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Swallow Falls is a 42m high waterfall just outside the village of Betws-Y-Coed in Snowdonia. It’s a multiple waterfall system with two main drops, both of which can be seen from the visitor centre or via the Swallow Falls Trail.
I recently visited Swallow Falls and have put together this guide to explain exactly how to visit and with some top tips and facts I wish I’d have known before visiting (including the fact that it featured in a Hollywood blockbuster).
Can You Visit Swallow Falls?
Yes, you can visit Swallow Falls which is located just 6 minutes from Betws y Coed by car. There is a car park right near the entrance and steps lead you to the viewpoints in less than two minutes.
An alternative (and much better) way to experience Swallow Falls is by hiking the Swallow Falls trail. However, this is a strenuous walk that takes 2.5 hours to complete. During the trail, you’ll see Swallow Falls from a higher viewpoint on the opposite side of the river where you’ll get a better view of the drop. I will share more about this trail in a dedicated section at the end of the article.
Swallow Falls is one of two well-known waterfalls near Betws-y-Coed. After visiting both, I much preferred Conwy Falls and it was cheaper too, although the photos don’t do it justice. For more information, see my guide to visiting Conwy Falls.
Where to Park for Swallow Falls?
The best place to park for Swallow Falls is at the Swallow Falls Hotel just across the road from the visitor centre. There is no parking charge. During my visit in July 2022, renovation works were going on so the car park was closed. However, it was still possible to park along the roadside.
How To Visit Swallow Falls
Here are my step-by-step instructions for visiting Swallow Falls:
1. Park at the Swallow Falls Hotel or Along the Roadside
Swallow Falls is located right next to the A5 around 6 minutes outside of Betws-Y-Coed by car. It’s also a popular option to cycle from the village. On Googe Maps, it uses the Welsh name which is Rhaeadr Ewynnol. You can find it here.
Parking is in the Swallow Falls Hotel car park or along the roadside as mentioned earlier. The entrance is opposite and clearly signposted.
2. Pay the Entrance Fee at the Turnstile
Swallow Falls is a paid attraction. Entry is £2 per person via the unmanned turnstile at the entrance. You can pay by cash or contactless card. If paying by cash, it’s coins only and you must use exact change.
3. Follow the Steps for Two Minutes To Reach the Lower Viewing Platform
There are steps leading down to the lower part of the waterfall and it takes less than two minutes from the entry turnstiles. There is no alternative to the steps so unfortunately, Swallow Falls is not suitable for wheelchairs or pushchairs.
The view from the lower viewing platform:
4. Finish off By Visiting the Upper Viewing Platform
Once you’ve admired the faster-flowing lower section of the waterfall, return up the steps you came down and you’ll see a way to veer off to the right. This will take you to another viewing area for the upper part of the waterfall.
The upper section will be familiar to you as it’s often seen on postcards and in guidebooks of the area. Here, you’ll also find several benches and seating areas if you want to take some time to enjoy a snack, although it’s not such an inviting area in my opinion.
Other Things To Know When Visiting
There are no facilities at Swallow Falls visitor centre. It is an unmanned attraction so there are no toilets or anywhere to buy food or drink once inside.
How Long To Spend There?
Visiting Swallow Falls from the roadside takes just 15-20 minutes. You can park right by the entrance and the walk down to the first viewpoint is less than 2 minutes. There is also a second viewpoint you can visit a little further up.
Can You Swim at Swallow Falls?
No, it’s not possible to swim at Swallow Falls because the river itself is fenced off. This is because the climb down to the waterfall is too steep and could be dangerous with the slippery rocks.
How Many Waterfalls Are at Swallow Falls?
Swallow Falls is a multiple waterfall system made up of two main drops. The upper waterfall is the most pictured and sees the water trickle across the rockface in many smaller streams. Whereas the lower waterfall is much faster flowing over a shorter drop.
The Swallow Falls Trail
As teased at the beginning of the article, there’s actually a second way to experience the waterfall and that’s the Swallow Falls trail.
Unlike the main visitor area, the Swallow Falls Trail is less busy and doesn’t feel like a tourist trap. It’s also free of charge because it’s part of Gwydir Forest Park which is managed by Natural Resources Wales.
The trail is rated as strenuous and with good reason. Much of it is narrow steep forest pathways which can be uneven with bumps and tree roots sticking out. The trail takes 2.5 hours to complete so it’s no mean feat.
The start point for the Swallow Falls Trail is the Ty’n Llwyn car park which is free of charge. From the car park, the route is very clearly signposted so you can’t go wrong.
The highlight of the trail is where the wooded area opens up revealing a view of Swallow Falls. There’s a perfectly-placed bench where you can view the falls. However, be very careful as there have been accidents from this side of the river where people have fallen from the cliff into the river1 (source: BBC).
Facts About Swallow Falls
There’s a surprising lack of information about the waterfall at the visitor centre, despite it being a paid attraction. So, I’ve put together a few interesting facts about Swallow Falls to learn before you go:
1. It Has a Different Name in Welsh Than in English
In Welsh, Swallow Falls is called Rhaeadr Ewynnol which translates as ‘Foamy Waterfall’. It’s thought that the names are different in Welsh and Engish due to a misunderstanding. Ewynnol means foamy, but it also sounds like Wynnol which means Swallow.
2. Swallow Falls Featured in Wonder Woman 1984
The film starred Gal Gadot and Chris Pine, although neither were present at the Swallow Falls shoot.
The scene featured a young Wonder Woman, played by Lilly Aspell, running toward her home. Watch the scene here.
3. Fees From the Waterfall Were Used to Subsidise Council Tax
Swallow Falls was gifted to the local council by its former owner Lord Ancaster in 1913. The council began charging an entrance fee which was used to fund the installation of water and electricity supplies to the village.
Once this had been paid, the funds were used to subsidise parish council fees and meant that Betws-Y-Coed residents paid the lowest rates in Wales3 (source: Betws y Coed & Snowdonia Tourism Information).
Myth: It was once suggested at a Betws-y-Coed council meeting in 1899 that water from Swallow Falls could be harnessed and used to generate electricity for the village at a cost of £2,0004 (source: British Newspaper Archive). However, there is no evidence that such a scheme went ahead.
4. It’s a Site of Special Scientific Interest
Swallow Falls is within the Afon Llungwy Site of Special Scientific Interest (SSSI). The area has been designated an SSSI because of the waterfalls and gorges that are found along Afon Llugwy (the River Llungwy) which is a tributary of Afon Conwy (the River Conwy), including Swallow Falls, the Miners Bridge waterfall and Pont Y Pair waterfall in Betws-Y-Coed itself5 (source: Natural Resources Wales).
Is Swallow Falls Worth It?
Overall, no I don’t think Swallow Falls was worth the £2 entry fee. You won’t be there much longer than 15 minutes and it feels very touristy. I preferred Conwy Falls.
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.