Walking in Betws Y Coed to Llyn Elsi.
On a beautiful sunny afternoon in Betws-y-Coed I can’t think of anywhere I’d rather walk than to Llyn Elsi, the reservoir which sits in the Gwydyr Forest above the village with views across Snowdonia National Park.
Betws-y-Coed station was buzzing as usual, with people sat outside the cafes and on the benches eating ice cream. I didn’t want to stop so instead called in at Food to Go (on the left just past the station) for some freshly made Welsh cakes straight from the griddle to take with me. My favourite walking snack!
I headed across Cae Llan, the village green via the toilets to the Tourist Information Centre (TIC). Although I knew where I was going I was interested to see what information the TIC would give to someone new in the village. They gave me a free map of the village and talked me through where the best place was to start the walk up to Llyn Elsi. They also explained that there was a pack, developed by the Forestry Commission (Natural Resource Wales), with maps and individual information cards for 14 different local walks. A bargain for just £3 and definitely worth picking up if you’re staying for a few days.
From here I headed towards the Royal Oak and then took the road between Cotswold Outdoor and St Mary’s Church and up the hill taking the first right just past the car park onto the track. It was about 2.30pm by the time I started the walk.
It’s a steep start!* Quite a pull up through the forest for the first few hundreds yards. There’s a welcome bench part of the way for a quick rest if you need it. It’s easy to follow the white arrows and footprint way markers which clearly mark the route all the way up and back to the village, but be careful to take the path to the right at the first real junction you meet.
This track is fairly wide and easy going underfoot. I had decided to wear trainers as it was a dry day, but any wetter and muddier, or if you need ankle support, I would definitely recommend walking boots.
It’s so peaceful in the forest. Leaves were just starting to fall from the trees and all I could hear was the birds and running water. I saw 6 people in the whole time I was on the walk.
I carried on following the track and it got less steep towards the lake. You will know you’re nearly here as on a clear day like today, you’ll start to see the mountains through the trees. As you get towards the lake and past the area which has been freshly harvested look up and see the magnificent Moel Siabod which is the large mountain dominating the skyline. This is a wonderful site and a great mountain to climb, definitely one of my favourites in Snowdonia.** Some of the hills to the right of Moel Siabod you might see on a clear day include Y Foel Goch and Mynydd Cribau.
Look out for the stones and way marker and follow the path to the right around the ‘front’ of the lake. The path is quite narrow around the lake but still fairly easy underfoot, on this section anyway. There are some lovely places just down by the lakeside to sit and enjoy the views or have a picnic.
However, the best views come a bit further on when you reach the monument. This is when I realise how truly peaceful it is up here. It’s a great place to be for some late sun on a nice day too, long after it’s disappeared from the village. There wasn’t even the sound of seagulls today!
The views from the monument across to the Carneddau were beautiful today. It always amazes me across the whole of Snowdonia how the same view can change depending on the time of day, the weather and the lighting. Today I was spoilt for choice between this view across to the Carneddau and the one across the lake watching the movement of the water and the sun shining on it.
When you can drag yourself away from this little peace of paradise follow the ‘white’ waymarker to the left of the monument. There are a few tracks going off in different directions from the monument. In fact, throughout the forest there are tracks going off all over the place and I reckon you could walk in this forest every day for a year and never take the same route twice. This is not recommended unless you have a map and compass and know how to use it as it’s very easy to get lost. At the very least it’s worth downloading the ViewRanger app onto your phone (this has got me out of trouble a few times!)
Anyway, stick to the marked path and you can’t go wrong. Just after the monument you’ll come to the dam. It’s worth a slight detour up onto the dam for views across the lake. Today I saw 3 baby dragonflies, beautiful.
Down from the dam head over a small bridge and follow the path. It’s quite narrow now until you get back onto the main forest track and not quite as easy underfoot. I love this walk as it always makes me feel like I’ve been exploring; picking wild blackberries, stepping over tree roots, rocks and through puddles (this is where I made a mental note to definitely wear my walking boots next time!)
At the far end of the lake you’ll go over a little bridge and then there’s a short steep section that catches you by surprise before you turn left and head towards the main forest track. I caught myself daydreaming here and wondered if I was going the right way as I hadn’t seen a waymarker for a while but then one appeared, so I could relax again.
As I made it back onto the main forest track with views across the lake I was treated to a fly by from an RAF Valley jet.
Follow the waymarker back down the path you came up. Yes, remember that first bit? It’s still as steep! I zigzagged my way down to make it a bit easier on the feet and knees, which was fine as I was on my own so not getting in
I was back in the village by 4.30, you may want to allow up to 3 hours but still plenty of time for a lovely BBQ chicken panini and sweet potato fries from Y Stablau. A great place to sit and watch the world go…
I timed this walk to fit in with the following (weekday) Conwy Valley trains:
Leave Llandudno at 1308 arrive in Betws-y-Coed at 1358
Leave Betws-y-Coed at 1804 to arrive in Llandudno at 1853
Distance walked 4 miles
*It’s worth mentioning here that if you’re fresh from sitting on the train there’s a lovely walk around the Golf Course which will take 30-40 minutes. Go through the white gate on the right as you come out of the TIC. It’s marked private but there is also a public footpath sign. Follow the path around the Golf Course. and past the place where the two rivers meet (Afon Llugwy and Afon Conwy). Great for warming up the legs before that hill! At the far end you’ll go past the 15th century church (St Michael’s) which, if you’re anything like me and fascinated by old grave yards, you’ll love! Also the Sappers Bridge. Information in the church offers an interesting insight into the village before the railway line was built.
**If you are more experienced and looking for a bigger challenge you can climb Moel Siabod from Siabod Cafe on the A5 about 4 miles out of Betws towards Bangor. The Sherpa Bus will drop you there.
I would always advise that to do either of these you have someone with you know knows the mountains.
Meet The Author
Tracey Ann Breese runs Breese Adventures with her husband Stiwart. They have been based in Snowdonia for the last four years and provide guided walks, tailored adventures and charity challenges.
Tracey is passionate about inspiring more people to get outdoors and have more adventures, exploring both the natural environment and what we can learn about ourselves from adventures and challenges.