Castell y Bere and Craig yr Aderyn

Yesterday, we convinced ourselves the hailstorms weren’t going to last, and went out to do some castle-bashing. We headed over the pass towards Dolgellau, where brighter weather greeted us, turned left at the Cross Foxes and pointed our noses towards the southern slopes of Cadair Idris.

Here, sitting like a marooned ship above the reclaimed land of the Dysynni Valley, is a tree-girt lump of rock on top of which perch the ruins of Castell y Bere. There’s not a huge amount left of the castle, built in the 13th century by prince Llewelyn, but it’s extremely atmospheric, even on a cold and grey, windy day. You take a winding path up through the gnarled and twisted, mossy and fern-covered trees, emerging at an enormous wooden stair built over the huge, defensive ditch hacked out of the rock.

At the top you find some bits of wall still standing, one huge flight of stone steps plus a few smaller ones leading nowhere, various arches and doorways, and some (presumably not original) wooden walkways to explore. It’s the views that make the place really special though. It’s a remarkable location and, looming in the distance, is the enormous, impressive and craggy presence of Craig yr Aderyn, Bird Rock.

This was once renowned as the site of the only inland breeding colony of cormorants. These big, black, pterodactyl-like  birds can be found breeding inland in lots of places now, tempted by well-stocked rivers and trout farms, but they were here originally because this big cliff was once a lot closer to the shore than it is now. The fertile Dysynni Valley has been reclaimed from the sea. And as well as the cormorants, choughs – those lovely members of the corvid family, with their bright red legs and long, curving red bills – also nest at Craig yr Aderyn.

We drove around underneath the rock, hoping that perhaps there might be a forward-thinking chough or two to be spotted, but really it’s too early yet. Come spring, they’ll be returning to their nest sites.

So we headed for the coast and up to the Mawddach Estuary, stopping at Penmaenpool to give Bert a walk along the Mawddach Way. And of course, as we were there it would have been churlish not to pop into the George III for a pint – especially as they had Purple Moose’s lovely Ysgawen on.

So, a bit of history, a bit of birdwatching, a walk and a pint. What a good day.

As a bit of a photography aside, I decided to challenge myself by using only my 55-250mm lens for the day – despite the fact that it is a supremely poor quality lens. Apart from, I think, the panoramic image of Craig yr Aderyn, I resisted the temptation to change lenses. Sometimes it’s good to restrict yourself, and make yourself think differently about how you go about getting a photo that you want.

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