Aber Falls – A Great Photo Opportunity

Aber Falls (Rhaeadr Fawr in Welsh) is a waterfall located about two miles (3 km) south of the village of AbergwyngregynGwyneddWales. The valley contains the Coedydd Aber National Nature Reserve with an abundance of wildlife and beautiful woodland and mountain scenery. Like most waterfalls they are best seen either after heavy rainfall or during cold winter months when ice forms.

The waterfall is formed as the Afon Goch plunges about 120 feet (37 m) over a sill of igneous rock in the foothills of the Carneddau range. Two tributaries merge; the enlarged stream is known as Afon Rhaeadr Fawr; from the road bridge, Bont Newydd, the name becomes Afon Aber.

So how do you get there? The village of Abergwyngregyn is situated off Junction 13 of the A55 in North Wales. The junction is clearly signposted Abergwyngregyn. There is a choice of three car parks, the first, in the village, is free, but involves a walk through the village to reach the route through the valley to the falls. There are two more Pay and Display car parks (currently £2.00 all day) with spaces for about 25 cars each, closer to the falls. If you choose to use the Pay and Display go through the village following the signs for the waterfall. Caution: the road is narrow with speed bumps and cars parked on either side of the road. I chose to use the Pay and Display parking provided by the Forestry Commission mainly because I was carrying my camera gear and tripod.

There was another reason I chose the second car park. This is the only one with toilets and picnic facilities, also there are some great photo opportunities by the side of the river. To get to this car park, you have to cross the old stone bridge and then take the turning to the right. If you choose not to use the car park over the bridge it will be obvious that you are at one of the two Pay and Display car parks. Why? You’ll see cars parked.

Do not proceed up the narrow and very steep road. There are no turning places for about 2 miles. Right, you are in the Forestry Commission car park, you’ve paid your £2.00, visited the toilet etc. etc. Now what do you do? Which way do you go? It’s easy, you can’t miss it. trust me.

Follow the sign, you should see a bridge crossing the river, hint, several photo opportunities here;

…..and what about this one

I didn’t even have to get my feet wet for this. There was a convenient spot to stand on. Caution: the rocks are slippery and if the river was in full spate I don’t know if I would have been able to get this photograph. Anyway back to the bridge….

When you cross the bridge, take the path up the hill for about 50 metres or so. It’s quite steep and can be a bit slippery if wet. At the top of the hill, take the right hand path and after about another 70 metres you will come to a wooden gate. Go through the gate and if you see this shelter, then you’re on the right track.

Just a note here. If you park in the other car park beside the stone bridge and follow the signs for the waterfall you will also end up at this point, the only difference is, it’s mainly on the level and you will follow a gravel path. From here, the path is all gravel all the way to the falls, roughly about a kilometre away.

As you stand at the shelter take time to read about the valley and the falls

Conveniently a map is also supplied but you don’t need it, just stick to the path. Now at this point I ought to emphasise that we are in Wales, a country that has its own language, although not everyone speaks it, so generally all signs and notices you see will be in Welsh and English.

For those who don’t know Welsh is a Celtic language spoken in Wales (Cymru), and in the Welsh colony (yr Wladfa) in Patagonia, Argentina (yr Ariannin) by several hundred people. There are also Welsh speakers in England (Lloegr), Scotland (yr Alban), Canada, the USA (yr Unol Daleithiau), Australia (Awstralia) and New Zealand (Seland Newydd).

At the beginning of the 20th century about half of the population of Wales spoke Welsh as an everyday language. Towards the end of the century, the proportion of Welsh speakers had fallen to about 20%. According to the 2001 census 582,368 people can speak Welsh, 659,301 people can either speak, read or write Welsh, and 797,717 people, 28% of the population, claimed to have some knowledge of the language.

According to a survey carried out by S4C, the Welsh language TV channel, the number of Welsh speakers in Wales is around 750,000, and about 1.5 million people can ‘understand’ Welsh. In addition there are an estimated 133,000 Welsh-speakers living in England, about 50,000 of them in the Greater London area. New estimates suggest that the percentage of Welsh Speakers is on the rise.

After that short lesson, back to the falls. Walking along the path you will eventually come to the visitors centre. It’s just a stone building and to be honest I don’t remember seeing any toilets there. Inside there is a great mural and a some brochures about the valley

The path meanders on through the valley and the scenery becomes more and more wild and beautiful

Eventually, you will see a sign offering you the opportunity to take a path through the forestry plantation to the falls. As the sign suggests this is more rough terrain and appears to head up the hillside and into the plantation. Needless to say, I kept to th easy route…

Welsh Ponies run wild here and I came across this pair as I was walking along the path. They didn’t seem in the least bothered that I was there but taking the number of visitors to the falls I’m not surprised.

You can read more about Welsh Ponies by following this link to my blog post about them. Also in the valley are herds of grazing sheep.

Now there’s an “old wives tale” that if farm animals are found lying down like this rain is on the way. The skies were blue, the sun was out, it was a beautiful day. Were was the rain? Like I said an “old wives tale”.

Just a little further round the valley I got my first view of the falls.

Alright, it’s a long drop down the hillside, but have I picked the wrong time to come, they’re not that spectacular. Surely there must be more to the falls than that?. You know there is, otherwise I wouldn’t have put that first photo into the blog. The ones you see here can be see on the walk up to the falls but they are not the Aber Falls. So here’s some more photos of the real falls

and here’s another one….

Remember that “old wives tale” I spoke about earlier. Well the heavens opened and it absolutely poured down. There’s not much shelter by the falls so one thing I always carry is a small tea-towel to dry down the camera. The Samsung GX-10 is weather sealed and when others will run for cover I can keep photographing but I didn’t want to get too wet myself. Fortunately there’s a couple of trees near the falls, not ideal, but enough to keep me from getting totally soaked. After the rain passed over I crossed the bridge just down from the falls and walked up the hill to get another view from higher up.

Once you cross the bridge from left to right and then climb the hill you can access the North Wales Path.

If you do intend to follow the path then you need a map from this point on….Back down by the bridge I came across this dog paddling in the river.

Come to think of it, I saw several dogs whilst I was walking up to falls, all running loose. But hey, this is sheep country and there were sheep wandering around in the fields beside the path. There’s not too many fences up there so it might be better to keep you dog on a leash. I’m a dog owner and had I taken mine, they certainly would have been. I know I can trust them but it’s better to be safe than sorry, especially at lambing time. Farmers don’t take too kindly to dogs harassing sheep or any other animal for that matter.

With all the beautiful scenery in the nature reserve it’s hard to remember that you are not the far from the North Wales coast and the magnificent scenery there. I came across this on my way back to the car park. A good view back to the coast sandwiched between two hills.

Well that wraps this one up almost. I hope you find time to visit the Aber Falls, it’s well worth the walk through the nature reserve and I’m sure you won’t be disappointed.One last thing….the village of Abergwyngregyn doesn’t get any economic benefits from being in an area of such outstanding beauty and popularity, mainly because people head straight for the Bont Newydd bridge car parks. Yet they have to put up with the constant flow of traffic to the car parks closer to the falls. So if you can try to help the friendly people of Abergwyngregyn by using their facilities including the Caffi yr Hen Felin cafe.

3 replies to “Aber Falls – A Great Photo Opportunity

  1. What a cracking photoblog Mike. Informative and very detailed narrative. Perhaps we could do this next year. It seems to have been “up-graded” since I last went there as there was no visitor centre and the bridges look to be in much better nick. Nice one. Thanks


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