before you head up the hillside.
Turn left when you reach the B5106 road (the Woollen Mill is just opposite) and when you reach the school take the road to the right which climbs steeply upwards. Keep bearing left, following signs for Llanrhychwyn. This is the steepest part, so when you stop to catch your breath – look back and enjoy the views of the valley below.
As you near the top the woodland clears and the land opens up to grazing pastures. Follow the lane as it winds through the fields and over babbling mountain streams and you’ll see the slate roofs of Llanrhychwyn come into view.
The church is worth a visit as you’re nearby; it’s only half a mile up the lane. Bear right at the crossroads and head uphill past the telephone box. You’ll find the ancient church in a meadow to your left.
Once you’ve had a rest break, head back the way you came towards Llanrhychwyn and then follow the sign for Llanrwst. The road winds back down the hillside passing a small pond before descending into the woods.
Look for a wooden style on your left and cross it to enter the woodland. Before long you’ll find Grey Mare’s Tail waterfall tucked away in the trees. Continue down the zigzag path for the best views of the falls.
From here the path takes you through the woods and soon arrives at a wooden gate opening onto the main road. Turn right and head back over Pont Fawr into Llanrwst. Rest weary legs with a quick stop off for coffee at the iconic Ty Hwnt ir Bont tearooms before heading back to catch the train.
Conwy Falls and the Fairy Glen
This walk through the valley and alongside the Afon Conwy takes around 2-2.5 hours. It’s easy terrain and there is only a moderate uphill stretch on your return.
From Betws-y-Coed station, head left and left again when you reach the main road through the town. Walk along the pavement until you pass the Waterloo Hotel on your right.
Cross over Waterloo Bridge bearing right and then right again to follow the A470, which is signposted Blaenau Ffestiniog. Follow the road down past the Fairy Glen self-catering apartments and turn left onto a path just before the Beaver Bridge.
This path is where the walk really begins. As you head away from the road, the path takes you through stunning ancient woodlands and into the Fairy Glen. There is a small charge to visit the gorge or, alternatively, you can head through the gate into the woods for free.
If you chose to visit the gorge, you’ll follow some steep stone steps down to the river, where you’ll find a secluded and shady spot with beautiful shimmering pools, white waterfalls and a place that is full of magic.
When you’re ready to leave, retrace your steps and either head up through the gate to explore more woodland and the Conwy Falls, or head back into Betws-y-Coed for lunch.
You’ll be spoilt for choice with places to eat in Betws but we recommend the Alpine Coffee Shop or the adjacent Hangin’ Pizzeria. Run by the same owners, the emphasis is on great quality, sustainable food with an ethical slant.
Afon Llugwy to Swallow Falls
The Swallow Falls is about a mile and a half from Betws. Allow 2 hours for the walk to take into account all the stops you’ll make to admire the scenery! This walk is very popular and gets quite busy during holiday season.
Nonetheless, it’s very pretty, and there is a lovely meadow on the way where you can sit and enjoy a picnic beside the river. You’ll follow wonderful and shady woodland trails, with a series of waterfalls along the route to look out for.
The walk starts just beyond Pont-y-Pair Bridge in Betws-y-Coed. From the station, head left to the main road, then right and follow the pavement until your reach the landmark bridge which crosses the Afon Llugwy.
You’ll soon see where the walk begins, there are signposts and a map at the start also. Follow the path into the woods, and continue beside the river.
You’ll pass by the wooden Miner’s Bridge, and several smaller waterfalls before eventually reaching the spectacular cascading Swallow Falls. The falls are best viewed after there’s been some rainfall – not unusual in the deep chasm of this woodland valley!
Once you are ready, follow the path back to Betws. A lovely way to end the walk is to sit on the rocks next to the river, whilst enjoying a bag of chips from Hen Shop Pont-y-Pair chippy before you head off to catch the train. Or you could always get a nice cold beer from the Stables Bar, if you can handle the crowds!
Images courtesy of: Afon Llugwy, © Crown copyright (2006) Visit Wales, all rights reserved. Swallow Falls, Callum Black via Wikimedia Commons.