Lazy Photographer's Guide 03 - North Wales
by Chris Maddock
article is the third of a series of articles covering much of the
UK. It is basically a list of locations I have programmed into my
GPS Satellite Navigator - most of which I have visited, the rest
being places I intend to get to some day. It is not a comprehensive
guide to North Wales, only the parts I have been to and photographed
- or intend to. The split between North & South Wales is an
arbitrary line, roughly on a level with Aberystwyth
It will not contain any photographs, the intention being simply
to provide information about location, access and likely subjects.
I have photographs of many of the locations in my North Wales gallery
if you want to see what you could see before setting out.
called it The Lazy Photographer's Guide since most of the locations
are less than half a mile from road access.
GR SN 615 960
Aberdyfi, on the southern edge of the Snowdonia National Park, is
a small village on the north shore of the Dyfi estuary.
- Aberdyfi is on the A493, which runs down the coast from the north
before cutting inland to Machynlleth. There is a car park on the
to see - the estuary and patterns in the sands at low tide, the
village, views across the estuary to the Mid-Wales mountains.
GR SH 613 155
Barmouth lies on the north shore of the Mawddach estuary north of
- the A496 runs down the coast from near Porthmadog through Barmouth
and inland to Dolgellau. Parking is available on the sea side of
to see - Barmouth itself, the river estuary, the combined railway/footbridge
across the estuary (toll payable for walkers) can be a subject in
itself or can offer views up the estuary to the southern mountains
I always consider Betws to be the gateway to Snowdonia since once
past the town one is heading straight into the mountains. Rather
touristy it's a pretty little town anyway.
- at the junction of the A5(T) from London to Holyhead and the A470
from Conwy to Dolgellau. There is parking near the station.
to see - the town itself, Waterloo Bridge (erected in 1815, hence
the name) crossing the Afon Conwy, the rivers Afon Conwy and Afon
Llugwy, the motor museum, Swallow Falls a few miles up the A5 towards
GR SH 720 581
A small village at the junction of the A5 Holyhead road and the
A4086 to Llanberis.
- parking is available behind the Pinnacles gift shop & cafe
and Joe Brown's climbing shop.
to see - the river between the shops and the car park looks interesting,
although I haven't as yet had the right light to try it. Opposite
the shops a path leads up onto the Capel Curig Pinnacles, from which
a good view may be had of the Dyffryn Mymbyr valley, Snowdon Horseshoe
and Moel Siabod.
you're around in the morning, the Pinnacles cafe does a good breakfast.
GR SH 783 774
One of the many castles erected in Wales by Edward I to assert his
authority over the Welsh, Conwy castle guards the Conwy estuary.
- follow signs off the A55 North Wales Coast road. Parking is available
to the south of the small river which meets the Conwy beside the
to see - the castle itself along with the walled town and the tubular
railway bridge beside the castle, the river estuary. There is a
good view of the castle walls from the bowling green to the south,
near the car park.
alternative view of the castle may be had from the remains of an
older castle, Deganwy castle (little more than the earthworks, much
disguised by undergrowth) above Tywyn on the other side of the River
Conwy. Park in Vardre Avenue, GR SH 785 790, near the junction with
Park Drive. At the junction there is a small unnamed road leading
northeast away from both Park Drive and Vardre Avenue. At the top
of this road take the footpath off on the left and choose your viewpoint
for Conwy Castle. Climbing up on the rocks to the right gives more
elevation to avoid the rooftops below. Since the castle is on the
western bank of the river, it would be best in the morning - although
reflections of a good sunset in the river might also be of interest.
GR SH 646 598
Cwm Idwal is a secluded valley nestling between the Glyder Fawr
and Y Garn mountains. It is popular with climbers who choose to
ascend the Idwal Slabs climbing routes and the challenging Devil's
Kitchen climb to the hanging valley above.
- park at Idwal Cottage, GR SH 649 603, just off the A5 at the foot
of Llyn Ogwen and take the footpath to the south. After a few hundred
yards the path forks, take the right fork to Llyn Idwal.
to see - the Cwm and Llyn Idwal with the impressive cliffs surrounding
them. From the foot of the Cwm, fine views can be had of Pen Yr
Ole Wen to the north with the Carneddau mountains rising behind
to the right, Llyn Ogwen in the valley below and Tryfan rising to
its triple-peaked summit on the right.
