Northern Waterfalls Round II
Pistyll Gwyn, Arthog Waterfalls, Torrent Walk, Cwm Nantcol, Rhaeadr Du, Afon Croesor Waterfalls, Afon Cwm Llan Waterfalls, Grey Mare's Tail, Afon Dulyn Waterfall, Rhaeadr Dyserth, Rhaeadr y Bedd, Pistyll Blaen-y-cwm, Afon Goedol waterfalls (Rhaeadr Cymerau), Dolgoch Falls, Furnace Falls, Rheidol Falls, Severn Break-its-neck, Ciloerwynt Lower Falls. Just in case you thought "Round I" had a lot of waterfalls for one weekend.
None of these are particularly long walks, as the intention was to visit as many as possible within just one weekend. Therefore, the chosen routes are always the shortest possible routes to the waterfalls. You may want to come up with more imaginative routes that take in more sights.
Pistyll Gwyn, Afon Pumryd
- Bethesda Chapel, the smaller church in Llanymawddwy, near Dinas Mawddwy. The exceptionally steep path starts just behind it.
- The gully of Llam Lloi in the nearby Cwm Pen-y-gelli, which contains a series of stepped waterfalls on a small stream, as it loses about 100 metres of altitude. I had not been able to find any pictures of it, so I guess nobody who has been there thought it was any good, but unfortunately I wasted my time visiting it anyway, as part of "Round III".
- Cwm Dyniewyd contains the main target; a huge horsetail waterfall called Pistyll Gwyn (meaning "white spout/horsetail", a name it shares with several other waterfalls), on the Afon Pumryd. The full waterfall is 152 metres tall, making it easily one of the tallest in Wales. The tallest single drop begins nearly half way down where it splits into multiple threads, and falls 72 metres as a horsetail.
- For the first time since I climbed it 6 years ago, Cadair Idris finally shows itself, and its superb 300 metre scarp. The four peaks visible are Gau Graig (764 metres), Mynydd Moel (863 metres), Penygadair (893 metres) and Cyfrwy (811 metres). The Arthog Waterfalls lie on the far end of that ridge near the town of Arthog.
- The lowest and tallest of the waterfalls, accessible from an overgrown path just before the sharp corner on the road leading up to the waterfalls. The waterfalls are about 10 metres tall each.
- Just above them, hidden in a small gully, are some smaller cascades. There is a remnant of a path near them, but it's so badly broken that is is more dangerous than the undergrowth around it. It's best to just return to the road, and head through the gate on the corner.
- Cascades in the gully.
- The gate leads up to another gate and a bridge over the river. These beautiful cascades lie just upstream.
- A path on the other side of the bridge leads up beside the stream, giving access to a continuous series of lush cascades, surrounded by moss, ferns and leaf litter.
- Shelf and cascade.
- Triple cascade.
- Small cascade.
- Rocky cascade. The top waterfall can be seen just above this, and is about 60 metres above the bottom of the waterfalls, all of which are separated only by plunge pools.
- The top waterfall is the only plunge waterfall of the set, and is about 5 metres tall. It is also very special for Snowdonia, because it is possible to walk behind a side spout - the first waterfall I had found in Snowdonia where this was possible.
- Sunset over the Mawddach Esturary (actually taken after the Torrent set, since I forgot to take the previous picture, and had to go back again to take it).
- The Torrent Walk follows the Afon Clywedog near Dolgellau. It is not marked as having any waterfalls on the map, but it is a waterfall walk, of sorts.
- The lower end of the Torrent Walk shows nicely why it is called Torrent, not Waterfall; there are no real waterfalls on this river, just lots of white water and small cascades.
- Cascade with plunge pool.
- The further upstream, the taller the cascades get, but at the same time, the gorge gets deeper. The path turned out to be a bit too pathetic though, as it tries very hard to avoid the gorge, meaning that it also misses out on most of the cascades.
- So I spent much of the time trying to get down the sides to reach the river for the pictures. This might be better in winter, when there are less leaves to get in the way.
- A noisy and (for this river) large cascade, barely visible from the path. It's only a couple of metres tall at most.
- Long cascade.
- Small spout in a deep and rocky part of the gorge.
- Badly obscured cascade in the deepest part of the gorge. This one was relatively hard to reach, though still not as hard as many others I have visited. The gorge is not really very deep, after all.
- A nicely placed set of cascades.
- Torrent with fallen trees.
Unfortunately, this excellent set of waterfalls is poorly located with its main access route through a private campsite, near Pentre Gwynfryn, a small village just inland from Llanbedr. They charge an extortionate price for parking, and do not allow access before 10:00 (I arrived 3 hours before this). I took a route over open access land from the nearby Cefncymerau Uchaf, and didn't notice that the path continued downstream along the top of main gorge, which contains the main Rhaeadr Nantcol waterfalls. These will be picked up in "Round III".
