There aren’t many countries that go out of their way and allow and in fact encourage you to go wild.
Well in Wales it seems to be a key part of their tourism policy… well certainly in the North.
Centered on Betws-y-Coed is a whole host of out-door and adventure pursuit companies and backing them up are a group of enterprising hotels and other businesses who are supporting each other in order to give their tourists a chance to have a great all round experience, and to go wild.
Good fun, good feeling and good food in order to give their visitors to this rural and wild area of Wales a holiday experience to remember.
Drawing on the adventure and out-door pursuits market is being looked at as a real trend in future tourism and this area of Wales and it’s North Wales Tourism Partnership has spotted what could be a real chance to develop it to an international market as well as a UK one.
What they have identified is the fact that they have a plethora of pursuits like treetop adventure, gorge walking, underground experiences and one key element that helps to draw all these together is a private £750,000 investment of the huge world leading sized zip wire ride.
ZIP OFF TO ZIP WORLD
Sean Taylor who runs Zip World says that one thing that’s also sets them apart is that all of these are in one confined area, in other parts of the UK there are similar pursuits but much more spread out, here in this case based in close proximity around the delightful village of Betws-y-Coed in English ‘Church in the Trees’.
“We think we have a really great set of adventure products all in one very small place, so members from one family can happily go off in different directions and do the things that they want to do. Mum could go zip wiring, Dad underground, the kids climbing over tree top courses or perhaps scrambling up water filled gorges. All carried out under strict health and safety supervision”, said Sean, a former Royal Marine.
Once in Betws-y-Coed you have a marvelous base start from, with Tree Top Adventures high in the fir trees an aerial playground for the whole family. Scrambling through a tree top course will test you certainly both physically and mentally, but the skilled, safe and patient staff will get you around the high ropes course if you have some concerns. Jumping off a 40metre tree on a tethered power fan plummet is a real thrill!
If that’s not enough try what they call the biggest swing in the world, five people secured to a huge swing and experience a 3G ride that flies you high above the valley to tree top height and back and back again. It does not sound much of a ride but it certainly is, believe me!
Still want more… then what about ‘Gorge Walking’, a chance to walk and climb up some of the beautiful gorges that pore down the mountains and hills around the village. In wet suits you will be led and helped all the way as you can explore some of these gorges and get views that would otherwise be out of bounds. A real chance to get close to the flora and fauna of these valleys and a very invigorating experience too!
Ah you want even more? Then lets get going underground this time to near Snowdon and a chance to enter a former slate mine under the National Park. Strapped in your harness you descend down into the mine on a hillside where you traverse, abseil, walk and sometimes crawl through the bowels of the mine, making your way down to pop out at ‘ground’ level where daylight awaits you again. A brilliant experience combining a ‘traditional’ mine with fun, adventure and some challenging obstacles. Again this is guided by very experienced and safety trained cavers.
Still not enough…looking for yet another thrill? I suppose it has to be onto Zip World and a chance to ride on what is the longest and fastest zip wire ride in the Northern hemisphere. With the ride starting 300 meters high on the side of a former slate quarry here you can reach speeds of over 90 mph as the ride flies you over a beautiful blue fresh water lake deep at the bottom of Penrhyn Quarry at Bethesda, that once this was the largest man made hole in the earth!
I ended my adventure there, but I had only 2 days you may need more, so that need not stop you, for there is: white water rafting, clay pigeon shooting, quad biking, rock climbing and even 4X4 driving as well. Oh yes! And mountain bike riding, horse riding and did I say walking?
The village of Betws-y-Coed and the area around Zip World have an abundance of accommodation, one little gem is the Waterfall Hotel on the edge of the village, rated 4star its grounds run along a river and with views down the valley. Food is very much very locally sourced and of high quality and one morning I watched the chef plucking home grown herbs from their garden to be included in that evenings dishes a nice touch!
On the opposite side of the river is a Ty Gwyn Hotel where my jaw literally dropped as the largest portion of lamb shoulder I have ever seen was presented on my plate. It was rather like a scene from ‘Fred Flintstone’ when half a cooked dinosaur was presented to Fred. Cooked to perfection and it was local lamb of course, it had to be. Do try it but make sure you have not eaten for the whole day first!
The painted stone wall and wood beamed restaurant with many small rooms make for a very cosy dining experience, the dedicated chef and owner Martin Ratcliffe who’s skill in the kitchen is certainly top draw, although that is more than can be said of his non ‘PC’ tee shirt that he wears from time to time it perhaps should be put in the bottom draw!
Getting to this area of the UK is in fact pretty easy, certainly for tourists arriving into London. One of the best bets is to use train services like those of Virgin who run many trains via or to Chester. Although still in England this former roman town and fortified city is worth stopping off at on the way and does act as a natural gateway to the area of North Wales beyond.
Direct rail journey to Bangor for instance is an option, a journey time of around 3hours 6minutes straight from London with some wonderful coastal views after Chester; so do try to sit on the right hand side if you can.
Driving via the A55 and A5 seem to be the best route or perhaps you could get someone to do it for you, like the company Busy Bus who run tours direct from Chester in their executive style coaches with very informed drivers to guide you to the best places, is a good call.
The scenery around Wales’ highest mountain is one of the UK’s best and this concentration of out-door pursuits in one very small area does allow a great deal to be experienced on a weeks holiday. But also in my opinion it’s a perfect long weekend option too, if time is a little short but Zip World was my fav and zipping to over to North Wales for a holiday gives a whole new meaning to the phrase!
Riverside Hotel Betws-Y-Coed
Abode Hotel Chester