Swallow Falls and the Llugwy Gorge

Swallow Falls

A beautiful walk exploring the wooded hillsides around the Swallow Falls and the Llugwy Gorge, the Swallow Falls being one of the most famous beauty spots in the area. Start – Begin the walk at Pont Y Pair, the old stone bridge which carries the B5106 over Afon Llugwy in the centre of Betws Y Coed. Grid Ref. SH791567 Distance – 6 1/2 miles/ 10km Maps – OS Explorer OL17


From the A5 in the centre of Betws Y Coed, cross the bridge and turn immediately left. After about 50m there is a pay and display car park on your right, bear left after this onto the riverside footpath – Mynydd y Coed All Ability Trail. The first section of the path is a raised wooden walkway followed by a surfaced path. This leads to picnic tables close to the river after which the path swings right. Go ahead at this point, off the surfaced path and past the picnic tables to locate a ladder stile hidden behind rocks. Cross the stile and follow the path through the following fields close to the river on the left. After the fields, enter woods again and continue ahead on the riverside path to a large wooden footbridge spanning the river, known as the Miners Bridge. This time do not cross the bridge, instead bear right onto the footpath which heads up the hillside to a lane. Follow the signed footpath opposite. This well used and obvious path runs diagonally up the hillside with glimpses of the deepening valley to your left through the trees.

At the top of the rise, cross a stile into a small field. Follow the path ahead with a wall on the left, to the corner of a cottage garden, also on the left. Bear right onto a grass path, passing small, wall enclosed fields on the left to a rough access track. Turn left along the road and, immediately after a ruined stone barn, turn right through the centre of a field. A gate and stile leads into woods. There are two paths here – take the path ahead and follow this down through the trees. Lower down the path runs beside a stone wall with fields on the left and a fine view of the wooded Llugwy Valley and Moel Siabod ahead. Keep beside the wall, passing a gate. Where the wall makes a 90′ turn to the left, follow the path as it swings left down through the trees to a stile in the lower corner. Cross the stile and walk down to a second stile which leads onto a short path beside a cottage garden to enter a lane. Turn right up the lane for about 100m and, just before the bridge over a stream, turn sharp left onto a descending path. Follow this down below the lane to a T junction. Turn right here onto a good forest path, which soon crosses a footbridge over a stream. Follow the signed path, which bears left after the bridge, and descends to meet a forest track. Go along this track for about 30m, before bearing left on a path that soon crosses a wooden bridge over a stream.

A little further on you will be aware of the river, which can both be seen and heard amid the trees down to the left. Ignore a prominent forest track here; instead, keep ahead on the path which crosses the steep rocky wall of the gorge, high above Afon Llugwy. There are good views of the Swallow Falls from a small viewing area here, or you can continue ahead to a point where you can look down on the famous cascade. The Swallow Falls are probably the most famous falls in North Wales, although they are neither the highest nor the most spectacular. The owe their popularity to the establishment of Betws Y Coed as a tourist hot spot during the 19th Century. The original name of the falls was Rhaeadr Ewynnol, which means foaming falls’, but the name seems to have been mistaken by the Victorians for the similar word, Rhaeadr-y-Wennol, which means Swallow Falls. Beyond the falls a good footpath stays close to the river, to eventually enter grazing fields. Continue ahead beside the river and just before the far end of the field, turn left over a stile in the wall. Walk along the wooded river bank now, to the old stone bridge carrying the A5. Steps lead up onto the bridge beside the famous stone cottage – Ty Hyll or the Ugly House. Ty Hyll is said to be the result of a local law which stated that if a house could be built between sunset and sunrise the builders could claim there house and the land it was built on.

Turn left over the bridge and walk along the road for about 3/4 mile to the forest car park Cae’n y Coed on the right. Turn right here and take the forest road which rises sharply to the right. Where this swings back to the left, bear right onto a long straight forest road, which rises steadily through the trees. Almost at the top of the rise, and immediately before a stream, bear left onto a footpath that continues the climb to a gate and cattle grid leading into fields. Go through the gate and follow the faint grass track ahead to a small farm. Enter the farmyard by a stile to the right of the outbuildings. Leave the yard by the large gate ahead, to the right of the house. Go through this and follow the rising grass track behind the farmhouse. At the top of the rise, pass through a gate near a stone barn and continue on the faint track to a stile and gate which lead onto a forest road. Turn left here and follow this road as it contours round the hillside. Keep left at the first junction and bear right at a T junction a little further on. Follow a good forest road now to a fork beneath power cables – almost 3/4 mile. Bear right here and after about 300m, opposite a lane on the right, turn left onto a descending path between stone walls.

This path is part of the Sarn Helen, the roman road which linked the forts of Caerhun in the Conwy Valley and the Tomen-y-Muir near Trawfynydd. The Romans often formalised existing routes and tracks, particularly in difficult terrain. This route may well have been in use for several centuries before the Romans arrived. At a forest road with a cottage on the right, continue the descent straight ahead to emerge in the settlement of Pentre Du. Cross the A5 and take the path opposite down to the Miners Bridge. Cross the bridge, turn right and follow the riverside path back to Betws Y Coed to complete the walk.

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