Wild Photography Holidays - Photographic Adventure Travel: Snowdonia, North Wales – Mountains, Myths & Magic with Paul Harris

Lyn Cwellyn, West Snowdonia

Snowdonia, North Wales – Mountains, Myths & Magic with Paul Harris

Highlights include…

  • Aberglaslyn Pass
  • Nant Gwynant
  • Lyn Dinas
  • Tan-y-Bwlch Railway Station
  • Dorothea Rhonwy
  • Cwmorthin Slate Mines
  • Mining Ruins of Rhosydd
  • Cwm Pennant
  • Harlech Castle
  • Porthmadog
  • Ynys-y-Pandy Mill
  • Coed Ganllwyd & Rheadr Ddu
  • Cricceth Castle
  • Barmouth Estuary
  • Pensarn Estuary
  • Cregennen Lake

The Mountain resounding like snow:
Snowdon and the autumn
dividing in two like The Red Sea –
the passage through the big puddle of winter.

Eurgain Haf & Barbara Pogacnik

Introduction

If ever there was a place for immersive contemplation and photography, then Snowdonia has to feature high in both reality and imagination. Camping by Llyn Cwellyn in the western shadow of Mount Snowdon on an early autumn morning and the prospect of a fine day in the Welsh mountains reminds me of why I return here so often. Whether to scramble the high rock ridges, sit in ancient woodlands by tumbling streams or stroll through the history and culture of its industrial heritage, there are so many reasons to experience and document this wonderful natural and manmade landscape.
Situated in Gwynedd, the most northern county of Wales, Snowdonia was designated a National park in 1951. Parc Cenedlaethol Eryri in Welsh (Eryri means place of the eagles), covers over 800 sq miles of some of Britain’s wildest mountain landscapes, coastal havens and atmospheric forests. In the 19th century, Snowdonia was the setting for early investigations and studies of some of the world’s oldest rocks. Man has also brought about changes to Snowdonia, mining for minerals such as copper, and the quarrying of slate over the last two centuries have left their mark upon the landscape. It was also the training ground for some of the early mountaineers, who climbed Mount Everest in 1953.
This area is steeped in mythology… according to popular legend, an epic battle between a red dragon and a white dragon took place on the mountain next to the lake, Dinas Emrys. The red dragon killed the white dragon and it tumbled down into Llyn Dinas, which is how the red dragon came to be the national symbol of Wales.
Over five days on this trip, we will be visiting some of the well known sites and views Snowdonia has to offer and bring our own vision into play. Beyond the familiar Snowdon massif we will also reveal less frequented parts of the coast, village enclaves and roaring woodland rivers. And no visit to Snowdonia is complete without absorbing some of its fortress Castles like Harlech or industrial heritage sites such as the abandoned mines of Cwmorthin. The key to this trip is engagement and absorption in this ancient Celtic land. We hope that you can gain insight into a better way of seeing through your photography and learn some different and enjoyable ways of story telling with your images.

Croeso i galon Cymru … Welcome to the heart of Wales !

Your Photographic Guide

Paul Harris is a documentary, travel and adventure photographer steeped in the premise of engagement and curiosity in the world around him. Raised on a diet of coastal wanderings, hill walking and mountaineering, Paul began documenting news and current affairs before expanding his brief to cover longer term projects in environmental conservation, global education and exploration. Find out more about Paul…

Daily Itinerary

For full details please download the trip description PDF

Day 1 : Arrival in Porthmadog

The harbour town of Porthmadog nestles at the southern foot of the Snowdonia massif in the Glaslyn Estuary. The town was named after W.A. Maddocks whose ambitious “Cob” embankment scheme led to the town’s name, which translates as “Madog’s Port”. It is at a crossroad of the Wales Coastal path and the Welsh Highland Heritage Railway. Porthmadog developed as a famous port later in the nineteenth century when it began exporting the slate produced at the quarries in Ffestiniog and Llanfrothen to roof houses in the expanding towns and cities in England and all over the world. By 1873 more than a thousand ships carrying over 116,000 tons of slate left Porthmadog.
We will meet early evening in our hotel for introductions and a brief outline of our next few days of photography and exploration, followed by dinner.

Day 2 – 5

Much of our itinerary will be dependent on weather conditions and tides which we will assess each day to maximise the best of numerous locations. Some of these locations are within 15-20 mins drive allowing us to take advantage of dawn light. Most other locations are within 40-50 mins drive so we aim to allow for several photographic opportunities each day. We will be out in the landscape in all but the worst conditions and there will be time for viewing and critiquing the images we take.

