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Bed and breakfast availability
Bethesda b&b, guesthouse and hotel accommodation

Bethesda in Gwynedd

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Visit Bethesda and the surrounding villages and stay in bed & breakfast accommodation:

Bethesda, Gwynedd, is a quarryman's village where slates are hewn to be sent by rail to Porth Penrhyn for shipping. The first name of Bethesda was Glan Ogwen, for the Ogwen river runs by it. Nonconformism set a chapel here, and its name has superseded the old one. George Borrow summarized the place in a note: “If its name is scriptural, the manners of its people are by no means so”. Time, of course, has changed this. The Penrhyn slate quarries dominate the town; their 1,000-ft incision into the mountainsides is worth examining. Facilities are given to watch the blasting, splitting, and dressing of the slates. Their variety of colour is remarkable, ranging through blue, grey, green, and red: and they are greatly in demand.

The village stands in what is probably the most impressive region of Snowdonia. The upper part of the Ogwen valley is called Nant Ffrancon: one interpretation of the words is Brook of Beavers. This is not impossible, since the beaver was once familiar among the Welsh mountain-streams, and Gerald de Barri, in his Itinerary of Wales (1188), has passages of considerable interest about them. He had obviously watched them with delight: and he tells us how some cut wood, while others carried it to the stream, and a further group set the stakes and wound them about with willows, so that the dam was efficiently formed; and how they would then lift a further tier of logs until their castle had the look of a natural, treed island in the river.

Nant Ffrancon is remarkable for the press of great heights around it. Carnedd y Filiast (Cairn of the Greyhound Bitch, 2,694 ft); Moel Perfydd (Central Hill, 2,750): Elidir Fawr (perhaps Riven Hill, 3.029); Foel Goch (2.726): Y Garn (3,104); and the Glyders, Fawr and Fach (perhaps the Slippery Ones. 3,279 and 3,262) surround it and make it one of the most rewarding valleys for those who love the heights. Nor does this finish the roll; Carnedd Ddafydd and Carnedd Llywelyn (3,426 and 3,484 ft) thrust their heads here to look at Snowdon almost with level eyes. They are peaks named after the two last defenders of independent Gwynedd against Edward I of England in the 13th century. And Craig Ddu (Black Rock, 3,169 ft) stands high over the lake.

Ogwen is a lake of great interest both to anglers and students of folklore. It is 1 mile long, 984 ft above sea-level, and the source of the Ogwen river, which streams from it in a series of falls to the Bwlch y Benglog. On the South side, the black triangle of the three points of Tryfan (3,010 ft) stand with a challenge to the climber. From Tryfan, years ago, a landslide fell upon Ogwen lake: and the river that once ran to Capel Curig was Forced to find a new outlet into Nant Ffrancon. Ogwen was originally called Ogfanw; and this early name survives in the locality as Ogwan rather than in the form the maps accept. It suggests a covered cave: and legend has it that such a cave does exist in the tumble of rocks at the foot of Tryfan known as Pen Bryn Melyn. A coach was often seen there, setting down a passenger who entered the fissure among the boulders where no mortal could ever follow. The coach was always brightly lit within and vanished when approached. Only one fortunate explorer ever found the opening; he discovered great riches in it, and laid a trail of pebbles behind him as he left it so that he might find it again next day. But, when he returned, the secret and immortal folk who dwell there had removed all trace of them. Legend has set the grave of Bedivere, the last knight of Arthur, on the slopes of Tryfan; and Ogwen is the lake into which he must have cast Excalibur, the potent sword of light that Arthur bore. It does not matter that Arthur and Bedivere and the sword meant more than romance allows them. Ogwen can impose its own truths on anyone who walks beside it.

But, magnificent and mysterious as it is, Llyn Ogwen is no equal of Llyn Idwal. This lake is higher still than Ogwen, being 1,223 ft above sea-level and cupped in the hands of Glyder Fawr. Its name comes from a son of Owain Gwynedd. Prince of North Wales in the days of Stephen of England and one of the most powerful princes Wales ever knew. No bird will fly across its dark waters, people say, because here, by the treachery of his guardian Nefydd Haradd, or of his foster-father Dunod, the young prince Idwal was drowned. According to some accounts, the church at Llanrwst was built by Rhun son of Nefydd to expiate his father's crime. Any fisherman who has walked the sides of Idwal lake will be prepared to exonerate both Nefydd and Dunod. At the end of the lake furthest from its outfall is a pool overgrown with weeds and called Llygad Glas (Green Eye). It is a malevolent eye, to be avoided at all costs. More than one man has found himself in danger of being sucked into that morass; and Idwal's death may have been due to the treachery of his footing rather than of his guardians.

Storms on Idwal are frequent. The winds cut through the peaks carrying clouds that writhe and resist like living creatures; the rain can fall in ranks of silver like the lances of a threatening host, and water whips from the surface of the lake in curtains 20 ft high. Nowhere else in Britain can so tremendous or so savage a beauty be found.

One of the most adventurous walks around it is the track that leads to Twll Du (Black Hole), more commonly called the Devil's Kitchen, a chasm between the Garn and the Great Glyder. whose rock-walls seem to touch. It is a natural feature unique in its grim strength; and the tale of Idwal has been varied to say that down this he was hurled from the wall of mountain to his death.

Nearby towns: Bangor, Caernarfon, Llanberis, Llanfairfechan

Nearby villages: Aber, Beaumaris, Benllech, Betws Garmon, Caerhun, Capel Curig, Colwyn, Conwy, Cwm-y-Glo, Dalgarrog, Deganwy, Dinorwic, Dolwyddelan, Dyffryn, Gaerwen, Groeslon, Llanbedr-y-Cennin, Llanbedrgoch, Llanddona, Llanddyfnan, Llandegai, Llandegfan, Llanedwen, Llanfaes, Llanfairpwllgwyngyll, Llangelynin, Llangoed, Llanllechid, Llanllyfni, Llanrug, Llanwnda, Menai Bridge, Nantlle, Penmaenmawr, Penmon, Pentraeth, Penygroes, Trefriw, Tregarth, Waenfawr, Waunfawr

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