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Gwydir Forest: Home to lakes, mountains and castles in the heart of Snowdonia

The Gwydir Forest, near Llanrwst in the Conwy Valley, is a beautiful and intriguing place to explore during the glorious autumn months. As well as its beautiful mountain and valley vistas, and magnificent foliage, it’s an atmospheric place to explore with an intriguing history.

The forest is also home to the infamous Marin mountain bike trail. The forest covers an area of 28 square miles (72 sq km), and you’ll find it between the towns of Llanrwst and Betws y Coed. It has its own castle, one of the finest Tudor houses in Wales, and ancestral home of the powerful Wynn baronets, descended from the Kings and Princes of Gwynedd.

It’s an extensive, rolling upland of wooded knolls, lakes and pastures which is famous for some of Wales’s most important oak woodlands as well as its towering Douglas Fir and  Norway spruce trees. All shades of green, gold and red await you at this time of year thanks to the forest’s mix of conifer and deciduous trees. You’ll also find cascading waterfalls, crystal clear lakes, awe inspiring mountain vistas and forgotten river valleys. Take time to breathe deep and fill your lungs with that beautifully clean Snowdonia air.

There’s plenty of room to feel like you have Gwydir Forest to yourself. But if you want to seek them out you’ll find a wide range of activities like mountain biking and horse riding and even some organised group walks. Keep your eyes peeled for a good diversity of wildlife, including buzzards, peregrines, black grouse, and lesser horseshoe bats. If you’re lucky (very lucky) you might even spot the elusive pine marten.

Tracks, old miners’ paths, cycle trails and long-established walks make this forest an absolute delight to explore on foot, on two wheels or in the saddle.

Activities at Gwydir Forest

Walk to the Swallow Falls. A waymarked walk of around 6 miles will guide you to this area of outstanding natural beauty. It’s where the river Llugwy flows through a narrow chasm creating a spectacular Snowdonian waterfall against a beautiful background of beech, conifer and birch trees. Start at the car park at Llyn Sarnau, near Betws y Coed.

Follow the Llwybr y Ceirw Sculture Trail. The trail is inspired by the medieval history of the town of Llanrwst. One of the sculptures pays homage to Wales’s real-life Robin Hood figure – Dafydd ap Siencyn – who lived in the forest overlooking the town with his army of followers. A signposted path leads almost directly up from the Sawbench car park (also the start of infamous Marin Mountain Bike Trail) to the Caerdroia Labyrinth site in the heart of the Gwydyr Forest. More information here.

Visit Gwydir castle. This fine Tudor house features beautifully tended Grade I listed Renaissance gardens with spectacular yew and cedar trees. There are ten acres to wander around, and parts of the house are open to visitors too, including the magnificent 1640s panelled dining room. It is open from 1st April – 31st October, 10am – 4pm. Closed on Mondays and Saturdays. Entry is £6 for adults and £3 for children.

Tackle the infamous Marin mountain bike trail. The Red Graded (difficult) Marin Trail is a challenging but intensely rewarding mountain bike trail. Big climbs, big descents, brilliant single track and beautiful scenery make it a trail to remember. Most, but not all, of the climbs are on forest roads and tracks giving you time to take in the views of the mountains of Snowdonia. All of the descents are on single track. More info here.

Where to stay?

We have some fabulous holiday cottages near the Gwydir Forest. Why not make the most of a break and book a week? If you’d prefer a weekend stay, we can also offer short breaks throughout the autumn, spring and winter months and last minute during the summer. So, what are you waiting for? Take a look at our holiday accommodation in the Conwy Valley right here.

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