Category Archives: Eating out

Walking the Dolgoch Falls – lush green, dappled sun and the lovely sound of bubbling water

I decided that in mid September’s brief spell of stunning weather, the season’s probable last gasp, I would make it into a bit of a holiday and do some walks that I’ve either really wanted to do for the first time, or revisit some that I haven’t done in years.  This falls into the latter category.  I haven’t visited the Dolgoch Falls in over ten years.

Dolgoch on January 2nd 2010

That last Dolgoch visit was certainly a mistake.  On 2nd January 2010 my father and I agreed that we fancied walking the full Dolgoch circuit.  We had woken to find that the garden was covered in a blanket of snow, of which I still have photographs, but there was a beautiful cold winter sun and lovely blue skies.  In spite of the sun I have no idea what we were thinking.  When we arrived at Dolgoch, the car park was completely empty.  Not only was everything smothered in snow but there were random sheets of black ice as well.  We should have turned around at that point, but we didn’t.  It was absolutely hair-raising underfoot, but it was also remarkably beautiful.  Infuriatingly, we had done the entire walk without mishap and were just a minute or so short of the gate to the car park, which was in sight, when my father slipped on wet leaves lying over the path’s slate border and broke his ankle.  I have not been consciously avoiding Dolgoch as a result of that day, but somehow a favourite walk has been neglected for over a decade.

People go to Dolgoch to enjoy the fabulous tall, slender waterfalls, the churning rocky rapids and the fast shallows over water-rounded pebbles, and that’s why I was there too.  It is very accessible in terms of transportation.  There is a bus stop at the car park entrance, a large car park (with a pay and display machine), and the Dolgoch halt of the Tal y Llyn steam railway.  I drove there along the B4405 from Bryncrug, but perhaps the most popular and novel way to get there is on the super Tal y Llyn steam railway, which runs out of Tywyn (timetables and Covid 19 info are on the railway’s website).  The railway viaduct crosses the river at the bottom of the falls, worth a visit in its own right, and the railway stop is just on the other side of the viaduct.  If you’ve never been on the Tal y Llyn railway before, the train ride and the walk are a perfect combination that I’ve done many times over the decades in both rain and shine (I had a less girlie attitude to the rain when I was young).  There’s a café just beyond the car park on the path towards the falls.  If you are driving there’s also the possibility of a beer, a cream tea or lunch at one of the two lakeside hotels at the stunning Tal y Llyn lake, depending on the time of year and whatever Covid 19 measures are in place (turn right out of the Dolgoch car park and drive for about 10 minutes until you see the lake – both hotels are at the Dolgoch end of it).

I was lucky with the weather.  I arrived at 11am in full sunshine, the car park was fairly empty, and it looked as though the day was going to heat up quickly.  I love the heat, so that’s never a problem, but for anyone who prefers a bit of cool, this is the perfect walk on a hot or stuffy day.  The valley is very steep, and its slopes are covered in trees, the sky only properly visible when you get onto the highest reaches of the walk, with hilltops flanking you.  Even on a seriously sunny summer day this means that dappled light trickles through the leaves and does wonderful things to the water, but it remains a very pleasant temperature.  Everything is vibrantly, richly green, apparently a form of heaven for botanists who specialize in plants that thrive on a combination of shade, cool conditions and humidity.  The sound of the falls is ever-present, delicious, sometimes crashing and sometimes burbling.

There are two sets of walks possible.  The first is the short circuit that crosses the lowest and arguably the most dramatic set of the falls and has a number of short side-trails to viewing platforms over them.  The second is the main circuit that takes a couple of hours to complete, and heads near to the top of the hill before descending again to the level of the river, with crossings of various parts of the falls all along. The steep sections of the path are all beautifully done, the surface reinforced with huge bits of stone to form stairways, and stretches of stone pathway and, where needed, paths and steps are supplied with long sets of railings.  With Covid in mind, do take hand gel or wear disposable gloves, because you will need to use the railings to secure your footing (it’s damp and a bit slippery at most times of year), and you really don’t want to take any risks that Covid might be lurking on the hand rails.

