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Betws-y-Coed is a charming little village in North Wales that’s a haven for hikers and outdoor lovers due to its location among mountains and forests in the heart of Snowdonia.

The village has lots of character with two rivers running through it and buildings that look like they’re straight out of a fairytale. It’s easy to see why this tiny Welsh settlement can claim Wordsworth, Charles Darwin, and Alexander Graham Bell among former visitors1 (source: Discover Britain).

I regularly visit Snowdonia and on my most recent visit, I used Betws-y-Coed as my base. I was pleasantly surprised by the number of activities to do here that I barely got a chance to go further afield.

I’ve put together this guide with the 16 best things to do in and around Betws-y-Coed.

1. Visit an Enchanted Gorge at the Fairy Glen

The Fairy Glen is an area where the River Conwy cuts through a deep and secluded gorge just outside of Betws-y-Coed. There’s a circular walk through the woodland and you can also head down to the river and scramble across the gorge as far as you can.

Without stopping the walk takes 20 minutes, but you should allow plenty of time to explore the gorge and go swimming too (remember your swimming gear!). I spent over an hour at the fairy glen in total.

The gorge feels very enchanting and the photos don’t do it justice. Fairy rings have been spotted here, these are rings of dead grass or toadstools which, according to folklore, means there are mythical creatures around.

The gorge is on private property so there is a charge of £1 for adults and 50p for children, plus £1 for parking. All of this must be paid in cash.

2. Go Loco at the Conwy Valley Railway Museum

The Conwy Valley Railway Museum is a great little indoor activity that you can do no matter what the weather is.

The museum contains a variety of exhibits from small models of local stations to motorized railways that can be operated with the touch of a button. You’ll also find other memorabilia such as vintage signs, and old signalling equipment and uniforms.

Kids will also enjoy this museum with lots of interactive trains including some from Thomas the tank. Outside the museum, there’s a mini train for kids which costs £2.50 per ride (shown above). This is separate from the museum entry fee (under 5’s must have an adult on board with them).

There’s also a mini push-operated train for £1 and a cafe inside an old railway carriage where you can grab a coffee and snacks.

3. Visit Conwy Falls and Swallow Falls

Being a mountainous area, you won’t be surprised to find that there are several waterfalls in and around Betws-y-Coed. There’s one right in the middle of the village at the Pont Y Pair bridge, however, the most popular waterfalls are Swallow Falls and Conwy Falls.

People will have different opinions on which is best. For me, Conwy Falls was a nicer overall experience. There was a short walk down through a wooded area to the waterfall and you can make your way down to the river itself. Find out more, including prices in my full guide to visiting Conwy Falls here.

An alternative is Swallow Falls. This one is located right near the roadside so you can reach the viewing point within 2 minutes. I did find this to be a bit of a tourist trap and not worth the £2 entrance fee.

A better way to enjoy this waterfall is from the other side of the river by walking the Swallow Falls Trail. You can find out more about the visitor centre and the trail in my guide to visiting Swallow Falls.

4. Walk Around Llyn Elsi

Llyn Elsi is a mountain lake just outside Betws in Gwydir Forest Park. It’s not possible to drive up to the lake so you will need to walk there from the village. On the route there, it can get very steep so your calves and hamstrings will have a good workout, but the route back will be much easier.

The route is great for bird watching and once at the lake, you can walk around the outskirts and admire the view. In total, it’s about 6km from the village and back which takes around 2 hours, see the trail here. Alternatively, you can also check out this circular route which is a little longer but comes back via a different track.

5. Test Your Navigation Skills With Orienteering

Put your map reading skills to the ultimate test with a spot of orienteering. You can pick up a map for just £1 from Cotswold Outdoor in Betws-y-Coed (or download and print it for free here) and head to the start point which is up past the Vegabond Bunkhouse on Craiglan road, or see a pin drop here on Google Maps.

Although there used to be several routes, only the orange course is open today which is a 2.1km course of medium difficulty. The map details a route through the forest with an ‘X’ showing where each of the 10 markers are. Simply write the letters off the marker into the map and eventually you’ll have the full code.

6. Take a Walk Around Gwydir Forest Park

Gwydir Forest Park is a huge woodland area that borders Betws-y-Coed. There are several walking trails around the park which make a nice alternative to the mountain hikes to switch things up a little.

