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  Forest Trails above the Llugwy

Through Gwydir Forest to the Swallow Falls

The Afon Llugwy and its higher tributaries help drain the heart of Snowdonia's mountain massif. Grains of sand that were once part of the Carneddau and The Glyders now scour a course through the spectacular scenery around Betws-y-Coed, tumbling en-route over the famous Swallow Falls. This walk passes above these cataracts, having started at a secluded lake high in the Gwydir Forest. The area is rich in minerals and the walk passes tantalising remains of mines and quarries that have produced riches as varied as fine slate, lead and even silver and gold. In the woodlands is a wealth of wild birds including Britain's smallest, the Goldcrest. You're more likely to see buzzards soaring far overhead or hear woodpeckers about their business in the mixed plantations. Polecats and Pinemartins make a home here too. The forest is popular with off road cyclists, so keep a sharp eye out.

Route
From the car park beside little Llyn Sarnau, turn right along the forestry road. Keep left at the fork and walk up to a fingerpost pointing your way to the right, passing above a smaller pond. At the next junction keep left, open pastures now to your right.

Cross virtually straight over here, picking up the forestry road beyond a barrier. This descends into the woods, narrowing to a path shortly before reaching a fence just above the remarkable Miners’ Bridge. It’s worth venturing onto this steep footbridge for views along the river Llugwy. Return to the fence and keep it on your left. An adventurous path meanders through the woods above the river, the fence soon fading away. Underfoot it can be slippery, the tree roots are out to get you and awkward natural steps need care when used. It’s a glorious walk, however, so tread carefully whilst enjoying marvellous oakwoods clinging to slopes above the river. Just beyond a steep, broken wall fork right with the main path, rising to a lane.

Turn left and walk the tarred lane for about 150 yards to a forestry road branching left; there’s a low waymarker post here for Rhaeadr Ewynnol (Swallow Falls). Take this and keep along the higher track at the junction. Keep left along a narrower path to reach a small clearing, beyond this cross a footbridge and keep left at a fingerpost to reach a wider track. Turn right for twenty paces then fork left at the yellow-painted flash, cross another footbridge and keep left, this path soon developing into a spectacular ledged, fenced route high above the Llugwy gorge. You’ll soon reach a railed path down to the left; this leads to a viewing platform offering unrivalled views of The Swallow Falls.

Rejoin the main path and continue upstream. Yellow-tipped marker posts guide your way along the widest path, eventually reaching a junction with another forestry road. Look directly opposite for a narrow path (marked with a yellow-tipped post) up rough steps. Pick up this winding path that gradually climbs through the woods, at one point crossing directly over a further forestry road. Passing through a broken wall, the well-marked path eventually levels out near a waymarked post pointing the way to Ty’n Llwyn car park. At a gate turn right along the lane. Remain on this past the car park and the first junction, wide views now opening out south and east across the forest. Immediately past the junction for Llyn Geirionydd and Llanrhychwyn, a rather gorsey path forks off to the right, leading to the scattered remains of Cyffty lead mine and works. Several interpretation boards guide you through the site, which closed down after the Great War. Return to the lane and continue in the same direction to return to the car park at Llyn Sarnau.

Map - click to enlarge

DISTANCE : c. 6 miles (9.7 km)
TIME: Allow 3 - 3.5 hours
TERRAIN: Mostly easy paths forestry roads and lanes. A long gradual climb out of the valley.
PARKING: Llyn Sarnau picnic site
REFRESHMENTS: Swallow Falls Hotel
LOCATION: Llyn Sarnau is beside a minor road in Gwydir Forest. Take the A5 road to "The Ugly House", west of Betws-y-Coed and take the minor road here, signed for Llanrwst.
PUBLIC TRANSPORT: "Snowdon Sherpa" seasonal buses pass the Ugly House.
PUBLIC CONVENIENCES: none
O.S. DETAILS: OS Map Explorer Sheet OL17
GRID REF: SH 776591



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