Five reasons this is the perfect mountain base camp
For the gateway to Snowdonia
1 There’s no better base for exploring Wales’ largest national park than Betws-y-Coed. Encircled by the dense Gwydyr Forest, this idyllic village offers unrivalled access to North Wales’ finest summits, including Moel Siabod, Tryfan, Carnedd Llewelyn and Snowdon itself. Longdistance walkers will also enjoy picking up the Snowdonia Slate Trail from Betws as the newly opened 85-mile route passes through the village.
For scenic views from a mountain lake
2 Sitting roughly 250m above Betws is Llyn Elsi – a 30-acre reservoir that serves the village for its water supply. Being at this elevated height affords visitors a chance to glimpse the Carneddau and Glyderau mountain ranges, as well as the peak of Moel Siabod. The lake area, which is roughly a four-mile stroll along stony paths and tracks from Betws, is as popular for walking and cycling as it is for birdwatching and photography.
To explore history
3 Betws-y-Coed is steeped in Welsh history and much of it can be explored in a single afternoon. The village’s name translates to ‘prayer house in the woods’ and this is thought to refer to the 14th century St Michael’s Old Church – the oldest building in Betws – where the surrounding yew trees have stood for 500 years. There’s also a 4,000-year-old Neolithic burial chamber to explore and the picture-perfect Pont-yPair bridge, where in autumn (if you’re lucky) you might spot salmon leaping upriver in the falls below as they head back to their spawning grounds.
For retail therapy
4 Gearheads and equipment enthusiasts will find Betws to be something of a wonderland, with as many as 10 outdoor retailers lining the high street and stocking all the kit, footwear and clothing you could ever wish to need. It might be a good idea to hit the shops with a preset budget in mind, though, otherwise a few hours browsing could end up being a very costly experience!
For playgrounds and waterfalls
5 A two-mile amble south from Betws along the banks of the River Conwy will lead you to Fairy Glen (above) – a beautiful nature spot said to be the haunt of mythical sprites. This gorgeous dingle is a photographer’s paradise and ideal for light scrambling. Another dazzling spectacle is Swallow Falls, a dramatic waterfall system reached by heading west from Betws and following the meanders of Afon Llugwy. It’s set amid a forest of conifer, beech and birch trees, while jagged rocks cut the river into a succession of stunning cascades. Admission is £1.50 for adults, but we think that may just be the bargain of the year!