GR SH 682 454
Cwmorthin is a fine example of an abandoned Welsh slate mine near
Blaenau Ffestiniog, with old workings and the ruins of the barracks
buildings at both ends of the valley. Not one for the really Lazy
photographer this one, as the initial climb is long and steep and
to do all of it involves a walk of about a mile each way - more
if you want to see even more of it.
- take the A496 Maentwrog road south out of Blaenau for just over
½ mile, then turn right for Tanygrisiau. After 200 yards
you come to a crossroads where the opposite road bears away to the
left. Take this road up the hill under the Festiniog railway and
follow it to the end, ignoring a turning to the left, where there
is parking available just before the gate leading into Cwmorthin
itself. On foot, take the main track up the hill into the valley.
The footing is a mixture of slate and mud so stout footwear is recommended.
to see - when you reach the top of the hill there is a memorial
garden on the left, then a bit further on you will find the lower
workings and barracks. On the same side of the river as you, the
path leads partway around the lake past various old buildings, tramway
embankments and waste heaps. From this side there is a good view
across the lake to the ruined barrack block, still with a few chimneys
Returning to the bridge, cross the river and you are by the barracks,
with the remains of the "garden" walls around - possibly
where the quarrymen grew vegetables as part of their diet. Pass
across the front of the barracks and follow the path around the
a short distance the path moves away from the lake and leads past
the ruins of the quarrymen's chapel to the upper quarry. At this
point the track still has the slate "fence" and in places
the tramway trackbed can be seen beside the track. The upper quarry
workshops, barracks and quarry manager's house are still in place,
although somewhat dilapidated and the workshops are used as a sheepfold
nowadays. You can also see the piers from an elevated section of
If you are so inclined, the path leads on up the hill behind these
ruins to more workings and structures further up the hillside and
over in the next valley.
GR SH 733 775
On the North Wales coast, this beach lies between the A55(T) and
North Wales Coast railway and the sea.
- only possible from the A55 westbound carriageway, shortly after
exiting the Penmaen-bach tunnel pass the turning to Dwygyfylchi,
turn off and park at the service area a few hundred yards on. The
beach is across a footbridge over the road and railway.
to see - the beach and sea, cloudscapes, sunsets with or without
the Penmaen Mawr headland silhouetted on the left. Summer sunrises
may also be possible with the Great Ormes headland silhouetted against
GR SH 798 546
A gorge just outside Betws-Y-Coed where the Conwy river is channeled
over a series of rapids and cascades, bordered by wooded banks and
vegetation-clad rock walls.
- from Betws, take the A5 south. Immediately after crossing Waterloo
Bridge, turn right onto the A470 for Blaenau Ffestiniog and Dolgellau.
After a few hundred yards turn left just before the road bridges
the river. The car park is a little way in on the left. The Glen
itself is accessed by footpath.
to see - river, gorge, waterfalls, rapids, woodland and associated
GR SH 389 633
Actually a peninsular off the southwest coast of Anglesea, Llanddwyn
is only a true island at extremely high tides.
- from the A4080, turn off at Niwbwrch and park in the Newborough
Warren nature Reserve car park at GR SH 405 634, then walk along
the beach. Check on tides, just in case a high one is forecast.
to see - sand-dunes, beaches, the "island", lighthouse
and pilots' cottages, cliff-nesting and wading seabirds, views across
the Menai Straits to Snowdonia.
GR SH 632 376
A small chapel not far from Porthmadog
- heading south on the A496 from Maentwrog, turn left at Trem-y-Garth,
bear left at Bryn Bwbach and left again beside Llyn
Tecwyn Isaf. The church is almost at the end of the lane.
to see - the church and graveyard, views across to the mountains,
GR SH 657 143
A pair of small lakes just south of the Mawddach Estuary.
- take the A493 from Dolgellau towards Tywyn. Just before Arthog,
turn left and follow the road uphill to the lakes. The car park
is on the right just after you get to the first lake.
to see - the lakes and surrounding hills. Possibly suitable for
sunrises from the road, sunsets from a footpath to the north of
the lakes. According to the map there are several standing stones
and cairns between the second lake and the road.
