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Betws-y-Coed - Overview

Betws-y-Coed originated around a small monastery during the sixth century and, until the rise of lead mining in the nineteenth century, was a small village with an agricultural economy. A former owner of Tŷ Mawr Wybrnant near Betws-y-Coed, William Morgan was the first to translate the complete Bible into Welsh in the 1580s. In 1815, as part of the London to Holyhead road project, Thomas Telford built the cast-iron Waterloo Bridge across the river Llugwy at the southern end of the village. The road bridge is constructed of a single span of cast iron ribs, the outer spandrels of which on each side carry the wording ‘THIS ARCH WAS CONSTRCUTED IN THE SAME YEAR THE BATTLE OF WATERLOO WAS FOUGHT’ and the national emblems of Wales, England, Ireland and Scotland.

This new road led to the village becoming a major coaching centre and a rapid development in tourism. In 1868 the road was supplemented by the arrival of the railway line from Llandudno, which led to a further development in the size of the town.

Throughout the nineteenth century, the village attracted a great number of landscape artists of international renown. In 1844, John Cox was the first British landscape artist to decamp at the Royal Oak Hotel. On one of his many later visits he even painted the signboard which is still on display today, but has been brought indoors for protection. The Norwegian painter Hans Frederik Gude lived here with his family for a few years during the 1860s and Onorato Carlandi from Italy returned time and again for some thirty years following his first visit in 1880.

The architecture of the village retains much of its Victorian character. Today, Betws-y-Coed derives its main income from outdoor tourism thanks to the many forests, rivers and waterfalls dotted around the landscape.

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