Rhaeadr Du, Afon Prysor
Warning; this river can flash flood without warning, due to water releases from the nearby reservoir. Avoid walking along dry parts of the river bed.
- A face at the window. Gelli, a couple of houses along a dirt track from where the A4085 crosses the Afon Croesor.
- Immediately behind the houses, the cascades start.
- The map shows a footpath heading up the slopes above the left bank of the river, but the best path to see the waterfalls stays near the river instead.
- The moss and fallen leaves give the cascades on this river a really luxurious feeling, a lot like the Arthog Waterfalls, but with better plunge pools.
- The first waterfall, with a ridiculous plunge pool almost as deep as the waterfall is high.
- Immediately above it is a more impressive cascading waterfall, guarded by gorse, a cliff, and a tricky scramble above the plunge pool.
- The cascade is about 6 metres tall.
- The crystal-clear plunge pool is an impressive 5 metres deep.
- Cascades and plunge pools.
- Small cascade with a big plunge pool that it doesn't deserve.
- Upper cascade, broken where it turns a corner. From here, the path heads up on through the gorse, and the upper part of the cascade cannot be seen without fording the river.
- The upper part is the longest single cascade on the river, and combined with the lower part of it, totals perhaps as much as 14 metres tall.
- A side path from the main gorse path reaches the top cascading waterfall. From here on, the river becomes less interesting, so I shall head elsewhere. You may want to continue to Croesor itself, or perhaps look for the waterfalls on the Afon Dylif or Afon Maesgwm.
Afon Cwm Llan Waterfalls
Grey Mare's Tail
Rhaeadr y Bedd
- The Aled Isaf reservoir, situated in the middle of nowhere, in the Mynydd Hiraethog range, between Denbigh and Betws-y-Coed. It's reached along the best single track road in North Wales, between Llansannan on the A544, and the A543. The road is great, with almost no other traffic, and plenty of long distance views. Just watch out for sheep.
- Once out of the reservoir, the river carves a deep gorge, which contains the waterfalls.
- The original cascading waterfall of Rhaeadr y Bedd is about 22 metres high (calculated by projectile timings), but only runs when water is released from the reservoir. As a result, it is only a dribble here, landing in the very deep plunge pool. It is best seen in early morning or on an overcast day (to get the right sunlight), when there has been sufficient rain beforehand to allow the reservoir to overflow.
- The reservoir has a second outflow that is burried under spoil, and ejected onto an upper bench of the old waterfall's crags. This produces the normal cascading waterfall seen at Rhaeadr y Bedd, which is 34 metres high. It's difficult to say if this can be considered a natural waterfall or a weir, since it uses a natural waterfall route, but the water would not be using it any more if it were not diverted there.
- A little below it is what appeared to be a small plunge waterfall off a shelf - this does hang cleanly, but has no ledge behind it to walk on, so I was not willing to invest the effort in descending the gorge to it. A later revisit in better lighting confirmed that it is not even a waterfall; the cleanly shaped lip gives it away as a concrete weir. Archive photographs also show the main waterfall originally had a smaller plunge pool before the weir was added.
- A path (little more than a sheep track) on the upper right side of the gorge gives reasonable views of the next waterfall downstream.
- They become less impressive further downstream.
- The lower part of the Aled starts to lose its deep gorge as it enters a forest, so I turned back. There doesn't seem to be too much of interest further down there, but it does look nice from here.
- Mwdwl-eithin (532 metres), the highest point in the Mynydd Hiraethog range, seen over Llyn Aled.
There are also the nearby Pistyll Cablyd and Pistyll y Gyfyng. These waterfalls will be covered in "Round III".
- The best things about this waterfall are the views you get on the way to it. These are the western Arenigau, where Carnedd y Filiast (669 metres) and Foel Goch (611 metres) are the main peaks, with the Moelwynion, Glyderau, and Snowdon ranges behind them.
- The back of the Berwyn range (sadly, this means that the tall eastern scarps are not visible); Cadair Bronwen (785 metres), Cadair Berwyn (827 metres), Cadair Berwyn New Top (830 metres) and Moel Sych (827 metres). These are the tallest mountains in Wales that are not in any national park.
- Cwm Rhiwarth.
- One of two gazillion pheasants that roam this part of the countryside, frequently crossing roads in front of cars, or leaping startled out of the grass.
