Wales is a wet country with many mountainous ranges which makes it a prime location for its hundreds of waterfalls. Varying in size, some of these have become well-travelled tourist attractions while others are hidden deep in the forest or on very rugged terrain. Some of Wales’ waterfalls have mythical stories about dragons, fairies and winged creatures based on legend or mythology.
Today we visit five of North Wales favourite waterfalls. Each of these waterfalls are accessible without too much of a challenge for those with an average fitness level. While the falls are often a great place to splash around, they can also be perilous grounds, especially for little ones. Reviewing some basic waterfall safety tips before going is a great way to start your day out. Be sure to wear appropriate clothes and footwear for the waterfall you choose. Bring a towel and lead for the dog if you need those as well!
Dolgoch Falls, Tywyn, Gwynedd
Dolgoch Falls, or Red Meadow Stream, is a series of 3 waterfalls which are part of the Nant Dol-gôch stream, which flows into the Afon Fathew. These majestic falls are on varying levels that can be accessed via various routes. Visitors can choose which option to take, including a circular tour taking in all 3 levels. The walk is short, only about a mile round trip and reasonably signposted. Most fitness abilities should be able to make the trip, even when holding hands of children or carrying backpacks. There are many caves and tunnels to explore along the way but be aware of the slippery, mossy rocks.
While the name implies a red meadow, it’s the emerald green moss that draws your attention. The exquisite moss carpets the woodland floor and spreads out across the rocks and up the tree trunks in a fabulous display of nature.
Though these waterfalls are just 4 miles from the beach it feels much more remote and peaceful. Perhaps consider bringing a picnic and don’t forget your camera and towel.
Reach the falls from the nearby Dolgoch station on the Talyllyn Railway for the most enjoyable route. Access into the falls is free, though the area is marked with donation boxes so be sure to drop a tip as you leave. The lower falls are accessible for wheelchairs and pushchairs, but the other 2 levels have steep pathways and some loose step stones likely to impede travel. This level can be reached in about a 10-minute walk.
Aber Falls, Abergwyngregyn, Gwynedd
Aber Falls in Snowdonia National Park is actually two waterfalls located closely together, 2 miles south of Abergwyngregyn in Gwynedd. The larger of the falls located in this scenic woodland spot is Rhaeadr Fawr, which literally means “big waterfall”. The smaller is Rhaeadr Bach and appears to be taller but has a thinner water flow.
The most common route to arrive to Rhaeadr Fawr is a family friendly, circular walk from Abergwyngregyn. This walk isn’t very steep and is only about 4.5km round trip so most people, including children, should be able to make the trip without too much difficulty. For the slightly more adventurous, venture off the path to Rhaeadr Bach which is a narrower path and is less developed than the main trail. Small children especially may have trouble with this path and pushchairs and wheelchairs aren’t possible here.
By all accounts, the falls themselves are a spectacular sight and worth the relatively short walk. The larger fall is formed as the Afon Gogh river plunges 120 feet down to the rocks below. The water below is cold but wading and paddling are possible – for you and the pooch!
Visitors might also be interested in the Bronze Age settlements along the way, including an excavated roundhouse. Numerous historical standing stones and burial mounts can se spotted along the walk as well.
The car park is well sign posted and has a fee of £3, cash only, so make sure you have the right change. You can then proceed to the clearly marked path for the falls for a lovely walk and some excellent photo opportunities.
Swallow Falls, Betws-y-Coed
The Afon Llugwy river flowing through a narrow ravine creates the Rhaeadr Ewynnol, or Swallow Falls, one of the nations most spectacular waterfalls. The name means “foaming waterfall” and it doesn’t let you down. Swallow Falls is the tallest, continuous waterfall in Wales and is, by all accounts, a natural wonder of the world. This multiple waterfall system has been a hot spot for tourists and locals alike for generations.
The falls can be viewed from a spot above the river with no strenuous walking or the more venturesome folks can take the stairs to on foot to the water below. These exquisite views are worth the more challenging approach and people without mobility issues should be able to make the descent.
Parking for the falls is along the A5 and in a neighbouring hotel. Entry to the viewing platform is £2 per person. The platform viewing is both wheelchair and pushchair friendly but there is a turnstile entrance with a larger gate that isn’t always open so getting through the entrance may not be possible for those on wheels … or four legs so check before bringing the dog also.
Rhaeadr Ceunant Mawr Waterfall, Llanberis
The Ceunant Mawr Waterfall, also known as Llanberis Falls, is situated a few hundred metres upriver from the town centre of Llanberis in Gwynedd. The translation of the falls name means “waterfall of the great ravine” and it doesn’t disappoint; it is one of the most impressive waterfalls in all of Wales with its 100+ foot, two-level plunge into the gorge below.
Reach the falls by parking in the village and traveling the well sign-posted route. (Beware that the locals aren’t happy with visitors parking at the gate, which is littered with many “No Parking” signs) The walk to the falls is an easy stroll and only takes a few minutes. Follow the footpath uphill reaching a turnstile entrance, which then filters to the viewing area for the falls.
This waterfall is not recommended for swimming or paddling but take as many photos as you like!
Conwy Falls, Betws-y-Coed
Conwy Falls, situated in the Conwy Falls Forest Park near Penmachno, is a magical spot, so its other name, “The Fairy Glen”, is quite fitting. One could expect to see tiny fairies or a gnome scramble along the brilliant green landscape. Given that this waterfall is in a Site of Special Scientific Interest, it is kept as minimally maintained as possible while still safe for walkers and climbers. Most people who are relatively steady will be able to make the round trip to the waters edge without too much trouble. The walk is somewhat steep with loose stones and roots underfoot; it is also muddy and slippery at times so wear appropriate footwear.
Conwy Falls claims to have wheelchair access but by all accounts, this is not a friendly place to bring wheelchairs or pushchairs. There is a café at the entrance that is lovely, The Conwy Falls Café, where you can grab a bite to eat, use the public toilets or soak up a few minutes of WiFi. Well behaved dogs are welcome at the café and there is plenty of indoor and outdoor seating.