Wales – Part Five ~ Swallow Falls at Bets-y-Coed, Conwy Castle & Ancient Llys Rhosyr

map“Another wonderful day for exploring,” I thought to myself as I rose from my slumber on the 7th of September. I decided to go the opposite direction than I had gone the day before to visit yet another impressive castle – Conwy.

I drove up the canyon from Llanberis to Pen-y-Pass and then down the other side to a nice little woodsy town called Bets-y-Coed just to see what was there and what I might find along the way. I was pleasantly surprised.

Along the road, interesting looking and quaint IMG_7174places to eat, drink, sleep and be merry were scattered here and there amongst the gorgeous landscapes. They looked rather inviting. Here’s one in particular that falls into the “interesting” category; I’m not even sure it’s currently open, but it sure looks like it’s seen its share of happy times, happy travellers and has plenty of stories it could tell!

IMG_7172Another one, Tyn-Y-Coed, looked inviting and pleasant and one that has been here awhile. Across the road was a really neat old horse-drawn carriage on display in the car park. What a ride on these back roads that must have been in its day!

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A bit further down the road which followed the twisting river downhill, I came upon another interesting inn, complete with its own set of waterfalls!

What a beautiful and refreshing spot this was!IMG_7177

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IMG_7189As I came up the staircase from the rivers’ gorge below and passed through the gates of Swallow Falls, I noticed this sign; what a perfect reminder of why I love to travel and see new “things.”  It expresses exactly what I mean when I tell people I love to travel and see beautiful things.  “Things” I refer to are the people, the places, memories, pictures, feelings, smiles…  This gorgeous waterfall made me smile and laugh, caught my breath and helped to remind me that it just doesn’t get much better than this. What a lucky girl I am!

The town Bets-Y-Coed was a nice little bustling place nestled in the woodland glen with the river winding through it. I didn’t stay long, however, I only stopped long enough to get some fuel in the car and enjoy some baby horses grazing & lazing in a field.

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Nearby, the bridge which spans the River Conwy exclaims it was built the same time the Battle of Waterloo occurred in 1815!IMG_7192

I drove another 14 miles or so north toward the ocean following the Conwy river and arrived at Conwy Castle near the mouth. The castle dominates the entrance to Conwy, immediately conveying its strength and power. The majestic suspension bridge connecting the castle with the main peninsula still guards the main approach to the castle at the river as it always has.IMG_7308

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I had briefly visited Conwy earlier in the summer in mid-June. I spent the night at the delightful hostel up on the hill just above the walled town. I only had one night, however, and only enough time to quickly check out the town before getting back on the road heading north. I knew I would be coming back to it about 3 months later and now I here I was. IMG_7222It’s a really interesting little town with a very interesting castle. Here’s an illustration of how it’s laid out.

Conwy Castle and the town are surrounded by a well-preserved wall. A similar town wall exists at Caernarfon but is far less complete. Conwy’s wall maintains the town’s medieval character. It was built about the same time as Caernarfon by King Edward I in about 1283 and was part of a plan to surround Wales in an iron ring of castles to subdue the rebellious Welsh population.

Below is a picture of the back side of the castle, at low tide, and from across the river. This massive castle has eight great towers.IMG_1677IMG_7210IMG_7211First a glimpse from a painting of what the castle looked like long, long ago.

Now for the front of the castle and the inside. I got my ticket and made my way up the side of the steep rock face embankment toward the entrance.

In the photo below, notice the zig-zagging path the visitors are following up to the arched entrance on the right-hand side. Directly below the arch is what remains of another massive stone structure; a stone ramp which is now gone.
IMG_7388Like Caernarfon castle, Conwy also had a very long steep stone ramp with a drawbridge at the top of the ramp directly across from the arched entrance. Between the stone ramp and the arched entrance, the wooden drawbridge could be raised if under attack, leaving an insurmountable open gap. They had a very handy interpretive panel nearby to describe and show what it would have looked like.

