Mach Loop

Mach Loop

Mach Loop - The Official Guide to Cad East and West


The Mach Loop Wales - The Official Guide

Mach Loop - The Official Guide

Mach Loop - The Official Guide

As a follow-up to my Mach Loop Guide (see video) I have created this web page to outline everything you need to know about travelling to the Mach Loop and how to take pictures whilst you're there. I have outlined all the necessary addresses including Google Maps and various Postcodes for your Sat Nav. I've gone a little further than that too. I've covered where to stay and when.

I'd advise that you watch the video first and then plan your trip. It's very important to point out right from the off, you're never guaranteed to see aircraft. The military never advertises when they're flying there, it's a hit and miss affair I'm afraid!

Everyone at the Loop will tell you the same thing... it's a magical place to sit and watch the world go by. If you manage to see any low flying aircraft whilst you're there, it's a bonus!


Edging your bets... A few pointers that will definitely help.

  • Military only fly through the Loop when the visibility is fairly good or better.
  • The Military only fly through the Loop Monday to Friday.
  • Military Aircraft DO NOT fly during Bank Holidays!


If you feel you can add to or alter any of the information on this page then please let me know. I'll gladly share the information and credit you.

If you feel you have any interesting videos or pictures you'd like to share then pop the links below and I will gladly share them too (I will always credit the creator)

Mach Loop - The Official Guide

Mach Loop - The Official Guide

Mach Loop - The Official Guide to Cad East and West

BRIEF: This video is a snapshot of a 2-day visit I made to the Mach Loop (Wales) on the 27th & 28th Jun 2017. It's fully intended to offer the viewer an insight into what they can expect if they're planning a similar trip. Nothing is a guarantee though!

This short film is fully intended to capture the emotions and dramas of visiting the Loop.

Images shot using a CANON 1DX MKII and a 100mm - 400mm MKII Lens

Also watch the Official Guide to Cad West

CLICK for more info on Cad West

In this video, I discuss whether the Mach Loop is still worth visiting in 2022!
CLICK for more info

In this video, I show you how to take perfect aviation photographs

10 Things you must know before visiting the Mach Loop

Thanks for your video. We found it useful on our last trip to the Mach loop. We didn't abuse the local's privileges either. We closed gates, parked carefully and cleaned up after ourselves. Great high quality video! Regards, Suresh , Florida,USA.

ADVICE: This video explains how to find Cad West/East. Where to Park, but more importantly than that, how to take the pictures.

We cover it all...



Where is it?

Mach Loop Wales or Machynlleth Loop consists of a series of valleys in the United Kingdom in West-Central Wales

The Mach Loop (also known as the Machynlleth Loop or CAD West among plane spotters) consists of a series of valleys in the United Kingdom in west-central Wales, notable for their use as low-level training areas for fast jet aircraft. The system of valleys lies 8 miles east of Barmouth and is nestled between the towns of Dolgellau to the north and Machynlleth to the south, from the latter of which it takes its name. The training area is within the Low Flying Area (LFA) LFA7, which covers most of Wales.
Aircraft which use the training area include Royal Air Force Airbus, A400M, Tornado, Typhoon, Hawk jets and C-130J as well as U.S. Air Force F-15C Eagles, F-15E Strike Eagles, F-22 Raptors, and F-35A Lightning II, which are based at RAF Lakenheath in eastern England. - Snapshot from Wikipedia

Use Google Maps and search for "Cad East/West car park" (SEE BELOW) The result should take you to the car park on the A487 This is the car park for Cad West/East.
For Cad East (only) simply follow the instructions on the above video.


For Cad West/East park in the Lay-by on the A487 as per Google Maps and if you want to park at the back of Cad East then simply follow the instructions in the video.


Parking at Cad East - This is really important... Before you venture up to the back of Cad East you must bear the following in mind...

There isn't an official Car Park there, just a couple of pull-in areas that everybody uses. There are 2 small areas where people leave their cars. In one area (see video) there is space for around 5 carefully parked cars. There is a second area for around 3 to 4 carefully parked cars. People also edge their cars onto the verges, but this isn't recommended and could upset the Farmer and other road users. The verges are un-even, usually soft and boggy and it's very easy to get stuck. I can vouch for that!

Furthermore, these areas will fill up by 7 AM - Don't even attempt to travel up the back road after this time, or you'll find yourself traveling back down.

Park sensibly and don't let this happen to you. CLICK  (Credit = Ron Jones)


Cad West - It takes around 15 minutes to walk to the lower viewing area. This is a steady climb. Perfect for anyone that is averagely fit. You can then venture further up to the higher viewing areas which will offer different viewing angles if you like. The climb really does get a little more intense. This is a real huff and puff hill.

Personally, I would suggest going higher only if you're a fairly fit person and if you have a long lens. The further up you travel the further away from the aircraft you get.

Cad East - From the rear car park, it's a steady 10-minute climb. (See Parking above before you go) Climbing up from Cad West's car park isn't something I have done yet. It looks a hard climb though.

(Community Project) Maybe somebody could advise us in the comments below?


Other - If you're there for the day I'd suggest the following but they're not essential...

