Posted on 08/11/2017 by David
Because there are so many wonderful walking opportunities in North Wales, we can afford to be fussy when it comes to finding that perfect country meander. Take our favourite winter dog walks - these are walks you can do even if the summits are iced up. They offer a kaleidoscope of winter colour. And most important of all - for our four-legged friends at least - they offer lots of wide-open, off-the-road places to run, jump, sniff, and, well, be a happy dog.
So pop the lead on and let's go!
Nant Ffrancon Valley Old Road and Lon Las Ogwen
Oh ok, there is road involved in this one! But it's wild, single-track quiet. You'll even find one of our cottages - Blaen y Nant - half way long it! This is a linear walk, but you'll forgive for having to retrace your steps. Why? Because the views are so good you'll be happy to do it all over again.
Choose to start either at Ogwen Cottage (there's a pay-and-display car park which gets busy most weekends), down the valley in Tregarth village or, for an epic jaunt, all the way down at Port Penrhyn in Bangor.
From Port Penrhyn follow Lon Las Ogwen off-road cycle track, making use of the old rail line that used to ship slate from Bethesda's Penrhyn quarries to the sea and around the world. From Ogwen Cottage, head west from the car park along the single track lane. Make sure you stop to look at the waterfalls, often in spate in winter and at their most spectacular.
Your dog will need to be well-behaved around sheep while walking the lane through Nant Ffrancon Valley. In early spring (lambing season) we'd expect you to keep your pet on a lead.
Other than that, all you need to do is marvel at the frosty-white peaks of Y Garn, Foel Goch, Mynydd Perfedd and Carnedd y Filiast, the precipitous crags of Pen yr Ole Wen, the rushing Ogwen river and the wooded sides of the old railway.
Llyn Crafnant Circular
This is a relatively easy, circular three-miler around Llyn (Lake) Crafnant in the wooded, craggy hills above Trefriw village in the Conwy Valley. Unless there's snow or ice on the ground at lower levels, this relaxed ramble gives you clean, crisp mountain air and a riot of winter colour. Although a section is along a narrow road, for the most part - barring sheep - your well-behaved dog will be happy off a lead.
Follow the signs for Llyn Crafnant from Trefriw Village. Don't be put off by the initially steep climb through the village - the road levels out shortly after. Follow this road as it slaloms its way through a lovely hidden Snowdonia valley until you reach a very spacious car park. You can drive on but you're better parking here and saving the view across the lake for the start of your walk.
Start from the monument by the lake and choose whether to head left or right. Way-marking is good so don't worry too much if the fog rolls in! Apart from one short, rough and fairly steep section, tracks and paths around Llyn Crafnant are mostly level. Best enjoyed at a leisurely pace - plenty of time for the dog to fetch a stick from the lake!
Aberdaron to Mynydd Mawr
There's something special about walking sea-cliffs in winter! What better way to spend an afternoon than wrapped up against the elements and shaking off the cobwebs with a bracing trek. Quiet country lanes are used to make this a circular six-miler, and you'll need to give yourself at least three hours to get round. Your dog will love you for it!
Start on Aberdaron Beach (or the path above the beach if the tide is in) and head west to Porth Smiddle. Head up the steps (part of the Llyn Peninsula coast path) and turn left at the top. You now follow this lovely coastal walk past the windswept porths (ports) of Meudwy, Cloch and Pistyll. Enjoy rambling through heathland across Pen y Cil headland.
Go through the gate and follow the traditional clawdd (earth bank) to reach Mynydd Bychestyn. Now follow the track to the left which leads to a step stile. Follow the coast path with the clawdd still on your right.
Cross another stile which takes you to Braich-y-Pwll and walk around the base of Mynydd y Gwyddel, keeping the clawdd to your right until you join the road. Turn right and follow this minor road back to Aberdaron. Don't worry, your dog won't mind going back on the lead now!
Newborough Warren, Forest, Beach and Llanddywn Island
This walk is all about big open spaces! Your dog will go nuts - sandy paths, forests, dunes, beaches and the sea. If that doesn't describe Dogtopia, we don't know what else will! You'll love it too, mind.
Winter winds whistle through the forest pines and the marram grass that covers Llanddwyn Island. Catch it lucky with the weather and the light of the low sun gives this place a special aura.
Rather than prescribe any particular walk, just park up and go! If it's wet, stay in the forest. If it's nice, head for the beach.
The car park at Pen Lon (with marram grass sculpture) will take you through the warren first and then options to divert into the forest. The beach is your natural destination. Let the dog's nose lead the way! From here it's a longer-than-it-looks walk to Llanddwyn Island - don't be fooled. The walk along soft sand quickly gets tiring.
The main beach car park (toll applies) brings you closer to Llanddwyn but it's also the most popular jumping off spot.
Another option is to park in Newborough village (there's a small, free car park on the beach road). Walk along the road (stop to explore the ancient remains of Llys Rhosyr by the roadside) before following a stile on the right and walking through a field (dogs on lead here) before entering the forest (dogs off lead here!)
Yet another option is another car park, past Newborough village further along the coast road. This gives you a long walk through the forest to the beach, but brings you out closer to Llanddwyn than any other access.
Pont-y-Pant to Llyn Elsi and along Afon Lledr
This walk is all about forests and rivers! Head for the quiet Lledr Valley south of Betws-y-Coed. Park carefully on the narrow road off the A470 at Pont-y-Pant (follow signs for Plas Hall and the railway station - which is just a platform!).
The walk takes you back across the A470, along a track believed to be an old Roman road (Sarn Helen), and up into Gwydir Forest. You then follow the shores of tranquil Llyn Elsi lake before heading back through the forest, across the A470 again, then along a lovely (but challenging) woodland path along the Lledr river.
Allow yourself at least four hours - more for a picnic. You'll want to take your time anyway! Apart from the A470 crossings (and being aware of sheep and livestock), your dog should be fine off the lead.
The walk is best described at this website. Combine parts 3a and 3b but create a short cut across the Gwydir forest by following a forest track to the right about 200 yards past Ty Mawr as you walk along Sarn Helen. At first it takes you back on yourself, contouring around the hill and twisting back towards the lake. Here you can walk clockwise round the lake and pick up the path marked 3a on the website above.
Images courtesy of Phil Thomas, 2017.