Nestled in the heart of North Wales, Moel Famau invites adventurers and photography enthusiasts to experience its natural charm. This unspoiled gem captures the essence of rugged beauty and captivating landscapes that define the region. With sunlit peaks and open meadows, Moel Famau offers a scenic haven for hiking and photography, revealing the unfiltered beauty of North Wales. Join us as we explore the trails, capture stunning views, and uncover the genuine allure of Moel Famau’s unassuming yet breathtaking scenery.
Moel Famau Country Park: A hiker’s paradise
‘Mother Mountain’ in Welsh, Moel Famau is the highest peak in the Clwydian Range at 554m (1818ft). The Moel Famau Country Park includes the surrounding area as well. The views from the paths and summit include the North Wales coast, Snowdonia and the Vale of Clwyd, these landscapes are excellent subjects for landscape photography.
There are a number of signposted walking routes around Moel Famau, the bottom car park is the starting point for the majority. The signs explain the route, distances and expected duration for each of the walking trails. From the lower car park, the routes start within the forest whereas from the top car park are more open (and exposed if it’s windy!). The longer routes from the lower car park offer a combination of forest areas and the climb to Jubilee Lower. The short walks and suitable for younger visitors. See more info below on parking.
Moel Famau walk
The shortest, and in my opinion one of the best routes for photography is the route from the upper car park to Jubilee Tower. From the highest point of the car park follow the path around the corner and from there just keep going until you see the Jubilee Tower in the distance. On your left the Clwydian Range and Dee Valley Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty (AONB), which as the name suggests provides the perfect backdrop or even focal point for photos as you hike towards the summit. In general, the path is easy terrain to walk, the main challenge is the last section of steep incline to the tower.
From the tower, if the conditions are clear you can see for miles, as far as Liverpool and the Dee Estuary. A long focal length lens is one of the best ways to pick out details in the distant landscape. On a very clear day you may even be able to see Blackpool Tower!
The difficulty and duration depend on your pace (and how often you stop to take photos!) but generally it takes us 1hr 15min to 1.5hrs of moving time for the round trip of 6km.
The one disadvantage of this route is that it’s not a circular route, therefore you will follow the same path to the peak of the hill and back down. For most, this doesn’t matter, but I know Ieva prefers a circular route.
Moel Famau through the seasons
The panoramic vistas which surround Moel Famau are the ideal playground for landscape photography. Throughout the year with the changing seasons, the landscapes transform in terms of their colour. A personal favourite time of year is towards the end of Summer and into Autumn. This is when the Heather bursts with colour as it comes into full bloom. The vibrant purples add a splash of colour which complements any composition. The heather can also work well for macro photography if this is a genre you’re interested in. One slightly unusual thing you may spot is that there are strange shapes cut into the heather, this in-fact part of the ongoing management and it helps to rejuvenate the plants, promoting younger, succulent growth which can benefit the animals that feed on it.
In Winter, with the elevation, snow can start to settle on the ground towards the summit and the surrounding hillsides. It goes without saying that snow-topped hills add a lot to the majority of compositions for landscape photography. As always, take care in icy conditions, and consider access as the road is unlikely to be gritted.
However, no matter which season, the path to the summit can be used as a great leading line whether it’s downhill or up towards the summit. The people on the path (It’s a fairly popular destination!) help to add a sense of scale. I quite enjoy taking my 50mm f/1.8 prime lens with me for my Nikon D7200. Using this at wide apertures works well to separate your subject (In this case Ieva!) from the scene. While also still being able to distinguish what’s captured within the out-of-focus background.
The Summit & Moel Famau’s Jubilee Tower
The highlight of Moel Famau has to be the ruins of the Jubilee Tower at the summit, which can be reached along the well-known Offa’s Dyke National Trail. From this summit, and the path panoramic views are stunning. The Jubilee Tower was created for the Golden Jubilee of King George III. The ruins have since been renovated to allow visitors to stand on top and enjoy the panoramic views.
Once you reach Jubilee Tower and you’ve got your breath back! You’re rewarded with the ultimate viewpoint of the surrounding landscape. One of the highlights is the suitability of the Jubilee Tower itself as a foreground interest. The stairs in particular create a great leading line and foreground interest leading into the landscape behind. This works especially well with either a low cloud or partially overcast clouds in the sky. With a landscape photographer’s “worst case conditions” of a blue sky the Jubilee Tower itself can become the subject with the sunlight creating shadows over the uneven ruins on a clear day.