  1. Warm dry clothes (Dress in layers)
  2. Good strong waterproof Footwear
  3. Comfy fold-able chair (Amazon Recommended) or Crazy Creek PowerLounger (Amazon Recommended)
  4. Pop-Up Tent. (Amazon recommended)
    A pop-up tent can be a lifesaver. Not literally but they keep you and your equipment dry. They offer shelter from the Sun & Rain.
  5. Water (Plenty to drink)
  6. Refreshments
  7. Sun Cream
  8. Mosquito Cream (They can be annoying in the summer if it's a still day) (Amazon Recommended)

Radio - The serious Loopers have radio scanners. I don't have one, so I can't comment. Do not bother buying a radio unless you intend to visit several times. They're more of a hindrance to the casual visitor. If you are interested look here CLICK 
(Community Project) Advice anyone? - comment below?


Any camera will do. Some people just go for the experience. Some people are happy to just video the aircraft on their smartphones. If you're serious about taking pictures, then I'd suggest any Camera, but with a long lens. A lens between 300-500mm would be perfect.

My Gear


The land at Cad East and West are owned by local farmers. They have both asked me to point out that Camping on their land is Strictly Prohibited.


Camping - Cwmrhwyddfor Farm Camp Site.

This site is situated just 3 miles away from  Cad East/West Car Park. It is rated 4.6 stars in Google. It has just enough amenities and is picturesque. The Farmer is called Hugh Notting. He's a spot-on guy and embraces photography and photographers.

His rates are very reasonable too!

CONTACT: 01654 761286
Land Owner & Farmer: Hugh Notting

Address: Llanfihangel-y-pennant, Llanfihangel-y-Pennant, Tywyn LL36 9TS

I'm not on commission but please let him know you found this info from this page

Self Catering Holiday Cottage - Stabal Holiday Cottage

The Self Catering Cottage Sleeps 4 and is situated right next to the Cad East Entry Gate. It has a Google 5 Star rating and located right in the heart of The Loop. If you stayed here you could actually walk up the road to the Cad East viewing area. It'll take just 25 minutes. You wouldn't need to drive up at silly-o-clock in the morning to secure a parking spot either. For more info see their website here

Contact: 01341 422297
Land Owner & Farmer: Hugh Price

Address: Cefn Naw Clawdd,  Cwm Hafod Oer, Dolgellau LL40 2SG

I'm not on commission but please let him know you found this info from this page. 

This video and accompanying web page covers it all!


 I want to share mine and your experiences with others. Got any videos you want to share? Any Pictures? Any advice you feel will be appropriate?

SHARE YOUR STORIES (good and bad)

Just add them into the description and I'll share them on my webpage. I will of course credit you back.


My friend and I are Just back from our first ever trip to the Loop. We used your video as our guide and spent three days on Cad East. We were very lucky with the weather and aircraft and saw a lot of Hawks, several F-15s, a few Typhoons plus a Hercules and an A400. Thanks to your tips and advice we had a great time, thank you.

Mach Loop the Official Guide



Travel the Loop from the Cockpit of a Lockheed MC-130 MC-130 WOW!

CREDIT: stjohnpilot65

This gives you a unique perspective from a pilot's point of view.

  • *Flight Timetable: CLICK
    (Please bear in mind this timetable is for LFA7 which covers the whole of West Wales. Serious Loopers ignore this
    info (CREDIT = Kelvin Harrison & Randell John)

Government Guide to Low Flying in the UK. Where and when low flying happens. CLICK
*Take this info with a pinch of salt! The Low Flying Area (LFA7) described, isn't directly related to the Loop. It's a general guide to flying throughout the whole of the Low Flying Area around Central-West Wales. Loopers generally ignore it.

Radio Frequencies: There is a very well written web page that seems to cover all of the frequencies that you're ever likely to want and more. It's probably just easier for you to go straight there. CLICK 

  • One thing I would add Gary is what to wear. Being nearly 1000ft up the side of a mountain the weather can change quickly. It can go from warm to freezing in a blink of an eye, it can rain, snow (dependent on the time of year) nevermind the wind factor! Wearing wind resistant quality outdoor clothing that you can take off if it gets warm is strongly advisable, you can always put them back on. You cover having a tent, I feel this is pretty essential too. I didn't have one but wish I had, especially in that wind chill on the first day. Equally, camping gear of kettle, burner or flask with hot water is a recommendation too.
    (Credit = John Chapman)

Mach Loop Frequencies
128.700 AM London Military Central
Main frequency to listen to. Aircraft use this frequency to call for permission to transit across to Wales. Useful information can be gleaned here, including where the aircraft is making for.
133.900 AM London Military West
Aircraft use this frequency to request a return to base (RTB), transiting west to east. This gives an indication that aircraft will not be coming through The Loop.
278.000 AM Nato Low Level
Mainly used by F15 pilots signalling that they are about to drop into low-level.
(CREDIT: Mark Wiseman)

A Beginner’s Guide to the Mach Loop: By anonymous author see below


Christoph Sojak suggested using walking poles in his review of my video. Use them for both walking and staking things like your char down when it's windy - GREAT IDEA!

