Dawn trip to Ynys Llanddwyn

Ynys Llanddwyn, Newborough Forest / Warren and Nature Reserve – our Anglesey destination early on a fine February morning. Ynys Llanddwyn is a tidal island that is home to many tales including:

  • St Dwynwen and her church
  • The birth place of RSPB Cymru in 1911
  • Tŵr Mawr – the main lighthouse, built in the mid 1800’s (pictured above)
  • Tŵr Bach – a smaller & older warning tower by the old lifeboat station
  • Fascinating geology with both pillow lava & red jasper outcroppings

See a gothic view (monochrome infrared) of Tŵr Mawr on my Natures Universe site.

It’s a couple of hours drive north for us, so an early start was necessary. We top up on petrol & breakfast supplies in Bangor supermarket before driving the last stint over on Anglesey. Take the turn in the middle of Newborough village to reach the lovely forest / beach-side parking. At the time of writing, I believe parking fees are £5 for the day – unless you arrive really early (when the barriers may be open).

We parked up and quickly made our way through the dunes and on to the beach at 6 something or other am, where we were greeted by this beautiful view of a deep red pre-dawn sky over Snowdonia.

Maybe the shepard's warning but as a photographer ..
Maybe the shepard’s warning but as a photographer ..

I’d already expected to have to move around promptly to achieve the different shots I was looking for but the westerly jog up the beach with getting on for 50lbs of photography backpack certainly woke my leg muscles up! But oh was it worth it 🙂

The ponies that graze Ynys Llanddwyn start the day next to St Dwynwen's church ruins.
The ponies that graze Ynys Llanddwyn start the day next to St Dwynwen’s church ruins.
The 1903 Celtic Cross on Ynys Llanddwyn

St Dwynwen

Wales’ patron saint of lovers. There appear to be various versions of Dwynwen’s story. She was said to be the fairest of the many daughters of King Brychan Brycheiniog. She fell in love with a young man called Maelon, who reciprocated, but unfortunately her father had plans for her to marry another.

When she is forced to spurn Maelon, some say she runs away, prays to fall out of love or that she is raped by Maelon in his frustration. Either way, Maelon ends up frozen in a block of ice and an angel grants Dwynwen three wishes:

  • that Maelon be released
  • that God should, through her experience, care for the wellbeing of lovers
  • and that she, Dwynwen, should never become married

After this Dwynwen founds a convent on Ynys Llanddwyn, where she lives out the rest of her life. Her church became a place of holy pilgimage during the middle ages and the ruins can still be visited today.

The views from Ynys Llanddwyn are spectacular. With both Snowdonia & Llyn Peninsula as backdrops, whilst having various points of foreground interest too. It is no wonder that various feature film scenes have been set here.

Beautiful softlight and so many choices of subject.
Beautiful softlight and so many choices of subject.

Having photographed Tŵr Mawr at dawn we watched as the seabirds started their day with gulls calling overhead and a pair of Oystercatchers who stood together on a tide sprayed rock observing the coming of sunrise.

And what a sunrise it was. With renewed tangerine orange in the sky, the sun burst forth above central Snowdonia; whilst (from our shared rocky viewpoint) Tŵr Bach stood almost silhouetted to one side.

The sun gradually rises into a tangerine sky above the mountains of Snowdonia. In the forground stands the beacon tower (Tŵr Bach) of Ynys Llanddwyn.
The sun gradually rises into a tangerine sky above the mountains of Snowdonia. In the forground stands the beacon tower (Tŵr Bach) of Ynys Llanddwyn.

Having enjoyed spectacular dawn & sunrise, we sat and enjoyed our breakfast snacks before moving on to explore more of this beautiful & spiritual island. I always like achieving some pleasing shots early on a trip, the rest of the day becomes more relaxed and everything seems like a bonus. On Llanddwyn the surroundings almost beg you to sit back and enter a contemplative mood – what a source for inspiration.

Mountain, sea, sunshine and peace - where better for an artist's inspiration.
Mountain, sea, sunshine and peace – where better for an artist’s inspiration.

