Hello people and pooches. Joe the Cocker here again reporting on a short break in Snowdonia. Me and my human dad decided to have an overnight camp in our favourite National Park. I will be writing my blog in two parts, with my dad’s assistance. So, I will upload each of the two days separately. We chose a campsite that we have driven past a few times in the past but, it has always been too busy for our liking. We prefer quiet and basic campsites that are more of a back to nature experience. Shower and toilet blocks are nice but we can survive without them. The site that we chose was the Llyn Gwynant Campsite on the banks of Llyn Gwynant and the Afon Glaslyn. At this time of the year (early February) we expected it to be very quiet. The weather forecast was for two partly cloudy/sunny days with a cold night followed by a foggy start to the second day. The wind had been very strong for the days leading up to our trip but were forecast to subside while we were there. So, off we went with the car packed with everything on my dad’s checklist. He tries to be organised but, there is usually something that he forgets. It wasn’t as if we were going to the ends of the earth for a lifetime so, we would survive.
After a couple of hours driving through stunning countryside, we arrived at the campsite around midday. The reception and small shop were closed and the instructions were to pitch in the areas indicated on the map provided in the welcome pack in the rack on the reception wall. It is a huge site and there was only one other small tent pitched in the Ddol Fach field. We chose a pitch in the northern corner of the Bridge Field. We had the whole field to ourselves next to a small footbridge over the Afon Glaslyn. It was a beautiful setting with the tranquillity that we craved. The grass was cut fairly short and the ground was level. The campsite has been used to film movies and a mini TV series over a number of years. Merlin of the Crystal Maze, 1991, a TV mini-series, Merlin the movie, 1997 and Lara Croft: Tomb Raider 2, 2003 have all had scenes shot on the site. Towering above our pitch was the slopes and cliffs of Gallt Y Wenallt to the west, the hills of Moel Meirch and Cerrig Cochion to the east, the Afon Glaslyn valley to the north and the waters of Llyn Gwynant to the south. Wow! A sensational setting. My dad pitched the tent while I had a sniff around the banks of the river searching for the ducks that had obviously been waddling around the area.
Todays song wasn’t a song at all. It was a tune. My dad had been listening to the 1998 Merlin movie soundtrack while we were driving. So, today I was treated to him humming parts that had stuck in his head. No words, just humming. I don’t know which is worse!
With the tent set up and ready for our return later in the afternoon we drove the short distance to the area that we were to hike and explore for the next few hours. We drove past Llyn Gwynant and Llyn Dinas and parked in the National Trust car park at Craflwyn. There is a free display that tells the legend of the two dragons of Dinas Emrys, a nearby hill. Legend says that the Celtic King Vortigern was building a castle on the top of the hill but, it kept falling down overnight. A boy was to be sacrificed to prevent this from happening. The boy chosen was Merlin, or Myrddin Emrys, who told Vortigern that a red dragon and a white dragon lived in a lake under the mountain. A hole was excavated and the sleeping dragons awoke and began to fight. The white one fled and the red one lived on to be celebrated on the Welsh flag. Is this purely a legend? Maybe not. In 1945 a pool was discovered under the hill along with the ruins of a fortress dating back to King Vortigern’s time.
The Craflwyn estate has a few waymarked walks of varying length and abilities. We chose to hike up to the summit of Dinas Emrys which was along the ‘strenuous’ route. Ability is a subjective word but, we found it a relatively easy climb. The path led around the back of Craflwyn buildings along a stone path through the oak woodland. We soon came to a pretty waterfall where I had a quick paddle and a slurp or two of the icy cold water. The path was boggy in places but easy to follow. I had to be lifted over a stile but when we came to a ladder stile I ran up and down it much to my dad’s surprise. We came across another waterfall with a crystal clear pool at it’s base. The stream was crossed by a slate bridge. It was a beautiful place and thankfully, deserted. We spent a few minutes here while my dad took photographs.