Dear Gary! I just want to say thx for your efforts you put in this channel and your website. I am from Vienna/Austria and visited the Mach-Loop in April 2018 for the first time. I checked all your videos and all the location-insights on the hp and honestly they are totaly true and valid. You made it easy for me to plan my trip and have a great time with Tornados, Hawks and F-15's. Only one adition from my side: I recommend everybody to bring walking-sticks. When the wind blows strong they can help to prevent your belongings (f.e. the folding chair) to be blown away when you ram them deep into the ground. Once again Gary, thank you - you made my day! 😉
Christoph Sojak

WEEKLY VLOGGING... Since I've committed to weekly vlogging, you get the best and the worst. Besides, it's probably good to know that we don't always have successful days!

I make at least one video a week, and I've got some amazing locations penned. Please make it worth my while and support the channel.

SMASH THAT LIKE BUTTON and SUBSCRIBE - I'll love you forever!

Photography Training Courses: CLICK

Video Credits:
Presented By: Gary Gough
Music: The 126ers - Wish You'd Come True
Music: Jingle Punks - Cataclysmic Molten Core



The following is a fantastically written "Guide to the Mach Loop" that has never been published or shared online. The Author has granted me permission to share it, but wishes to remain anonymous which is a shame.

I haven't changed it in any way so the author's views may well vary from mine.

A Beginner’s Guide to the Mach Loop

For the beginners considering going to the loop for the first time. The focus will lie not so much on the spots or the camera gear but with all the other practical details for planning a trip to the loop, going there with the right expectations and mindset to be able to get as much out of it as possible.

The author is only an “intermediate” level looper with 4 visits (15 days) total experience. Any corrections/additions can be directed to for inclusion in revised future versions of this guide.

“The Mach Loop” is a series of valleys in Wales, U.K. that serves as a military low-flying training area. The official designation is LFA7, Low Flying Area 7. Together the valleys form a circuit in which all kinds of military aircraft and helicopters from multiple nations regularly go to practice their low flying skills. Occasionally, especially in weekends, civilian traffic can also be spotted.

The traffic flow is always counterclockwise and in the north and west, there are several popular locations where people can climb the surrounding mountains to enjoy the show and take pictures in a way that mimics air-to-air photography.

The aircrews flying in the loop are very well aware of the presence of photographers and may or may not interact/assist your creation of some really nice shots.

The Machynlleth Loop. Aviation-heads easily confuse this with Ernest Mach and the speed of sound but the name actually derives from the village of Machynlleth just south of the south-west corner of the loop. Machynlleth like many Welsh names are naturally abbreviated and become “mach” with the expected pronunciation in daily speech.

Used By
R.A.F and USAF primarily but other NATO member states aircraft can be seen occasionally as well as aircraft visiting RIAT. Red Arrows or part thereof can sometimes be spotted passing through the loop.

Aircraft Types
Common: Hawk, Eagle, Tornado, Typhoon, C130, various helicopters such as Apache and Chinook.
Rarely/Occasionally/once: Alpha Jet, Jet Provost, F16, F22, F35.
Getting more common (2017) Osprey, A400M

Any day they are flying, the weather is acceptable and they have some time and fuel to spare. There is no such thing as a timetable for the loop and going there is a gamble in many respects. However, when the weather is fair you will most likely see something during a whole day stay. Traffic has been seen as early as around 7 and well into the darkness but most typically you want to be there 8 in the morning to about 5-7 in the evening. Also, see the section on parking.

Please note that the air forces mostly operate office hours and the chance of seeing anything during a weekend or bank holiday is skinny to none.
Ongoing major exercises will, of course, affect all of the above, including no action at all if the forces are deployed elsewhere.

Factors Affecting Traffic
The most apparent one is, of course, the weather. Secondly, if they have time, fuel and desire to go for some low level that day. There are however some other things that can really kill your day.
Paragliding and helicopter with under-slung loads cause for temporary NOTAM’s that will effectively close parts of or even the whole loop area for hours or even days.

Factors Affecting Visitor Count
Some national holidays such as school breaks will bring more people to the loop. Also, summertime is high as well as in the weeks around RIAT. Rumours of rare flying visitors will also affect the number of people on the hills and parking.

Where to Stay
See the above recommendations

Getting to the Spots
Having a car is basically the only way unless you enjoy walking or biking. There is no bus service or charter coaches to take you there. This is very much the countryside and you need to take care of yourself. There are taxi services in the area but cell coverage is poor so when you are done and want to leave, this can prove tricky. You will most likely bump into other like-minded people and may be able to share a car.

Most of the spots have very limited parking possibilities. Space typically used are standard road laybys where you can fit anything from 2-30 cars depending on the spot. Please adhere to signage and do not waste space, park smart and more cars can fit in and people will appreciate you more.

Bwlch: If you are a party traveling in 2 cars, please park the car's bumper to bumper and not side by side. People knowing each other or agreeing on conditions can also park this way. Better to block a friend in and leaving space for “singles” to park towards the fence.
Due to the parking constraints in many of the spots, you need to consider leaving your
accommodation really early to ensure a spot. If you are a group, if possible please share vehicles. By early I mean on-site no later than 7.

