For about the last 18 months or so I’ve been on a waterfall mission – all this started when we tried to go for a walk at Aber Falls but found the place completely rammed – I should have known better, Aber Falls is somewhere you should get to early to avoid the crowds.
This failed outing got me thinking about other waterfall walks we could go on, and so my mission to discover and explore new waterfall walks had begun. Heading out to parts of North West Wales that I’ve not ventured to before has been really rewarding. So, bearing in mind that there has not been huge opportunity to get out an explore this last year here are my top Walestrails waterfall walks of 2020 retrospective.
Pistyll Cain and Rhaeadr Mawddach – Dolgellau
‘Yr afon’ trail near Dolgellau takes in the epic waterfalls of Pistyll Cain and Rhaeadr Mawddach, it is a stunning and an easy walk from Tyddyn Gwladys in Coed Y Brenin. We made our first visit during a very wet camping trip to Bronaber near Trawsfynydd – the camping was mostly a disaster thanks to a soggy poorly maintained campsite coupled with high winds and driving rain. During the four day trip we were forecast one day of fine weather. Obviously we needed t make the most of it so we hit the ‘afon’ trail. The afon loop is a great family walk and would be do-able for a determined pram pusher. We extended the loop by heading up behind intriguing old mine workings and down a right-of-way called the county road.
Rhaeadr Ddu – Ganllwyd
Not far from Coed y Brenin and close to Dolgellau at Ganllwyd is Rhaeadr Ddu another easily accessible walk, it’s not a pram friendly and I’d say it requires an element of nerve as the path is rather craggy and exposed in places – it was raining hard and we had the kids with us when we ventured there last February, this added a satisfying element of peril. The weather was terrible and it only took a short walk to soak us to the bone, I would have liked to continue to follow yr afon Gamlan upstream as there are more waterfalls and rapids to marvel at, I’ve been closely studying the map and I hope to get back there soon for a proper exploring mission.
Rhaeadr Ddu – Maentwrog
Then there’s Rhaeadr Ddu at Maentwrog I fist visited on St David’s Day 2020 – it was my second waterfall walk of the year, it should have been the 2nd of 12 – one for each month but Covid put a stop to that. We loved this walk, parking close to the Hydro power station we walked up the single track road until peeling away from the road and plunging down into and amazing gorge where we almost immediately came to the waterfall which in a wooded amphitheatre and so quiet, we must have chilled there for about an hour before heading up the gorge towards the damn at Llyn Trawfynydd. I revisited the waterfall in July with my husband – me missed the first trip and I was shocked my the number of gorge walking groups and minibuses selfishly blocking the single track road. When we got to the waterfall all was quiet – the only signs of life was another family and a lone instructor at the top of the falls, we waited to see if we’d catch them leaping off the waterfall or whizzing down a zip wire. So while it’s not quite the hidden gem I’d hoped for if you time it right you’ll have the place to yourself.
Rhaeadr Cynfal – Llan Ffestiniog
My final recommendation based on my waterfall adventures this year is Rhaeadr Cynfal. I’ve been luck enough to venture to this amazing place twice this year. The first I used a route from the National Trust which took in the old Victorian viewing area and pulpid Huw Lloyd a sacred and mystical place, and up to the slate bridge before heading back down the valley – a perfectly nice walk but not so much a waterfall walk, rather more a river walk.
We managed to make it back to Llan Ffestiniog not long before the October lockdown to do the walk again, this time we met we met a the farmer on the way down to the walk, we had a chat and he recommended rather than turning left after the slate bridge that we turn right instead and head up to the large waterfall -this turned out to be brilliant advice the waterfall is amazing and the walk up and beyond is not to be missed and to top it off we walked back along the abandoned railway and over the viaduct – it was a spectacular walk that I cannot wait to do again.