As we continued to explore and then walk back to Llanddwyn Bay, we enjoyed not only the views but also the geology, the information signs, the ponies (again), the expanse of empty beach and then found a swing on the forest edge. Have a look at the gallery below for some extra pictures.

Finally we left around mid morning, time to move on and recce some other local spots for another day’s ‘golden hour’.

There’s a map beneath the gallery if you’d like to consult it. The only 2 bits of extra advice I would give is to be careful about the tides (it is a tidal island) and to respect all restrictions posted, particularly in seabird breeding season.

Gallery (click on picture to enlarge / bring up more details) :

Map (as a guide only) :


Carneddau Excursion (Cwm Eigiau loop)

A glorious circular route in the Carneddau, from the remote parking near Llyn Eigiau (SH732663).
A Snowdonia walk for the more adventurous, taking in less walked peaks and an enjoyable ridge.

Summary:
Approximately 9 miles and 2800 ft of ascent.
Section 1 – mainly stoned tracks to Cwm Eigiau quarry.
Section 2 – craig ascent & ridge-walk – mixed rock & grass, some exposure.
Section 3 – descent – unmarked pathless heather & grass.
Allow 6+ hours for an enjoyable day.

The attached map shows our approximate route; given the nature of the terrain you may wish to modify this to suit your own needs. There are several rocky traverses that would become quite challenging in wintry conditions and the potential drops are significant; please be well equipped for the conditions and be confident in your own skills.

Approach:
Take the B5106 alongside the Afon Conwy to Tal-y-bont. In the village turn west up the single track lane to Llyn Eigiau. Note: During snowy spells the lane may become a challenge, even for well shod 4x4s. Park in the car park at the end of the road, SH 732 663.

Walk:
Leave the car and walk down the access track to Llyn Eigiau. The break in the dam wall that caused the 1925 disaster, resulting in the loss of 16 lives, can be noted on the right of this track.

Craig Eigiau towers up behind the broken dam wall of Llyn Eigiau.
Craig Eigiau towers up behind the broken dam wall of Llyn Eigiau.

Continue onward until meeting the main dam wall, at which point turn left over a bridge and then right to follow the lower path along the left side of the wetland. After a short while follow the main path as it crosses the valley floor to the right and bridges the Afon Eigiau.

Crossing Afon Eigiau and the marshy area that would have been flooded when the dam was built.
Crossing Afon Eigiau and the marshy area that would have been flooded when the dam was built.

The track now climbs steadily upwards in to Cwm Eigiau, passing by a small lone dwelling. It is well worth pausing to look back at the view of the valley, as well as keeping an eye open for the Carneddau ponies that live here.

Looking back along Cwm Eigiau from the upper quarry track.
Looking back along Cwm Eigiau from the upper quarry track.

In due course you will come to the old quarry at the end of this track. At this point, we now need to swing right and proceed northerly up the rough grass slope, heading for the waterfalls that feed the Afon Eigiau and located on the north-eastern edge of the craig.

The old quarry workings at the head of Cwm Eigiau with Craig yr Ysfa beyond.
The old quarry workings at the head of Cwm Eigiau with Craig yr Ysfa beyond.

Skirt the left-hand side of this small cascade and head uphill amongst grass & boulders to reach a small plateau. We paused here for a few snacks before moving on again. From here the going is both rough and steep heading up to the higher plateau of Penywaun-wen, beneath the summit of Carnedd Llewelyn. After a careful clamber up to this point, we found it to be a good place to pause for some lunch. The views around are stunning, Carnedd Llewelyn immediately to the NW, Cwm Eigiau down to the east, Tryfan & Glyderau to the SW – you may even spot Snowdon beyond.

The shimmering blue waters of Ffynnon Llugwy.
The shimmering blue waters of Ffynnon Llugwy.

