Nantlle Ridge circular walk

This walk, along a spectacular section of the Nantlle Ridge, provides great views across Snowdonia, as well as out to sea. It is one of the classic Snowdonian ridge walks. Our version is ~ 7 miles long with a 3000ft climb; both starting and finishing in the car park at Rhyd Ddu – next to the Welsh Highland Railway station. Having parked up (£5 for the day, at time of writing), leave the car park by crossing the A4085 and enter the field opposite via an an interesting metal gateway. The stoned path bridges the Afon Gwyrfai, keep right (ignoring our little excursion on the GPS track below) to reach a corner in the Nantlle road (B4418). Upon reaching the lane, immediately turn left on to a path to the base of Y Garn. Soon the path will split, take the path up Y Garn – we shall be returning along the lower path in a few hours. As you steadily climb Y Garn the views back to Rhyd Ddu with Snowdon beyond are well worth a short breather pause – there was plenty of early haze on our day.

Looking back through haze towards Snowdon and the morning sun.
Looking back through haze towards Snowdon and the morning sun.

Continue up Y Garn, the uphill walk is straightforward enough but could be quite a haul if you were not fit to hill walking and the spring lambs seemed quite curious of our ascent.

A Welsh Mountain Lamb watches the two humans climb Y Garn.
A Welsh Mountain Lamb watches the two humans climb Y Garn.

When almost at the summit the ground becomes quite rocky and the views open up all around. The summit itself is just to your right by the cairns. Once finished here, we should strike off again in a SSW direction, keeping the cliffs to your right. We are now heading for Mynydd Drws-y-coed.

A pause for photos after Y Garn and before Drws-y-coed.
A pause for photos after Y Garn and before Drws-y-coed.

We paused by the stonewall here, to admire the views with mountains peeping up above the morning clouds. The next section is the only part of this route to involve scrambling, just maintain good contact with the rock and take particular care of any exposed places above the cliffs to your right. I should also say that this would be significantly more challenging & risky in wintery conditions where considerable equipment & experience would be vital.

Looking up the topmost crags of Mynydd Drws-y-coed withTrum y Ddysgl beyond.
Looking up the topmost crags of Mynydd Drws-y-coed with Trum y Ddysgl beyond.

Having reached the summit of Drws-y-coed, we shall now keep the cliffs on our right as we descend and then climb again to the summit of Trum y Ddysgl. Take care not to miss the point at which the path splits, to take in the summit one needs to bear right & more steeply uphill again.

Looking back eastwards as we approach the summit of Trum y Ddysgl.
Looking back eastwards as we approach the summit of Trum y Ddysgl.

This is glorious walking and having reached the summit, we now swing to our left along the ridgetop. Towards the south-westerly end of this ridge we now have the option to turn westerly and cross to the obelisk marked peak of Mynydd Tal-y-mignedd.

Mynydd Tal-y-mignedd from Trum y Ddysgl
Mynydd Tal-y-mignedd from Trum y Ddysgl

Given my propensity for “just one more peak” we did of course go to view the obelisk.

Tamsin and the stone pillar obelisk at the summit of Tal-y-mignedd.
Tamsin and the stone pillar obelisk at the summit of Tal-y-mignedd.

This was a good spot to pause and have a snack to lift our energy levels. Spicy pork steak sandwiches & salad were greatly appreciated but there were rather too many midges who thought that we looked like a tasty breakfast :O

Next up was the return walk, retracing our steps back to the Trum ridge.

On the Nantlle Ridge: the view back to Trum y Ddysgl from Tal y mignedd
On the Nantlle Ridge: the view back to Trum y Ddysgl from Tal y mignedd

Having regained the ridge we now head down the south-east spur, descending towards Bwlch-y-ddwy-elor and Beddgelert forest, which should be to our left. As we descend, Cwm Dwyfor and the head of the mines of Cwm Pennant are down to our right.

The view back to part of the Nantlle Ridge as you descend to Beddgelert forest.
The view back to part of the Nantlle Ridge as you descend to Beddgelert forest.

Upon reaching the Bwlch, a gateway will be seen entering the forestry, take this track and follow it down through the picturesque forestry. When you meet the vehicular forest tracks, take close note of our GPS tracklog. In brief, turn right and then almost immediately left, follow this track with a stream on your left until you meet a ‘T’ junction. At the ‘T’ turn left over the stream and then right again to short cut on to another forestry vehicle track. You will notice a bridle-path leaving this track on your left (North). Take this bridle-path, follow it through the forestry & then across the open farmland, back to where you originally turned uphill to climb Y Garn. From here you should simply retrace your steps back to the car park at Rhyd Ddu.