Nestling in a fine valley under the southeast
side of Snowdon, Llyn Gwynant and Nant Gwynant (the valley) are
very picturesque. I have three favourite viewpoints for them so
far, all beside the A498 Beddgelert road;
SH 658 541 -a parking area not far down the valley with a superb
viewpoint down the valley, taking in Nant Gwynant, Llyn Gwynant
and Moel Hebog on the skyline. Across the valley is the outfall
pipeline from Llyn Llydaw in the Snowdon Horseshoe for the hydroelectric
plant in the valley below as well as a fine view of Y Lliwedd, Yr
Wyddfa (Snowdon summit), Crib Y Ddysgl, Crib Goch - together forming
the Snowdon Horseshoe. To the north can be seen the Glyders range.
SH 657 527 - a small layby on the outside of the left-hand bend
further down the valley, offering another fine view of Nant Gwynant
and Llyn Gwynant.
SH 646 517 - a layby on the right-hand side of the road, right beside
the lake. Good for water level views down, across and up the valley.
GR SH 509 530
A small lake on the western outskirts of the National Park, which
offers a less well-known view of Snowdon.
- Either turn off the A487 Caernarfon-Porthmadog road at Penygroes
or off the A4085 Beddgelert-Caernarfon road at Rhyd-Ddu onto the
B4418. The lake is just to the south of Nantlle village and there
is a small layby on the opposite side of the road. Access to the
lake itself is not possible here unless you have a permit from the
local fishing club, but a good view can be had from the road, with
a hundred yards or so of field before the lake itself and, in good
conditions, Snowdon tucked in the V of the pass between Mynydd Mawr
and Mynydd Drws-y-Coed.
There is a footpath marked on the map running along the south shore
of the lake but I haven't investigated that yet.
A good example of a glaciated valley lake trapped
by a ledge of hard rock, Llyn Ogwen lies right beside the A5 between
Capel Curig and Bethesda. I have several good viewpoints that I
like for this one;
SH 664 603 - at approximately this grid ref, there is a layby on
the lake side of the road, with a break in the wall allowing access
to a small rocky outcrop. This offers views up the valley, across
the lake towards Pen Yr Ole Wen and the Carneddau, and down the
lake with Y Garn and Foel Goch on the skyline.
SH 668 605 - a footpath leaves the road to the north, towards Tal
y Llyn Ogwen. There are several laybys nearby for parking. Take
the path past Glan Dena and through Tal y Llyn Ogwen to the outfall
of the Afon Lloer into the lake. From here you can get a good view
along the lake towards Y Garn. If you wish, the path continues along
beside the lake to the bottom near Idwal Cottage.
SH 649 603 - parking
at Idwal Cottage, walk down the road a short way to the bridge over
the Afon Ogwen. Once over the bridge look for a stile on the right.
Crossing that takes you onto the path along the lake shore. From
here you can see the lake with the valley above and Tryfan dominating
the skyline on the right. When returning, look under the bridge
and you will see the original packhorse bridge hiding underneath.
The upper of the two lakes at the foot of the
Llanberis Pass Llyn Peris lies beside the A4086 Llanberis Pass road.
It is the lower reservoir for the Dinorwig Pumped Storage power
station so does have a bit of a tide mark, although this was minimised
when the power station was constructed by lining the lake shores
with slate which doesn't attract algae as badly as other materials.
Several good viewpoints are available for Llyn Peris;
SH 598 587 - a layby just outside Nant Peris village, opposite the
head of the lake. From the wall beside the road you can get a good
view down and across the lake towards Elidir Fawr, cloaked by the
spoil heaps of the old Dinorwig quarries - at one time the worlds
largest production slate quarry. If you walk back up the road a
little you will find a gate on the left allowing access to a footpath
which runs across the head of the lake and up through the quarries,
giving good views down the lake to Dolbadarn Castle on the headland
at the end.
SH 595 590 - roughly here there is a layby on the lake side of the
road. If you are feeling energetic and sure-footed it is possible
to climb partway up the hillside on Clogwyn Mawr, giving more elevated
views of the lake, quarries, Dolbadarn Castle and Llyn Padarn beyond.
