A Day in Wales Part II: Betws-y-coed

LLanrust, Wales
LLanrwst, Wales 

Continuing our journey through northern Wales, we wound our way through the twisting hills away from Conwy, through small villages en route to Betws-y-coed. The hills were dotted with sheep, small farmhouses, and occasional shops. But our eyes were often lifted to the sky, which changed with a fury of heavy rain-laden clouds, great sweeps of cotton candy white wisps, and then the pure blue that comes with the sun. It was a dramatic backdrop to the sweeping landscape.

One of the most picturesque towns of northern Wales is Llanrwst, known for its vine covered cottage which is green in summer and turns a fiery red in fall. The Llanrwst bridge crosses the River Conwy in the lowlands at the base of Snowdonia. Originally known as the center of wool trading in Wales and England, Llanrwst still holds vestiges of this early economy. The town today also has a lovely town square featuring small cafes and stores.

Enjoy a cup of tea in Llanrwst
Enjoy a cup of tea in Llanrwst (Photo: Chris DeGennaro)

Our focus for the 2nd part of our Wales adventure was the town of Betws-y-coed, a resort and hiking village in Snowdonia National Park.

So many options when touring Wales
So many options when touring Wales (Photo: Chris DeGennaro)

We were delighted to spend two hours in the village of Betws-y-coed, which featured shops, pubs, guesthouses, and a large town green perfect for football(UK) and frisbee. After hiking up and down the streets of Conwy and touring Conwy Castle, our stomachs were grumbling. So we settled into a pub lunch at the Gwesty Glan Aber.

The pub at the Gwesty Glan Aber is the perfect spot to relax
The pub at the Gwesty Glan Aber is the perfect spot to relax (Photo: Chris DeGennaro)

LOML ordered a BLT with chips and I (when in Rome) ordered the Welsh Lamb Stew. We also walked back into another room which housed the bar two get two pints of ice cold ale and cider, which were very refreshing.

Two pints of happiness
Two pints of happiness (Photo: Chris DeGennaro)

We did not have to wait long to get our food, and readily dug in! LOML’s BLT featured thick cut slab bacon, crisp lettuce, and tomato with a small side of crisps. We also had ordered some chips on the side, which turned out to be the best of our entire trip.

The best chips this side of the Mid-Atlantic Ridge
The best chips this side of the Mid-Atlantic Ridge (Photo: Chris DeGennaro)

My lamb stew was delicious. I am still thinking about it now. Piping hot, it was filled with chunks of lamb, tender carrots, leeks, potatoes, and onions. It was perfect thing to warm me up on the cool day we visited Wales.

Welsh lamb stew
Welsh lamb stew (Photo: Chris DeGennaro)

Fortified by our lunch at the Gwesty Glan Aber, we walked into the heart of town. Dominating the town green is St. Mary’s Church, built with local bluestone in the 1870’s.

The Church of St. Mary, Betws-y-coed
The Church of St. Mary, Betws-y-coed (Photo: Chris DeGennaro)

One thing you will notice immediately about the town is its outdoorsy-ness. The town is a rest stop for hiking enthusiasts in and around Snowdonia National park. We came across many determined individuals with backpacks and hiking shorts. Stopping in to the main outdoor sports center in town, you would not be lacking for anything should you need to pick up equipment before your hike.

The Cotswold Outdoor Store in Betws-y-coed is ready to outfit you for your hike
The Cotswold Outdoor Store in Betws-y-coed is ready to outfit you for your hike (Photo: Chris DeGennaro)

We would have hiked up the mountain, but after seeing all the serious equipment everyone was purchasing, we thought it wiser to purchase postcards and visit the Anna Davies shop next door (ok that was my idea). Should you want some awesome toasty slippers lined with lambswool, Welsh plaid blankets, and sweet smelling candles (and who doesn’t?) then make sure to pop into the Anna Davies shop.

Anna Davies makes for happy warm feet after you come out of the forest
Anna Davies makes for happy warm feet after you come out of the forest (Photo: Chris DeGennaro)

We also popped into the Londis shop, which is like a quainter version of 7-11. Inside were lots of convenience foods, magazines, and newspapers. Convenience stores and supermarkets in other countries are an absolute favorite of mine. I love looking at all of the different packaging and taste profiles, and these shops often offer some (very) affordable fun souvenirs. We bought a packet of prawn cocktail-flavored potato crisps, two boxes of chocolate tea cakes and custard tarts to bring home to family, and a large cadbury chocolate bar that had little cells of liquid mint in each square, which the cashier swore was the best chocolate bar on the planet (it was). The Londis store also houses the town post office, which was closed by the time we got there (2:15 PM).

Convenience stores offer convenient affordable souvenirs
Convenience stores offer convenient affordable souvenirs (Photo: Chris DeGennaro)

After sitting for a bit on the town green, there was just one more thing to do: We had to have a Welsh Cake.  A Welsh Cake is a small hot griddle cake, a bit more dense than the American pancake, often filled with currants and dusted with superfine sugar. Luckily, there is just the spot in Betws-y-coed: the Welsh Cake Company (Cwmni Cacen Gri). This quaint little hole in the wall on the town green makes Welsh Cakes right in front of you, so they come into your hands all sugary and piping hot.

The Welsh Cake Company is cute as a button inside
The Welsh Cake Company is cute as a button inside (Photo: Chris DeGennaro)

You can also purchase beverages and other sweet treats here. They make their own fudge, carrot cake, brownies and Bara Brith (a Welsh fruitcake…which may explain my love of fruitcake) as well as sell cups of Illy brand coffee. They use delicious real Welsh Butter in their Welsh cakes, which makes them absolutely delectable. We walked around outside giddy with joy as we nibbled our warm Welsh cakes.

A Welsh Cake from The Welsh Cake Company = Pure Joy
A Welsh Cake from The Welsh Cake Company = Pure Joy (Photo: Chris DeGennaro)

It was then time to get back onboard the bus and return to Liverpool and the QM2. We sailed through the Welsh moors and then descended again into the green valleys of Denbighshire. Life in this land is a fairytale.

How Green Was My Valley? VERY Green
How Green Was My Valley? VERY Green (Photo: Chris DeGennaro)
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