If you're looking for a base with an Alpine feel from which to explore Snowdonia National Park, the bustling little stone village of Betws-y-Coed (bet-us-ee-koyd) stands out as a natural option. It boasts a postcard-perfect setting above an inky river, engulfed in the verdant leafiness of the Gwydyr Forest and near the junction of three river valleys: the Llugwy, the Conwy and the Lledr.
The town has been Wales' most popular inland resort since Victorian times when a group of countryside painters founded an artistic community to record the diversity of the landscape. The arrival of the railway in 1868 cemented its popularity and today Betws-y-Coed is as busy with families and coach parties as it is with walkers.
One of the joys of Betws is wandering along its riverbanks and criss-crossing over its historic bridges. The main road crosses the Conwy at the 32m-wide Waterloo Bridge. Known locally as the 'iron bridge', it bears a large inscription celebrating its construction in the year the battle was fought (1815). Behind the information centre a pleasant path leads around the tongue of land framed by the convergence of the Rivers Conwy and Llugwy, and back past St Michael's Church. Nearby, Sapper's Bridge is a white suspension footbridge (1930), which crosses the Conwy and leads through the fields up to the A470.
At the other end of the village, the 15th-century stone Pont-y-Pair (Bridge of the Cauldron) crosses a set of rapids on the Llugwy. A riverside path leads to the Miners' Bridge, about a mile downstream, so called as this was the route miners took on their way to work in nearby lead mines. This was the oldest crossing of the Llugwy, but the original bridge is long gone.