About Swallow Falls (Rhaeadr Ewynnol)
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.
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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