Crafting stunning photographs
I’ve already touched on a number of the best techniques for compositions which work well around Moel Famau, these are summarised below:
- Leading Lines: My favourite for this location! Make use of the Jubilee Tower stairs and the main path leading to the summit.
- Long focal lengths: Make use of a lens with long focal lengths to focus on details in the distance. These focal lengths also enable lens compression to bring the background closer to your subject.
- Clouds and dramatic conditions: Dark clouds work well in combination with Jubilee Tower. Conditions with intermittent clouds work well for light and cloud shadows over the landscape. Even rain can increase your chances of seeing a rainbow when paired with changeable conditions.
- Vibrant Heather: Visit later in Summer or in Autumn to see the purple heather in full bloom.
- Sheep! Sheep are great focal points for landscape photography at Moel Famau. If you have a dog Moel Famau is a nice place to get portraits. Either with a long focal length lens or prime. But make sure it’s kept on a lead, this is of particular importance to protect the sheep. If you’re lucky you may even spot the Black Grouse or Red Grouse, which are some of the rarest birds.
- Sunset/Sunrise: As always, if you don’t mind an early start sunrise can be a great time to capture the best light. If you visit at sunset, make sure you have a torch and warm clothes for the descent.
If you’re looking for more information see the post on North Wales landscape photography.
Although reaching the top of Moel Famau isn’t a particularly long hike, consider that there are some steep sections when selecting the amount of camera gear you would like to lug up the highest hill in the Clwydian Range!
My go-to, as always is my Tamron 16-300mm superzoom. For me, this is a highly flexible, lightweight lens with impressive focal length reach which gives it versatility for hiking. Find out more about my photography gear recommendations.
Stick with the gear you are familiar with in terms of the camera body. In terms of lens choice, a wide-angle lens can be useful for photos from Jubilee Tower to capture the foreground and landscape. However, for the majority of the scenery, I find a longer focal length lens zoom can give the flexibility required for setting up different compositions.
For Moel Famau are rarely bother with a tripod unless I know I’m going for sunrise or sunset. In these light conditions, it enables me to keep my ISO low, by having a stable base to allow slower shutter speeds. Sunrise times for Moel Famau.
No matter what camera equipment you have, you’re sure to be able to take amazing photos at Moel Famau!
Planning your Moel Famau adventure
Moel Famau car parking
Coming up the Bwlch Pen Barras on the right is the lower car park, this is a relatively large car park (paid) which also has toilets. The 2nd car park is the upper car park, which is at the top of the hill and is also pay and display.
Even from the car park, the views are impressive! So if you’re unable to hike uphills, it’s well worth a visit, even if it’s only to walk around the upper car park and the start of the trail.
Best time to visit Moel Famau
Moel Famau is a great location at any time of year. You can find further information in the section on Moel Famau through the seasons. Of course, in extreme weather with driving rain and high winds, it’s not going to be a nice day for photography given how exposed it is.
Preparing for the hike: gear, clothing, and essentials
As the main walk from the upper car park is fairly exposed prepare for it to be windy. The weather can be very changeable in North Wales. Therefore always back for other worst conditions but hope for the best! Given the steep incline in some areas layers are your friend. A useful tip is to take off some layers before you start to sweat on the uphill. Keep them in your bag as you will then need them at the top to keep warm and potentially for the hike back down to the car park.
To stay out of the wind you can use the Jubilee Tower itself as a wind-break! We usually take a drink and snack to enjoy at the top whilst we take in the fantastic views.
No specific footwear is needed for most seasons, if you’re comfortable in trainers then that’s fine. However, take care when walking on any large boulders without ankle support. Walking shoes or boots would be preferred, but Ieva has done this in her sandals in summer! (see if you can spot the photo within this post!).
If there is a chance of rain, make sure you have a bag for your camera gear which will ensure protection from the elements. The last thing you want is to be worrying about is your gear if it’s out in the open.
Moel Famau weather
As with any trip make sure you check multiple weather forecasts before setting out, to make sure you’re expecting good weather. This can help with clothing and footwear selection for the day. Also, consider that there is almost no phone network coverage at Moel Famau.
- Loggerheads Country Park
- Clwydian Range And Dee Valley Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty
- Nercwys Forest
In summary, Moel Famua is a great location for photography at all times of the year, but especially in late Summer/Autumn with the heather in full bloom. With the paths and steps, there are many leading lines which can be leveraged for a wide variety of compositions. Given the elevation of Jubilee Tower at the summit of Moel Famau, the spectacular views over Clwydian Range And Dee Valley (AONB) never fail to disappoint. If that’s not enough, there’s always plenty of sheep around which if you’re lucky may hang around long enough to be a focal point within your photos.