What You Can Expect To See
Nothing. This is really the preferable mindset. The loop comes with no guarantees whatsoever. But apart from that, the lucky ones may see:
- USAF F-15’s.
- R.A.F Tornado, Typhoon, Hawk, C130 and more
Usually, R.A.F are bolder and they also have a slightly lower hard deck for low flying than what USAF do. A lot of the USAF pilots are also in training and have not been flying in the loop before, or even at low-level so their personal minimums will take them higher through the loop than most of the RAF jocks.

You will be able to take photos of the aircraft from above and level with their flight paths and thus getting pics with the aircraft “landlocked”, that is appearing as though you had been flying with them. With a good lens and some talent, you will also be able to get excellent cockpit shots, maybe even with the aircrew waiving at you.

The more time you can afford to stay in the loop (in terms of days) the higher the chance of getting to see some traffic (duh!).

Flying Rules in the Loop

  • Left-hand circuit (counter-clockwise).
  • Never inverted.
  • No use of afterburners (reheaters).
  • Max 2 complete circuits per aircraft and time.

Loop Manners

  • Be considerate!
  • Park effectively to allow as many others as possible to join.
  • No littering, you are on private property and the day someone’s litter hurts a sheep, the looping days are over for everyone.
  • Adhere to signage, particularly at Bwlch where you must never block the gates!
  • Close farmers gates behind you or make sure the car after you does!
  • Think twice before publishing photos that can get the airmen in trouble (burners, inverted, obscenities). Doing so can also give you a bad rep among veteran loopers. Most FB-groups will ban you if you do.
  • Accept recommendations and reprimands from more experienced loopers, they know what they are talking about and their minds are set on what is good for the loop and your safety.
  • Keep dogs on a lead unless you are VERY sure you can stop them from going after the sheep.

All violations of manner and common sense on these spots will jeopardize the future of the loop both from farmers blocking off access and from the air forces moving elsewhere if they start viewing the loop as a risk for them or the general public.

Absolute No-No!
- Use of drones or any other flying device or object that risk intentionally or unintentionally getting airborne and could pose a danger to incoming jets.

Who Can Go? What About My Kids? Pets?
The different spots have a different character and the difficulty level varies a lot. Still, keep in mind that all spots require that you climb up to a level where you are above the aircraft you want to be watching. Even rather unfit people can do it as long as they take it slowly, not pushing on too hard.
For families with kids, Cad West is the spot you want to visit. The climb is done by traversing trails and at the steepest parts you follow a fence that you can hold on to if needed. Once up there, there are no sudden steep areas that you could accidentally fall down from. Sheep are omnipresent in the loop area and they are roaming the same hills you are to keep that in mind if you bring your dog. Farmers tend to be very upset by anything else but their own sheepdog hunting the sheep.

Wildlife / Animals / Dangers
Where there are sheep, there are ticks.

Snakes have been reported – mind your step.

Falling off a cliff…
All joking aside, people get hurt in the loop every year. Please appreciate the challenge you accept when going to the loop.

Weather and Gear
Weather shifts can be dramatic in the loop and it can be hard to dress for all circumstances, especially in the spring and fall. When the sun is shining you wish for shorts and t-shirt, then clouds form and wind picks up, a rain shower starts and you would give your left arm for a tent with central heating in it or for a teleportation device to get you off the mountain in a hurry. Do not fool yourself thinking that at least it will always be reasonably warm in the summer. It is not. Period. Bad weather
will bring unbelievable cold even in July.

But the basics:
ALWAYS use good footwear. Disregard any other advice I give you in here except this. Get some proper outdoor boots with good treading and preferably with some ankle support. The terrain is rock and grass, both get horribly slippery real quick, morning dew can increase the climbing difficulty by 30%.

In many places, the rocks are loose and you have to carefully plan your steps and if you lose balance, which you inevitably will at some point, the shoes may be the only thing between you and a fracture, or in a worst case, the afterlife. Navigating this type of terrain is not a game so gearing up properly is very smart.

Dress in layers (onion principle), helps preserve heat during long periods of inactivity with wind and downpour and you can easily shed as many layers as required when the sun comes out again. Bring a spare layer since the climb usually soaks the layer closest to your body.

Always bring rain protection for yourself and your gear. Bear in mind that the ground gets wet too so you need to water-proof anything that will be sitting directly on the ground. Anything from a solid plastic bag to professional outdoor protection products will do the trick.

You will see that some people carry different quick-erect type tents if you care to carry one they are fantastic when the weather goes sour on you and you will get lots of envious stares from the people sitting outside curled up under their ponchos and umbrellas. They are rather inexpensive, you can get them from approx. £25 and up.

Oh, umbrellas. If you have a small light one, pack it along but mostly when the rain comes, so does the wind and it can quickly get beyond the point where an umbrella will turn inside out.

Some people find a good use for walking sticks when climbing for extra grip and stability.

Sitting gear, I mentioned protection for things you put on wet ground. But, if you are going to spend maybe 10h on the mountain, it may be wise to bring something to sit down on, wet or not. Folding camping chairs are common among loopers although it can be a challenge to find a flat enough surface to put them on. Securing it when the wind picks up can also be an issue.

Inflatable pillows are nice but not very aerodynamic so attach it to something that will keep it from getting airborne. This goes for any lost items that can get airborne, a tent-pin and a string/lanyard will save the day and your gear.

