A window onto North Wales & Snowdonia

Canoeing in North Wales

In Activities, Canoeing on September 2, 2011 at 6:13 pm

We absolutely love canoeing, and try to get out whenever we can, so these posts are about some of the places we’ve canoed around here.

Let’s start off with the closest place to us to canoe, the river Dwyryd. It runs past where we live, and the river is tidal up to Maentwrog bridge (which is about a mile down the road from us) so you can legally canoe up to the bridge at Maentwrog if you want to. There are two places where you can park and access the river, one at the pottery at Tan Y Bwlch where there is a large layby, but you have to carry the canoes along a track for a few minutes to reach the river, and often when the river is low there isn’t enough water to canoe from here anyway. So we usually use the second access point which is  a bit further downstream, a small half layby opposite a large house called Bryn Mawr, here once getting your canoes over the fence , which is easy enough, it’s very close to river, so no need for carrying all the gear very far.

Once in the river, you have two choices, either paddle upstream towards Maentwrog, where the river gently winds its way up to the village, you will pass the tributary coming down from Felin Rhyd (no canoeing up past the bridge here due to water sometimes being released from the Hydro Power station) you will then see the imposing Plas Tan Y Bwlch house up on the hillside to your left, and you will catch glimpses of the lovely spire on the old St Twrog’s Church poking its head up through the trees, and if there’s enough water in the river (usually best when there’s a high tide) you can easily make it all the way up to the bridge at Maentwrog, making your way back down to your car once you’ve finished exploring.

If you would prefer a longer trip, you could try paddling downstream from Bryn Mawr. There are several lots of old slate keys on the river, the best of which is on your right as you go downstream, great place to get out for a picnic. As you carry on down the Dwyryd, you will see the Harlech toll bridge in the distance, as you pass under this you will be heading out into the estuary, you will see the island Yyns Gifftan ahead of you and slightly to the left, with the Italianate village of Portmeirion to your right. There is a small bay just before Portmeirion called Abergafren, where if you wish to end your trip here you can, there is a car park up the slip way (or you can walk up to the village of Minffordd to get a bus). If you wish to go further you can carry on past Portmeirion, and across the estuary running parallel with the Cob (you will see the Snowdon mountain range behind the Cob, and maybe see the steam from the Ffestiniog railway running along the cob) heading for Porthmadog. Once you get to the small island (Ballast island, so called because of all the ships returning home and dumping their ballast here so forming an island) by the entrance to the harbour of Porthmadog you can either carry on into the harbour where you can get out up the slipway, or you can carry on round the corner to the beautiful Borth Y Gest harbour.

The tide can really affect the state of this river and estuary, so make sure you know what the tide is doing before you set out, and because of a gorge effect upstream from the Harlech toll bridge there is a lag of one hour, so whatever time high tide is in Porthmadog, please be aware it will be an hour later up river.

To view the whole set of photos and a slideshow:


  1. Is there anything to Watch out for?. Been wanting to do this for a while

    • You should really check the tide times before heading out, it can makevpaddling a lot easier if you are not caught out with an outgoing tide

  2. Hi, I’ve been dreami g of canoeing from Maentwrog down into the estuary. I don’t have a canoe–I would need to rent or borrow one. Anyone local who would do this? Including pick up at the end? How long a paddle is it? I imagine one would want to leave at high tide, out going. I do have an inflatable canoe but I wonder if it would be safe enough.(i have assumed not.) Also, I am a keen wild swimmer, but I imagine the River is too shallow most of the way. Is it? Is there quick sand or other hazards?

    • Hi Robyn , I don’t know of anyone who currently rents canoes on the river, however there is http://www.snowdoniaadventureactivities.co.uk who do guided canoe trips on the dwyryd, they are probably your best option. The river is tidal up to maentwrog so the river levels vary greatly, and you would need to take the rides into account when planning your trip, which is another reason why I would recommend going with a local guide. Hope that helps, kind regards, nikki

  3. Could you canoe upstream on an incoming tide? Could one do a 2-way trip?

    • You can canoe upstream up to maentwrog which is tidal, any further than that is privately owned land

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