Posted on 14/06/2017 by David
There is no better light to appreciate the beauty of North Wales than at sunrise or sunset. The low-level light casts shadows that throw Snowdonia's rugged vistas into sharp relief, while the coast's shimmering glow is a view to behold. Often, sunrise and sunset are daily events that go unnoticed.
But not on Midsummer's Day. As with many other mystical places, the summer solstice is marked in North Wales with magical rituals that date back many hundreds of years.
As 2017's Summer Solstice is fast approaching (Wednesday June 21), what better time for us to share some of the best places in North Wales to greet or say goodbye to the summer sun?
All you have to do is get out of bed - or stay up late!
Our top three places to watch the sunrise in North Wales
Bryn Celli Ddu, Llanedwen, near Llanfair PG, Anglesey
Anglesey's rocky fields are strewn with standing stone sentinels and mysterious cairns and burial chambers. One of the most accessible of these, Bryn Celli Ddu, is also the site of an ancient druid ritual every summer solstice.
You'll need to be there early on Wednesday June 21 - 4:50am to be exact - to catch the very moment in the year when the sun's first rays shine right through the tomb's stone chambers.
It's a magical occasion when the head of the Anglesey Druid Order and his fellow druids dress in their cream robes to light a bowl of fire to emulate the power of the sun, and will make offerings to the three realms of land, sea and sky.
Don't be put off by the strangeness of it! The public are more than welcome to watch and questions are encouraged.
If you want to learn more about this amazing neolithic site and the many others across Anglesey, the site's custodians CADW run an archaeology open day here also on Wednesday June 21 from 11am to 6pm. More details on CADW's website here.
Great Orme (above the Pier looking across Llandudno Bay)
Typically the bay's waters are flat-calm at that time and light bathes the town's elegant pastel-shaded promenade buildings in a warm, comforting glow. In our opinion, the Queen of Welsh resorts is at her most regal at first light.
There's no one ideal spot. Walk up through Happy Valley (follow the line of the cable car) and pick your place.
Why not come back for sunset? Head to the summit or time a drive around Marine Drive which circumnavigates the Orme peninsula and gives you terrific views across the water to Snowdonia's northern foothills and Anglesey - over which the sun sets - beyond.
Snowdon's Lakes - Llydaw and Teyrn
These two glacial lakes, cradled by the precipitous ridges of Snowdon, both have east-facing aspects. Perfect for sunrise-watching!
Yes, it will take some effort to get to these for sunrise, but arriving early has its advantages; firstly, you may get a spot to park at the popular Pen-y-Pass car park, from where the path to the lakes starts. Secondly, extend your adventure by walking up Snowdon and fall in love with this mountain all over again by seeing her in low light.
The good news is that your effort getting here is via one of the "easiest" paths up Snowdon, the Miner's Track. It's well surfaced as far as Llyn Llydaw - only joining the steeper Pyg Track beyond the lake - so you don't have to be a seasoned mountaineer or have gazelle-like scrambling skills to walk this far.
Pick your spot and enjoy the sight of the sun rising above Moel Siabod across the valley.
Our top three places to watch the sunset in North Wales
South Stack, Holy Island off Anglesey
South Stack is a popular place to watch sunsets, with good reason. Stand atop some of the highest sea cliffs in Wales and look down on wheeling sea birds and the iconic rock on which stands the lighthouse.
It's a mesmerising view at any time of day! Make sure you bring a pair of binoculars, or head for nearby Ellin's Tower Visitor Centre, managed by the RSPB, and learn all about the bird life at this very special nature reserve.
Tip: If you'd prefer a quieter vantage point, head for the Range about one mile south of South Stack off the minor road back to Trearddur Bay.
Newborough Beach/Ynys Llanddwyn, Anglesey
There is so much scenic interest at Newborough Beach and Ynys Llanddwyn (Llanddwyn Island) that any sunset simply enhances the beauty of the place.
Whether it's throwing dark shadows from the pillow lava rock formations or casting a honeyed glow on the pretty row of coastguard cottages, it's impossible to leave this place until the sun has gone. Llanddwyn Island is usually joined to the beach by a low spit of sand and pebbles but it can be cut off for a few hours during the year's highest tides, so just be aware of this.
Otherwise, it's surprising how many people leave the beach before the sun does its thing. Bring a flask and an extra layer or two of clothing, stick around, and just enjoy the show.
Hills on the eastern side of Conwy Valley
The hills on the eastern side of the Conwy Valley are too easily forgotten, overshadowed as they are by Snowdonia's grandeur to the west. Yet if you'd like to see a sunset over Snowdonia, this is the place to be.
Try the viewpoint on the B5113 over Llanrwst. Leave the town on the B5427 Nebo road and after a few miles of steady climbing, take a left. This is one of the best places to watch the sun as it dips below the jagged Snowdonia skyline. It's also one of the quietest places to be, so you'll probably have the light show all to yourself.
If you're feeling spiritual, head for Capel Garmon burial chamber (just south of the village on the minor road, and a quarter-mile walk to get there). From here you can enjoy a similar view of Snowdonia with the sun setting behind it.
There is something special about being at these neolithic sites when the sun is rising or setting. Why not start midsummer's day at Bryn Celli Ddu and end it at Capel Garmon? Now that would be something...
Images: Bryn Celli Ddu, © Copyright Jeff Buck and licensed for reuse under the Creative Commons Licence.South Stack, by Charmaine via Flickr. Newborough Beach, by Gaynor Roberts. Glyder Fach, © Crown copyright 2016 (Visit Wales).