Wondering what that title is about? Phonetically, it’s “gog-lethh cum-ree”. It’s Welsh for North Wales.
In 2017 I decided to celebrate turning 35 in style by spending a few nights in the most beautiful 17th Century Welsh cottage that you ever did plonk your eyes on. Cross Keys is a Grade II listed building that sleeps 6 and was previously a late Georgian hostelry. Now it’s an idyllic spot to get away from the big city lights and just chill in Welsh history.
This isn’t some subtle advertisement or sponsored post. I was genuinely in love with the place as soon as we walked through the door. The link is here if you fancy finding out for yourself. http://www.carolscottagesinwales.co.uk/cross_keys.htm Carol was a star, making sure that we had absolutely everything that we needed. The only thing that Carol didn’t provide was our clothing and food. We had to bring that ourselves.
Cross Keys cottage was, as you’ve already gathered in the first 2 paragraphs, a lovely base to have just south of the edge of Snowdonia National Park. The plan of attack was to check out Bala, the local town, as well as Barmouth on the coast, Llangollen, Ruthin and to go deep in to the mountains. Welsh weather doesn’t always allow your best laid plans to execute, but we did alright.
First up was Llyn Tegid, the local lake. I like lakes. Sometimes they are big, and sometimes they are small. The very very small ones are usually called ponds or swimming pools. Llyn Tegid is MASSIVE!
The weather forecast for morning #1 was looking average to alright, so I set the alarm early, way before the sun was ready to rise, ready for the whole house to wake up and join me at the lake with my camera. Then I closed the front door alone, and made the 10 minute drive down to Llangower, alone. On my own. This either says that my friends and family hate me, or prefer the beds in the cottage to a cold morning at a lake. Or both.
Llangower was a lovely little spot with its own mini train station right on the edge of the lake. It also had its own jetty and this was where I got set up for some early morning long exposure work. Unfortunately the sun wasn’t going to be making an appearance thanks to the clouds but the light actually helped me out a bit, to create this calm and tranquil image of the lake and the rolling hills in the distance. The smoothness of the water was created by putting a 6 stop neutral density filter in front the lens and leaving the shutter open for a long time. The filter is a bit like putting 6 pairs of dark sunglasses on your camera. It takes a while for enough light to get through to create a decent image, and the water is passing by during that time, ending up looking like a sheet of ice.
After a bit of a wander and a few more shots at the lake and Llangower, I headed back up to Bala and then on to Llandderfel, where the others were still sleeping.
The next time the camera came out was when we hit the narrow, windy mountain road over to Pistyll Rhaeadr; Wales’ tallest waterfall. When we first arrived at the cottage, Carol recommended visiting here, and it didn’t disappoint. The initial drive over the mountains was incredible, but the final long lane up to the car park was quite a pain in August. Worth it though:
From there it was on to the A494 to Barmouth for a spot of grub, some souvenirs, some time in the amusement arcades and a stroll along the very beautiful and very windy beach:
And then it was time to head home (the cottage felt like home by now) for curry.
Over the weekend we spent a nice amount of time in the towns and villages of Ruthin and Llangollen, and found 2 of the greatest shops in the whole world, in Bala – Stori and Aran Hufen. Stori is a Welsh off license where you can buy local lagers and ciders poured from taps in to 1 litre plastic bottles to take home. Aran Hufen creates and serves the smoothest, tastiest ice cream in the world. If you’re in Swansea reading this, and there’s a good chance you are, please forget that Joe’s rubbish. Verdi’s is fine, but nothing compares to Aran Hufen.
But what I really want to show you is the huge array of photographs that I took one evening as we ventured deeper in to Snowdonia National Park, along the A5 to Llyn Ogwen where we parked up and walked the Cwm Idwal route to Devil’s Kitchen. The weather stayed dry for us on the walk, but the sun was a little shy and it was getting late in the day so I ended up with some pretty moody apertures. The photos do the talking from this point onwards:
This wasn’t the most recent trip to North Wales for me. The Snowdonia National Park was barely ventured in to and it looked like it needed more of an explore so I returned in November for an evening of astro photography, before catching sunrise over on Anglesey the next morning. Those images will be saved for a future blog post so feel free to hit the follow button on here. It should be in the bottom right hand corner of the screen.
Thanks to Sarah, Oliver, Caroline, Josh and Nanny Mumtaz for coming along for this brilliant birthday break.