The Betws y Coed Artists Colony

One glance at the scenery when you walk out of the door of your holiday accommodation in Betws y Coed and its surrounding area and you will be reaching for your camera. Two hundred years ago, that same scenery evoked a similar response, the urge to grab a paintbrush. No wonder then, that Betws y Coed became the location of the first Artist's colony in Britain.

Memories of that artistic period are still to be found everywhere. From the subjects the artists painted, the houses and hotels in which they stayed, the pubs in which they caroused and the churches and chapels in which they worshiped. Take a brief look at how it all began

It was not until the 1770's that the fashion for painting in Wales became widespread. In 1771, Sir Watkins Williams-Wynn who owned the estate of Wynnstay near Ruabon invited the English artist Paul Sandby to travel with him around North Wales. The drawings that Sandby produced were published five years later and inspired by his example many leading artists of the 18th and 19th Centuries came in his footsteps.
Three men can be said to have influenced the ongoing popularity of North Wales as a worthy venue for painters. The first was Napoleon Bonaparte who, by closing off the continent of Europe to the english traveller, made the mountains of Snowdonia an excellent alternative to the Alps. Thomas Telford, who's great turnpike road to Holyhead not only made the journey into Wales much easier, but also caused much improved hotels and Inns to be built. Finally, the great 19th Century artist David Cox,s decision to spend his summers at Betws Y Coed led to a great following of english artists to join him.
Cox had a great affinity with Wales. As early as 1805, Cox was sketching welsh scenes which were to illustrate his "Treatise On Landscape Painting In Watercolours" which was published in 1813. Indeed, from that year onward, Cox exhibited welsh watercolours every year at the Old Watercolour Society exhibitions right up until his death in 1859.
Cox having retired from teaching returned to his native Birmingham, but in 1844, resolved to spend each summer painting in his beloved Wales. Cox usually lodged at the Royal Oak Hotel where he was an almost revered figure and where he gathered a wide group of fellow artists round him.