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The Lazy Photographer's Guide 03 - North Wales

by Chris Maddock

 

This 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 at www.f22.org.uk if you want to see what you could see before setting out.

I've called it The Lazy Photographer's Guide since most of the locations are less than half a mile from road access.


Aberdyfi (Aberdovey)
Barmouth
Betws-Y-Coed
Capel Curig
Conwy Castle
Cwm Idwal
Cwmorthin
Dwygyfylchi Beach
Fairy Glen
Llanddwyn Island
Llandecwyn Church
Llynnau Cregennen
Llyn Gwynant
Llyn Nantlle
Llyn Ogwen

Llyn Peris
Llyn Tecwyn Isaf
Llynnau Mymbyr

Menai Bridge
Nant Ffrancon
Pistyll Rhaeadr
Porth China
Porthdinllaen Beach
Rhaeadr Ogwen
Rhos Barracks
Rhoscolyn
South Stack
The Cob
Ynys Pandy Slate Mill

 


Aberdyfi (Aberdovey)
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.

Access - 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 river bank.

What to see - the estuary and patterns in the sands at low tide, the village, views across the estuary to the Mid-Wales mountains.

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Barmouth
GR SH 613 155
Barmouth lies on the north shore of the Mawddach estuary north of Aberdyfi.

Access - the A496 runs down the coast from near Porthmadog through Barmouth and inland to Dolgellau. Parking is available on the sea side of the town.

What 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 of Snowdonia.

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Betws-Y-Coed
GR SH 794 564
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.

Access - at the junction of the A5(T) from London to Holyhead and the A470 from Conwy to Dolgellau. There is parking near the station.

What 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 Snowdonia.

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Capel Curig
GR SH 720 581
A small village at the junction of the A5 Holyhead road and the A4086 to Llanberis.

Access - parking is available behind the Pinnacles gift shop & cafe and Joe Brown's climbing shop.

What 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.

If you're around in the morning, the Pinnacles cafe does a good breakfast.

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Conwy Castle
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.

Access - 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 castle.

What 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.

An 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.

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Cwm Idwal
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.

Access - 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.

What 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.

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Cwmorthin
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.

Access - 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.

What 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 standing,
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 lake.

After 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 inclined plane.
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.

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Dwygyfylchi Beach
GR SH 733 775
On the North Wales coast, this beach lies between the A55(T) and North Wales Coast railway and the sea.

Access - 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.

What 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 the sky.

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Fairy Glen
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.

Access - 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.

What to see - river, gorge, waterfalls, rapids, woodland and associated wildlife.

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Llanddwyn Island
GR SH 389 633
Actually a peninsular off the southwest coast of Anglesea, Llanddwyn is only a true island at extremely high tides.

Access - 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.

What to see - sand-dunes, beaches, the "island", lighthouse and pilots' cottages, cliff-nesting and wading seabirds, views across the Menai Straits to Snowdonia.

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Llandecwyn Church
GR SH 632 376
A small chapel not far from Porthmadog

Access - 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.

What to see - the church and graveyard, views across to the mountains, sunsets.

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Llynnau Cregennen
GR SH 657 143
A pair of small lakes just south of the Mawddach Estuary.

Access - 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.

What 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.

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Llyn Gwynant
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;

GR 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.

GR 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.

GR 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.

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Llyn Nantlle
GR SH 509 530
A small lake on the western outskirts of the National Park, which offers a less well-known view of Snowdon.

Access - 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.

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Llyn Ogwen
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;

GR 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.

GR 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.

GR 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.

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Llyn Peris
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;

GR 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.

GR 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 Pass.

GR SH 586 596 - another layby, close to Dolbadarn Castle.

GR 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.

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Llyn Tecwyn Isaf
A small lake near Porthmadog and Llandecwyn Church

Access - 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.

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Llynnau Mymbyr
A pair 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 Llanberis road;

GR 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.

GR 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.

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Menai Bridge
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.

Access - 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 ;-)

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Nant Ffrancon
GR SH 646 603
Nant Ffrancon is a wonderful glaciated valley leading down from Llyn Ogwen to Bethesda.

Access - 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.

What 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.

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Pistyll Rhaeadr
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.

Access - 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 foot.

What 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.

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Porth China
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.

Access - 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.

What to see - both coves, the headland between, the chapel and the general views.

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Porthdinllaen Beach
GR SH 281 408
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.

Access - 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.

What 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 northeast.

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Rhaeadr Ogwen
GR SH 648 605
Rhaeadr Ogwen is a waterfall on the river just below the outfall from Llyn Ogwen.

Access - park 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 road bridge.

What 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

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Rhos Barracks
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.

Access - 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.

What 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.

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Rhoscolyn
GR SH 272 752
A rocky shore on the south side of Holy Island, near Holyhead.

Access -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 park.

What to see - the rocky coves, including Bwa Ddu, an archway through which the waves break.

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South Stack
GR SH 204 823
South Stack is the furthest west headland on Holy Island, Anglesea.

Access - 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.

What to see - the headland and lighthouse, nesting sea birds during the breeding season.

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The Cob
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.

Access - 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.

What to see - Festiniog Railway trains on The Cob, water fowl on the lagoon created by The Cob, Snowdon in the far distance.

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Ynys 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.

Access - 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.

What to see - the mill building, the surrounding earthworks, the landscape and mountains around.

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All text and photos are copyright © Chris Maddock, 2007