When looking for a base from which to explore Snowdonia, the beautiful village of Betws-y-Coed, regarded as the gateway to the national park, takes some beating. It’s reputedly the “home of Britain’s first artists’ colony” and you can understand why such artistic individuals were smitten with the place.
Surrounded by dense woodland, the village – largely dating from Victorian times – has its fair share of cafés, restaurants, shops and places to stay. In terms of accommodation, I wouldn’t hesitate in recommending the Royal Oak Hotel, an independent family-run hotel in the heart of the village.
It offers everything you’ll need for a comfortable stay, including plenty of free parking, complimentary wi-fi, an acclaimed restaurant and access to a spa and leisure complex, including a 14-metre heated swimming pool, children’s splash pool, Jacuzzi, sauna and gym, at the sister hotel, a ten-minute walk away.
Dating from the late 18th century, the Royal Oak Hotel was originally a thatched roadside inn frequented by the aforementioned artists. Although the building was modernised and refurbished in the 1980s and further development and investment has happened since, the owners have sensibly retained much of the building’s original charm and character.
All rooms – and not just the deluxe – are ensuite and contain everything you need, including a flatscreen TV, free wi-fi in the room, comfy beds and decent toiletries from renowned manufacturers Gilchrist and Soames; there is even an MP3 docking station! Because it’s a listed building, there is no lift so you’ll have to carry your cases to the room or ask one of the willing staff to help.
We stayed in Room 240 at the back of the hotel. I have only one grumble: if, like me, you like to sleep with a window open, you’ll find it a little noisy because of the constant sound from the hotel kitchen’s extractor fan. For the best view and to get away from the noise, choose a bedroom at the front of the hotel, overlooking the village.
There are two places to eat within the hotel itself: Llugwy River Restaurant and The Grill Bar. The former was awarded its first AA rosette in 2003 and has since established a reputation for using only the finest Welsh seasonal ingredients. Although it’s not always open (check dates/times with hotel reception), it’s the place you’ll want to eat if fine dining is your cup of tea.
For less formal and a little more contemporary, try The Grill Bar and Conservatory. This is where we eat breakfast and dinner and were suitably impressed by the service and standard of cuisine. It was great to find staff who were flexible when it came to choosing dishes for our two children, aged 13 and seven.
This area was refurbished in 2005 and is airy and light in terms of décor. One interesting point is that the wooden flooring in the conservatory is, in fact, windfall seasoned oak from the hotel’s grounds.
There is another option when it comes to dining. You could try The Stables (there are also 18 ensuite rooms at the four-star Stables Lodge, next-door to the main hotel). The former stables were acquired in 1994 and converted into a modern bar and bistro, although many of the original features remain intact. Alfresco dining is on offer because there are heaters under the umbrellas outside.
When planning your fun-filled itinerary, check out the Attractions of Snowdonia website – it’s very informative and packed with great ideas. As the blurb states: “Whatever the weather there is more than enough to keep you busy and Attractions of Snowdonia gives you the best of what the area has to offer.” The website tells you everything you’ll ever need to know during your stay.
Another positive aspect of Attractions of Snowdonia is that not only does the group have an informative website and produce a handy booklet containing details of all the attractions, money-saving vouchers can be obtained online to present at admission to the attraction of your choice.
Back at the hotel, take a look at the glass cabinet in the entrance hall. It’s full of mementoes from a bygone age, including an old hotel guest book, old postcards, etc. – all very interesting.
Reception is open 8am-11pm, check out is 10.30am and breakfast is served 7.45am-9.45am. Packed lunches are available but need to be ordered the evening before. Prices for the 2014 season were from £95 a night (per room based on two people sharing) for a standard room with breakfast during low season; an equivalent room in high season cost £120.
One of the main pluses for the Royal Oak is that it’s family run and this generates a welcoming, friendly, helpful atmosphere. Also, it’s conveniently located for not just the village but the rest of the national park and is a really lovely place to stay. I’d recommend it and wouldn’t hesitate to book again.
http://www.royaloakhotel.net/, t: 01690 710219
Reviewed October 2014