1895: Day trippers

Bridge at Bettws y Coed by Ray Jones (Creative Commons)

As the 1890’s continued, there is an increasing reference in Thomas’ journal to days out, some organised by the family, others part of an organised group. Transport was made easily available and destinations, such as the attractive village of Bettws y Coed, still magnet for modern day tourists, geared up to receive visitors and receive their money. In August 1895, Frances Harriet’s brother William Williams and his wife were visiting the Ruddy family, and they set out for a day’s enjoyment.

Wednesday the 28th. We were all up early to get ready to go to Bettws-y-Coed with Mr and Mrs W.   We left here by the 9.10 train, and had a wagonette and pair of horses waiting for us at Bala station. We left the station at 9.40 and got to Bettws -y-Coed at 12.30.  We follow the road to Ffestiniog until we got to Frongoch, here we turned to the right by the side of the stream called Monachdwr and passed the vicarage. We passed a few houses and the chapel at Glanrafrn in Cumtir Mynach. After passing Pont Monachdwr, we saw the clay works of Mr Price at Rhiwlas.  

We got into Denbighshire when we crossed a small brook which skirts the road for a short distance and then goes towards Llangwm.  We got onto the Holyhead Road at Pont Arddwyfaen, about a couple of miles south of Cerrig-y-Druidion.  It is a dreary and an interesting road from Frongoch to the Holyhead road.

A short halt was made at the roadside hotel called the Saracen’s Head near Cerrig-y-Druidion. (Below – now houses?)

Thomas continues with a blow by blow commentary on the journey. It seems their route was already well favoured by tourists.

Pentre Voelas Hotel, image by Nigel Gallaghan under Creative Commons.

Pentre Voelas Hotel seems to be a comfortable place; it is in a hollow sheltered by trees and has nice gardens.  There were many people about it– tourists and bicyclists.

  The scenery is very pleasing all the way to Betws y Coed; the Conway runs in a continual torrent the walls of rock; it makes a short detour westward where it receives the river Machno, and shortly afterwards the united streams for over a rocky slope called the Conway Falls. The river now runs in a deep dingle with the rocky slopes on each side, and the whole is well clothed with trees. The road is high above the river on the rocky slope, the rock is composed of the usual felstone ash rock, so common in North Wales.

Afon Conwy by John Firth Creative Commons

 We got to the Waterloo Hotel, which is a short distance from the bridge, and about a quarter of a mile from the station and church at 12:30 o’clock. We returned over the Waterloo Bridge, which is an iron structure of one span, built in the year 1815. It carries the Holyhead Road over the Conway. It is very beautiful here; the views up and  down the river being very pleasing.  There is a broad meadow in front of the hotel on the north side of the river, and rugged rocky heights rise up from the river on either side; the whole covered with trees. We followed of the road leading to Ffestiniog along the side of the river to the stone bridge called the Beaver Pool Bridge, which we crossed, and finding a quiet rocky ledge near the end of it, we sat there under a projecting rock and had our luncheon.

The Fairy Glen Hotel – still a popular tourist destination. Image Dot Potter via Geograph, Creative Commons

We next returned and recrossed the Stone bridge and entered by a turnstile and old road leading to the Fairy Glen, at quarter of a mile distant.  We paid 2d each, half price for the children to see the Glen. The Fairy Glen is a wild bit of river scenery where the Conway runs in a torrent between upright walls of rock for a short distance and then widens into a raging pool hemmed in by rock on either side, and then it rushes onward between rough ledges and masses of rock to join the Lledr.    There is a rough pathway to the river where there is a view up the gorge.  There were many people there at the time, and indeed the roads were swarming with people wherever we went between Conway Falls and Swallow Falls, everywhere while we were at Bettws, some on coaches, and many as we were, walking.  

Image by Eirian Evans via Geograph, Creative Commons

We next walked back, re-crossed the Waterloo Bridge and went straight to the railway station of the London and North Western.  Here we got a coach to the Swallow Falls. It was a very pleasant drive; the village consists of the hotels and lodging houses, the houses being built around the base of the rugged rocky slopes.  We passed the end of the bridge over the Llungwy, called Pont y Pair where there is a pretty view up the river, which runs over a rocky bed with a rocky wall on one side.  The falls are close to the road where we entered by a little gate without payment. We had to go down by rough steps to the riverbed to see the Falls and a rough dangerous place it is, but it is carefully and strongly fenced on one side where there was a much danger. There are two falls each 20 feet by about 30 feet wide.

Swallow Falls, upper fall. Image by Christine Matthews, via Geograph, Creative Commons

The lower fall also glides down the rocks over a smooth surface; each fall ends in a deep boiling pool; the lower fall issues from the pool at the bottom of the first one. From the lower pool the waters run in a torrent over a wide rocky bed with walls of rock on either side,  and the rocks rise perpendicularly over the falls on the north side to a great height, and there are the remains of an old tower on the top of the precipice. The Swallow Falls are well worth seeing, and after the rains as we saw them, they were wild and foaming.  The river scenery all the way from the falls to Pont y Pain is pleasing; it is beautifully wooded, being closed with young plantations of Larch, self sown and planted oaks, and the rocks rise into rounded masses high above the river of the north side.

 On our return to the Village, we had a hurried tea, and started for home at 5.10. We got to Pentre Voelas at 6, Cerrig y Druidion at 6:30, and Bala at 8:15, just as the train got into the station. The road was steeper on the return than when going, but the horses were good, and the driver was steady and careful. 

It is interesting to see that visitor attractions still very popular today were attracting large crowds in the 1890s. Although visitors now pay to view the Swallow Falls, the 2 pence per person to view the Fairy Glen in 1895 seems steeper than today’s price!