During the warmer months, there are few greater joys than exploring the North Wales countryside. The region is home to many striking natural features, from towering mountains to sandy beaches. You might not be aware, however, that we also boast some beautiful, sparkling, cascading waterfalls. In a land that gets as much rain as Wales, it’s no great surprise really!
As it’s the Year of the Sea we thought we’d spotlight some of our inland waterways this week. We’ve selected three of our favourite waterfall walks – one within a stone’s throw of the hotel, one in a remote and wild location and one in a nearby popular tourist haunt. Three very different but equally spectacular waterfall walks.
Ceunant Mawr, Llanberis
Also known as Llanberis Falls, this spectacular cascade falls over 100 feet, over two stages. The falls are easily reached from Llanberis itself, making this an ideal walk to do from the hotel.
The starting point for this walk is the Snowdon Mountain Railway Station, which is centrally-located in Llanberis.
From the station forecourt, turn right and then take the first right. Follow this road to the end, and turn right again. At the end of this short road you’ll find a signpost for ‘Ceunant Mawr Waterfall’ on your left.
Follow the footpath uphill, past the viaduct. As you walk, keep an eye out for spectacular views of Llyn Padarn. Keep following the walkway up across the railway track and cross through the turnstile to reach the designated viewing area for the waterfall.
We think this is one of the most impressive waterfalls in all of Wales, both for its location and the sheer power of its cascades. As Eleanor Roosevelt once said… “Poor Niagara!”
Incredibly scenic, Ogwen Falls is formed as the River Ogwen makes its way from Snowdonia’s Llyn Ogwen to the sea, passing along the Nant Ffrancon Valley and the Menai Strait en-route. Of particular note in this area is the Ogwen Falls Snack Bar, which once occupied an extremely precarious position at the top of the cliff!
This walk, which takes in waterfalls, lakes and more Snowdonia scenery than you can shake a zoom lens at, is best for experienced walkers and proper walking gear is essential. To get the best views of the torrents that make up this natural wonder, begin at the Ogwen Cottage Ranger Base.
Take the path past the Visitor Centre on the left, and follow the hillside up. Continue through the gate, and across a wooden bridge (the bridge is a good place to stop and snap the surrounding mountain scenery). When you reach a forked section of the path, head right.
Eventually you will stumble upon Llyn Idwal – bordered by a rocky crown of mountains, this lake is a genuinely breath-taking sight.
There are several waterfalls you can see in this area, including the ghoulishly-named Devil’s Appendix (which sometimes freezes into one of nature’s most superb ice sculptures), located next to the gorge Cwm Idwal, also known as the Devil’s Kitchen.
To continue the walk beyond this point, follow the path clockwise around the lake’s eastern edge. After about 500 metres you’ll come across a gate, which leads up to a series of rocks known as the Idwal Slabs, which Edmund Hillary climbed in training for Everest.
Before you reach the Slabs, head right and cross the stream via stepping stones. On your left you’ll see the treacherous-looking Devil’s Kitchen and the cascading falls.
Continue on, and turn right where this path merges with another. Instead of following the path to the right, very experienced walkers can opt to follow the lake path upwards, fording across the stream (take care here, as it gets very slippery). The route continues upwards, past a rocky area, and you’ll pass under Devil’s Kitchen gorge. To the right, you will find a great spot to stand for a view out over these falls.
Pass through heather and grassy terrain, cross the bridge over Afon Clyd Bach as it cascades down the steep cliff, and pass through the gate onto the lakeside beach.
To complete the walk, follow the lake and enter through the wall gate and across the bridge you come to. You’ll now be all the way around the lake, and you can head back to Ogwen Cottage.
Swallow Falls, Betws-y-Coed
The tallest uninterrupted waterfall in Wales, Swallow Falls is one of Wales’ most famous waterfalls and is unmissable if you’re in the area.
The falls are located in the charming town of Betws-y-Coed, which is well worth dedicating some time to. Here you’ll find plenty of places to stock up on walking and outdoor equipment, as well as several lovely cafes and shops to browse.
The falls themselves can be reached fairly easily from the town centre. Follow the signs to the car park, and then climb the steps to the dedicated viewing areas for an excellent spot to admire the cascades and take some photos.
For a more challenging walk, head right uphill from the base of the car park at Cae’n y Coed and then take the stairs to the left. Pause to catch your breath and to make the most of the sensational views from here.
Continue along the tree-sheltered roadway past the woods, and follow the path as it climbs up and then down a hill. Make sure to take plenty of photo stops along the way, as this is one of North Wales’ most striking routes.
You’ll soon enter another wooded area. Walk along the fence, before taking the road to the right, where you’ll find a marked path back towards the car park and the falls. A perfect way to finish an outstanding walk.
Book your stay at the award-winning Royal Victoria Hotel today and start exploring epic North Wales.
Images courtesy: Ceunant Mawr by Photochrom Print Collection, via Wikimedia Commons. Ogwen Falls by Tori Smith, 2017. Swallow Falls by © Copyright David Dixon and licensed for reuse under the Creative Commons Licence.