Looking southeast you can get a great view looking up the Llanberis
SH 586 596 - another layby, close to Dolbadarn Castle.
SH 584 599 - the main car park for Llanberis, with a footpath leading
to Dolbadarn Castle. Also, walking along the road towards the power
station, there is a good view up the lake and Llanberis Pass from
just before the river linking the lakes.
A small lake near Porthmadog and Llandecwyn Church
- heading south on the A496 from Maentwrog, turn left at Trem-y-Garth,
bear left at Bryn Bwbach and Llyn Tecwyn Isaf is a few hundred yards
along on the right.
of lakes in the Dyffryn Mymbyr valley west of Capel Curig, there
are two locations that I like - both on the A4087 Capel Curing to
SH 715 478 - Coming out of Capel Curig, there is a layby just past
the Plas Y Brenin Outdoor Centre. If you are able to park there,
a path leads down beside the centre to the lower lake shore and
a bridge over the river. From here you can see the lake itself,
the river and bridge, woodland on the other side of the river and
the Snowdon Horseshoe away in the distance.
SH 707 575 - Further along the road is a large layby on the left,
beside the headland that splits the lakes. This location offers
views down the valley towards Capel Curig with the Pinnacles and
Crimpiau behind, across to Moel Siabod and up the lake towards Garth
Farm at the end and the Snowdon Horseshoe in the distance. This
spot is great for both sunrise and sunset shots.
GR SH 542 719
This wrought-iron suspension bridge was constructed by Thomas Telford
to carry his new London-Holyhead road, now the A5/A55, across the
treacherous Menai Straits between the mainland and the island of
Anglesea. The bridge is still in use, although the main A55 route
now crosses using the rebuilt Stephenson bridge a short distance
down the Straits.
- the best view I have found so far of the bridge is from a layby
on the A4080 at the above grid reference, just outside Llanfairpwllgwyngyllgogerychwyrndrobwl-llantysiliogogogoch.
I bet the spell checker won't like that one ;-)
GR SH 646 603
Nant Ffrancon is a wonderful glaciated valley leading down from
Llyn Ogwen to Bethesda.
- turn off the A5 at Idwal Cottage but drive straight past the car
park and continue down the road for a couple of hundred yards. At
the bottom of a dip there is room to pull off the road and walk
onto a small outcrop on the right.
to see - the view down Nant Ffrancon valley, with or without a single
tree that has considerately planted itself on the outcrop. Also
the view across the valley to Pen Yr Ole Wen rising up to the northwest.
GR SJ 074 295
At 240 feet the highest waterfall in Wales, Pystyll Rhaeadr is well
worth a visit. The fall is comprised of two drops, the water flowing
through a rock arch between the two. You can still see a notch at
the base of the arch where miners placed a board to divert water
off to a leat feeding the mines further down the valley. In several
places the leat is also visible. For those old enough to remember
the Timotei adverts of the late 1980s, this is where they were filmed.
- take the B4580 or B4396 from the A5 to Llanrhaeadr-ym-Mochnant
and turn off where signposted for the waterfall, right off the B4580,
left off the B4396. It's a narrow turning and easy to mistake for
a driveway entrance until you are almost on top of it. Follow this
road, single track with passing places, for about four miles until
you reach the end at Tan-y-Pistyll. Pay to park at the cafe, Y Gegin
Fach, then take the footpath down past the cafe to the waterfall
to see - the waterfall itself, the river and the surrounding woodland.
You can cross the river on a footbridge in front of the fall and
walk down the valley on the far side for longer range shots of the
fall, or follow a path from the car park up to the top of the fall
for views down the valley. From here you can also, if you feel inclined,
walk up to Moel Sych and the Berwyn mountains, the highest in this
part of Wales. The furthest peak, Cadair Bronwen, is some four miles
away with Moel Sych and Cadair Berwyn en route.
GR SH 336 684
Porth China is a small rocky cove on the southwestern coast of Anglesea.
The headland between it and Porth Cwyfan has a small chapel on it,
which may be of interest.
- Turn off the A4080 at Aberffraw and take the road down to Penrhyn.