For those of you also thinking of revisiting after a long time, there used to be a secondary route that took in some of the Dolgoch slate works on the western side of the river, starting beyond the picnic area, but although the picnic area is still there (and being used with enthusiasm) the path beyond is now sadly closed to the public, with a No Entry sign in place.  The path was quite high and narrow, next to a steep drop, and has presumably become unstable over the years.  The picnic area is a particularly pretty spot, with a run of rushing low falls cascading into a shallow, wider area of river surrounded by wide flat rocks, funneling into a narrower section of stream over small, oval pebbles and gravel, a riot of sounds.

The lower sections of the falls were fairly busy.  The Tal y Llyn steam train had arrived a little time before, and there were a few groups of people taking photos from the viewing platforms, but beyond these I had the long circuit to myself.  I didn’t see another person until I descended once again to the lower levels.  Bliss.  The higher you go, the further you go from the falls, but you can hear them clearly, a delicious sound as you walk through the dense greenery, emerging at treetop level with views across the hilltops.

Descending once again, the sound of the falls comes nearer all the time, and eventually you are back at the level of the river and the rapids.

The clouds had formed themselves into a thin veil when I emerged from the woodland, the sky still quite bright but no longer blue.  I had been planning a swim, but with the clouds hiding the sun the temperature began to drop, so I went for a short stroll along the beach instead.  It’s a remarkable thought, finishing off this post on 3rd October, with the rain slamming down, that this walk was only two weeks ago!  The thought of contemplating a swim now makes my hair stand on end!

Eating Out: Proper Gander, High Street, Tywyn

On the last day of his visit, on 12th September, my father and I went into Tywyn to eat at a restaurant called Proper Gander.  A quirky name.  I had picked up a leaflet for it in Dai’s Shed and checked out the website and the menu looked splendid, emphasizing that most of the produce used is sourced locally.  The Welsh lamb, beef and pork come from the Aberdovey butcher in Chapel Square.  The sea bass, lobster and crab are from Dai’s Shed in Aberdovey or from an alternative source in Tywyn, and the Menai scallops and oysters are from Pwllheli.   There is also a wine bar downstairs selling Welsh ales, ciders, whiskey, gin and vodka.  I am amazed that Proper Gander has been there for five seasons and I have only just noticed it.  It has taken me a few days to write it up because I’ve been busy, but it was a great evening.

Proper Gander is a beautifully presented restaurant with a lovely warm atmosphere, recently redecorated, and can sit up to 45 covers.  It was by no means full when we pitched up at 6.30 at the end of the season, but by the time we left five other tables were occupied.

Lam Adobo. Photograph from the Proper Gander website at http://propergandertywyn.com/about/

There were two menus, the standard menu, which includes an imaginative selection of vegetarian options, and a steak menu, and two wine menus from two different suppliers, one of which is based on Dolgellau.  I was seriously tempted by the steak menu, but in the end went for a more adventurous choice.   The food was divine.  I chose grilled halloumi and za’tar with harissa-infused yogurt on a bed of tiny salad leaves with pomegranate to start, followed by lamb adobo, described on the menu as pancetta-wrapped lamb stuffed with a filling of Porcini mushrooms, fresh oregano, mint, parsley, garlic and shallots, and served with with peppers, courgettes, tiny diced red onion, creamed mash and a wonderfully fresh chimichurri sauce.  My father chose pear and stilton pate with a pear chutney followed by squid ink risotto and hake with asparagus, sugarsnaps and samphire.  It was all cooked to perfection.  My father waxed particularly lyrical about the cooking of the hake, but it was all gorgeous, and beautifully presented.  The wine was excellent and didn’t bankrupt us. Other meals that were going past also looked stunning, and next time I go I will be torn between some of their wonderful seafood choices or diving headlong into the steak menu.

The Boer War memorial showing Proper Gander at far right.  Photograph by Arthur C. Harris, licensed under Creative Commons CC BY-SA 2.0

We were welcomed warmly and were served with friendly professionalism.  We had lots of questions to ask about the restaurant and how long it had been there, and it was great to be able to chat.  When we left, we said goodbye to the chef and returned home feeling very pleased with a great, celebratory evening.

If you are looking for the restaurant on a first visit, it is at the opposite end of the High Street from the railway station, immediately opposite Neptune Road and the memorial to the Boer War.  There is plenty of parking at this time of year.  Enjoy!

