The mountains of Snowdonia National Park in Wales boast everything but extreme altitude—incomparable scenery including a seacoast, classic villages, world-class walls for rock climbers, skiing in winter, craggy canyons, bounding rivers, lakes and pony trekking. But my enduring memories of Snowdonia center on the cascades and waterfalls.
“You may have to open some sheep gates along the way, but I’m sending you on the prettiest drive in Wales,” explained innkeeper Charles Daru as we left the immensely Welch village of Machynlleth. His finger traced a 20-mile route connecting us to Lake Bala, source of the river Dee. “Keep your speed at a top of 15 mph and look for a turnout when you see other cars coming. Be watchful for ewes on the road with lambs. Keep an eye out when you reach the forest near Trawsynydd. You might spot a rare red kite looking for small game. You will surely see a pine martin. They’re everywhere.”
So we started off through a green carpet of upland pastures cut here and there by moss covered oaks, apparently spared in past centuries as too gnarled for the Royal Navy. The landscape became treeless away from the Lliw river. Here the sheep must have been bred with legs shorter on one side to graze on the mountainside.
As I topped another rise in the roadway, a blinding reflection appeared maybe three miles away. This sparkling diamond was a broad cascade of the Lliw river coursing down a slate wall at least 60 feet in height.
I parked and walked to the spectacle—actually I thrashed through heavy bracken encouraged in its growth by river mists. Its height was less daunting than the sheer volume of water that rebounded from the bottom in a fury of spray reaching at least half the height of the falls themselves.
This waterfall was not even considered worthy of a name on my map.
During the morning’s journey I met four cars, saw maybe 4,000 sheep, a single pine martin and no red kite.