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Go with the flow: Discover the best spots for a river picnic in North Wales

Being based minutes from the coast, we live in an area where we’re spoilt for choice when it comes to beaches. However, for lovers of water, “messing about on a river,”  has an enduring appeal that’s enough to draw us away from the coast, on occasion, and into the surrounding Snowdonia Mountain range, where we have rivers and lakes galore to choose from.

The best thing is to pack a picnic. The obvious choice is our old-school picnic basket, which doesn’t work for a beach picnic, but somehow seems much more fitting for a river picnic, checkered picnic blanket included. Being based on the end of the Llŷn Peninsula, any drive to the mountains takes us through the bustling seaside town of Pwllheli. Here you can pick up tasty delights to fill even the most luxurious of picnic baskets, from land to sea and all sourced in North Wales. Pop into the fantastic, family-owned, local Spar y Maes, which is stocked full of locally sourced and produced goods and has won numerous awards. Llyn Seafoods have some great fishy delights to take away such as pickled anchovies. They work well in any picnic blanket. If you fancy a tipple, then call into Gwin Llyn Wines for one of the most extensive, well-researched wine and spirits selections in the whole of Wales.

Once you’ve stocked up, it’s time to head for the hills. There are so many lovely places to choose from. Here are a few of our favourite spots for a river picnic.

River Dwyfor

The banks of the River Dwyfor are like a scene from The Wind in the Willows. The river itself is gin clear and the green of the reeds can be seen in the flowing water. The banks, steep on one side and shallow on the other, are backed by bluebell woods and meadows. It is such a magical spot that there are occasional wooden benches and tables in memory of those who loved it as much as we do. Park in the village of Llanystumdwy and continue along the banks of the river from Lloyd George’s Memorial until the path opens out. Any spot along this bank is perfect for a picnic.


This lake is a reservoir that supplies the water for Porthmadog and sits between Moel Hebog and Moel Ddu. It’s one of the prettiest in Wales and the surrounding countryside is perfect for exploring. There are some handy picnic benches on the banks and the walks around the lake are lovely. For those who can’t spend the day sitting on a picnic blanket, it’s a great spot for fly fishing for trout. Permits can be purchased from The Tackle Shop in Criccieth and The Fisherman Angling Shop in Porthmadog. Both are close by. Take the A487 north from Porthmadog to Tremadog and go left. After 3 miles turn right signed Cwmystradllyn. After another mile, turn right again to Cwmystradllyn, past the old slate mill and on to the reservoir.

Aber Falls

The falls are so easily accessible off the A55 that it would be a shame to leave it off the list. It’s a great way to break up the journey along this busy road. For those who have small children and can’t walk far, the path to the picnic tables is very manageable. Park up by the bridge in the centre of the village of Abergwyngregyn and follow the signs up to the falls. You can proceed all the way to the falls themselves or stop at the interesting visitor centre and enjoy the view from the picnic tables there.

Swallow Falls and Cae’n y Coed

This is one for during or following wet weather when the falls are at their most dramatic. Swallow Falls themselves are spectacular and well worth stopping at. However, the path overlooking the river is often wet with spray. Just a little further down the road is a great place to stop for a picnic. It’s easy to find and there is a large area for the children to play in. The “Field in the Woods” and the hillside above it are full of species of trees from around the world that were planted in the area in the 1930’s, forming an interesting forest garden.

Coed y Brenin

When you think of Coed y Brenin, images of mountain bikes and action spring to mind. However, just a few minutes’ walk away from the visitor centre and down the Arfon Eden Riverside Walking Trail is a stunning picnic area on the banks of the river in the shade of the forest. The route down is perfect for families with young children and the nature trails add to the excitement.

Lake Vyrnwy

A little further from our home, but worth the drive, is the beautiful Lake Vyrnwy with its iconic water tower. It’s so serene and tranquil that it’s the perfect place to spot wildlife whilst enjoying your picnic. If you really want to channel your inner “Ratty” or “Mole” you can hire a small boat from the nearby hotel and enjoy your picnic out on the water.

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