Walestrails has been on a mission to visit some of Snowdonia’s best known, least known, off the beaten track and secret (maybe I’m being overly romantic here) waterfalls.
The idea for this odyssey came at the beginning of the year when we abandoned a walking trip to the very popular Aber Falls because the car parks were chockablock.
Having been forced to rethink and go elsewhere it got me wondering about other spectacular waterfall walks I could suggest for Wales Trails blog and social media followers.
So, during February and early March I’ve dragged the kids all over the place to Waterfalls throughout Snowdonia National Park.
Our most recent walk was to Rhaeadr Ddu near Maentwrog which is not to be confused with Rhaeadr Ddu at Ganllwyd near Dolgellau.
Rhaeadr Ddu near Maentwrog falls into the least known, off the beaten track and secret category. It’s a magical location hidden in a gorge that flows through Coed Felenrhyd Bach Woodland part of the Celtic Rainforest, a rare habitat and of global importance.
This was my first trip to the waterfalls and I’d hope to go back again in order to work out the best route for this walk – the covid-19 lockdown scuppered my plans and I’ve not been back since. So the route described here is the walk we did that first time.
Our walk started close to the Maentwrog Power Station, where we parked in a layby just off the A496 and took the single track road up past the power station. Here the pipes for the station plunge dramatically down hill as you begin your climb up.
We walked up the road for about a mile or so before we found the path that leads down towards the waterfalls. The road up to this point was very steep indeed and the moaning from the kids was epic. As we got close to the place where I knew we needed to leave the road and follow the footpath, we came across a little parking place with an honesty box for payments; cars are a reasonable £1.50 and minibuses £3.50. Perhaps next time we’ll use this carpark to save on earache.
From here Rhaeadr Ddu is a short walk down the steep footpath, it’s well signposted thanks to Natural Resources Wales with steep steps all the way down. The information board classifies the walk as strenuous despite the short distance – it’s just 110m from the country lane to get to Rhaeadr Ddu. There are information boards providing information about the Celtic Rainforest, there’s also information about other regional walks.
The descent down to the waterfall is spectacular, especially if you happen to be there when the trees are bare. Only from the descent do you get to see the full height of the falls. The lower part of the falls and the plunge pool are accessible by a short detour and it’s well worth heading down.
We visited on St David’s Day, it was the first sunny day in a long time. We had expected to bump into like-minded explorers, but we saw no one else all day other than an intrepid road biker slogging up a very steep hill and we heard some distant voices on the other side of the deep gorge. This suited us, we love getting away from the crowds. We spent a good hour at the Falls, the plunge pool is massive, it would be a great place for a swim on a hot day.
From the waterfalls we continued our walk up the gorge, ancestral trees on one side fields on the other. For a short circular walk it’s possible to take a left turn on a public footpath away from the gorge and into fields, back up to the road at Ty’n-y-Coed and walk back down towards the car. We however, continued up towards Trawsfynydd lake enjoying on our way the particularly foreboding warning signs that make it clear if you have an accident you’re on your own!
Our chosen route took us to some recently felled forestry, we chose a track that headed in vaguely the right direction before picking up a public footpath once again. Here there are a number of ways to return to the single track road, we picked a route in the direction of Caersaeson, Cae Einion Alun before rejoining the single track road at Bryntirion from here it’s an easy stroll back down hill towards the car.
The walk really was a joy, the sunshine, absence of people, the opportunity to have such a beautiful location all to ourselves on top of the pleasure of exploring somewhere new.
As soon as this we are all able to roam freely again I’ll be back to Maentwrog, there’s the otherside of the gorge to investigate, variations on this stunning walk and I’d like to put a loop together that that extends up to the damn at Trawsfynydd, or maybe starts at Gellilydan. There are so many options, we will most certainly return as soon as we can.