Winding through the quaint towns and deep green hills of Wales by bus was the perfect way to get from Aberystwyth to the tiny town of Beddgelert. The train system in Wales isn’t what we were used to in other parts of Europe, so we opted for the bus system. It was a fantastic choice. The roads are narrow in Wales and the bus stops are small signs on the side of the road usually with one person waiting to hop on. The journey from Aberystwyth to Beddgelert was about 3 and a half hours long. In most of the other countries we have traveled the buses are large, like a Greyhound bus in America, but in Wales they are small city style buses. J. was pretty hesitant about how comfortable and accommodating it would be for the journey, but it turned out great. We had the friendliest bus driver, even stalling for an extra minute or two so I could go to the bathroom in the only town we stopped in on our journey. It was in this town that I realized I had made a planning mistake. I hate it when this happens. I realize there is somewhere I wish we were staying but we didn’t. So, I will share it with you so you don’t miss it.
Imagine a small town with nothing but dark stone buildings built side by side, each one no taller than two stories with flowers overflowing in each window box and painted shutters shining against the dark stone. The only major road leads into the main part of town which hosts an incredible hotel, small cafes and shops, the tiny post office and little market. This is Dolgellau, a perfect location to explore parts of the Snowdonia National Park, drink some Robinson’s beer, and stay in a 19th century coaching Inn. The Inn itself has been remodeled using an excellent balance of style and grace to reflect the history of the building without compromising on modern conveniences or comfort.
Our bus route took us to Caernafon, a bigger town made famous by its stunning castle. In Caernafon I had my first taste of clotted cream with a scone. Not knowing what to expect I was delighted by the perfect blend of cream and buttery consistency of the clotted cream. I am not a big baked goods eater but this Welsh specialty became my obsession for the week knowing it wouldn’t be the same once we left Wales. Once we were done with our scones and the biggest cups of coffee ever, we opted for a taxi to Beddgelert since it was going to be hours before the next bus. (I have to say this is the nice thing about being an older traveler. We have the ability to spend extra money to get places when we want rather than waiting on public transportation schedules.) As we rode through the rolling hills the tiny hamlets popping up here and there along the stone fence lined road I was overwhelmed with the quiet simplicity of this country. It is so unassuming despite the natural beauty. As we pulled into Beddgelert I was in complete awe. Never have I arrived in such an idyllic place. The quaint stone buildings lining the road lead to a stone arched bridge with the perfect creek running under it, moss on the rocks, lush green banks with ferns and flowers and crystal clear water. Immediately I knew we were in a very special place-a completely perfect place.
One of the goals in Beddgelert was to go up to Mount Snowdon, unfortunately the weather was not suitable, it was rainy and foggy, so we missed Mount Snowdon. However, this gave us time to move slowly and really explore the area. On our first day we took another steam train, the Ffestiniog Railway to Caernafon. The Ffestiniog Railway is the oldest independent railway in the world. The steam train took us through the gorgeous green fields, small waterfalls, rocky cliffs, streams and the base of Mount Snowdon before we reached Caernafon. The castle sits along the shoreline in a rare hourglass shape. It has octoganol pillars and round pillars as well as a wall which encloses the city of Caernafon. I really loved the various sculptures in the castle, and oddly the Museum of the Royal Welsh Fusiliers. It was so interesting to see the history of the last 300 years of uniforms, guns, medals and stories of Welsh history. After our tour I couldn’t resist a stop in the smallest pub in the world. Inside the warm pub, with a small fireplace we sat on tiny stools, at small tables eating some pretty good fries and drinking good beer. The perfect end to our day trip.
Dinner in Beddgelert is served between 7:00 and 9:00 and then everything closes, at least in the off season. There are only a couple of taverns and one restaurant in town. The tavern was across the bridge from our hotel so we walked over, stepped into the quaintest little tavern ever. In front there was a large picture window set into the old stone building with flowers cascading from the window boxes at every window. Inside the locals gathered for some Robinson’s beer and delicious comfort food (surprisingly every night they have vegetarian options). It was fun to talk to everyone, and listen to them tell stories about their treks on the mountain. J. and I loved hanging out in this small little tavern, it was so welcoming and full of life.
The next day we decided to stay in Beddgelert and trek around the rivers and up into the hills along the railway track. The scenery was absolutely gorgeous. Bright green fields, clear rivers with mossy banks and whispy trees moving slowly in the breeze. In one of the fields is a old stone remains from the house where the dog Gelert was killed by his owner, the Prince. The story is quite famous in Europe. The master upon returning home found his baby in it’s cradle covered in blood, he looks down and sees his family dog with blood all over his mouth. In complete grief he shoots his family dog. Then he realizes his baby isn’t dead, he goes outside and sees a dead wolf in back of the house, and realizes the dog attacked and killed the wolf to protect the baby. But it was too late for the dog. The weird thing is we saw a painting of this in the Prado Museum in Madrid without knowing the story or that we would end up in the town where the legend began hundreds of years ago.
After our walk we headed into town to shop in the one store in town and stroll along the other river. It was a completely peaceful day, except for J. laughing at my pathetic attempts to skip stones across the river. That night we ate in the restaurant, Hebog. The food was great, the beer was delicious. Followed by an evening stroll it couldn’t get any better in Beddgelert.
Where To Stay: Plas Tan Y Graig was a fantastic B&B. The rooms were comfortable, the owners were so sweet and helpful and the breakfasts were fantastic (there are even veggie and vegan options!). We would recommend anyone stay here when they are visiting Beddgelert.
Where To Eat:
Hebog restaurant for sure! If the weather is good sit outside and listen to the river run while you eat, if not eating inside is wonderful, just make sure to make reservations the day before.
Tannron Inn is the warm and wonderful pub where we ate dinner twice. We loved the casual atmosphere and delicious food.
How To Get There:
The easiest option is to drive. You can take the A5 to A498 at Capel Curing, A4085 from Caernarfon or A497 from Porthmadog.
You can travel by train from some locations arriving either in Porthmadog (9 miles away) and then taking a taxi or the Welsh Highland Railway which runs from Porthmadog to Caernarfon and the halfway point station is in the centre of Beddgelert. You can also take a train to Bangor (25 miles away) then take a taxi or bus from Bangor to Beddgelert.
You can also take the bus to Beddgelert from many different locations. As I said we loved taking the bus in Wales, there is Wi-fi, the seats are comfortable, the drivers are helpful and friendly and you are able to see a lot of gorgeous countryside as well as the towns and villages along the way.