Sun Protection
A must for fair days, you will find yourself sitting outdoors for 10h straight with no shadow. Also, bring sunglasses, they will be comfy and also help when looking for incoming traffic.

Head Protection
Some kind of hat or cap is good. Keeps you from sunburn on the scalp and provides extra shade for eyes and neck. Bring one which fits snugly or has a chin strap to secure it, yes, it’s that wind again!

Food and Drinks
Nothing of the sort is readily available in the immediate loop area. Stock up on water (plenty!), sandwiches, sweets and what not at the nearest SPAR or gas station in Dolgellau or any other village of your convenience. Nearest lodging and restaurant is the Cross Foxes which is situated in the area called “the roundabout” between The Exit and Cad (see spots section).

Carparked is what you get when you’re still in the parking lot or have left too early and get
overflown by that plane you’ve been waiting for all day.

  • Coming! - Kind of self-explanatory but that is what you collectively yell/repeat when someone has spotted incoming traffic to alert everyone else. Or any other exclamative word, such as OY! Or the type or direction from which it’s approaching.
  • Tiffy - Nickname for Eurofighter Typhoon II
  • Tonka - Nickname for Panavia Tornado.
  • Landlocked - Picture of aircraft with the only terrain as the backdrop.
  • Togger - Photographer
  • Office Shot - Photo straight in/down into the cockpit.

Time For a Full Circuit
If you think the traffic will go full circuit or for a second lap, lap time is about 3-5min depending on the aircraft type. Don’t let your guard down though, he may have buddies joining the party during that time.

Cell phone and air-band radio in own sections below.
Providing you can get Internet service where you are, there are a couple of Facebook groups that will have daily intel posts where observations from people in the area, people using unfiltered ADS-B online services or people listening on air-band receivers at home or on the hills are posted as comments. There are also a number of dedicated “heads-up”-groups.

These groups and to some extent forums such as Fox2 or FighterContol can also provide insights into coming or ongoing exercises and unique visitors that may come to the loop.

Get acquainted with the regulars, they are usually very friendly and are regular walking information parlors and they exchange information that not always reaches wider circles. A few of them are more or less connected with air force insiders.

Cell Phone
Do not expect coverage. No matter what subscription/provider you are on, coverage is poor in most spots. If any carrier is a little better than the others, at least in parts of the loop area, it’s EE.

Airband Radio
For the casual visitor going there once and maybe never more, the use of a radio will give more headache than help. You need a good radio with a good aerial (not the included one), there is a bunch of frequencies to monitor (can be found online or ask someone on-site). The terminology used takes a lot of experience to get into and there is no one frequency and no particular clearance for them to enter the loop.

The key phrase you want to listen for is “low-level”, combine that with where they are/who they are talking to and you can derive that at least there is an increased chance something will show up soon. There will most likely be a number of people with experience and good equipment around you to help you out and/or who will pass information they hear on to you.

Update: Lately (2017) the NATO Low-level frequency (278Mhz, AM) has become more reliable and many flights now check in on it. When you hear something on it, get ready, you will likely have company within minutes or less.

“Radars” (ADS-B)
Only a small part of the military traffic actually use ADS-B. Mostly you will see transports and trainers, but occasionally also front-liners taking off, or crossing civilian airspace.

  • Flightradar24 is more or less useless in the loop as they filter out most military traffic.
  • set to show only traffic deemed as the military is quite good.
  • is a subscription service used by many loopers.

Head Warning / Spotting Incoming Aircraft
This will vary with the spot you visit. Generally, the head warning times are between short and very short, say 5-20s. You cannot rely on hearing the aircraft, the wind can cancel out the noise and significantly reduce the head warning you get. Some of the spots also have terrain blocking the view so that incoming can only be seen for a few seconds before passing you. Bwlch and Cad West have the best head warning times of around 10-20s depending on visibility and detection.

Being on top of your game and concentrated on looking where you know the aircraft will appear for hours on end is not possible for most people. Fortunately, there is strength in numbers and within the group. There will usually be one or more watching all the time. Think of as a meerkat (suricate) clan on the lookout.

Some Words on Camera Equipment
Aviation photography is an equipment sport, there are few shortcuts if you want really good pictures. However, the loop will let you get away with decent pictures even with a mid-range camera and lens. The spots all have slightly different demands concerning focal lengths but if you have a zoom or telephoto lens reaching 200mm or more, you are well off in most of the spots. Friends attempting to use 500mm lenses quickly changed over to their 100-400mm lenses instead as they were getting too close and tracking/panning became virtually impossible.

Do mind that some of the spots are only good for part of the day as they become at least partly backlit, later on, Cad East, Spur, Corris to name some.

Check Here:,-3.8288,12/2017.02.19/12:01

Do not climb with your camera at the ready unless you have climbed that spot before and/or have a deep wallet. Falling on or dropping your camera here WILL break it. Also, use a camera bag or backpack for protection.

Unless you will have a truly epic day you do not need a very large memory card even if you are shooting raw, however speed and buffer size are of greater importance. I’ve had a superb week with plenty of traffic but with a window of only a few seconds for each, the total number of clicks remain much lower than at an airshow or airport. Returning from a really good week I had bagged only about 1 000 exposures and not all of them were of aircraft.

