With its cosy pubs and outdoor gear shops, Betws-y-Coed, on the edge of Snowdonia National Park, may seem more suited to a walking weekend than a chic escape, but it is possible to combine the two – thanks to a quirky conversion in the heart of this pretty stone village.
The beautifully designed Alpine Apartments won’t come as a surprise to fans of the quirky Alpine Café, owned by artist Jacha Potgieter and housed in the village’s historic railway station. He’s taken his love of international design and a passion for ethical living and kitted out five flats on the station’s upper floors. Each is uniquely charming and known by a different number, with the most recent, Number 10, opening last November.
The apartments, sleeping between two and six people, are a feast for the senses. Hues are bold and each flat is scattered with lovely little touches, from a puzzle to complimentary wine and ethically produced chocolate. On the doorstep are windswept rocky peaks, waterfalls and miles of empty coast waiting to be explored.
Each apartment is unique, and a love of art and the unusual shines through. From scalloped metal worktops and chairs made of car tyres to feathered flamingo lampshades and roll-top baths you could get lost in, it’s visually enchanting. Some of the apartments also have balconies and small outdoor spaces.
The hardest part of my stay was deciding which apartment to book. Tiny, hot pink and Mexican-inspired No 10 is best suited to the amorous, with a bedroom-cum-bathroom and champagne on arrival. No 2, painted in shades of grey and lime green, sleeps six and would suit a group of friends, while No 4, sleeping three, is comfortable and relaxed – ideal for a small family.
In the end I plumped for No 10, which was small but perfect for two, though you’d have to be very good friends in this space, which is so intimate one of you can cook dinner and chat to the other as they soak in the bath. The industrial-chic kitchen has everything you need and feels more Brooklyn apartment than Snowdonia hideaway.
Although the apartments haven’t been planned with children in mind, families are very welcome to stay. However, all accommodation is accessed via flights of stairs, and so are not wheelchair accessible.
Out and about
Step outside and you’re in the heart of walking country. The beautiful Swallow Falls are close by, while an easy hike from the village along a quiet forest track will take you to the lake of Llyn Elsi, where the landscape opens up into an epic vista of still water reflecting the mountains.
North Wales is a playground for adventurers of all kinds. Hikers can climb Snowdon itself from Llanberis village or head south to Dolgellau to walk up Cadair Idris, a mountain wreathed in folklore. Gwydyr Farm pony trekking centre just outside Betws (01690 760248; horse-riding-wales.co.uk) can take you out for a gallop in the forests for £22 an hour, while littler explorers will love the Bala Lake Steam Railway (01678 540666; bala-lake-railway.co.uk) which chugs around the water from a miniature station.
Spending a day in the village of Portmeirion (01766 770000; portmeirion-village.com), 40 minutes away, is an architectural feast for the eyes. The brightly painted cottages and follies, constructed on this gorgeous patch of the coast in the 1950s by architect Clough Williams-Ellis are a joy to wander around. And, as fans of the 1960s TV programme The Prisoner will know, the series was filmed here.
The food and drink
A basic larder including olive oil, spices, tea and coffee is provided, and each apartment also comes stocked with less essential but very welcome chocolate and bottles of red and white wine.
The apartments have all the kit you need to cook and there are grocery shops in the village, but if you’d rather venture out for lunch you can’t beat the Alpine Café (016 907 107 47; alpinecoffeeshop.net), just downstairs. A wide range of vegetarian mains, enormous all-day breakfasts, and cakes are served up in a cosy space crammed with ever-changing art. Nab a sofa by the fire if you can.
For dinner, nearby Ty Gwyn Hotel (016 907 103 83; tygwynhotel.co.uk) serves award-winning posh pub grub in a fire-lit interior. Further afield, head to Beddgelert to try the best ice cream in Snowdonia at Glaslyn Ices (017 668 903 39; glaslynices.co.uk) – they also do homemade pizzas.
Alpine Apartments, 6 Station Road, Betws-y-Coed LL24 0AE, Wales (016 907 337 96; betwsaccommodation.co.uk). From £450 for a one-bedroom apartment for a week. Dogs are allowed for a £10 fee.
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