Now continue south-easterly along the ridge to Bwlch Eryl Farchog and then up to Pen yr Helgi Du. This section does include a short stretch, that some consider to be a scramble; if wearing a backpack, as we were, you’ll definitely want to be ‘hands on’. Furthermore in windy / icy / snowy conditions even more care should be taken – its not desperately narrow but the drops are big. Once at the Pen yr Helgi Du end, you can enjoy the view back of what you’ve just crossed.

Looking back across Bwlch Eryl Farchog on approach to Pen yr Helgi Du.
Looking back across Bwlch Eryl Farchog on approach to Pen yr Helgi Du.

Having negotiated the rocks to Pen yr Helgi Du summit, there is a more relaxing & grassy descent to a ladder style at the top of Bwlch y Tri Marchog, before climbing the grassy bank of Pen Llithrig y Wrach (Peak of the slippery Witch), what a name! More interesting views open up from here, especially looking north over Llyn Eigiau, past where you parked, to the N. Wales coast and its offshore windfarm.

Looking north from Pen Llithrig y Wrach over Llyn Eigiau to the North Wales coastline.
Looking north from Pen Llithrig y Wrach over Llyn Eigiau to the North Wales coastline.

It’s now time to descend. We headed NE at first, before heading towards the disused quarry workings. There are no paths here, it is rather damp walking across boggy heather. At the old quarry (care needed), pick up the path that will quickly lead you back to the original outgoing path. Now simply retrace your earlier steps, back to the car parking. See below for a few further photos and for the route map.

You may also enjoy my earlier blog post “Carneddau Ponies” with pictures of the ponies that live on this highland region of Wales.

Altitude:

CwmEigiau-walkprofile
CwmEigiau-walkprofile

Map:

Gallery:

Craig Cwm Silyn

Craig Cwm Silyn, a morning walk at the western end of the Nantlle ridge.

This walk starts at a small parking area that the landowner kindly allows visitors to use. Having walked most of the Nantlle ridge earlier this year (see this post), we wished to visit Craig Cwm Silyn at the western most point (the one peak that we didn’t visit before). Here’s the morning view from the permissive parking area:

The view from the permissive car parking for Craig Cwm Silyn.
The view from the permissive car parking for Craig Cwm Silyn.

We followed this track ahead into the sunrise. It passes through a gate, over a ladder style, and then starts to drop downhill towards the lakes at Cwm Silyn. Just before reaching the lakes, turn right, to climb over another ladder style (see photo below).

Early morning sunlight illuminates Tamsin on the ladder-style above the lakes of Cwm Silyn
Early morning sunlight illuminates Tamsin on the ladder-style above the lakes of Cwm Silyn

Now follow the grassy track ahead before turning uphill to your right (away from the lakes) to meet the path that ascends along the edge of the crags. It is from a point early along this section that I took the feature image (top) of the sunrise.

The path steadily climbs and as one nears the top it curves to the left, continuing along the top of the cliffs. The view back towards the coast can be excellent providing that the coastal cloud has lifted sufficiently.

A autumn morning view looking towards the coastline and Anglesey from Craig Cwm Silyn.
An autumn morning view looking towards the coastline and Anglesey from Craig Cwm Silyn.

Continue walking ahead, still gently rising to cross another ladder style before finally climbing to the highest point, a little over 2,400ft above the coast. The summit is fairly rocky and enjoys views towards Moel Hebog, as well as along the further peaks of the Nantlle ridge. On our walk, the morning clouds descended briefly before lifting again to show us this fine view across Mynydd Tal y mignedd (with its obelisk) & the Nantlle ridge in general:

Early sunlight illuminates the Nantlle ridge on an autumn morning.
Early sunlight illuminates the Nantlle ridge on an autumn morning.

There are various ways to extend this walk but as you will see from our way map below, we followed a similar route back down to the car. An enjoyable & rewarding walk to start the autumn with. The scenery and weather inspired me to produce an artwork in Digital Oils of the view towards a cloudy Moel Hebog. You can see the image on my pro site, Natures Universe.

