We LOVE Wales, so we couldn't think of a better place to take Elsa for a short break to celebrate her birthday!
OK, so we didn't just go for Elsa's birthday... we also went with relatives for a mini 'family holiday' together, and we actually celebrated two birthdays - Elsa's and her 'grandma's' - so it was a very special and memorable trip.
The Rhug Estate | A5, Corwen LL21 0EH
On our way to Wales we stopped at The Rhug Estate to have a quick look in the farm shop. This is a popular place for motorist to rest or grab a bite to eat... it sort of feels like a very posh service station! Although the farm shop and restaurant don't allow dogs inside, there is an outdoor cafe that serves hot food (including organic bison burgers from the estate) and a sheltered outdoor seating area that is very popular with dog owners. The shop is full of all sorts of goodies for both humans and dogs too! They have a fully stocked Lily's Kitchen stand and also sell 'Truffles' Organic Dog Food'. We only stayed long enough to buy some Welshcakes and a little dragon souvenir for Elsa before jumping back in the car and continuing on our journey.
Betws-y-Coed | Conwy County Borough, Wales
This little village is known as 'The Gateway to Snowdonia'. We've driven through here a few times but never stopped before, so we made a point of breaking up our journey with a proper look around and some lunch. One of the first things that we saw when we started walking towards the village was a signpost for a dog shop called Canine & Co.! As you can imagine, this got us very excited indeed...
We couldn't quite figure out which way it was, so we asked someone in a nearby shop who pointed us in the right direction - towards the Royal Oak Stables, where the Tourist Information Centre is also based.
Canine & Co. | Unit D, Royal Oak Stables, Betws-y-Coed LL24 0AH
This little shop did not disappoint! It's full of lots of exciting new products including their own, exclusively designed knitwear for dogs. They also sell toys, treats, coats, accessories and doggy ice-cream. We had the pleasure of meeting one of the owners, Ian, who was very helpful and made lots of fuss of Elsa! Although the shop itself is a relatively new venture, Canine & Co. has existed since 2011 as an online business, selling a range of dog clothing including practical things like coats, jumpers and accessories, alongside couture items including dog kilts! We decided to treat Elsa to one more birthday gift - a gorgeous little Canine & Co pink scarf. We are so thrilled to have found this shop!
Lunch at The Alpine Coffee Shop
Although most of the cafes in Betws-y-Coed appear to be dog friendly, my husband liked the look of the menu at The Alpine Coffee Shop so we went there for lunch. We managed to find a table inside where Elsa could look out of the patio doors which led onto the platform of the railway station. They do have doggy sausages on the menu (as well as a loyalty card for your dog!), but we decided that it might not be the best idea to give Elsa too many treats before we actually got to our destination just in case she had an upset tummy, so we gave her some food that we'd brought from home. She seemed happy enough watching the dogs riding on the miniature train with their owners while we ate lunch. All of the food was homemade and the portions were very generous!
Before we left Betws-y-Coed we had a little wander around the rest of the town and looked in a few more dog friendly shops including the Tourist Information Centre which sells a few dog related items including a travel kit and some accessories.
Anna Davies | Holyhead Rd, Betws-y-Coed LL24 0AY
This dog friendly shop sells luxury country clothing, accessories and gifts. They sell some items for dogs including dog beds by Joules and coats by Barbour. Elsa took quite a shine to the chamois leather and we practically had to drag her away before she jumped in the basket!
Swallow Falls | Snowdonia National Park, Betws-y-Coed
This waterfall is located within a 5 minute drive from Betws-y-Coed, and since it was also in the same direction that we were heading we decided to stop and have a walk down to with Elsa. We managed to find a free parking space in the lay-by but there is a small charge of £1.50 per person to visit the waterfall. I had to carry Elsa through the turnstile and it was quite a tight fit (to deter two people going through at once), so I'm not sure if you'd be able to take a big dog down to the falls!?
Elsa was overjoyed at the sight of the stairs (she loves stairs!!) and ran excitedly down to the waterfall, dragging me along behind her... luckily I managed to keep my footing and we made it down unscathed. The pathway is fully paved and surrounded by railings (for obvious safety reasons). The falls are breathtaking and Elsa seemed to enjoy the atmosphere and the water-spray in the air, so I'm glad we took her.
We started the day with a scenic drive around Anglesey, but since October isn't a peak season for tourists, most of the coffee shops (and toilets) were closed so we decided to head back to Caernarfon to get some lunch.
Lunch at Caffi Maes | 4 Castle Square, Caernarfon LL55 2NF
This little cafe sits on the edge of Castle Square in the centre of Caernarfon and is very popular with both locals and tourists. They serve breakfasts, sandwiches, hot meals like Welsh stew along with teas, coffees, wine and beer. They have a large outdoor, covered seating area where dogs are welcome.