Park where possible here and walk along the coast path past Porth
Cwyfan to Porth China.
to see - both coves, the headland between, the chapel and the general
On the north coast of the Lleyn peninsular, Porthdinllaen beach
is a curving sandy bay with cliffs around and an impressive headland
to the west.
- take the A497 from Pwllheli to Edern then carry straight on along
the B4412 through Morfa Nefyn. Bear right at the end of the village
and you will soon reach the beach.
to see - the beach and cliffs, sea and cloudscapes, views along
the beach with the headland to the west or Yr Eifl mountain to the
GR SH 648 605
Rhaeadr Ogwen is a waterfall on the river just below the outfall
from Llyn Ogwen.
at Idwal Cottage, GR
SH 649 603, just off the A5 at the foot of Llyn Ogwen.
Walk down the road a short way to the bridge over
the Afon Ogwen. Just over the bridge you'll find a stile on the
left giving access to a rock outcrop above the fall. Take care descending
this outcrop, then you will find the fall immediately below the
to see - the waterfall and rocky stream, framed by the road bridge
and with Pen Yr Ole Wen or Tryfan looming above in the background
GR SH 730 563
Rhos Barracks is the ruins of a quarry and associated buildings
on the slopes of Moel Siabod to the south of Capel Curig.
- From the A5(t), turn off for Pont Cyfyng about 1 mile from Capel
Curig. Cross the river then look out for a parking space about 100
yards on, just before a turning off to the right and some cottages
on the left. Walk up this turning and continue along it when it
becomes a track,. The path is diverted at one point, follow the
footpath signs. Eventually you come out on the tops and carry on
along the track. Near to the Barracks there is a track leading towards
them on the left, however that is blocked by a gate and a sign stating
"No Access". Therefore ignore this track and carry on
for a couple of hundred yards until you see a conifer plantation
on the left. Turn off and follow the edge of this plantation down
the hill until you reach the barracks. There is a stile right by
the first building and there is no sign prohibiting access.
to see - the barracks ruins and slate spoil heaps. General views
of Moel Siabod to the southwest and to the Carneddau to the northwest.
Take care if walking on the spoil heaps, like all spoil heaps they
can be unstable.
GR SH 272 752
A rocky shore on the south side of Holy Island, near Holyhead.
-Turn off the A55 just before Holyhead onto the B4545, then turn
left at Four Mile Bridge to Rhoscolyn. Drive through the village
to the end of the road, just above the bay, where there is a car
to see - the rocky coves, including Bwa Ddu, an archway through
which the waves break.
GR SH 204 823
South Stack is the furthest west headland on Holy Island, Anglesea.
- leave Holyhead on the Holyhead Mountain road, pass the Mountain
then turn off for Goferydd, where there is parking. The route is
signposted for RSPB South Stack.
to see - the headland and lighthouse, nesting sea birds during the
GR SH 584 381
The Cob is the causeway built by William Madocks to dam the Glaslyn
Estuary when he founded Porthmadog. It carries the A487 main road,
the Festiniog Railway and a footpath.
- the nearest parking is a small layby opposite the Festiniog Railway's
Boston Lodge Workshops. This is the grid reference above. There
is another layby in the V of the left turning a few hundred yards
further on towards Minffordd. Failing those, there are Pay &
Display car parks in Porthmadog at the other end of the Cob.
to see - Festiniog Railway trains on The Cob, water fowl on the
lagoon created by The Cob, Snowdon in the far distance.
Pandy Slate Mill
GR SH 550 433
The site of a slate mill built to service the quarries on the slopes
on Moel Hebog near Porthmadog. The main mill building and some of
the tramways have been restored structurally but the open window
apertures and lack of roof make for great silhouettes.
- Take the A487 out of Porthmadog towards Caernarfon. Just after
Penmorfa, turn right for Golan. Just before Clenenny, turn right
(6th right) for Cefn Coch. After about ½ mile there is a
farm gateway on the right with room to park on the verge beside
it. Walk down the road and just around the next bend you will see
the slate mill. Access to it is just past the mill building, through
a gate just before the river.
to see - the mill building, the surrounding earthworks, the landscape
and mountains around.
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text and photos are copyright © Chris Maddock, 2007