Route Map:

Photo Gallery:

A November stroll on Snowdon

A changeable day in November, with a beautiful clear start; just the sort of day to photograph some of the different moods of beautiful Snowdonia. And so it was last week when Tamsin & I had an early start to head for Rhyd Ddu before dawn. Here’s a photo heavy post, telling the tale of our walk and including the GPS track / route details, so that you might enjoy this fine piece of country for yourself; (please note that in wintery conditions this route becomes a much more significant challenge, requiring more knowledge & equipment):

The blue light of early morn

We parked up in the frosty & empty car park at Rhyd Ddu just as the tinges of blue light were lifting the dawn sky. A few quick checks plus one photo later and we were on our way, hiking up the track towards the old quarry on Yr Aran slopes. The aim was to be at the quarry as the sun rose above the mountain horizon. As always it was worth taking the time to stand & stare, the view looking back westwards was beautiful with a coloured dawn sky, mountain panorama and mist in the valley:

Looking west before sunrise – from the left, Nantle Ridge, Mynydd Mawr, Moel Eilio.

It is these views that help make early morning walks such a pleasure, along with crisp air, morning wildlife and the fact that you’ll probably have the mountainside to yourself! It’s definitely the time for catching decent photography light. I’m currently on a long-term mission to capture the many changing faces of North & Mid Wales landscapes, not just the perfect blue sky days. And so we carried on, heading uphill for the quarries.

Forward to Yr Aran and the sunrise

As we reached the quarry, the timing was great and we were rewarded with striking views all around. Looking back through the ruins, we could see Beddgelert Forest & Nantle Ridge beyond. Whilst ahead there were stunning sunrise colours, as the sun burst out from behind the flank of Yr Aran.

Back to Beddgelert Forest and Nantle Ridge from the quarry ruins

Sunrise across the quarries and slopes of Yr Aran

Now it was time to swing north and climb more steeply up the ridge, Allt Maenderyn, towards the arête of Bwlch Main (my favourite point on Snowdon). Looking uphill showed that the summit of Yr Wyddfa (Snowdon) was, as so often, shrouded in moody cloud. Pleasing, from my photography perspective, it would allow for some moody shots looking down from the cloud base, I just hoped that more general cloud would hold off for another hour or so. In the meantime it was great to enjoy the morning view across to Y Lliwedd.

Warm sunlight floods into the quarries of Cwm Llan and Y Lliwedd

Approaching the cloud base & with the temperature becoming notably fresher, I paused to put on my coat and to take advantage of a gloriously clear view across Bwlchysaethau to Crib Goch, which was bathed in warm sunshine.

Crib Goch looming beyond Bwlchysaethau, illuminated by morning sunshine.

As we crossed Bwlch Main the views down towards Cwm Llan & Nant Gwynant beyond, were just as dramatic as I had hoped. The morning sunshine was sandwiched with building cloud above, valley shadow & mist below. Leaving the Canon SLR in the rucksack, I decided this would be a good spot to utilise the significant reach of my little Nikon. When I bought the B700 last year, its main target use was for video projects with Tamsin. I hoped that it would also act as an inexpensive & lightweight backup / catchall on walks. Whilst it clearly can’t produce SLR standard shots, it does hold its own well & fulfils my chosen role for it. Here are 2 shots out of the cloud with it – the 2nd shot is framed within the first one, at the mist line on the valley floor:

Changeable November conditions; looking southerly from Bwlch Main arete (Snowdon) with Y Lliwedd to the left, mist over Llyn Gwynant and dramatic skies above.

Morning mist over from Llyn Gwynant shrouds the start of the Watkin path up Snowdon.

Now continuing across this exposed ridge to Snowdon’s summit, visibility dropped & hints of winter appeared; perhaps we’ll be back up here with the crampons in a few months 😉

In to the mists on the exposed ridge of Bwlch Main.

Signs of Winter

Finally we reached the summit and met a small handful of cheerful folk who were also enjoying the morning (the first folk we’d seen all morning). Here’s a picture of Tamsin by the summit trig point.

