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  • Writer's pictureNicole Leonetti

The California Girl Who Went Up the Waterfall but Came Down the Pub

Updated: Mar 10, 2020

You can read about my Perfect Day in Wales in a previous post, but now I’m going to talk about my second favorite day in Wales. Again, I will focus on North Wales, since it’s fantastic!

While planning our UK adventure, there was one town that my husband really wanted to visit: Llanrhaeadr-ym-Mochnant. Why would he want to visit this town that neither of us could pronounce and that seemed like it was in the middle of nowhere? Well, because the movie “The Englishman Who Went Up a Hill but Came Down a Mountain” was filmed in Llanrhaeadr-ym-Mochnant. He always loved this movie since it was set in Wales and he is of Welsh ancestry. I did some research and discovered that the town has an amazing waterfall, Pistyll Rhaeadr (Spring of the Waterfall), which made it an even more desirable destination. While it would be a logistically tough place to visit, it became my mission to make a visit to Llanrhaedar-ym-Mochnant a reality! A trip there definitely meant we needed to rent a car, so on this day we drove from Bodysgallen Hall (our hotel in Llandudno) to our hotel in Llanrhaeadr-ym-Mochnant.

Bron Heulog Guest House

We left fairly early so we could enjoy a full day in Llanrhaeadr-ym-Mochnant. The ride was beautiful as we drove through Snowdonia National Park and past the adorable village of Betws-y-Coed. I recommend stopping for breakfast or a snack along the way. Since our driver was not very used to driving on the other side of the road, we were only allowed to stop at places on the left-hand side of the road! It was only about an hour and a half drive to our destination. Unfortunately, it wasn’t possible to stay in the pub that they used in the film, but I did find a Bed & Breakfast that looked like it fit the bill. Bron Heulog Guest House was perfect and the owner, Diane, was the consummate host! The rooms looked even lovelier than the photos and the exterior was beautiful. It was clear from our arrival, though, that the town does not get many guests from the U.S. Diane was the first of many people to ask, “What has brought you here?” So, we made sure to stress the fact that we came for the waterfall and not because we were crazy people who were visiting because a movie was filmed there.

After settling into our rooms, we made our way to the waterfall! The journey to Pistyll Rhaeadr was what you may call harrowing. It was only about a 15-minute drive, but on a very narrow road that only fits one car at a time, but – surprise – cars are coming in both directions. And we were in an SUV. The good news was that since the road was so narrow there really wasn’t any of the normal confusion about which side of the road to be on. Alas, we made it and it was definitely worth the drive! When you arrive, there is a little welcome center that also has counter-service food and beverages. You can grab a snack and sit at one of the patio tables overlooking the Falls. As for Pistyll Rhaeadr itself, it is breathtaking! It is the highest waterfall in Wales and it is truly stunning. We took advantage of the most glorious weather by trying different hiking trail options. You can go to the top of the waterfall, which we attempted to do and somehow got lost, but found ourselves in the middle of what seemed like a postcard. I seriously thought I was in "The Sound of Music"! It was gorgeous! There were lamb or sheep just meandering through the hills with us and it seemed like we could walk forever - deeper and deeper into the scenery. I was already a fan of Wales at this point of the trip, but this is where I really fell in love. We lucked out heading back to the hotel because it was later in the afternoon when many people were leaving the waterfall, so it was nice to drive without dealing with cars coming straight towards you!

Afternoon Snack at Bron Heulog

Once back at the B&B, our gracious host asked if we wanted cake – uh, yeah. So, we enjoyed that and asked her where we could make a champagne run and where to eat that evening. It was a quick conversation since there was one store and one restaurant open at that time! First, we went for the champagne! We were the only people on the streets of Llanrhaeadr-ym-Mochnant, which certainly made it feel like we were in a movie (so I guess I understand why they would film one there). We wandered around the streets for a while and then headed back to Bron Heulog. Then we sat out on the patio and drank champagne to celebrate making it back safely from the waterfall!

Steak & Ale Pie, Peas & Chips

For dinner, we headed to the restaurant we were referred to – the Wynnstay Arms. I understand that the website says it’s a hotel, as well, but it wasn’t taking reservations at the time of our trip. Also, it doesn’t appear that the menu link is working on their website at this time, but let me tell you that they have food and it’s amazing! I had the Steak and Ale Pie, of course, and it was delicious! Then we started drinking copious amounts of British beer while enjoying a cricket game on the restaurant’s televisions. Then we were taken by surprise when a bunch of teenagers ascended on the bar dressed in costumes. Since it was July, this seemed bizarre, but it turns out they were celebrating a friend’s 18th birthday (cheers to a low drinking age) and this was part of her “Valley Run”. A “Valley Run” is when you go to all of the pubs in the valley that Llandrhaeadr-ym-Mochnant is located in for your 18th birthday! So, even though we felt ancient compared to these youths, it was fun to see all of the excitement of this local tradition. Also, everyone we met just did not understand why we were there! The waterfall was our firm answer and not to see the setting of a Hugh Grant movie from 1995! Again – we are old!

After a few drinks, our new friends told us they were going across the street to the other pub in the village—which had music! That sold me - so we walked across the street to The Hand. Turns out the “music” they spoke of was a jukebox, but I love a jukebox experience so that was a win! The prices at this pub were incredibly low and the first 10 songs we played on the jukebox were free for some reason. We never figured out why! However, we played as much ABBA and Oasis as we could for reasons unknown. Then, we met new friends who were closer to our age and they said we should go to the Wynnstay Arms. So, we walked back across the street to the first pub we went to and my amazing friend, Dana, bought a round of drinks for everyone at the pub. To say that this gesture made us popular would be a huge understatement. We had a blast and then another new friend said, “Hey, we should go to The Hand!” So, we walked back across the street to that pub and basically went back and forth between the two for the rest of the evening. We had such a blast and I loved Llanrhaeadr-ym-Mochnant so very much! We walked back to our B&B at the end of the evening and felt like characters in a movie about four California friends who visit Wales and have a life-changing experience!

The next morning, we were feeling a little rough, but our host, Diane, made us the most amazing breakfast and asked us all about our evening’s exploits. She seemed to know about a few of them, so I think word travels quick in this village. The moral of this story is that I cannot stress enough the importance of straying off the beaten path when traveling. It was such a fun day and we treasured every moment exploring the beauty of the village, as well as, partying with the locals. The people we met in Wales were the nicest people we had ever met and I’m ready for the sequel to the movie where we go back to Llanrhaeadr-ym-Mochnant and stay forever!


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