The Spinnies, or Aberogwen, is one of the North Wales Wildlife Trust’s most popular nature reserves. Two easily accessible hides provide excellent viewing points over a sheltered brackish lagoon and its associated beds of common reed, and the provision of bird feeders means that there is always great activity to watch.
The lagoon was created in 1822 when the course of the River Ogwen was diverted through the Penrhyn Castle Estate, leaving a meander isolated near the coast. The juxtaposition of this marshy lagoon, the Ogwen Estuary, and the intertidal mud of the Lavan Sands makes this an important site for birds and a fantastic place for bird-watching. Over 185 species have been recorded on or around the reserve.
The site is renowned as one of the best places to see wintering Kingfishers, and up to 100 Little Egrets can often be spotted wading in the lagoon, roosting in the trees or on the coastal mud at low tide, often with Herons.
An hour either side of high tide is a good time to see large numbers of waders. The intertidal area around the estuary and on to Lavan Sands supports several thousand Oystercatchers and Curlew; hundreds of Redshank, Dunlin, Shelduck and Wigeon and many other species of wader and wildfowl. During late summer and autumn, several hundred Red-breasted Merganser and Great Crested Grebe congregate in this area during their mount. Water Rail may also be seen with luck, but they are secretive.
The Reserve is bounded on the west by the estate walls of Penrhyn Castle, built mostly between 1827 and 1837 as the seat of Lord Penrhyn, owner of the Penrhyn slate quarries in Bethesda, and indeed owner of vast areas of Caernarfonshire. The landscaped grounds of Penrhyn Castle dipping down to the coast can be seen from the bird hides and the pampas grass on the reserve is a legacy of this Victorian era.
Car parking for the nature reserve is at the end of the lane by the beach. Eastwards from here a very worthwhile walk along the coast gives good views across the sea to Anglesey and the distant Great Orme. The sunset is spectacular across the wet mud. It is possible to walk to Llanfairfechan, or further, along part of the Wales Coast Path, linking the Spinnies with the Morfa Madryn Nature Reserve, and really gaining an impression of the extent and ecological importance of the inter-tidal mud flats of the Lavan Sands and their birdlife.