Blaenau Ffestiniog to Bangor
An intriguing route up the Conwy Valley to the northern coast
Follow the route - Blaenau Ffestiniog to Bangor
> From Blaenau Ffestiniog continue along the A470 to Betws-y-Coed.
Betws-y-Coed is a popular inland resort set among forested land and magnificent mountains. The River Conwy is met by three tributaries here, and there are numerous bridges, waterfalls, and river pools with walks and play areas for children. Upstream are the Swallow Falls, one of the most famous of all tourist attractions in North Wales, and downstream is Fairy Glen, a much photographed and painted beauty spot. Back in the centre of the small town, there are many interesting shops and a craft centre. Mountain bikes can be rented. The 14th-century Church of St Mary has a Norman font and an effigy of the great-nephew of Llywelyn the Great.
Places to stay in Betws-y-Coed
> Leave Betws-y-Coed on the A5, shortly turning right on to the B5106 and follow it north for 4 miles (6.5km) to Llanrwst.
This historic market town is set in a delightful landscape of hills, forests, rivers and lakes. The bridge was designed by Inigo Jones in 1636, and the Gwydir Chapel contains the coffin of Llywelyn, Prince of Wales. At the Trefriw Woollen Mills, you can see bedspreads and tweeds being manufactured, using electricity generated from the River Crafnant.
Places to stay in Llanrwst
> Continue along the A470 to Tal-y-Cafn.
The 80-acre (32-hectare) garden at Bodnant is claimed to be one of the finest gardens in the world. Now owned by the National Trust, it is located in the beautiful Conwy Valley, with views out to the Snowdon mountains. Throughout the year visitors can find much of interest, with native and exotic trees and flowers, and there is a nursery where plants are propagated.
Places to stay near Tal-y-Cafn
> Keep going along the A470 and then the A547 to Colwyn Bay.
Visiting Colwyn Bay
Colwyn Bay is a lively seaside town, which grew in the late 19th century as a result of the arrival of the railway, and the pier, promenade and many hotels and shops date from this period. The town is famous for its parks and gardens. The Welsh Mountain Zoo has chimpanzees, birds of prey, a sea lion display and jungle adventure land. Its garden setting enjoys a panoramic view over the North Wales coast and the mountains of Snowdonia to the south.
Places to stay near Colwyn Bay
> Follow the B5115 coast road for 6 miles (10km) to Llandudno.
St Tudno gave his name to the town in the 5th century, and a church still stands on the site of his cell. The town is the largest holiday resort in Wales, with two excellent sandy beaches situated between the headlands of Great Orme and Little Orme. The Great Orme Summit Complex can be reached on the Great Orme Tramway, which has been taking passengers up to the top of the 679-foot (207m) summit since 1902. The energetic can enjoy the artificial ski slope and the 2,300-foot (700m) toboggan run, and there are fun rides for the children.
Llandudno retains some of its Victorian elegance while catering for modern visitors. Lewis Carroll was a visitor, and Alice Liddell, for whom he wrote Alice in Wonderland, stayed here. The sights and sounds of civilian life in 1940s Britain are captured in the Home Front Experience, with a series of evocative displays.
Places to stay in Llandudno
> Drive south along the A546 and then the A547 over the river to Conwy.
Conwy’s castle dominates the town, and inside it is a model of the castle and town as they were in the 14th century. This ancient city still has its complete medieval walls, and you can take a pleasant stroll along the ramparts. There are three remarkable bridges crossing the river, including the Conwy Suspension Bridge, designed and built by Thomas Telford in 1826 and renovated in 1990. The smallest house in Britain, a mere 6 feet (2m) wide and 10 feet (3m) high, stands on the quay.
More than 200 bird species have been spotted at the RSPB Nature Reserve on the banks of the Conwy Estuary.
Places to stay in Conwy
> Head west along the A55 to Penmaenmawr and further along to Llanfairfechan.
Penmaenmawr has one of the finest beaches in North Wales, stretching between two granite headlands, and this is a fun holiday centre for the children. Further along, at Llanfairfechan, there is a sandy beach and beautiful inland scenery.
There are excellent walks nearby, notably up to the Aber Falls, 3 miles (5km) west of the town. The village of Aber was once the location of the palace of the Welsh king, Llywelyn the Great.
> Keep on along the A55 before turning right on to the A5, passing Penrhyn Castle on the return to Bangor.
One of the smallest cities in Britain, Bangor is known more for its buzzing university than anything else. In term time, its population of 12,000 swells with around 10,000 students. Old Bangor is a maze of streets leading down to the sea. Gwynedd Museum and Art Gallery can be found in town, and contains many culturally important artefacts and modern exhibitions.