When I lived in Seattle, I was an avid climber. So when I moved to U.K., the name “Snowden”, one of the three highest peaks in U.K., kept cropping up in conversations.
So when Kitty suggested that we visit Wales for a long weekend, I readily agreed (don’t listen to Kitty; she will say that she had to beg me to come – I have text messages which can prove that I am telling the truth!).
Unlike our usual running around to catch the train, this time our journey to North Wales went smoothly, taking little over three hours from London.
Our destination was the little village of Betws-y-Coed (pronounced as “Bet-oose-urgggggh -coed). Yep, every word of Welsh is a tongue-twister with multiple syllables! The village train station is one the loveliest that I have ever seen. The station had a little garden along the platform, artwork made from recyclable materials and a eclectic cafe which opened out to the platform with outdoor seating. Such a sweet place to wait for the train!
We had arranged to stay at the Garmon View, a 4-star B&B short walking distance from the train station. The lovely Petra, who owns and runs the B&B, was at the station to pick us up. I couldn’t recommend her B&B enough: she is very knowledgeable about the local area and went beyond the expected to make our stay comfortable.
Betws-y-Coed is inside the Snowdonia national park, near where the river Conwy is joined by the river Llugwy and river Lledr and is a perfect place to explore Northern Wales. It’s in close proximity to the local attractions and number of walks start from the centre of the village.
Next morning we took the local bus to Pen-y-Pass. We hadn’t planned to hike to the top of the Snowdon mountain as it was an extremely hot day but we still wanted to explore the mountain a bit and few easy walks start from Pen-y-Pass.
As we got higher up the mountain, we could see why Snowdon was a popular walking destination. We had wide, sweeping views of the golden and green landscape dotted with shimmering blue lakes. However, as the day turned hotter, we decided to turn back to the trail head and take the train which goes all the way to the top of the Snowdon mountain.
While it was great to get to the top and take in the views extending up to hundreds of miles all around, the train was a bit of a let down. It stops for half hour at the top which isn’t enough time to soak in the scenery. Also, since it was a sunny weekend day, the mountain was heaving with tourists and there was a long queue to get to the last 20 meters of the summit. Not exactly the best way to enjoy outdoors, queuing up to see the sites!
We definitely intend to come back and hike the various trails of Snowdonia but I wouldn’t want to be anywhere near it on a hot day when the sun is relentless and there is neither an inch of free space on the trail nor a tree in sight.
Next day it was still quite hot so we decided to go for a shaded walk along the river Llugwy. We started off from a cafe called ‘Ugly House’, which has a five-acre garden on the hill side , a large collection of seeds for sale and tasty cakes. We came across groups of bicyclists and walkers in the cafe but unlike us, most of them had been walking for a bit before stopping for cake. But hey, it’s important to start the journey on a sweet note. The walk went past bubbly streams and exuberant waterfalls shaded by tall pine trees. It’s a lovel walk but the highlight was the Swallow falls, where the river drops about hundred feet forming a gorgeous waterfall.
We ended the day by attending the all-male Welsh choir at the local church. The pastor who doubled as a DJ was quite funny! In between the jokes, I amused myself by reading the proverbs in the bible while Kitty tried to look like she could understand what they were singing!
Next morning, we decided to hike to Lake Lyn Elsi which lies high above the Betws-y-coed in the Gwydyr forest. The hike up to the lake is a lovely, shady walk through the pine forest with burbling streams and glimpses of the Betws-y-coed. Once we reached the top, the dense tree cover cleared out to a beautiful blue lake surrounded by the wild flower meadows and the mountains. As we walked past the meadows, the brilliant butterflies and buzzing bumblebees weaved in and out of flower meadows, we felt content and peaceful but still filled with awe at having found a little piece of heaven. After a leisurely lunch by the lakeside, we headed back to the village to catch the last train back to London.
We’ll definitely be back one day, hopefully soon!