The final climb to the summit of Dinas Emrys was a bit tricky in places. I had to choose a path that I could manage, which was easy for me. My dad had to be a bit more careful than me as he had to use his hands to climb up a few rocks and boulders. Once we were on the summit the 360 degree views were amazing of Llyn Dinas and the surrounding hills. Remains of the hillfort or tower are still visible on the summit. We chose this point to sit on a small boulder while we ate our lunch. It was quite chilly on the crest of the hill so, we set off to descend, slowly, down the rocks to rejoin the footpath. We headed northwest along the path crossing moorland as we hiked uphill. After passing over a number of streams and through heather covered moors we arrived at a gravel path. This led us to a junction with the Watkin Path that ascends to the summit of Snowdon. Rather than head uphill we turned south and downhill through the woodland until we met the main road at Pont Bethania.
The final section of the days walk took us across the road to walk along the southern shores of Llyn Dinas. We crossed the Afon Glaslyn and followed a lane until we turned right along another tarmacked lane. This took us past copses until we joined a footpath that led us through some woodland and then along the banks of the lake. After crossing the Afon Glaslyn by the Sygun Copper Mine we crossed the A498 and we were soon back at the carpark.
We still had some daylight left to take advantage of so, we drove the mile or so into Beddgelert. The village was very quiet with most of the shops closed for the winter season. My dad decided to take me for a walk to Gelert’s Grave. A dog’s grave! We crossed the iron bridge over the Afon Colwyn and walked along the path at the edge of the Afon Glaslyn before turning right to the site of the grave. Legend says that Prince Llewellyn returned from a hunting trip to find his faithful dog, Gelert, covered in blood. He searched his castle for his toddler son and when he couldn’t find him he assumed that Gelert had killed the child. He stabbed the dog with his sword, killing him. Llewellyn then found his son, unharmed with a dead wolf next to him. Gelert had saved his son but, his murderous deed was already done. He buried the dog where all could see the grave. The legend was probably manufactured by the owner of the Royal Goat Hotel to attract business to the village. Nevertheless, it’s a good story. A few yards from the grave there is a stone building with a statue of Gelert hiding just inside. I walked into the building and was scared out of my wits by the dog. I barked frantically at the dog before having a sniff of its nether regions. My dad found all of this event very amusing. He is such a joker. We walked back to the car but not before I tried unsuccessfully to catch a duck or two in the river.
I had a short snooze as my dad drove us back to the campsite. The daylight was rapidly disappearing and the temperature was dropping just as quickly. While I had a well deserved relax in the tent my dad made his Mac ‘n Cheese and coffee. I ate my food while his was rehydrating. Once we were full my dad tried to take a few photographs with his phone in the dark. He wasn’t 100% satisfied with the results but it was his first attempts. He decided to take a short drive up the A498 to the Snowdon Viewpoint to attempt some more shots. The view from this point of Yr Wyddfa, the Glyderau, Y Lliwedd, Pen Y Pass and Crib Goch are stunning in daylight but at night we couldn’t see a thing. He had a wee bit of success with his photography but he has a lot to learn. I sat in the car while he froze outside until, shivering, he jumped back into the car.
We drove back to the tent and after rearranging all of our clutter, we settled down for a long, cold night. I had my sleeping mat to lie on and a fleece sleeping bag liner to keep me warm. We decided to have an early night after we had got ourselves comfortable. There is no telephone or internet reception on the site so it was very quiet with no distractions. I couldn’t sleep at first because an owl was hooting in the nearby trees. It was driving me crazy, taunting me. Then a mountain rescue helicopter flew overhead making me jump out of my skin. An hour later the chopper returned but this time it was right above us. The noise was deafening and my dad had to calm me down. After that it was a relatively quiet night with just the rushing of the water in the river drowning out any other sounds. It was a cold, still night but we were snug in our tent. Tomorrow was supposed to start with a thick covering of fog after a freezing night. We would find out soon enough. Part 2 in next blog!