It was one of those glorious early spring days that don’t happen nearly often enough: the air was crisp but the sky was completely devoid of clouds, sparkling like a big blue gem overhead.
The weather couldn’t have been more perfect, so we decided to explore one of our favourite parts of Snowdonia – the Dysynni Valley.
The magic of that moment when Talyllyn Lake comes into view not long after you’ve turned off the main road at the Cross Foxes Inn just can’t be beaten. You’re hemmed in on both sides by mountains – including one of the most famous in Wales, Cadair Idris, of which it’s said that if you spend a night on its slopes you’ll descend as either a poet or a madman.
We didn’t have the right gear with us that day to walk up the mountain so we gave it a miss on this occasion, but we’ve been before and loved it – especially Llyn Cau, the lake which is supposed to be bottomless and home to a monster! That’s one of my favourite things about this area: there are so many fantastic folk tales that have endured for centuries. If you’re interested in that kind of thing, I highly recommend a series of children’s books (which are just as enjoyable for adults) called The Dark Is Rising Sequence, by Susan Cooper. Several of these books are set around the Dysynni Valley, and they draw heavily on local legends – particularly those connected with King Arthur.
But I digress! Back to the drive, and we were now skirting the lake and heading down the river valley towards Tywyn. We stopped in a layby and poured ourselves some tea from the flask, and the peace and quiet was interrupted by a wonderful sound – that of the whistle of a steam train. Travelling on the Talyllyn Railway is one of the nicest ways to see the countryside around these parts; when you’re not forced to concentrate on the road, you have all the time in the world to appreciate your surroundings. If you haven’t journeyed along this railway line before, promise yourself you’ll do so as soon as possible – it’s wonderful!
Onwards and upwards (or downwards to be precise) – back to driving, and we can see the sea shimmering in the distance. Cardigan Bay is glorious, whatever the weather – but today of course we’re blessed with sunshine and blue skies, and the sea has never looked more inviting.
Pulling into Tywyn we parked up and went for a little walk to stretch our legs. Down to the seafront first, to really appreciate that bracing sea air. On previous visits we’d been lucky enough to spot a pod of dolphins – but there was no sign of them today. We took a short walk around the town, pausing briefly at St Cadfan’s church and the wonderful old cinema, before heading back to the car and setting off on the next leg of our grand tour.
We decided to pay a quick visit to one of our favourite local attractions, and turned back in roughly the direction we’d come but this time, instead of following the main road through the valley, we took some of the smaller roads toward the wonderful Castell Y Bere, the ruins of a medieval stronghold of the Princes of Gwynedd. Despite there not being a huge amount of the structure left, this has to be one of Wales’ most atmospheric castles – and yes, I know that’s a mighty claim considering just how many castles there are in this neck of the woods!
Although we weren’t adequately equipped for a walk up Cadair Idris, we were perfectly clothed for a walk up the craggy hillside toward the castle. It’s a bit of a walk but you’re well rewarded by the views once you’ve passed through the woods and reached the top.
Despite the castle being in ruins there’s enough remaining of the foundations and lower structure to give you a good idea of just how mighty this castle once was. With its far-reaching views of the countryside it’s in a great location for its original purpose of protecting Southern Snowdonia from invading forces.
Back to the car again and off we go – this time on the other side of the lake – and we’re heading back up through the pass towards Cross Foxes again. A left turn takes us onto the A470 in the direction of Dolgellau, so we decide to stop off in the town for a late lunch before heading back home.
Dolgellau is a really gorgeous place, partly due to its high concentration of listed buildings – about 200 of them, apparently! I’m not a lover of towns but if were planning to move to one, Dolgellau would be close to the top of the list of potentials.
After a delicious pub lunch we set off for a quick stroll around the shops before getting back into the car and driving home. We passed the woodlands of Coed y Brenin, the famous mountain biking centre – another great day out if you’re in the area and looking for things to do – and in no time at all we were home.
It was a wonderful day out and one that we’ll definitely enjoy again soon – but perhaps next time we’ll stop at the lake and take the train instead of the car, to fully appreciate just how beautiful the Dysynni Valley is.