Once you’ve completed the walk, you may be lucky enough to see a steam train in the station.

Ex South African Railways NGG16 Class Garratt Loco manufactured by Beyer-Peacock 1958, now operating on the Welsh Highland Railway.
Ex South African Railways NGG16 Class Garratt Loco manufactured by Beyer-Peacock 1958, now operating on the Welsh Highland Railway.

The steam train is a majestic and probably less energetic way to take in some of the natural beauty of Snowdonia, but perhaps that’s one for another day 🙂


Photo Gallery:

Copper Morning – a Cwm Bychan walk

It’s been a while since I’ve had chance to blog post, so let’s catch-up with an early morning mountain walk through Cwm Bychan to Beddgelert and then returning via the banks of the Afon Glaslyn.

Tamsin & I completed this walk yesterday morning (23rd May) and most of the route is currently lined with gorgeous bluebell flowers. Walking at a relatively leisurely pace, it took us a little over 3 hours including photography pauses (adjust for your walking pace). The GPS recorded 5.8 miles distance and 1500ft climb. Usual mountain walk advice is relevant but I would additionally stress that you will really want those sturdy boots, since much of the walk is upon rocky ground. The walk itself is absolutely gorgeous and I highly recommend it.

Bluebells in Spring Sunshine
Bluebells in Spring Sunshine

Park in the Nantmor National Trust car park at grid ref: SH597462 (£4/day at time of writing) and leave the car park via the gate next to the loos. Turn immediately right, under the railway and climbing up through bluebell woods.
Morning Sun
Morning Sun

Gradually the woodland will fade into open mountain, do look back towards the coastline, it’s a great view. Having started walking at 6.50am we had the pleasure of a cool morning breeze whilst watching the sun drawn up in to the sky by Helios’ steeds. We paused in the shade of a lonesome mountain tree.
Miner's Aerial Ropeway
Miner’s Aerial Ropeway

Soon you will come across evidence of the copper mining that used to be carried out here. Mining has been dated back to at least the 17th century in Cwm Bychan. The mines finally closed in the 19th century, only to be re-opened in the 1920s. It was at this time that an aerial ropeway was built to help remove the Chalcopyrite (CuFeS2) ore for processing. This attempt to restart production was short lived and the mine finally closed by the end of that decade. Various relics of that era can still be seen, including the aerial ropeway with its pylons and terminal wheel, higher up the mountain.
Wheel header of aerial ropeway
Wheel header of aerial ropeway

There’s more information about the mine site and its neighbours on the Coflein website.

Shortly after passing the header wheel the paths split in two, keep straight ahead uphill (as opposed to branching left), past a little more copper mining spoil, to eventually climb over a ladder style and reach the high point of this walk. The views from here are breath-taking and include the peaks of the Snowdon Horseshoe. We took a moment to stand and stare, basking in spring sunshine, sweet scent on the breeze and serenaded with birdsong – life doesn’t get much better 🙂

Views across central Snowdonia
Views across central Snowdonia

Now continue ahead to the nearby signpost & split in the track. Whilst it is possible to turn left towards Beddgelert, why miss out on the short extension down to the shores of beautiful Llyn Dinas. Before descending on the right to Llyn Dinas we took a very short detour, just 100m ahead, to investigate another copper mining shaft and for Tamsin to do some scrambling.
Tamsin on Rocks
Tamsin on Rocks

As one descends, the view of Llyn Dinas gradually opens up until the view of her full waters is eventually on show. We’ll now descend right to her shore line where we turn left to follow the river down towards Beddgelert. After a short distance the path joins the minor lane from Sygun Copper Mine to Beddgelert.
Morn over Llyn Dinas
Descending to Llyn Dinas from Cwm Bychan

Upon reaching Beddgelert one may cross the river & visit this much loved village. Have a pub lunch, enjoy the ice-cream parlour or just soak up the relaxed atmosphere. When ready, pick up the footpath going downstream again. Our GPS tracklog (see below) follows the left-hand bank but you’ll want to be on the other bank if you wish to visit Gelert’s grave. Either way as you walk along the paths downstream you’ll eventually find yourself on the left-hand riverbank with the Afon Glaslyn to your right & the Welsh Highland Railway to your left (keep a look out for the Steam Trains).
WHR narrow gauge tracks
WHR narrow gauge tracks

The pass of Aberglaslyn is a stunning section of river and worth a walk along at any time of year. Do take care on the path, it is quite rocky & narrow in places.
Path along Aberglaslyn
Path along Aberglaslyn

Eventually you will find yourself near the Aberglaslyn road crossing. Don’t exit the woodland on to the road, just turn left uphill on the path away from the river. It is now just a short walk back to the car park that you started from; I hope you enjoyed the walk. Our GPS tracklog is embedded below plus two links to alternative descriptions of this walk.


