Betws-y-Coed (“Prayer house in the wood”) in Conwy, North Wales, lies in a valley near the point where the River Conwy is joined by the River Llugwy and the River Lledr. It was founded around a monastery in the late sixth century and nearby is the famous Swallow Falls – Rhaedr Ewynnol, in Welsh menaing literally Foaming Waterfall! This waterfall on the Afon Llugwy has become a familiar natural celebrity over the past 100 years and has featured on film, postcard and canvas.
Rising among the towering peaks of Carnedd Llewellyn the River Llugwy runs eastward towards Capel Curig and Betws-y-Coed, before reaching Swallow falls which is the highest continuous waterfall in Wales. The river hurls itself into a spectacular chasm at the Falls.
Best viewed after heavy rain the river rushes down from the mountains through tree-hung, rocky chasms. Jagged rocks and crags divide the stream into a number of foaming cascades which tumble headlong over boulders between richly wooded banks.
As for Rhaeadr; yes, it means waterfall, but some believe it is two words, dwr meaning water and Rhaea – so one meaning could be the water of Rhea. And who was Rhea? Legend has it she dates back to the Roman battles with Carthage. The oracle at Delphi in Greece informed the Roman army commander that if he wished to defeat the army of Carthage he must carry an icon (a carving in black meteorite iron) of Rhea, mother of Zeus and grandmother of Hercules, before the Roman eagle onto the battlefield. This the commander did and the battle was won. Rhea became the patron saint of Roman soldiers! It is an odd connection. But the Falls are next to the the A5 which was also the first Roman built road in England! Perhaps long ago the Falls were sacred to Rhea!