Swallow Falls (Rhaeadr Ewynnol)

Betws-y-Coed / Snowdonia National Park, Conwy County, Wales

Rating: 2     Difficulty: 1.5
Swallow Falls (Rhaeadr Ewynnol)

TABLE OF CONTENTS



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INTRODUCTION

Swallow Falls (Rhaeadr Ewynnol in Welsh [I think pronounced "HRAYE-uh-dur ew-UHN-nol]) was definitely one of the more famous waterfalls we encountered while we were touring Wales. Not only did this waterfall appear on a Rick Steves DVD (which we watched as part of our pre-trip research), but it also featured prominently on several guidebooks as well as other sources in the literature. So there was a lot of anticipation on our part to visit the falls. However, it would turn out that our visit was a bit on the rushed side thanks to some unforeseen events concerning a flat tire on our rental car and the accompanying fallout from coordinating with the roadside help people to get the issue fixed without losing an entire day while on holiday.

That said, when we did get a chance to lay our own eyes on the falls, we were treated to a dazzling display of a rivuleted cascade where the Afon Llugwy (pronounced like "av-on HTHLIG-wee" or Llugwy River) dropped some 15m or so in an upper drop before cascading down smaller tiers further downstream. When arrived at the fall entrance in mid-morning right off the A5 across from the Swallow Falls Hotel (see directions below), we paid 1.5 pound per adult (Tahia squeezed in with Julie) at a coin-op turnstile. I don't think the machine gave change so we might have lost out based on how much change we had on us. In any case, once we were on the other side, we quickly walked a short, well-developed slightly downhill path to the main upper lookout of the waterfall (as you see pictured at the top of this page).

After having our fill of this viewpoint, we then continued down a some steps leading closer to the river. One branch of the lower path went back towards the waterfall for a slightly different and more frontal view of Swallow Falls. The other path continued further down more steps eventually leading to a lookout almost jutting out onto the Afon Llugwy itself. From down there, we were able to look upstream towards a lower cascade as well as a partial view of the upper main drop of Swallow Falls. Looking further downstream, we could see there were coins at the bottom of a calm part of the river suggesting that people have tossed them for one reason or another. Plus, we also were mesmerized by what appeared to be tiny vortices or whirlpools where the turbulence of the river just downstream of the falls would interact with the rocks and riverbanks and actually have a spinning motion as it the water would continue further downstream.

After getting our fill of this spot, we then went back up through the turnstile and back to the parked car. We noticed that there was somebody about to open up a ticket booth next to the turnstile so perhaps he was there to collect the fees in person. Overall, we had spent about 25 minutes at the falls, but admittedly it was a little rushed because we knew we had to quickly head back towars the Llandudno Junction to meet up with a roadside asistance guy to help replace a bad tire we were driving on.

Finally, something that we noticed throughout Wales was that most of the place names had equivalent Welsh names. In the case of Swallow Falls, its currently accepted Welsh name was Rhaeadr Ewynnol, which was said to mean "Foaming Waterfall". However, I learned later that even this Welsh pronunciation might have been a bastardization of "Y Wennol", which actually meant "the swallow". The association with the bird may have something to do with early visitors who thought the waterfall resembled the patterns of feathers on the back of a swallow.




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PHOTO JOURNAL

While we were touring North Wales, we based ourselves in the charming town of Conwy, which featured the UNESCO Conwy Castle as well as the city wallsWhile we were touring North Wales, we based ourselves in the charming town of Conwy, which featured the UNESCO Conwy Castle as well as the city walls
Although this wasn't on the way between Conwy and Swallow Falls, Caernarfon Castle was also a worthwhile UNESCO castle well worth a stop some 23 miles west of Conwy or 45 minutesAlthough this wasn't on the way between Conwy and Swallow Falls, Caernarfon Castle was also a worthwhile UNESCO castle well worth a stop some 23 miles west of Conwy or 45 minutes
Another worthwhile place to check out just 5 miles north of Conwy was the Victorian beach resort town of Llandudno, which had colorful Victorian homes that really reminded us of San FranciscoAnother worthwhile place to check out just 5 miles north of Conwy was the Victorian beach resort town of Llandudno, which had colorful Victorian homes that really reminded us of San Francisco
In addition to Conwy Castle, Conwy also featured well-preserved city walls yielding this view over the town towards the impressive castle itselfIn addition to Conwy Castle, Conwy also featured well-preserved city walls yielding this view over the town towards the impressive castle itself
Looking across the A5 road towards the Swallow Falls HotelLooking across the A5 road towards the Swallow Falls Hotel

Our first look at Swallow Falls from the uppermost lookoutOur first look at Swallow Falls from the uppermost lookout

Portrait view of Swallow Falls from the uppermost lookoutPortrait view of Swallow Falls from the uppermost lookout

More focused look at the main cascading tier of Swallow FallsMore focused look at the main cascading tier of Swallow Falls

Julie and Tahia checking out Swallow Falls from the lookout just below the uppermost oneJulie and Tahia checking out the falls from the lookout just below the uppermost one

The steps leading down to a lower lookout pointThe steps leading down to a lower lookout point

Looking upstream from the lowest lookout towards Swallow FallsLooking upstream from the lowest lookout towards Swallow Falls

Looking down at the context of the lowest lookout at the bottom of the stepsLooking down at the context of the lowest lookout at the bottom of the steps

When we went back through the coin-op turnstile, we saw this guy about to open up the ticket window right next to itWhen we went back through the coin-op turnstile, we saw this guy about to open up the ticket window right next to it


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VIDEOS OF THE FALLS


Checking out the falls from two different lookouts


Bottom up sweep from the coins thrown into the Nantygwryd then leading upstream towards the main tiers of the falls


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DRIVING DIRECTIONS

We stayed at Conwy so we'll describe our driving route from there. Leaving Conwy, we drove east on the Conwy Road (A547) then we turned right and went by three roundabouts as we headed towards Betws-y-Coed [pronounced "BET-us-uh-KOY-eed"] (signs would point the way to the correct exit to take at the roundabouts). Once we got onto the A470, we headed south for about 15 miles (passing through the town of Llanrwst) before turning right onto the A5. Going west for about 2.7 miles through the town of Betws-y-Coed, we would eventually get to the Swallow Falls Hotel, where there was a spacious pay and display car park.

Apparently since we showed up somewhat early enough, we actually saw people were parking in a limited space for free on the other side of the A5 at a layby, and so we ended up doing the same. Overall, this drive took us on the order of 45 minutes, especially in light of the traffic volume the A470 tended to get plus there were very few opportunities to safely pass slower moving vehicles.

Alternately, a less-busier road (albeit narrower) to take from Conwy would be to go south on the B5106 road for 3.5 miles towards Tyn-y-Groes, then take the single-lane road east to get back onto the A470 going south, or to stay on the B5106 road further south to Llanrwst (11.3 miles). Then follow the A470 to the A5 as directed above.

For some more context, Conwy was 27 miles (about 45 minutes drive) northeast of Caernarfon, 55 miles (over an hour drive) west of Liverpool, 83 miles (2.5 hours drive) north of Aberystwyth, 192 miles (4 hours drive) north of Cardiff, and 259 miles (4.5 hours drive) northwest of London.




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ITINERARIES

For more information about our itineraries involving this waterfall, check out the following links.




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MAP OF THE FALLS



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TRIP REPORTS

For more information about our experiences with this waterfall, check out the following travel stories.




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TRIP PLANNING RESOURCES





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NEARBY WATERFALLS




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