- Cwm Pennant, the valley where the waterfall is located on the Afon Tanat, near to Llangynog. The inhabitants of the valley demand their privacy, and there are many signs reminding you that this is a dead-end road without many turning spaces, that much of the land is private, and that you should not use farmyards to turn around. The waterfall can only be partially seen from the road. After passing a church, there is a bridleway on the right, a short way before a cattlegrid (where there is space to park, but it may be private land, so park near the church instead). The bridleway climbs up to open access land, where paths then head towards the waterfall.
- Heat haze at the head of the valley. Believe it or not, the waterfall is in this shot. It really needs to be visited in mid morning to get the best light.
- With a little filtering and cleanup, Pistyll Blaen-y-cwm appears. It is 107 metres tall in total from top to bottom, of which the tallest single drop is 30 metres. It changes appearence a lot after rain, and creates new spouts, and cleaner drops.
- Bwlch Llyn Bach, approaching Tal-y-llyn Lake, at the back of Cadair Idris. This is often used as a good example of a glacial valley, and deserves that recognition, sandwiched between the Tarren Hills and Cadair Idris.
- Foel Ddu over Tal-y-llyn.
- Immaculate reflections on Tal-y-llyn Lake.
- Park at Dolgoch (you have to pay a reasonable price for the car park, but access to the waterfalls is free). Follow the path into the Dolgoch Falls site, under the Talyllyn Railway viaduct.
- One of several adits on the side of the path.
- Rhaeadr Isaf at Dolgoch Falls, with its distinctive double spout. The waterfall is at most 8 metres high. Most people never make it beyond this, but it's worth continuing.
- The upper part looks like it might be possible to walk behind, but a scramble up the cliff shows that there is a deep plunge pool nestled in that alcove, and there is no way to traverse behind it.
- An inlet waterfall tumbles in, making the tallest of the waterfalls, at about 10 metres. Looks rubbish though.
- Above the waterfall is the first cascade, which once again has that lush feeling.
- Cascade and plunge pool.
- Most visitors will never see this from the path, but hidden in a narrow canyon is this beautiful waterfall, about 4 metres high, with a similarly deep pool.
- Next is Rhaeadr Uchaf of Dolgoch Falls, at about 8 metres high. There are also several more directly above it, but I was not paying attention, and missed them. These will be covered in "Round III".
- Rheidol Falls are situated at the head of the Cwm Rheidol Reservoir, accessed via a narrow path beside some houses on the lane running from the A44 - there is parking space on the roadside a little before the path.
- Rheidol Falls, only around 4 metres tall, but marked even on roadmaps. They do not deserve this attention, and the locals looked at me like I was crazy for going out of my way to visit them. An engraving from about 200 years ago shows that the original waterfall was nearly twice as high and looked much more impressive, but the lower half is now hidden by the reservoir. A pity.
- Weir and fish passes.
- Follow the road a little over a mile upstream (or walk along the far river bank), to where there is a small parking area, and a fence blocking access to some mine outflows. Just before this, a path offers a way down to the river, where there is this set of pretty cascades. The road ends after this, but there are many other waterfalls upstream, seen as part of the Mynach Falls trail.
At the downstream end of the reservoir, just below the dam, is a small drop known as the Felin Newydd Falls (or Rheidol Dam Weir). However, this is only a weir, built on a rocky outcrop. Without the weir, there would be no drop at all, as the river would flow through a channel in the middle. As a result, this is considered only as an artificial weir, and not a waterfall. It will not be included in my waterfall listings.
Ciloerwynt Lower Falls
- Caban Coch Reservoir, the lowest of the Elan Valley reservoirs, and a very popular tourist destination. This area is virtually uninhabited, with the roads concentrating on servicing the many reservoirs.
- Traffic jam.
- The dam separating the Garreg Ddu and Caban Coch reservoirs. It looks like a bridge, but there is a dam hidden below it, used to maintain the water level of the upper reservoir if the lower one loses too much water. Follow the road over the dam.
- Moody shot of Coed Lan-fraith's grand evergreens. A couple of km past these, the left side of the road becomes unfenced, and there is some space to park on the right.
- A path just before the end of the fence leads down to a bridge over a deep pool in the Afon Claerwen. There are several small cascades and rapids on the river, including the main falls at Ciloerwent itself which will be visited in a "Round V", but there is only one that is big enough to be on the 1:25'000 map, and that is downstream of the bridge (stick to the river bank, and watch out for boggy or slippery patches).
- The upper waterfall is only a few metres high.
- The lower one is a long, sloping cascade.
- If you stand in the right place, it's possible to make it look much more grand than it deserves.
- Claerwen, and its deep pools. Note the high flow mark.
- Mineral seepage (probably iron) on the side of the river.