All of the trails begin at the Pont Y Pair car park in the village itself. Here is a summary of each:

  • Coed Tan Dinas (red route) – Easy walk along the riverside that takes about half an hour. There’s also an animal puzzle trail to keep the kids entertained along the way.
  • Llyn Parc Walk (yellow route) – At 10km, this is the longest route which heads up into upper Gwydir park. With steep terrain, this can take anywhere from 3 to 5 hours depending upon your ability.
  • Cyrau Walk (white route) – A strenuous walk through the forest with views across Betws-y-Coed from the top. Signage suggests this takes 1.5 hours but it took me less than 1 hour at a moderate pace.
  • Pen-yr-Alt Walk (blue route) – This route follows the same path as the Llyn Parc Walk for the first half, then diverts off to return along the riverside. It’s a tough 7km walk so allow 2 to 3 hours.

7. Enjoy Panoramic Views From Dolwyddelan Castle

Pete Farmer/Shutterstock

Just outside Betws-y-Coed is Dolwyddelan Castle, a fortress built by Llewelyn the Great back in the early 13th century. It remained a stronghold for the Welsh princes for most of the century until it was finally captured by the English in 1283, under the command of Edward I.

The castle is nothing but a ruin today but it’s still worth hiking up to. When you’re up there, it’s easy to see why it was difficult to capture with panoramic views across the countryside in all directions.

It’s larger in life than the photos make out. Although originally built with just one floor, another was added in the late 1400s and a third floor made it even taller in the 1600s2 (source: CADW).

If you’re willing to travel a little further, there are plenty of other stunning castles in North Wales worth visiting such as Harlech, Conwy, and Beaumaris.

8. Take a Bike Ride Through Snowdonia

© Crown copyright (2022) Cymru Wales

Betws-y-Coed might be in the middle of the mountains of Snowdonia, but that doesn’t mean that there aren’t some good cycling routes.

Amateur cyclists and families might be satisfied with a short cycle to one of the waterfalls mentioned earlier, both of which can be reached in around 20 minutes by bicycle.

If you are a keen cyclist, there are longer cycling routes to consider. A popular route is Betws-y-Coed to Conwy along the A470 which takes around 1.5 to 2 hours. If you have the energy, you can return along the B5106 to make it a circular route or take the train back.

Super cyclists might be tempted by the Brailsford Way, a route made famous by Sir David Brailsford, a coach who lead the GB cycling team to two gold medals at the Olympics. However, at 120km (75 miles), this is very tough if you want to do it all in one day.

The best place to hire bikes in Betws-y-Coed is Beics Betws where prices start at £22 for a half day. They also offer e-bikes.

9. Ride the UK’s Only Alpine Coaster at Zip World Fforest

Zip World

Take on the only forest roller coaster in the UK as you strap in and zoom around between trees reaching speeds up to 25mph.

The activity is bough to you by Zip World, who are reasonable for many of Snowdonia’s top activities including the fastest zip line in Europe at Penrhyn Quarry and the 18-hole golf course 500ft below the surface at Llechwedd. So they know a thing or two about adrenaline activities.

The forest coaster is at their Zip World Fforest site which is less than 5 minutes from Betws-y-Coed by car. Also at the Fforest site is a zip safari where you can take on 21 zip lines along with rope bridges, nets, and a treetop surfboard.

10. Take a Walk From National Trust Tŷ Mawr Wybrnant

The National Trust-owned 16th-century farmhouse at Tŷ Mawr Wybrnantthe is known as the birthplace of Bishop William Morgan, who was the first person to translate the Bible into Welsh.

Although you can’t go into the building right now, there’s a beautiful walk that begins here and takes you through the Wybrnant valley.

The walk is easy and at just under 5km, it should take around an hour and a half to complete from the start point. Find full details on the National Trust website.

11. Enjoy Tapas With a Welsh Twist at Olif

I had no idea what to expect from ‘Welsh-Inspired Tapas’ at Olif, but I was super impressed with this small restaurant and very surprised that more people aren’t talking about it.

Open since 2015, they offer Welsh-inspired dishes served in the Spanish tapas style where you pick a range of small dishes and share them between you. To make it even better, many of the ingredients they use are locally sourced too.

You can see what I had here, on the left is my beef dish that used Welsh beef from South Wales that had been slow cooked with red wine, Blodyn Aur rapeseed oil from North Wales and red peppers.

On the right is Anglesey eggs, a traditional egg and potato dish from North Wales. They had used eggs from a local farm right in Betws-y-Coed eggs and creamy leek mash with Welsh Dragon cream and cheese.

They also have lots of vegan and gluten-free options but keep in mind that it’s only open in the evenings from Wednesday to Sunday so I recommend that you book ahead as quite a small restaurant. See the full menu here.