The Spots
So, now the golden nugget(s). I will only cover them briefly for reference in this doc.

Bwlch (pronounced “bulk”)
Direction of flow: Right to Left
Hillside faces: North-East (Aircraft pass from East to West)
Type of shot: Topside or level pass. Head-on and turning when approaching through the valley from the east.
Climb: 30-50min depending on fitness and conditions. 2nd hardest climb in the loop of the common ones.
Parking space: Limited, approx. 10-12 cars max if everybody uses their head and not their ego when parking.
Lighting: Good all day.

Mach Loop - Cad West
Direction of flow: Left to Right
Hillside faces: South-east
Type of shot: Dramatic topside or level pass. Behind and turning left to Corris over lake Tal-y-Ilyn.
Famous “fence shots”.
Climb: 20-30 depending on fitness and conditions. Easy climb. Trails traversing the hillside horizontally.
Parking space: Quite generous, largest layby in the loop. Approx 30 cars.
Lighting: Good all day.

Mach Loop - Cad East
Direction of flow: Right to Left
Hillside faces: North-West (Aircraft pass from East to West)
Type of shot: Belly shots, head on, level pass
Climb: Offers possibility to drive up close to the peak, 10min easy climb from parking.
Parking space: Good if parked at Cad West layby. Very limited if driving up, maybe 3-7 cars if you get creative.
Lighting: Only really good in the morning but ok most of the day.

Corris Corner
Direction of flow: Right to Left
Hillside faces: North to South West
Type of shot: Side, topside, lake background.
Climb: 20-30min medium difficult.
Parking space: Layby, maybe 5-10 cars max.
Lighting: Only really good before noon.

Direction of flow: Right to Left
Hillside faces: North (Aircraft pass from East to West)
Type of shot: Side on or dipped wings
Climb: 30min, most difficult in the loop, do not climb straight up.
Parking space: Layby, 3 cars max. Other possibilities further down towards Dinas.
Lighting: Can be tricky at times.

The Spur
Direction of flow: Left to Right
Hillside faces: South (Aircraft pass from East to West)
Type of shot:
Climb 20 min.
Parking space: Layby, 2 cars max. Optionally stop a Bwlch layby.

The Exit
Same as Bwlch but turn right and head over toward the roundabout / Cross Foxes.


