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11 August, 2007

Day trip in North Wales: Bala, Ffestiniog & Dolwyddelan Castle

It's been a while since I've visited my mother in the middle of the year; I usually only travel down each December, so I haven't seen leaves on the trees in North Wales for years.  Hence, I welcomed the opportunity to go for a drive.

Studying my mother's collection of maps, most published in the early 1960s, I planned a round trip to Bala, hoping the road network hadn't changed too much in the last forty years. I had every intention of deviating from the planned route as photo opportunities presented themselves, so precise roads didn't matter; within the first ten minutes we'd left the main Mold-Ruthin road to follow the more photogenic Moel Famau track. I was tempted to stop and explore Ruthin, too, as we'd planned back in December, but I was very aware that it's a long way to Bala, on a slow road, so I wanted to get that out of the way.

The road was indeed as tedious as I remembered from trips to Aberystwyth in the early 1990s, so we were glad to park the car and walk around the town for a while, visiting a couple of commercial galleries and junk shops – literally junk; I wouldn't dignify the stock as 'antiques'.

After a quick look at the lake, we headed to another, the Llyn Celyn reservoir, walking down to the shore for lunch in an idyllic, if artificial, location.

A short distance after the lake was the turning I'd planned to take, back over the moors (hopefully...) to the Vale of Clwyd. However, my mother wanted to stay on the main road as far as the next hilltop, since the view seemed promising. It certainly was: the ground fell away abruptly, into the Vale of Ffestiniog, creating a huge waterfall – very well worth seeing, and I was surprised I didn't already know about it already.

We also had a good view to the west coast – I hadn't thought that we'd come this far on a day trip. Since we had, it seemed to make sense to go on rather than risk an upland road which might have ceased to be a through route since the map was published. Instead, we passed through Blaenau Ffestiniog and over Crimea Pass, somewhere I don't think I'd been before.
Just before the tiny village of Dolwyddelan, we passed the well-preserved (actually heavily renovated) keep of a castle, another feature I hadn't known existed, which was a good opportunity to stop after traversing annoying roadworks over the pass. Signs in the car park indicated that Dolwyddelan Castle is publicly-accessible so after buying tickets from a farmhouse, we climbed the hill. See the photos for detailed comments; I'll just say I recommend it if you're in the Ffestiniog/Betws-y-Coed area.

Returning to the car, we went on towards, yes, Betws-y-Coed, but turned away from that familiar town before reaching it, instead rejoining my intended route over the Denbigh Moors then the coast road 'home'.

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