Walk: Tŷ Hyll, Betws-y-Coed, Conwy
Despite its epithet, this stocky-stoned, moss-spattered building, enveloped by lush oakwoods, may just be Snowdonia’s most endearing tearoom
Tŷ Hyll, or ‘the Ugly House’, is named for its colossal, crudely cut yet lovely stones. It’s a place of uncertain origin – a brigand’s hide-out, duke’s folly, or maybe a tŷ unnos (a home built in a day to secure ownership of land). What is certain is that it’s now a cosy tearoom selling fresh-baked delights and very, very good tea.
It’s run on behalf of the Snowdonia Society, a charity aiming to protect the beauty of Snowdonia National Park, whose volunteers help with tasks such as footpath maintenance and wildlife surveys. Here at Tŷ Hyll they have created a pollinator-friendly garden and a bee room, and regularly host workshops, such as herbal-tea making or birch-tree tapping.
If somewhat sluggish after a lunch of succulent ‘secret recipe’ Welsh rarebit, a stroll may be required. Explore the garden – which dissolves beguilingly into the surrounding song-swelled oakwoods (watch out for spring migrants, such as pied flycatchers and wood warblers) – or go in search of Swallow Falls along the Llugwy. But if you’re planning an afternoon tea of sandwiches, bara brith, Welsh cakes, scones or cakes, then a heartier hike is likely to be in order.
Tŷ Hyll walk
4.4 miles/7.1km | 2.5 hours | easy-moderate
1. Forest climb
Turn uphill passing the activity centre, then right at a small parking area on to a track. After 200m, take the central rising path, turn right on to a forestry track, then left to follow a yellow waymarked trail uphill through Gwydir Forest. Forestry Commission planting began in 1920, and even then, it was planned with aesthetic sensitivity to views and included broadleaf belts.
2. Picnic views
At the Ty’n Llwyn picnic tables, enjoy the wildflower meadow and views down Llugwy Valley. Turn right on to the road, passing a garden, then immediately left. Follow purple-and-white signposts uphill, crossing the main forestry track to continue between trees to Llyn Bodgynydd. Occupying a natural hollow in a peak-fringed plateau, with Moel Siabod mountain dominant, the llyn’s resident dragonflies include emperors, black-tailed skimmers, keeled skimmers, black darters and scarce blue-tailed damsels.
Turn right along the snaking lakeside path to a gate and nature reserve sign.
3. Land of plenty
Pass over lead spoil heaps, keeping Llyn Bodgynydd Bach to the left. Comprising acidic grassland, wetland, heath and mire, this reserve sustains plants such as bog asphodel, greater and lesser bladderwort, bog myrtle and sundew. Go through a birch tunnel, bearing right to a road. At dusk in early summer, woodcocks and nightjars display over the heath.
4. Back for bara brith
Turn right, then right again at the T-junction and then take another right on to a forestry track. Turn left to bring you back to Ty’n Llwyn, then return to Tŷ Hyll. In spring, sunlight spills like nectar through the tearoom windows. Take-home goods include jars of honey made by Tŷ Hyll bees and loaves of fruity bara brith.
Tŷ Hyll map
Julie Brominicks is a landscape and travel writer who lives off-grid in a caravan in a mossy Welsh valley.