67 Responses

  1. John Chapman
    One thing I would add Gary is what to wear. Being nearly 1000ft up the side of a mountain the weather can change quickly. It can go from warm to freezing in a blink of an eye, it can rain, snow (dependent on the time of year) nevermind the wind factor! Wearing wind resistant quality outdoor clothing that you can take off if it gets warm is strongly advisable, you can always put them back on. You cover having a tent, I feel this is pretty essential too. I didn't have one but wish I had, especially in that wind chill on the first day. Equally, camping gear of kettle, burner or flask with hot water is a recommendation too. Gary, Brilliant video guide, simply explained and well put together. And lovely shots which demonstrate what can b achieved when you do get up there. I wish this video was about back in April of this year as it would have saved me walking up the side of Cad East LOL. For someone wanting to visit for the first time, this guide is indispensable! As for childish actions of a few people, please do ignore this. And equally, anyone reading this and planning a trip up the loop for the first time, everyone is very nice, friendly, and chatty up there. And trust me you need that to pass away the hours waiting for things to happen sometimes. One last afterthought. There is no guaranteeing activity up on the loop, yes the aircraft fly between Mon-Fri but the weather, flight routes, situations and conditions out of your control, could affect the day. Be patient and trust me, you will be rewarded. I speak from experience. Good luck and enjoy, and Gary may see up there one day. Show less
    • gary_gough
      Hi John, Thanks for taking the time out to watch the video and for leaving excellent feedback and suggestions. I will add the suggestion of keeping warm to the page too. I'm annoyed I forgot to mention it :) Re the childish comments. It's just water off a duck's back to me. I haven't met anyone up the Loop that wasn't really nice. I was there last week and met some fantastic people. Cheers again John 
  2. certaindiaster59
    This is amazing! If this was in the US, it would be located inside military airspace, nobody would be allowed to come within miles, there would be signs reading something like, "trespassers will be shot, survivors will be shot again!", and there would be CCTV security cameras blanketing every square inch for miles!!! I've checked, visit the new World Trade Center in Manhattan, and skydiving off my bucket list, it seems now that after the Grand Canyon, I'm gonna have to go to Europe! I'll have to decide if I wanna do that before or after Alaska...
    • gary_gough
      Sounds like it's a huge bucket list, good on you. It's a unique place to visit. I'm sure it'll just take one piece of Terrorist activity to render it private with signs up similar to yours. Well, maybe not quite worded the same... Our signs will just say "please stay away" We're a little softer in the UK ;) Cheers for taking the time to watch and comment. Means a lot!
  3. Craig Gregory
    I really enjoyed watching the vid. I’m no photographer but I do love to see photos and footage from this spot. Well done and thanks
    • gary_gough
      Cheers Craig, very kind 
  4. Lucinda
    Hi Gary from Australia !....As a pilot and avid photographer I found your video so informative and interesting, particularly the photo tips. I must admit, my photo skills are no where as good as yours. This place is defo on my list to visit....with my camera ! Thank you so much for sharing your skill with the camera. Top job mate. Kind regards, Lucy.
    • gary_gough
      Hi, Lucinda, so glad you enjoyed it. I'm at the Loop creating another video this week as long as the weather holds off. Damn British summers 
  5. Jon S
    I have a trip planned and a day set aside for this. This is exactly the video I needed to see so thank you sir for that! I understand it's hit of miss but with your experience, roughly what time of day should I be in position and roughly what time of day would the last pass be around. Is there a day in the week that seems to attract more aircraft or passes?
    • gary_gough
      Jon S - hi Jon. It really is hit and miss. They never fly on weekends. Re timings... the issue you've got is parking. Cad West (main road parking) is fairly relaxed. There is plenty of spaces so you can usually just rock up at any time. The Eastside as the video demonstrates has limited parking. Be there for no later than 7 am. If there is low cloud don't bother going. Hope this helps. Gary Good luck btw 
  6. Gary Horne
    What a great video... I'm thinking of going there soon and this video has everything you need to know. I have some questions... Question 1 - CAD East or CAD West... Question 2 - What about a toilet in the morning, i'm regular, every morning... Thanks again for a great video.
    • gary_gough
      Hi, Gary, The toilet might prove to be an issue. Wherever you go is a farmers field. No 1's will be ok. Cad east or Cad West, now there's a question. Cad West is an easier climb if you drive up the back roads but parking is a major headache and you'll have to be there early, very early. Cad West is a harder climb but parking is easier. They both offer great but different vantage points. Go twice and shoot from both sides :) The best tip is to take a pop-up tent. They're light to carry and only cost £20. They can be a real lifesaver. Keep you and your gear warm and dry. It'll even keep you out of the sun (lol) Maybe this will solve your toilet question. Just remember to bag it and take it home ;) Hope this helps. See you up there. Gary
  7. Alex Mack.
    Hi, when videoing the aircraft how do you stop the camera going in and out of focus? Is it purely all about keeping the camera steady or is there a cheat?
    • gary_gough
      Hi, Alex. Set your focus to AIServo (Canon) AF/C (Nikon) and this should keep the focus on the aircraft. Opt for a single point focus too. Don't use the multi-focus system. Some lenses are very slow to react so if you do have an issue it might be the focusing on your lens. Hope this helps. Cheers Gary
  8. Anthony Monaghan
    Hi Gary. Great video. Im hoping to visit the Loop for the very first time this week, as Im staying at my parents caravan near Llanberis. I'm no pro' photographer by any stretch, but love taking aircraft pics, and every time I've stayed at the van, Ive always visited RAF Valley. I've wanted to visit the loop for a long time and so fingers crossed I'll be going this week. I found Your video to be very informative, so thank you and keep up the good work. It's very much appreciated. Cheers.
    • gary_gough
      Cheers, Anthony. Hope you see loads of aircraft. good luck - see you up there 
  9. Ian Manock
    Gary, congratulations from down here in Australia on an excellent video and explanations for the Mach Loop and how to get the most out of it from a spectator's perspective. I flew LFA7 and the Mach Loop numerous times in the 70s whilst doing flying training in the RAF but never made it up onto Cad East or West. Hopefully one day soon I'll get back and be able to enjoy it all from the hill tops with the wife so she can experience the excitement :) Thank you very much.
    • gary_gough
      Cheers, Ian. Sounds like you had a very exciting life in the RAF. Maybe one day I'll see you up there. From an Ex RAF man myself, cheers.
  10. Stephen Pham
    Thank you for this! It's a dream of mine to visit. This makes it one step closer for me.
    • gary_gough
      Cheers Stephen. Hope you make it.
  11. garwood38