12. Become a Detective for the Day with a Treasure Trail

Take a self-guided spy trail through the village with this downloadable treasure trail. You’ll need to follow the step-by-step instructions and solve clues along the way.

After each clue, you’ll fill in your answer on the back page and at the end, you’ll have the answer. You can send the answer back to Treasure Trails for a chance to win a £100 prize in their monthly prize draw.

As well as downloading the trail to print at home, you can order a print version to be delivered in the post if you don’t have access to a printer.

13. Take an Underground Adventure at Go Below

Go Below

Go Below offer extreme underground adventures through a series of caverns that lie deep beneath the surface at Betws-y-Coed. You’ll zip line through the caves, abseil down waterfalls, climb up shafts, and make your way across a lake.

It sounds scary, but it’s actually a lot of fun and you’ll be in the hands of a capable tour guide who will make sure you’re safe along the way.

As you’ll be traversing through caves for 5 hours or more, it does require some level of fitness. They offer three different packages, Go Below Challenge is their medium difficulty package which is suitable from the age of 10 upwards. This last for 5 hours and costs from £59.

If you fancy a bit more of a challenge, their Hero Xtreme package is a tough 6-hour adventure with more abseiling and more underground ziplining. For the ultimate test, their toughest package is the 7-hour Hero Xtreme which includes a freefall jump at the end. The Hero Xtreme package starts at £99 and is only suitable for ages 18+. Find out more here.

14. Pick Up Some Local Souvenirs

Betws-y-Coed is full of small independent shops which are great for finding some gifts to take home. Most of the independent shops can be found on the high street or near the train station where you’ll find lots of nice cafes too.

For keepsakes, you can check out Crafts Cymru or Village Crafts. Personally, I think a great gift should be edible, that is why I preferred Iechyd Da Deli which was packed with food sourced from the local area and across Wales including cheese, preserves, crisps, and more.

Another nice place to check out is Artworks2 Celf which is like a hybrid art gallery and shop where you can purchase the art you like. But there’s no pressure to make a purchase, it’s a non-profit dedicated to promoting local artists so they are happy for you to appreciate the art in the store.

15. See a Neolithic Burial Chamber at Capel Garmon

Capel Garmon Burial Chamber is a neolithic chamber built around 4000 years ago as a communal burial chamber. You can go in the chamber or sit on top of it and admire the views with Mynydd Garthmyn in the background.

The chamber would have originally been covered in a mound of stones in a similar style to those found in the Cotswolds. It’s still unclear to archaeologists why this one is found so far north.

The chamber is in the care of CADW and is free to visit. but you have to walk through private land to reach it. You can park the car in a roadside layby here which is about 7-8 minutes walking to the chamber itself.

16. See Betws-y-Coed’s Oldest Building, St Michael’s Church

St Michael’s Old Church in Betws-y-Coed is about as old as you can get, in fact, it’s the oldest building still standing in the village. The cute church was built back in the 14th century, although was later abandoned for the larger St Mary’s Church on the main road.

One of the key features inside is a stone effigy of Gruffydd ap Dafydd Goch (see image below). He was a knight back in the 14th century who fought in the hundred years war under the command of the Black Prince (the son of King Edward III). He is thought to have owned land in the local area.

Although it can’t be said for sure, the date of his death and the date of the church’s original construction suggest that he may have been the original patron of the church. Today, the church has been restored with donations and public grants and is open for visitors to see for free.

Related Questions

Is Betws-y-Coed Worth Visiting?

Yes, Betws-y-Coed is worth visiting, as well as plenty of activities around the village itself such as walking trails, the Fairy Glen, and the railway museum, it’s a must-visit destination in Snowdonia and a great place to base yourself for exploring the rest of the national park.

What is Betws-y-Coed Known For?

Betws-y-Coed is known as a tourist hotspot in Snowdonia. This quaint little village is right in the heart of the national park, surrounded by walking trails, waterfalls, and outdoor activities. It’s home to many guest houses, bunk houses, and self-catered accommodation which is why it becomes very busy during peak summer months.

Can You Swim in Betws-y-Coed?

Yes, two rivers run through Betws-y-Coed that you can swim in, the River Conwy and one of its tributaries, Afon Llungwy. The best place to swim in Betws-y-Coed is up near Pont-y-Pair car park.

Kieren is the founder and editor-in-chief of Wales Guidebook. Originally from rural Mid-Wales, he has lived all over the country from Cardiff to Wrexham. A true Welshman, Kieren created this site to share his passion for Wales and help others discover this beautiful country.