Conwy Valley and Hiraethog
This is an intriguing area, very different to the rough, tough rocky mountains of neighbouring Snowdonia. The River Conwy flows through a broad, sheltered vale carpeted with rich farmland. It’s flanked on the west by thick forests and to the east by the heather moors and woods of Hiraethog (otherwise known as the Denbigh Moors), a huge expanse of unexplored upland. All in all, it’s an area of great variety, with tumbling falls, wooded gorges, mountain lakes, high moorland and a charming stretch of the North Wales coast. There’s also a great choice of places to stay – everything from traditional market towns and villages to seaside resorts.
Betws y Coed
It’s one of those places that never closes, even on a Sunday in deep and dark December. How could it? There’s too much demand. This bustling mountain resort, the official ‘gateway village to Snowdonia’ in a beautiful location amongst woods and riverbanks, has been consistently popular since Victorian times and the coming of the railway. Many attractions, including railway museum, golf course, high ropes adventure, waymarked walks and famous Swallow Falls. Town has an excellent Snowdonia National Park Information Centre with Princes of Gwynedd exhibition, and an outstanding range of shops selling quality crafts, clothing and outdoor gear. Host of activities too, including climbing, mountain biking and horse riding. Betws y Coed is a convenient hub for the Princes of Gwynedd Historic Tours, trails based on the books by Sharon Penman.
Village close to all of Snowdonia’s classic terrain, familiar to every self-respecting climber and mountain walker. Local shops sell mountaineering and outdoor wear. Home of Plas y Brenin National Mountain Centre, which offers courses and tuition in outdoor activities for all abilities.
Village on the A5 at the southern gateway to Hiraethog, with 2½-acre fly fishing lake and Wales’s largest go karting centre. Nearby Llyn Brenig and the smaller Llyn Alwen are reservoirs with plentiful leisure facilities, including walking, cycling, fishing and sailing. Go first to Brenig’s excellent visitor centre. For more cycling and walking (plus horse riding) head for the Clocaenog Forest. Along with the nearby village of Llanfihangel Glyn Myfyr, Cerrigydrudion is a good touring base for all of North Wales.
The walled town of Conwy and its dark-stoned castle evoke an authentic medieval atmosphere. Spectacular views from the fortress (a UNESCO World Heritage Site) and town walls down into the narrow streets and across the estuary. There’s history at almost every turn – Elizabethan Plas Mawr, Aberconwy House, Thomas Telford’s castellated suspension bridge, quirky ‘smallest house’. Conwy’s Tourist Information Centre has a flagship exhibition that tells the story of the Princes of Gwynedd with imaginative interactive displays. Other attractions include river cruises, art gallery and RSPB nature reserve with recently improved visitor centre. Bodnant Garden, the new Bodnant Welsh Food Centre and the start of the Cambrian Way long-distance path all nearby.
Mountain-backed seaside resort with a good stretch of sandy beach. Activities include windsurfing, golf, angling, croquet. Birdwatching at Traeth Lafan Nature Reserve. Good walking base, reflected in its ‘Walkers are Welcome’ accreditation – ask at Conwy Tourist Information Centre for the Llanfairfechan Walks publication describing five town and country routes, or download ‘Llanfairfechan Walks’ from www.conwy.gov.uk.
Peaceful village on the River Medrad just off the A5. Good walking centre.
Handsome ‘capital’ and historic market town for the Vale of Conwy. Nearby Gwydir Castle and Gwydir Uchaf Chapel reveal more of the area’s eventful past. Ask in local shops for the circular walk leaflet or download from www.conwy.gov.uk. There’s also a recently established Lady Mary’s Walk in the nearby Gwydyr Forest, a trail which introduces you to local history (and characters like Dafydd ap Siencyn, the forest’s own ‘Robin Hood’) as well as revealing wonderful views over Llanrwst (for details go to the Llanrwst Tourist Information Point).
Mountain village beautifully located amongst open countryside and forested hills. Fascinating National Trust site nearby – Tŷ Mawr Wybrnant was the birthplace of Bishop William Morgan whose translation of the Bible into Welsh ensured the survival of the language. Penmachno Forest has a well-developed network of mountain biking trails. Handy Penmachno and Dolwyddelan Walks guide (including detailed maps) available from Betws y Coed TIC. Go Below Underground Adventures based in Conwy Falls Café offer exciting trips into an abandoned mine.
Holiday resort with attractive promenade looking out across Conwy Bay to Anglesey. Sandy beach, paddling pool, children’s playground. Small museum recalls Penmaenmawr’s quarrying past. Good coast and country walking locally, including the waymarked ‘quarryman’s walk’ and scenic North Wales Path.
Stagecoaches use to stop here on the main route into North Wales, at a village well located for exploring the Vale of Conwy and Hiraethog. Today’s travellers – especially chocoholics – stop off at the Riverside Chocolate House and Tearoom for delicious hand-made goodies. Not open everyday so please check opening times before visiting.
One of the prettiest little villages in Wales. Attractive walks into the hills following the Roman Road. Conwy Water Gardens (otters, fishery, aquatic centre and reptile house) nearby.
The village’s long-established woollen mill produces distinctive Welsh tapestries and tweeds. Llyn Crafnant, a fishing lake, and Llyn Geirionydd, popular for watersports, hide themselves away in the forested hills above. Explore the village’s idyllic surroundings by following some of the Trefriw Trails.