Our July road trip in the UK was filled with wonderful surprises, but also little disappointments. It’s funny, how those mishaps often turn into victories when travelling. This happened to us again in North Wales, when we were driving through Snowdonia National Park.
For our short visit to Wales, our main target was to conquer Snowdon, the highest mountain in Wales. This road trip was a bit different to our normal way of travelling. Mostly, because this was the first time when Daniel’s kids were travelling with us.
For that reason, we didn’t even consider hiking to the top of Snowdon. Instead, our plan was to catch the mountain train from Llanberis, preferably the steam one, and reach the top of Snowdon with very little effort.
We had planned such a tight schedule for ourselves (read: lots of driving and lots to see in very short time) that we couldn’t afford to stray too much from our plan. Unfortunately the day we had reserved for Snowdon was cloudy and rainy, so we had to give up on our dream of going to the top. It was a tough decision, as we had been waiting for Snowdon for so long. As unforgettable as the experience could have been, it wouldn’t be worth 100 pounds for train tickets, if the only views were thick and grey clouds and nothing else.
It was time for a back-up plan.
Due to the weather, we had no reason to hurry from Bala to Llanberis, so while driving through the northern part of Snowdonia National Park, we had time for a few extra stops. Which we used pretty damn well, I must say!
We decided to stop in Betws-y-Coed, which I suppose is the best-known inland tourist destination in North Wales. Before reaching the village we spotted a sign pointing to Conwy Falls Forest Park. Hmm, that sounds a lot like a waterfall—what a great excuse for a short break. We had been driving full 45 minutes already, after all.
When travelling abroad, I can’t help feeling privileged for what we have in Finland. All natural wonders—that we have a lot—are available for everyone, completely free of charge. There’s no entrance fees to National Parks nor any individual natural sights. Plus, you can build your tent wherever you want and stay overnight, apart from a few restrictions.
The entrance fee to Conwy Falls Forest Park was very small, only £1 per person. The turnstile works with coins, and in case you’ve run out, the friendly ladies in the café next to the gate will most likely be happy to change notes to coins for you.
The nature trail starts from the turnstile taking you down by the waterfall through the ancient forest. There are a couple of spots to admire the Conwy Falls. The fairly easy-to-walk and short trail goes around in a circle taking no more than half an hour to complete, with photography breaks included.
From the higher viewing point you can see how the River Conwy carves from the gorge disappearing into a narrow canyon. My toes are flapping inside the sneakers, desiring to climb down the cliff and explore the mysterious canyon hidden under the foliage.
The nature trail ends back at the café that is open 7 days a week from 9 am until 6 pm. Along the trail you can find an open area with benches and tables, great for having lunch in case you took some food to go. If not, I’m sure the café will provide a delicious answer to this problem as well.
After a short walk in the woods, we continued driving towards Betws-y-Coed where we had the next break (another break was very much needed after a 5-minute drive). When driving in the UK, you should keep in mind that there’s no such thing as free parking, no matter how small town or village is in question. So keep coins available at all times, they’ll help you also with the next sudden turnstile to a nature reserve.
In July there were quite many tourist buses parked along the streets of Betws-y-Coed, but the atmosphere in this Victorian village was still peaceful and cosy. Just like the time had been standing still for centuries, in a good way, of course. You can find many boutiques, inns and cafés along the main street, as well as helpful signs, that lead us to our next unexpected nature site: Swallow Falls.
After some serious souvenir shopping, we took the car and drove for another 5 minutes to reach the next wonderful waterfalls of North Wales. Coins were helpful also at the Swallow Falls, as the gatekeeper was asking for £1,5 per adult and £0,50 per child to enter the fenced area.
Wooden stairs with several viewing platforms have been built on the banks of Swallow Falls. The water is flowing with such force that I found it difficult to protect the lens of my camera—and myself—from getting wet.
Flowing in different levels, Swallow Falls is quite an impressive waterfall. The washing water is echoing in my ears, and without even realizing, I freeze on one of the platforms staring at the foamy, splashing water.
As beautiful as these two accidentally-found waterfalls of North Wales are, they’re not among the biggest or most famous waterfalls of Wales. Actually, I got a bit annoyed when I realized afterwards that the tallest waterfall of Wales, Pistyll Rhaeadr, would have been located exactly on our route the previous day. We just didn’t notice it early enough.
Well, there’s no reason to worry about it, as we need to return to North Wales anyway to conquer the peak of Snowdon. It’s no problem to include a few more waterfalls of North Wales along the route, when we next time travel to Wales. You always should leave something for the next time, to have a good reason for another trip, right?
And to be completely honest, if we had been able to make our trip to Snowdon happen, we would have missed these two wonderful waterfalls of North Wales in the first place.
Pin the waterfalls of North Wales for later:
More stories about the nature trails in Europe:
The jewels of River Rakasjåkka: Waterfalls of Swedish Lapland
One hike, four seasons – unforgettable autumn excursion in Swedish Lapland
Hiking in Sierra Blanca: Challenging Pico de la Concha
Hiking on the Costa del Sol: Istán-Marbella trail
The Lake District — The Most Beautiful Piece of England
When Sweden Rocked My World—Welcome to the Breathtaking Luppioberget
A Story About Sinful Nuns and Other Icelandic Folktales
The day I walked to Switzerland
When a small girl stepped on a small, enormous glacier
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