Newest Review: ... and in particular training purposes. In reality all this did was make divers even more determined to dive the site and the gate is lon... more
Going down on Dorothy
Dorothea Quarry (Talysarn/Nantlle, North Wales)
Member Name: freediveheaven
Dorothea Quarry (Talysarn/Nantlle, North Wales)
Advantages: Brilliant underwater scenery
Disadvantages: No facilities
The consensus was to go to an inland dive site however no one particularly wanted to go to our usual site Stoney Cove so after a bit of debate it was decided to go to Dorothea Quarry which was my own preference as I had heard so much about the site but never had the pleasure of diving it.
A Brief Diving History
Located in the Snowdonia National Park, Dorothea (Dorrie for the rest of the review) is a former slate quarry which is in private ownership. It has long been a popular dive site for UK divers as it offers a sheltered location and large variations in depth with ledges at 9 meters for the beginner and a bottom depth of at least 100 meters for the depth junkies who use special gas mixes.
Purchased in 1988 by a London Consortium with plans to develop the site in stages these plans met with local opposition and were halted.
Over the years it has been closed to diving on a number of occasions due to the number of deaths that have occurred at the site. In 2001 three deaths in close proximity bought the site national awareness and the owner attempted to close off the quarry with an iron gate and all diving agencies in the UK stated that the site was not suitable for diving and in particular training purposes. In reality all this did was make divers even more determined to dive the site and the gate is long gone (probably at 100m down in the quarry).
Finding Dorrie is the first challenge as there are no signs for the site. Take the A487 out of Caernarfon following the signs for Porthmadog. About 2 miles out of Caernarfon turn left at a roundabout and follow the road into Penygoes.
Turn left onto the B4418 and follow the road into Nantle, shortly before Nantle you will see a large lake on your right, just past the lake on the left is a row of houses, turn left along these and follow the track to the quarry. On the way along the track you will pass the posts of the former gate. Be warned that the track up to the quarry is pot holed and will test you vehicles suspension.
There are two entry points from which you can dive Dorrie. There is a cleared area suitable for parking with a tarmac road leading down to the waters edge and a large concrete platform.
It is not possible to drive down this road as two concrete blocks have been placed at the top to prevent entry and having looked at the concrete platform from under the water level you would not want to as it look pretty unstable and I would not want to risk the weight of a car on it.
This leaves the diver with a rather steep walk down the road of about 200 yards and an even tougher walk back after your dive.
The second entry point is a lot closer to the water but is over non paved ground and is a lot less stable under foot.
The diving in Dorrie is nothing short of spectacular. The quarry is much too large to fully explore in one dive and you nee to be aware of the great range in depth. Perfect buoyancy control is a definite requirement as at times you will be swimming over sheer drops that fall away to 100 meters and standard air starts to become toxic once you pass the 60 meter mark.
The water is cold, but then what due you expect, it is Snowdonia run off in the middle of January, however on the day we dived it was no colder than the quarry we usually dive in which is near Leicester.
What makes Dorrie a great dive is the underwater scenery, huge rock outcrops appear as if from nowhere. One minute you are diving next to a sheer cliff which looks perfectly smooth and drops away into the darkness an then you round an edge in the cliff to find a fissure cut into the cliff with lots of nooks and crannies to explore.
There is no fish life in the quarry and little plant life to observe except for a few green threads clinging to the smooth slate blocks. There are however a few man made points of interest as a number of cars have been dumped in the quarry and as you enter from the concrete platform these can be found at various stages as you drop down to about 30 meters. Turning left from the platform at nine meters there is a crane which makes a good starting point for any skills training planned.
For our dive we swam out across the quarry at 24 meters hoping to find the submerged railway tunnel which is wide enough to allow two divers to swim through side by side. Despite excellent visibility of up to 20 meters in places our compass work let us down and we did not find it having to settle for a scenic swim along the cliff face.
Certainly this ranks as the best inland dive I have ever been on, it is a beautiful location, quite eerie in the silence that surrounds it, on the day we were there we were the only divers and we only saw two workmen and a dog walker the whole time we were there. The calm of the place can hide the fact that it is a challenging location mainly due to the cold and the depth and it does need to be treated with the respect that it deserves.
Are you having a laugh? Obviously there are none, if you need the toilet make like a bear, there is plenty of natural cover and a few dilapidated ruins to do your business in.
Stock up on any food you want in Penygoes as I did not see any sign of a shop in Nantle but there probably is one somewhere.
In summer the car park does make an excellent site for a BBQ and would seem a popular party spot for the local Smirnoff ice drinking youth judging by the number of bottles left lying around.
Please note that diving is not allowed at Dorrie and technically you are trespassing on the land so any diving carried out there is at your own risk.
Thanks for reading and rating my review.
Summary: Dorothea Quarry dive site
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