The Nantlle Valley is an unfrequented place of beauty, with the bulk of Mynydd Mawr on the one side and the towering cliffs of the Nantlle Ridge on the other. This is an easy walk along the valley bottom before an ascent, with one very boggy area, to the forest and a descent into Rhyd Ddu with its pub and café.
After a short walk along the main road from the village to Llyn Nantlle Uchaf, take a good farm track for some miles to Tal y Mignedd campsite. Here, the route joins the road for a distance, through the small settlement of Drws y Coed. Look out for the memorial stone which commemorates the destruction of a chapel by a falling rock.
At Drws y Coed Isaf farm, leave the road and follow the way markers past the unused dam and into the woods. You then have a short, initially steep, walk overlooking Llyn Dywarchen and through the forest to Rhyd Ddu with its choice of accommodation and refreshment stops, as well as the Welsh Highland Railway.
An overview of the section by Vicky Anne Jones (also includes Llanberis to Nantlle)
Note: The route through the forestry has been altered. Follow the existing route out of the valley, meeting the forestry at the former location of the stile. Turn right until you get to a new gate. Turn left into the woods and continue until you meet the main path. Then turn right to join the original route
Along the way
Once upon a time Llyn-y-Dywarchen had an additional floating island. Giraldus Cambrensis in 1188 told of the lake
‘having a floating island in it which is driven from one side to the other by the force of the wind’. His explanation at that time was perfectly rational. ‘A part of the bank naturally bound together by the roots of willows and other shrubs may have broken off and being continually agitated by the winds….it cannot reunite itself firmly with the banks.’
The astronomer and scientist Edmund Halley swam out to the island in 1698 to verify that it did indeed float.
Thomas Pennant in 1784 claimed to have seen the island and confirmed that cattle which strayed upon it when it was near the shore were occasionally marooned when it began to move.
One legend associated with the lakes talks of a father who put his daughter on the island to prevent her from marrying her working-class lover. She died of a broken heart but, when the island was blown to touch the shore, one could witness the spirits of the lovers kiss.
The floating island does not now exist.
Welsh Highland Railway
The Welsh Highland Railway (WHR) was formed in 1922 from the merger of two companies – the North Wales Narrow Gauge Railways (NWNGR) and the Portmadoc, Beddgelert and South Snowdon Railway (PBSSR) (successor to the Portmadoc, Croesor and Beddgelert Tram Railway).
The NWNGR had originally built a line from a junction with the standard gauge London and North Western Railway line at Dinas to Bryngwyn with a branch from Tryfan Junction via Waunfawr to Llyn Cwellyn (Snowdon Ranger). The line was opened in 1877 and was extended to South Snowdon (Rhyd Ddu) in 1881. This closed to passengers in 1916, but goods traffic continued up to its absorption by the WHR in 1922.
In 1902, the newly-formed PBSSR took over the failed Portmadoc, Croesor and Beddgelert Tram Railway with the aim of extending it to South Snowdon slate quarry in the Nant Gwynant Pass. Work was abandoned by the outbreak of the First World War in 1914. By 1921, the NWNGR, the PBSSR, the Snowdon Mountain Railway and the Festiniog Railway were in common ownership and controlled by the owners of the Aluminium Corporation and the North Wales Power and Traction Company with headquarters at Dolgarrog.
In 1922 the order was made to create the WHR to serve the quarrying industry; it opened in 1923.
It was not a success and the owners tried to attract visitors by opening the first narrow gauge buffet car and by painting their carriages bright colours. However, these ideas did not work and the last passenger train ran on 5 September 1936.
The railway was restored in the late 1990s, early 2000s and includes an extension to Caernarfon.