For an unforgettable autumn experience, take a road trip along the Conwy Valley. With a dazzling display to rival New England’s fiery finery, a leisurely drive down the valley provides ample photo opportunities and some great sightseeing spots.
Play the ‘left-right game’ or meander up the valley (top tip: the Trefriw side is a driving enthusiast’s dream route!), the choice is yours but, for us, there are some places that simply shouldn’t be missed. The best way to see these sights is to make a break of it – and lucky for you, Great Escapes Wales has some of the best holiday cottages in Conwy!
A long and winding road
Start your journey at the ‘Gateway to Snowdonia’, Betws y Coed. This quaint alpine village has excellent shopping facilities, a large public park and a choice of accessible forest trails (suitable for prams and wheelchairs).
Taking the Trefriw road (the B5106) stop off at Gwydir Castle to enjoy the ornate formal gardens and sixteenth century architecture. Watch out for the resident ‘guard peacocks’ though!The more adventurous should take a sharp left at the crossroads outside Gwydir Castle (signposted Nant Bwlch yr Haearn) and head up the mountain to tackle the famous Marin Trail, a challenging 25km bike route through stunning mountain scenery.
Everyone else should follow the road to the right and ford the river at the much-photographed Y Bont Fawr (the Big Bridge) into Llanrwst. With a good selection of bars and restaurants, this ancient market town makes a perfect pit-stop.
- If being off the beaten track s your thing, this stone-built house is one of the most private holiday cottages in Conwy Valley. Click to find out more.
Surf and turf
Drivers now have a choice to make: head back across the river to continue your journey via Trefriw and Dolgarrog, or join the A470 and make for Eglwysbach. Either way, the autumnal scenery is guaranteed to be stunning – a mixture of ‘turning’ deciduous woodland and brooding evergreen forest.
Keeping to the B5106, pass through the small village of Trefriw, once an important centre of textile making in the Conwy Valley. The woollen mill is worth a visit and the factory shop has some great bargains.
A few minutes down the road brings you to Dolgarrog, a Welsh village in decline until very recently. Once home to an aluminium works, the factory employed people from miles around, until its sudden closure in 2007.
However, Dolgarrog has enjoyed a revival in its fortunes with the establishment of the adrenalin-junkies Mecca, Surf Snowdonia. A great day out for watersports enthusiasts and landlubbers alike, it’s worth a visit even if just to marvel at the feat of engineering that made this place possible.
- This luxury holiday lodge is just down the road from Surf Snowdonia – why not see if it’s available? Click here to find out more.
If you chose to follow the historic coaching route, the A470, from Llanrwst you will soon find yourself bordering the Bodnant Estate.If you need an excuse for another pit-stop, make it Bodnant Welsh Food! A gastronome’s delight, this farm shop brings the best food and drink of the Conwy Valley together in one place.
A food hall complete with delicatessen and bakery, a wine cellar, and an on-site café and restaurant, makes Bodnant Food a popular destination for locals and visitors alike. Whether you’re after a souvenir of your road trip, seasonal veg or just a quick cuppa, it’s a charming place with stunning views up and down the valley.
Bodnant Garden is beautiful whatever time of year you visit, but we think autumn here is rather special. There’s something quite magical about a stroll through the gardens on a clear, crisp day; leaves falling delicately around you, crunchy underfoot, and the sound of water rushing everywhere.
If Bodnant Garden has you under its spell too, why not join the head gardener on a special walk to view the autumn colours? We highly recommend you book, this will be a very popular event.
- Fig Tree Cottage is just a county road away from Bodnant Gardens – and it’s one of only a handful of holiday cottages in Conwy that has an indoor pool. Click here to take the plunge!
Nestled at the mouth of the River Conwy, as fresh water gives way to salt, is the RSPB Conwy Reserve. This wild and wonderful place offers visitors a unique opportunity to get up close and personal with our feathered friends.
During the autumn, the reserve welcomes a huge variety of birdlife, native and foreign, as they prepare for the harsh winter months ahead. Unusual wading species, such as the black-tailed godwit and whimbrel, and migrating ducks all call Conwy home for the winter.Keen to know more? Every Saturday throughout the autumn and winter months, you can join Conwy’s wildlife guides for a two-hour walk around the reserve.
- You can watch estuary birds from the picture-windows of The Treehouse. Few holiday cottages in Conwy can beat this view! Click here to check it out.
All roads lead to…
Sit back and enjoy the rolling scenery on the final leg of your journey, which comes to an end as you drive through the walls of the medieval town of Conwy. Conwy itself needs no introduction, being famed the world-over for its magnificent castle and historic town centre.
All great journeys come to an end and where better than beside a roaring log fire with a glass of your favourite tipple? For sheer ambience and excellent Welsh food, we recommend The Castle Hotel in the centre of Conwy. Pull up a seat, get comfortable and relive your memorable trip late into the evening!
Ready to stay awhile? Click here for a great selection of holiday cottages in Conwy.
- We hope we’ve inspired you to take a Conwy Valley road trip of your own. Follow our route or make your own; whatever you choose to do, you’ll be surrounded by autumn splendour. We’d love to see your autumnal photos – tweet them to us @GreatEscapesW and we’ll retweet our favourites!