Wildflowers and wilderness – 4 scenic walks in North Wales

Aber_Falls_-_geograph.org.uk_-_354132From the springtime through until late summer, this most magical time of year sees new life come to the Welsh landscape as the winter chill is all but forgotten – at least for a few warm months.

North Wales has some of the UK’s most spectacular scenery, and its plant life is no different, as here you can see some of Britain’s best-loved native blooms putting on a colourful display in the wild.

1. Aber Falls, Abergwyngregyn

Aber Falls – which you might also see referred to as the Rhaeadr Fawr waterfall – is an attraction in its own right, but during the spring months the walk to it takes on new meaning, not least for the diverse flora growing within sight of the path.

Bluebells and wood anemone can be seen among the trees, while in May the hawthorn trees are resplendent in veils of delicately scented white blossom.

There are birds too – the great spotted woodpecker, the redstart and the West African pied flycatcher all make the journey to breed in the secluded Aber valley.

Join the path by the bridge at Bont Newydd and make the steady climb of about 100 metres on a wide path with a compacted gravel surface – there are no steps to negotiate, and plenty of places to rest, and the waterfall is well worth the effort.

2. Coed y Brenin, near Dolgellau

Coed Y Brenin is one of the best places in Britain to see bluebells in late spring and a trip to this vast nature reserve in the Snowdonia National Park guarantees a blaze of colour as you walk through the acres of woodlands.

It’s a really easy route to stroll along, with benches every 150 metres or so, and a wide path with a good quality surface. Back at the visitor centre there are also toilets and a café, so you’re not short of facilities.

You’ll have about a mile to cover on foot, with no stiles or steps to climb, and at the top of the Cefndeuddwr Trail there’s a spectacular viewpoint looking out over the hills, with picnic tables where you can stop for a snack or just to rest your legs.

3. Gwydyr Forest, Betws Y Coed

Gwydyr Forest Park is a woodland explorer’s adventure come to life, with over 7,000 hectares to ramble through.

You’ll find it east of Mount Snowdon, stretching from Penmachno to Llyn Crafnant in the Conwy Valley; in fact, the well-loved tourist town of Betws-y-Coed is entirely surrounded by the park.

Named after, Gwydyr Castle, a beautiful Tudor house which sits in the valley below the forest, it’s a designated Site of Special Scientific Interest, with some of its tallest trees including Norway spruce and Douglas fir.

Look out for foxes and red squirrels, and if you see a pine marten, take a photo! Although droppings from the weasel-like creature have been found before, nobody has (as yet) photographed a pine marten in Gwydyr Forest.

4. Great Orme’s Head, Llandudno

The Great Orme in Llandudno has hardly changed in generations, and that means many of its natural habitats are still intact.

You’ll find extremely rare plants growing here, such as the cotoneaster cambricus, which isn’t found anywhere else and, even on the headland, is only usually seen in the remotest of places.

Look out too for the cottony puffs of white horehound, but be careful not to disturb the caterpillars of the horehound plume moth, as the plant is their only known habitat.

Throughout the spring and summer months, the vast grasslands of this ancient natural monument take on new colours as vibrant wild blooms burst forth. Fragrant wild thyme, the coast-loving pyramidal orchid and the tenacious, yellow common rockrose are among them – the latter of which sounds more like it should be clinging to a cliff face than sprawling on the ground as it does here in great swathes.

It’s true, we can’t guarantee the weather but we can promise you a memorable walk in our breathtaking Welsh countryside. Where else can you roam from coast to cliff face, from mountain to moorland – all in a day – and experience the vast array of flora and fauna Mother Nature has to offer?

Image: Tom Pennington via Wikimedia Commons

Rain ahoy! Best North Wales beaches to shelter from Spring showers

Llandwyn_geograph-858108-by-Robin-DraytonWho couldn’t love Wales in the springtime? Right now the Welsh landscape is bursting into life and nowhere is it more evident than on a walk along one of North Wales’s beaches. We think a bracing beachside stroll is the perfect way to make the most of the first bright days of the new season.

But hitting a North Walian beach in Spring is not without its risks and if you’ve ever been caught off guard out on the sands, you’ll know how fast the clouds close in and the rain starts to pour!

Still, we’ve never let a bit of rain stop us and, just for you, we’ve donned wellies and raincoats and roamed the coast to find the best beaches with places to shelter when the heavens open.

1. Llanddwyn Beach (Newborough, Anglesey)

Worth a visit at any time of year, it is one of Anglesey’s – and Britain’s – most highly regarded beaches. Llanddwyn has it all: views of Snowdonia, rolling golden sand dunes, and a trail leading through the grass to the nearby Llanddwyn Island Nature Reserve.

Your port in a storm here is The Marram Grass, located at the White Lodge Campsite in Newborough. Here you’ll find a quintessentially Welsh menu, which includes local lamb served with potatoes and vegetables, and traditional fish and chips with mushy peas.

The owners admit they opened with a love of food but no five-year plan – but that was in early 2011, and this award-winning cafe’s popularity shows no sign of waning.

2. Benllech Beach (Benllech, Anglesey)

A real crowd-pleaser, Benllech Beach offers good accessibility for wheelchair users, as well as prams and pushchairs. It’s also a family favourite because of the miles of golden sand exposed when the tide rolls out.

The Bay Cafe is your refuge if the weather takes a turn for the worse, and as it’s located right on the shore – you won’t have to run far to get here! Over a cuppa and a snack, you’ll enjoy a great view across the beach to see when the sun comes out again.

3. Dinas Dinlle (Caernarfon, Gwynedd)

Dinas Dinlle is a beach of two halves, with a broad sandy foreshore and an upper shingle ridge. The sense of perspective here can be quite dizzying, as the arrow straight coastline disappears into the distance along the Llyn Peninsula. On a good day, you can also see across to Llanddwyn Island where, on a bad day, fellow beachgoers might be hiding from the rain in The Marram Grass!

Back on Dinas Dinlle, if you notice dark clouds heading your way, you’ll want to head to Bwyty Lleu, a family-friendly cafe with an impressive 52-cover capacity.

Lunch is slightly less formal than the evening service and, if you’re lucky, you can grab the sofa while the kids play in the well-stocked toy box. You can even do some rainy-day souvenir shopping in the adjoining gift shop.

4. West Shore Beach (Llandudno)

There’s something satisfying about a straightforward name and West Shore Beach is as satisfying as it gets. Whether you plan to fly a kite on the wide sands, feed the swans on the Victorian boating lake or just take a long walk, West Shore is the beach to visit. Slightly less well-known than Llandudno’s famous North Shore, it’s loved by locals wanting to avoid the crowds and visitors seeking an alternative to candyfloss and arcades.

If things get blustery, head for cover. We recommend the friendly West Shore Beach Cafe, run by family team Kevin and Alison. It’s easy to find, directly on the promenade next to the golf course, and if the rain isn’t too heavy sit out on the terrace and enjoy impressive views of the Great Orme, the Carneddau Mountains and Anglesey.

Image: Llanddwyn Beach, Anglesey © Copyright Robin Drayton and licensed for reuse under this Creative Commons Licence