Here are some of the places we will be visiting during these 4 full days…

Ceunant Cynfal National Nature Reserve

A short walk from the village of Llan Ffestiniog drops us into this stunning gorge and the free flowing Afon Cynfal where we can spend time photographing the gnarled ancient woodland along its banks. There’s a magical feel to this place, especially on a misty October morning so it’s easy to imagine how the legendary exorcist and mystic Huw Llwyd cast a spell over his local congregation. From the road above back along the road above the gorge, there is a tremendous viewpoint of double drop Rhaeadr Cynfal waterfall.

Ynys-y-Pandy Mill

Remnants of the grand three story slate mill perched atop a small hill in Cwmystradllyn appears out of nowhere after the short drive from Porthmadog. The mill serviced slate from nearby Gorseddau quarry but was only in operation for less than 10 years. This a good location for both dawn and nighttime photography.

Cwmorthin Slate Mines

Another isolated site of past glories of the mining industry so prevalent in Snowdonia, Cwmorthim came to prominence in the early’1800’s and the slate was worked right up until 1997. A steep but easy and well worn track leads into this peaceful mountain bowl with countless opportunity for both creative and documentary photography.

Harlech Castle

Driving the coast road from Barmouth to Porthmadog, you would be hard pushed to avoid seeing this formidable fortress. Harlech was completed from ground to battlements in just seven years. Its classic ‘walls within walls’ design makes the most of daunting natural defences. ‘Men of Harlech.’ The nation’s unofficial anthem, loved by rugby fans and regimental bands alike, is said to describe the siege which took place here during the War of the Roses, wherein a handful of men held out against a besieging army of thousands. The evening sun glinting off the walls, ravens crowding it towers and Snowdonia’s mountainous backdrop is something to behold.

Pensarn Estuary & Llandanwg Beach

Pensarn Harbour is set on the tidal estuary of the River Artro, against the backdrop of the stunning Rhinog mountain range. And just to the North on the other side of the estuary at low tide is Llandanwg, a stunning sand the rocky beach with views north toward the Llyn Peninsula. Both locations provide a range of low tide, late afternoon seascapes and details of beached craft.

Barmouth & Mawddach Estuary

This Victorian resort town will be the southern most location of our time in Snowdonia. The journey to get here is well worth the effort for the amazing view across the low tidal reaches of the River Mawddach creating wonderful patterns in the sand and beyond, the wooded slopes leading to Cader Idris. Barmouth bridge at the mouth of the estuary is a Grade II listed single-track wooden railway viaduct 699 metres (764 yd) long and is a worthy photographic subject in its own right, especially the colourful rusted iron section nearest to the town centre.

Coed Ganllwyd & Rheadr Ddu

Travelling north from Dolgellau and a short walk into a twisted oak forest lies the helter skelter River Gamlan littered with ferns and mosses and some of the best waterfalls and plunge pools in Snowdonia. The woodland forms part of a larger Site of Special Scientific Interest (SSSI) and is part of the Coedydd Derw a Safleoedd Ystlumod Meirion/ Meirionnydd Oak woods. This is an fantastic location to spend time in, experiment with slow shutter speeds and build compositions of the natural world.

Day 6

Dawn permitting, we will aim to photograph a last vista of the autumn landscape before breakfast.

Joining Arrangements and Transfers

We will meet early evening in our hotel for introductions and a brief outline of our next few days of photography and exploration, followed by dinner. You should aim to arrive at the hotel no later than 18:00 on the first day of the trip.
We can transfer guests from the train station in Porthmadog to our hotel in the afternoon of the first day and back to the station on the morning of the last day.

What’s Included

  • 5 nights hotel accommodation in Porthmadog
  • Breakfasts & dinners
  • Transport during the workshop
  • Photographic tuition
  • Transfer to and from Porthmadog train station before and after the trip for those travelling by train

What’s not Included

  • Lunches
  • Beverages and alcohol
  • Travel & medical insurance

Accommodation

We will be staying at Tudor Lodge, a comfortable guesthouse in the heart of Porthmadog with its traditional high street, heritage narrow gauge railway and pretty harbour all within walking distance. All guests will have their own rooms with private facilities, free WiFi and private parking.

Travelling To Porthmadog

By Air

The nearest international airports to Porthmadog are Liverpool, Manchester and Birmingham with onward train, bus or taxi.

By Rail & Bus

There are frequent trains to Porthmadog from Machynlleth, Shrewsbury and Birmingham along the Cambrian Line, see The Trainline
There is a regular scheduled bus service from Bangor, Pwllheli and Dolgellau with onward connections to and from National rail and international airports, see moovit

By Road

Traveling to Porthmadog is scenic and worthwhile and would be great for spending independent time before or after the trip. Our travel throughout the trip will be by minibus so cars can be left securely at the hotel’s private parking area.

Complete Itinerary and Full Details

This page is only a brief summary. More details can be found in our trip description PDF
It is important that you read this full day-to-day description and further information for this holiday before making your booking.