Tamsin & the Yr Wyddfa summit trig point

To descend, we retraced our tracks across Bwlch Main and then, keeping right where the path splits, we followed the Rhyd Ddu path back down to the car. With steadily increasing cloud & flatter light, the best of the photography was done but we did pause to enjoy our bacon butties & picnic 😀

Below, you will find the details of our route, a link to the GPS track and a gallery of all the pictures above, to make it easier to view them:

GPS Route details:

If you prefer track-logs, it’s available here.

Gallery of images:

Harvest Moon Sunsets

Do you ever have one of those days or projects where you start off aiming to do one thing but end up with something quite different? Well this is a tale of one such occurrence. An example, if you will, of why flexibility is good and how beneficial, accepting that as one door closes another one may well open, can be.

Harvest Moons are defined as the closest full moon to the autumn equinox. For the northern hemisphere this usually falls as the September full moon but in 2017 the Harvest Moon falls later, becoming full at 7-40pm BST on the evening of 5th October. Over the years I’ve taken plenty of full moon pictures, like the one below:

Full Moon

For this Harvest moon I wanted to photograph something a little different, with more character than detail. This is the sort of shot that requires both planning & luck. A look at the weather forecasts suggested that evening cloud was a likely risk on the hills but it should be fairly broken along the coastline to our north-west. Time to use some of the great tools like Photographer’s Ephemeris & Google Earth to plan the shot. Calculations showed that the moon should just be rising above a silhouetted Cadair Idris as it went full, as viewed from the harbour wall at Barmouth. At that distance the effect of the 500mm lens should both emphasise the moon size & compress the landscape to help give a decent impactful composition. If luck was with us, a few burst shots should provide all that was necessary for a dramatic HDR image. Without luck, we’d just see a mass of dark cloud! At any rate it is always enjoyable to watch as the lights of Barmouth sparkle across the harbour at twilight.

Barmouth’s colourful twinkling

We packed up a few different bits of kit so that we could take advantage of various eventualities and set off for Barmouth, timing our arrival to give us just enough time to enjoy fish & chips overlooking the sea before sunset. We were treated to a fabulous sunset with almost clear skies out to sea & rich colours developing after the sun dipped below a watery horizon. I had setup the little Nikon in timelapse mode when we first arrived on the harbour wall, here’s a quick animated gif made from some of the shots …

Sunset animation from Barmouth harbour

The header image for this article is my favourite capture of the evening, taken at 500mm on a DSLR, the last moments of the sun floating above the sea can be made quite impactful.

Anyone who has visited Barmouth will know that the tide runs in to the harbour at quite a speed. With the incoming tide at full pace there was also plenty of opportunity to take a slightly wider view of the sunset with choppy waters to the fore.

Tidal Rush

As the evening wore on life & entertainment carried on around us but the clouds seemed resolute about obscuring our view of Cadair Idris. Still there was plenty to amuse us, with Tamsin sketching the waves and me rather more distracted by the various forms of transport ..

Mixed transport

As 7-40pm approached, I could tantalisingly see the glow of the rising moon but the clouds just would not break. Then at 7-42pm the clouds partially broke for just a few moments. The view was fabulous by eye but very fleeting & not ideal for the photographs I wished for. Still, always take the shot, that’s my motto. Here are two processings of it, one in partial monochrome, one with colour ..

Beyond Pared y Cefn Hir, above the looming shadows of Cadair Idris, the Harvest Moon breaks through scudding clouds.

Beyond Pared y Cefn Hir, above the looming shadows of Cadair Idris, the Harvest Moon breaks through scudding clouds. (colour version)

As the evening night progressed the cloud never cleared but we waited for the moon to rise high, above the cloud – enough to give moody silver reflections on the estuary.

Dark moon over sea

So a great evening out, some lovely photography even if not what I had planned for. That’s great, because there will always be another full moon, another harvest, so the challenge lives on. Anyway it was time for more mundane things – like doing our weekly shop before the supermarket closed at 11pm. Let me leave you with that sunset again; until next time dear readers …

Time to timelapse – capturing an animated sunset

Sublime fire above the deep blue