Proper Gander can be found at:

4 High Street
Tywyn
Gwynedd
LL36 9AA
01654 712169
www.propergandertywyn.com

Eating Out – The Britannia Inn, Seaview Terrace, Aberdovey

The Britannia Inn has had ups and downs on the food front over the last two decades, as one would expect.  After a disappointing meal several years ago we hadn’t been back.  But things change, so I had a look at the sample menu on their website.  It looked good so I suggested to my father, who is visiting at the moment, that we give it a whirl.   I phoned and booked in for 6.30pm the Saturday night.  A friendly voice on the other end of the phone confirmed the booking and we looked forward to it.

The Britannia Inn, Seaview Terrace, Aberdovey

It was a nice, truly convivial evening.  The Britannia is a building with history, about which I hope to be talking in a future post.  Inside there was nothing visible of its past as a coaching inn, but the exterior retains much of its original personality.  The staircase up to the restaurant is endearingly scuffed, while the restaurant itself is neat, polished to within an inch of its life and well-ordered, with pale paintwork in pastel shades, and a surprisingly modern central black brickwork feature, which must have been an open fire in its past, which had recesses holding candles.  In the summer it is possible to sit outside on the balcony and enjoy the view, but at this time of year it is certainly an indoors job.

When we arrived there was only one other couple in the restaurant, apart from a small group in the annexed part of the restaurant.    I was really surprised that we were directed to a table immediately next to the other occupied table, particularly given that there were three other tables for two unoccupied, and the last was only occupied an hour after we arrived. We were seated on the cushioned settle, at Table 2, which is a corner table, meaning that we were sitting adjacent to each other, rather than opposite one another.  I was sitting with my back to the boring window that overlooks a plain wall, and had views over my father’s shoulder out to the sea.  But my father, with his back to the view, was faced with the two nice but noisy people at the next door table consuming their meals.  It would have been much nicer, given that the restaurant was empty, to be allocated a table where we could have chatted rather more peacefully.

The menu treads a pragmatic line between pub food and restaurant style dishes.  For example, for the main courses there was battered haddock and chips, scampi and chips, a burger, two types of steak with tomatoes and mushrooms and similar familiar pub meals, but there was also dressed crab, fried goats cheese with salad, and plaice in lemon and caper sauce, amongst others.

We ordered a bottle of sparkling water, and were presented with a small jug, with ice.  That was fine.  Having decided what we were going to eat, we then ordered some wine.  There were three classic French wines on the menu and we ordered the Sancerre.  The waiter went away, only to return a couple of minutes later to say that it was out of stock and what would we like instead?  The Pouilly Fuissé.  A couple of moments later he returned to say that actually they only had the Chablis in stock.  Hey ho, we ordered that instead, and when it arrived it was perfectly acceptable.

I always think that it’s rather antisocial to photograph meals in restaurants, so please take my word for it that when both starters and main courses turned up, they were attractively presented.  My father selected the haddock goujons with tartar sauce to start, and it arrived with a mixed side salad – a very colourful and pleasing plate, and he said that the battered goujons were very good.  My tiger prawns in garlic and chilli butter, accompanied by a warm bread roll were excellent, although the chilli was incredibly mild.  I asked for a chunk of lemon to squeeze over it, and it was produced with great good will and a big smile.

We both had the plaice fillet in a lemon and caper sauce.  It could be served with chips, vegetables or salad, but we both ordered chips.  I am guessing that the plaice was poached, because the texture was quite soft and the flavour was very delicate.  It was a generously large piece of fish, with the best skin (the black side) still attached.  The lemon and caper sauce was generous and full of flavour.  I prefer my chips crisper on the outside and fluffier on the inside, but that’s a matter of personal preference.  We were offered a selection of condiments and again asked for more lemon slices, which were produced instantly.

The service throughout was helpful, prompt and friendly.  Our early 6.30 booking was strategic for a late booking on a Saturday night, and as the restaurant began to fill up it was good to see that right at the end of the season they were doing good trade.  There were all age groups present, everyone chatting in low voices, and the music on the speakers was audible without being intrusive.

I can’t remember the exact bill but it was something over £70.00 and with the 10% tip that I chose to add, rounded up for ease of computation, it came to £80.00, of which around £30.00 was the Chablis.

In all it was a nice, undemanding evening out and we enjoyed it.

 

The Britannia Inn – address, phone number and website address:

The Britannia Inn,
Seaview Terrace,
Aberdovey, Gwynedd,
LL35 0EF
01654 767426
https://www.britannia-aberdovey.co.uk