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Through the Conwy & Lledr Valleys
to Blaenau Ffestiniog & Porthmadog
Part 1 - The Conwy Valley  [Part 2 - Betws-y-coed]  [Part 3 - The Lledr Valley]  [Part 4 - Vale of Ffestiniog]

The broad glacial valley of the River Conwy rises in Llyn Conwy near Ysbyty Ifan in the eastern foothills of Snowdonia. The Conwy is joined near Betws-y-coed by two major tributaries. The River Llugwy rises on the southern slopes of Carnedd Llewellyn and flows via the Nant Ffrancon Pass, through Capel Curig and over the Swallow Falls. The beautiful valley of the River Lledr, which rises near Roman Bridge at the foot of the notable Crimea Pass road, first built by Russian soldiers taken prisoner in the Crimean War, continues the route of the A470 trunk road from Llandudno through the Conwy and Lledr valleys to Blaenau Ffestiniog and southwards to Cardiff. The Conwy Valley Railway line follows the same route southwards to Roman Bridge from where the longest single track railway tunnel in the United Kingdom runs two miles through the slate mountain to Blaenau Ffestiniog. At Blaenau, the railway from Llandudno is joined by the narrow gauge Ffestiniog Railway, which continues the passenger route southwards to Porthmadog. From Llandudno to Blaenau is 31 miles and from Blaenau to Porthmadog 14 miles.

Both A470 road and the railway follow the Conwy Valley floor on the eastern side of the river from Llandudno Junction through Glan Conwy, Tal-y-cafn, Maenan and Llanrwst to Betws-y-coed.  Above is a modern residential area of Llansantffraid Glan Conwy (to give the village its full title) with superb views across the river.  Below, swans in their natural habitat were photographed from the Glan Conwy station platform and between Llandudno Junction and Glan Conwy is the RSPB Conwy bird sanctuary.

A little further south and high above the valley floor is the world famous Bodnant Garden owned by the National Trust and seen below. Please visit my Bodnant webpages. Glan Conwy and Bodnant Garden are both served by the Arriva bus service from Llandudno to Eglwsbach (Service 25 from the Palladium at 9:20am and every hour until 17:20pm).

On the river, two miles from the Bodnant Garden entrance is Tal-y-cafn with its old coaching inn and formerly a ferry crossing on the old drover's road (now a popular mountain footpath) from Anglesey via Abergwyngregyn, Bwlchyddeufaen and Rowen, which was formerly a Roman road on the route of prehistoric tracks from their permanent fort at Caerhun on the western bank of the river near the ferry, which was itself replaced in 1897 by the present road bridge.

The side roads to the right and left form the ancient route, which to the left crosses the railway and then the river bridge. This ancient ferry crossing is the first crossing of the river after Conwy itself with famous bridges on the site of an ancient ferry.

Tal-y-cafn still has a manned road crossing gate.

The redeveloped residential site of the former Ferryboat Inn on the western bank. Beyond here at Ty'n-y-groes, the road from Tal-y-cafn joins the B5106 road from Conwy through Tal-y-bont, Dolgarrog and Trefriw to Betws-y-Coed. Arriva operate a bus service every half hour from Llandudno to Llanrwst via Conwy, Rowen, Tal-y-bont, Dolgarrog and Trefriw.

A fine pub on the western side of the river between Conwy and Tal-y-Bont "Y Bedol"  "The Horseshoe"

Nearby and photographed from the bridge, a swan's nest in its natural habitat.

The railway continues south from Tal-y-cafn on the eastern bank of the river through Maenan (where there is a station called Dolgarrog to serve that township by way of a footbridge and pathway) and onwards to Llanrwst North, which is the original station for the market town of Llanrwst.  Llanrwst in 1276 was seized by Llewellyn ap Gruffydd,  Prince of Wales, declaring it a "free borough" independent from the diocese of St. Asaph to which tithes were formerly paid. Llanrwst developed significantly following the establishment of the English fortress at Conwy by Edward I in 1283-9 when Llanrwst was ideally placed for a free Welsh market conveniently able to trade with the Conwy garrison.

This elegant suspension footbridge, the Gower bridge, links by local footpaths Llanrwst North station (at one time called Llanrwst and Trefriw) with the village community of Trefriw, where the Romans had established a spa with hot baths to serve its garrisons in North Wales.  The Victorians revived the Spa and built this fine fountain head where hydrotherapy can still be sampled:

The Victorian Spa at Trefriw on the site of the Roman baths.

The Trefriw Woolen Mills, one of the finest surviving tweed mills in Wales, very popular with visitors.

The tranquil River Conwy near Trefriw.

This famous narrow three arch stone bridge, Pont Fawr, dating from 1636 was built by Sir John Wynn of Gwydr Castle reputedly to the design of Inigo Jones. The bridge connects Llanrwst with Gwydr, a manor house dating from 1492, and connects with the west bank road from Conwy to Betws-y-coed. It is on the site of an ancient ford and possibly also an earlier bridge. It is still the only road crossing of the river between Tal-y-cafn and Betws-y-Coed.

Tu Hwnt i'r Bont the 15th century Court House over the bridge from Llanrwst is in the care of the National Trust and currently let for use as popular tea rooms.

The thirteenth century church at Llanrwst commemorates St Grwst, the seventh century founder of an earlier church on this site. Other property of interest in this ancient Welsh town include The Almshouses built by Sir John Wynn in 1610.

Continue southwards from Llanrwst by train, by A470 road or across the bridge and south on the
B5106 road past the Gwydr estate. Both roads and the train lead to Betws-y-coed - click the Part 2 link below.

  NEXT  [Part 2 - Betws-y-coed]  [Part 3 - The Lledr Valley]  [Part 4 - Vale of Ffestiniog]

Photographs © 2004/7 by Noel Walley.  Updated December 2008

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Conwy & North Wales