Other descriptions of the route:
National Trust – starting at the same point but walking clockwise (the opposite way) – starting from Beddgelert, walking anti-clockwise. [PDF file]


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

A Moelwyn walk extended

How do these things happen? You decide to go for a medium length, early morning mountain walk, but then end up extending it and walking for most of the day. Our initial objective was Moelwyn Mawr; as seen from Cnicht in the feature image above.

The day started with a 5-20am alarm, grab a bit of breakfast, make some chilli pork sandwiches and drive up to the pretty village of Croesor. We’d already packed the camera gear & walking kit on the previous evening. The village of Croesor has a lovely riverside car park which is perfect as a starting point for various walks in the area. We were parked up by 7am & soon on our way, walking up the steep eastward bound lane out of the village & in to the glowing sunrise.

Swinging off the road and through some currently under felling forestry, we now had to steadily negotiate the wet, marshy land that leads to the Moelwyns. The plan was to watch for any low lying cloud that might settle with a morning temperature inversion, good to photograph, instead we were treated to a gloriously clear sunrise with long shadows cast by the mountains; a perfectly fair exchange in my books.

Early morning on the slopes of the Moelwyns

We took our time enjoying the cool morning air & fabulous scenery, very glad of our waterproof footwear because ground conditions were more than a little soggy. As we crested the summit, the bright morning sun was perfectly positioned for some photography of the Snowdonian landscape, but not before a brief rest whilst Tamsin had what she calls ‘a brief vampire moment’ by the trig point 🙂 (see the gallery at the end of this post)

[pano file=”_MG_7764-1p-Pano-19Sep2017.html”]

Select the panorama image above & then pan with either your mouse or arrow keys.

We reached the summit of Moelwyn Mawr at around 9am. Above is a 180° panorama of the wonderful views across Snowdonia. Below is a small version with some features tagged, click it to see it larger …

Moelwyn Mawr panorama key

Now we had planned to drop down past the old Croesor quarry and to then follow the valley back to the car, however filled with fresh energy & on such a glorious day, surely it was worth pushing on a bit further. We determined to drop down towards the ruins of Rhosydd quarry & Bwlch Cwmorthin. Relaxed in the knowledge that we had plenty of time, Tamsin found some opportunities to practice her parkour manoeuvres and we also explored some of the old quarry workings. (see gallery at end)

Geronimo – a leap of fun

We found where an old water wheel had originally powered machinery & drags, only to be supplanted by combustion engine power, the remnants of which stood rusting not 25 metres away. Quarry men’s’ housing stands forlornly in line, roofs long gone, moss now living where boots & overalls would have hung next to small fireplaces. Opposite, the working sheds stand similarly tired, slowly being reclaimed by mother nature’s battalions.

Quarry ruins & spoil heaps with Moelwyn Mawr as a backdrop

After this interesting window in to times long gone, it was time to push on further across the uplands. Past small pool with bogbean growing within, beyond Llyn Cwm-corsiog to the slopes of Moel Druman & Foel Boethwel, where we paused to watch the aerial mastery of a Kestrel hunting voles who were carelessly relaxing in the morning sun. Here we finally swung back in a south-westerly direction to follow the ridge up to Cnicht. From the summit of Cnicht we would be able to look across the valley back to gathering clouds on Moelwyn Mawr (see feature image, top). From here we would enjoy a little fun on the rocky descent from Cnicht before pausing for sandwiches & chocolate biscuits – always a highlight of mountain days out.

Cnicht from the path back to Croesor

An enjoyable walk through rough grazing land, from whence sheep gazed at these curious humans, led us back to the car park at Croesor. Time to rest our legs & top up on fluids before the short drive home.

Additional Images:

Approximate Map:

Moelwyn-Cnicht_Map ©Thunderforest / OpenStreet Map