Walk To Rhaeadr Falls by Charlie Smith
With all the scenic places North Wales has to offer there are few that beat Rhaeadr Fawr at Abergwyngregyn. This name translates from Welsh as something like “The place on the seashore where the white seashells gather”. Originally the village was called Aber Garth. I assume this translates as “Garth’s place”! Not nearly as romantic.
To get to this typically Welsh village leave the A55 at the exit simply marked “Aber” (haven’t the Welsh heard of keeping it simple?). Then follow the signs that clearly mark the road to the falls. There is a choice of two car parks, the first you come to is free but involves an extra quarter of a miles walk alongside the river Aber. A very pretty path overhung with branches and littered with the odd picnic bench. Whilst walking we saw Dippers, Blue Tits and several unidentified feathered things known as LBB’s (little brown b******s). The closest car park to the path is run by the Forestry Commission and is pay-and-display I believe! Both car parks have clear signs showing where to go. The path itself is metalled and in good condition making it suitable for the infirm and wheelchair users, though it would be a tough push as the path winds gently upwards for two kilometers! The path is also part of the North Wales path that runs to Porth Penrhyn and is well used by hikers and ramblers.
At approximately one third of the way the path splits in two with a sign offering a route through a pine plantation or continuing along the metalled track. The sign makes clear that it is a circular route and either route you choose to take brings you out at the same place. We took the tree route and were quickly surrounded by brooding pine forest in an almost mathematically laid out pattern. We were visiting in early February and though the whole area is a nature reserve we were not surprised by the lack of wildlife as severe storms were coming in around us, keeping anything feathered or fluffy that had any commonsense firmly in their homes! But we did catch glimpses of what we believed to be Goldcrests, tiny birds smaller than Wrens deep in the undergrowth!
After following a rising path the trees stop at a wide scree slope. Again we got a choice, down took us to the waterfall base, up took us to the top of the waterfall. Being roughie toughie climbing types we of course chose the “up” path and soon found ourselves at the top of the fall where the noise of the rushing water and the splendid view made it the ideal place to break out the flasks of coffee and the sticky buns (do roughie toughie climbing types eat sticky buns?). The river here has a series of small cascades before the final 100ft drop down the cliff, into the valley. We followed our path back to where the forest started again but now took the path to the base of the falls. At a distance the falls looked like a thin stream of water running down the cliff but this was belied by the constant rumbling noise that could even be heard at the beginning of the walk! And when the falls came into view I was astounded by their beauty and wildness. At the base the water fanned out into a narrow triangle with different flowing patterns changing again and again. At a fall height of over 33metres (100ft) they are magnificent!
As an added bonus the whole area is a treasure trove of old ruins and pre-history, on our walk we found what appears to be a stone arrowhead and there are certainly Iron Age round huts scattered about the area. There is a well-labeled series of ruins on the metalled path that shows how the region was settled and farmed. Also a very neat display in an old farmhouse details all the pre-history, wildlife and geographical information about the valley in an interesting and easy to read series of showcases. We even found a charcoal-making furnace!
Easy to find and well worth the walk, I’m only surprised it’s not better known.