Below, looking down Castle Street, is what the town of Conwy looks like from the entrance arch of the castle…

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IMG_7221Through the next arched doorway, we’ll enter the castle’s exterior walls and proceed inside to see its interior courtyard.

IMG_7226IMG_7227Interesting inner courtyard; it’s narrower than I imagined and with so many more large rooms all around the perimeter of the castle walls than expected. Lots and lots of rooms and many levels to ascend and explore! Let’s start this exploration with the Northwest Tower…and climb to it’s top.

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The views of the town, river and harbour below, and surrounding countryside in the distance, from the top of the Northwest Tower, were commanding!

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IMG_7246While I was up so high, it was great to walk along the tops of the rooms and curtain walls gaining a birdseye view of what lies below.

 

Like Caernarfon, the signage and interpretive panels were very artistic, informative, maintained in good shape, and well placed, making them easy to read, understand and follow.

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The views from the top were astounding!

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There is so much to see in this place, feels never-ending as you weave your way through each tower, each room, each connecting passage.  Lots of fun! This place is huge and has everything, even a couple of baby dragons!

One can spend hours wandering around this castle, and I did. So much so I was working up an appetite, so since I had my fill of castle exploring I left and walked down into town and into the harbour to find some fresh fish ‘n chips for lunch to eat by the water’s edge.

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While I was sitting on the dock eating that yummy fish, I noticed that the smallest house in Britain was right there before my eyes! It’s absolutely tiny! I’ve seen playhouses bigger than this place! IMG_7371People have actually lived in there? I paid a pound to enter and could barely turn around inside. Below is a photo collage of what it looks like inside. it was all of about 6 feet deep and 5 foot wide with a single bed above accessible by a ladder.

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I continued walking around the town, eyeing the wares in the windows (luckily I had eaten my lunch and so was able to resist the tempting delights below)…

IMG_7314…when I came upon a very old building maintained by the National Trust, Aberconwy House, a 15th century Merchant’s House. Tree-ring analysis of the roof timbers shows that the trees were felled c. 1417–1420. This dating makes it one of the oldest, datable houses in Wales and exemplifies the importance of the building. Ooooh! This could be an interesting little slice of history to go look at and experience!

It has an interesting style of construction with the big timbers on top, the stonework on the lower level, and with the top floor being jettied and the overhanging structure supported on corbel stones, what is said to be “a mark of prosperity.” The entrance to the living quarters is at the top of the stone stairs. Accessible by the arched doorway at lower left, the basement underneath is the Merchant’s Shop.

Upon entry in the living quarters, we’re greeted by volunteer tour guides in the main part of the house and the dining room.

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We then proceeded with the tour into the kitchen in the adjoining room.

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After the kitchen, we climbed the stairs to the top of the house where the living room and bedrooms were. They had the whole place laid out with authentic furnishings, artwork and one could really get a feel for how the people lived and interacted with one another inside their home at various times throughout its history.

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The bedrooms were quite comfy looking and offered some glimpses into how the place is constructed with waddle and daub.

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We finished the tour down in the shop below the house and headed back outside through the arched doorway at street level.

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The rest of the afternoon I spent driving around the countryside exploring many roads. I ended up heading over to the Isle of Anglesey near a remote beach and came upon an ancient site of the Welsh princes at  Llys Rhosyr.IMG_7390

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It was getting late in the day so I started heading back toward the hostel at the base of Snowdon. When I return to Wales one day, I would really like to concentrate my explorations out on the Isle of Anglesey as I didn’t allow for it on this trip. They have some absolutely wonderful beaches, lighthouses, windmills and a few more very interesting buildings, including another castle, Beaumaris, that I would love to visit and an old burial tomb like the one in Newgrange in Ireland. So many things to see, so little time!

Tommorrow morning we’ll head up Snowdon Mountain to its summit on the steam train. That’s going to be an adventure you won’t want to miss!  Until then… happy trails!

 

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Author: Claudia Frew

Adventuresome, independent, and fun-loving American 65-year young great-grandmother who loves to travel; often going solo!

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