After lunch we had a wander around the town and along the sea front towards the marina and did a little bit of shopping. It's such a lovely town to explore. The only downside is that the castle is not dog friendly, which is a shame because Elsa loves castles!
There is an amazing dog friendly pancake and ice cream parlour in Caernarfon called Scoops, but sadly it was closed on the day that we visited so we couldn't get our pancake fix...
The Beach | Dinas Dinlle | Llandwrog, Caernarfon LL54 5TW
The cottage where we were staying in Wales was only a few miles from Dinas Dinlle beach so we took Elsa there for her afternoon walk before heading back for the evening. There are dog restrictions between April and September but since we visited in October, we (literally) had the run of the beach. We even bumped into another Lhasa Apso while we were there!
Dinas Dinlle was also the site of an Iron Age hillfort and you can walk all the way to the top of the mound that looms over the beach. There is a marked pathway to the top and it's a relatively easy walk. Elsa really enjoyed going up there and the views were spectacular so it was well worth the trek.
This was the perfect end to a lovely (but very windy) day in Wales!
Day 3 | Elsa's Birthday!
Elsa started the day with a special birthday breakfast before we headed out...
Welsh Highland Railway | Caernarfon to Beddgelert
One of the reasons that we went on this trip to Wales was to take Elsa on the steam train. We arrived at the station bright and early with her special 'Rover' train ticket, ready to go!
The last time we were in Wales we travelled on the Ffestiniog line from Porthmadog to Blaenau Ffestiniog, so this time we decided to travel on the Welsh Highland line through Snowdonia from Caernarfon to Beddgelert. Elsa was very well-behaved on the train and seemed to really enjoy watching all the cows and sheep in the fields surrounding the tracks in the pretty Welsh countryside.
Beddgelert | Snowdonia
We absolutely love everything about Beddgelert, it's such a pretty village with a fantastic atmosphere!
The name 'Beddgelert' literally means 'Gelert's Grave'; Gelert being a dog that was alleged to have been owned by Llywelyn the Great, Prince of Gwynedd. There is a lovely circular walk that takes you alongside the river and around to the site of the grave where a commemorative stone tells the story of this legend...
Dog Friendly Shops in Beddgelert
There are several little shops in Beddgelert, most of which are dog friendly, including Beddgelert Woodcraft where all of Elsa's birthday wishes came true when she turned a corner and came face-to-face with one of her favourite animals - a cat!! Sadly the cat wasn't impressed with Elsa's over-enthusiastic greeting and scrambled on to the nearest shelf where it could watch from a safe distance.
Lunch at The Saracens Head
We stayed at The Saracens Head with Elsa back in 2015 and really enjoyed our time there, so it was our first choice when it came to deciding where to go for lunch. Everything was just as good as we remembered. Since it was Elsa's birthday we decided to order her the special dog sausage too and it went down a treat!
Back to Caernarfon
After lunch we headed to the station to catch the train back to Caernarfon and everyone was quite tired after a full day of exploring and eating. Elsa snuggled up and slept for most of the journey back while we enjoyed a little tipple from the bar!
On our way home we decided to travel back a different way and we broke the journey up with a stop in Conwy on the north coast of Wales.
This coastal market town is a very popular tourist destination. Although Conwy Castle is dog friendly we didn't visit it on this occasion because we only stopped for a short walk around to stretch our legs. We did have a look in a few of the local dog-friendly shops including 'The Knight Shop'. Conwy is also home Britain's smallest house!
Where we stayed
Llifon | Bathesda Bach, near Caernarfon
I found this dog friendly cottage on the 'Wales Cottages' website and thought that it looked quite pretty... All I can say is that the photographs on the website do not do it justice; it's beautifully decorated with high quality furnishings and a lot bigger than it looks!
When we arrived there was a bottle of wine and some Welshcakes waiting for us in a basket (along with the very important wi-fi code!), which was a really nice touch. The owners were very helpful and attentive, they even called to check that we were OK when the power went out at their own house during storm Ophelia! Luckily the electricity didn't go off at Llifon during our stay.
The building is a converted (and extended) bungalow, so the two main bedrooms are on the ground floor and there is a single bed in the converted loft space. The living room has a real log burner fire, which we did light one evening for extra cosiness!
Although the cottage sits on a main road it's a very solid building and we didn't hear any noise from the road at night. There is enough space for two cars to park on the driveway and the garden is also fully enclosed, so we didn't have to worry about putting Elsa on a lead every time we let her outside.
Llifon was the perfect 'home away from home' for us - the only problem with the cottage was that we didn't want to leave!
We always enjoy visiting Wales so no doubt we will be back to explore more of this beautiful country in 2018!
If you can recommend any great dog friendly places in Wales please tell us in the comments below.