    Brilliant video Gary, traveling from West Sussex to visit parents in North Wales. Camera and lens packed and looking forward to heading up Cad East. Cheers.
    • gary_gough
      Remember... be there nice and early. If it's poor weather/visibility stay at home. Love to see your efforts
  12. Cowley
    I've only been to the loop about 4 times as weekday only flying and no bank holiday activity really limit the opportunities. My favourite is Bwlch, parking can be difficult if arriving late and is more of a hike than cad west but the way the planes come towards you while banking from side to side is fantastic and is great for capturing shots with vapour trails. I have a radio scanner and love it, I don't see it as a hindrance as you programme it with the various frequencies before you set off and when you get there simply turn it on, press scan and let it do it's thing. The Loop is a beautiful place and I can sit there all day relaxing while waiting for an aircraft that may or may not turn up..which it didn't do last week when I managed to get over there and drew a complete blank. I'm not on facebook but I've read on here something about you being banned off some forums because you have let some secrets out and by 'secret' I presume they mean the back road up to cad east. What a load of bollocks.. Mach Loop is for everyone and good on you for creating and posting this great video. Your shots of the GR4 are fantastic and I'll certainly miss the old Tonka's when they are gone.
    • gary_gough
      Great comments. Very kind of you to take the time out to offer another perspective and share your experiences. We've all been there and drew blanks. I'm there again in another couple of weeks, which viewing point shall I go to? What secret indeed lol Water off a duck's back to me. See you up there,
  13. Nikki Hammond
    Fantastic, informative video, thank you! My 8yr old daughter and I will be staying in Machynlleth for just over a week, next week and this is top of the 'to do' list. Unfortunately, I have some mobility difficulties so will be restricted to the easier to get to viewing areas but I have everything crossed that we'll see something. If not, who could ever complain at the scenery all around you whilst waiting. We are travelling up from Essex, stopping at a friend's in Bromsgrove to pick up a camera and lens package he has kindly put together for me at a decent price. Not had a 'decent' camera before but after selling a few bits I've saved the money and decided to treat myself - what better way to try it out but in gorgeous Machynlleth?! Anyway, enough of my waffling.... Thanks again for all the information in the video and write up. Kind Regards Nikki. Xx
    • gary_gough
      Ho Nikki, Glad you found my video informative. Good luck next week. You'll have to be really patient. Take a flask of tea and some biscuits.
  14. lew parker 11 hours ago (edited) 16 subscribers I very much enjoyed every aspect of your video, including its narrator. And, thanks for the extremely useful information about Mach Loop and photographing high-speed aircraft (shutter priority and auto ISO — who knew?). However, one important element should be added, hopefully in a reply: How to focus the lens on fast-moving aircraft (or birds, for that matter)? To be specific, but not hung up on the equipment, I shoot RAW with a Nikon D7200 and a versatile 18-300 mm Nikor zoom. Should focus be auto or manual? If auto, what setting(s) do you recommend? I almost always get this messed up
    • gary_gough
      Hi Lew, firstly thank you for your kind words. Your camera and lens combo are perfect. re the focus, AF"C" is best. In case you don't know, this will allow the focus in your lens to follow the subject. Set your focus points to centre cluster or a single point in the centre of the lens. This is exactly how my camera is set up. Hope this helps
    • The coolest of the cool!!!...
      • gary_gough
        Glad you liked it.
  15. Excellent video... many thanks
    • gary_gough
      Thank you
  16. Great video. I applaud your enthusiasm and presenting style. Good advice regarding the photography too. Thank you
    • gary_gough
      Thank you Andy
      • gary_gough
        Thank you
  17. Tony B
    Hi I've been a couple of times before and all your good advice is to be ignored at your peril! Is there a time of year that is best or to be avoided in terms of flying activity? Some people have suggested to me that August is "quiet" for RAF traffic. Any evidence of this from yours or anyones experience? Thanks Tony B
    • gary_gough
      Hi Tony, Firstly thank you very much. August is as busy as any other month really. Obviously, it's a popular time for everyone to go on holiday which I suppose includes Pilots, but they tend to fly regularly throughout the year. During school holidays, the popular areas will be very busy, which can make parking tricky! Hope this helps. Gary
  18. Hi Gary, I had great pleasure in watching both of your videos on YouTube. I am planning on going up CAD WEST with my Wife and Daughter on Friday 31st Aug. I've seen mixed reports saying that Fridays can be quiet but it's a gamble we will have to take as that is what our holiday plans will allow! The biggest concern for my wife and daughter is where they can relieve themselves! I get that nature has to take its course up on the hillside but do you have any tips about when nature calls!?! We are probably going to take a small tent up there so they can go in there for some privacy :-/ Anyways, I'll let you know if I get ant good images while on my maiden visit to the mighty Loop!
    • gary_gough
      Hi Chris, Every day is hit and miss I'm afraid. Check the weather before you go. If it's bad visibility stay at home. Re your wife and daughters concern, there isn't an answer I'm afraid. Your small tent is as good as it gets. It sounds a little crude but if it's a bloke, it's a bottle, and if it's the ladies it's a bin bag. I know you will, but please take them home. Please pop back and let me know how the day went. Fingers and toes crossed for you all Gary
  19. graham hadley
    Can you help, I live in llangynog and have regular low flying aircraft. But today I saw a huge two engined aircraft flying low up my valley, it was an huge machine and almost silent. If I hadnt turned round to put my hedge trimmer down I wouldnt been aware of it, it flew over the hill towards lake vyrnwy. I would like to know what sort it was, it really was a massive craft.
    • gary_gough
      I wasn't there when whatever it was flew through the Loop but looking at the Facebook entries for that day, there was a "V-22 Osprey" flying around. Google it, it might be what you saw. Hope that helps, Gary
  20. Hi Gary just seen this vid great shots of all aircraft .I was wondering what the music was at the beginning i have asked a few people but drawn a blank .I have heard it on many you tube vids but i never know its called can you help me with that .Thanks again .Mike
    • gary_gough
      Hi Mike, I replied to this question you asked on my YouTube channel. I'll copy and paste my reply below... Regards Gary Hi Michael, thank you. These are the songs I used... or Hope this helps
  21. Hi Gary Planning my first trip. Seems high risk of rain. Do they fly in rain with visibility or are they grounded? Great video... Thanks Pete
    • gary_gough
      Hi Peter, they fly in light rain as long as visibility is good. Hope this helps. Gary
  22. Hi Gary, first of all, thanks for the great video's and comments, me myself am photographing jets for more than 35 years now. And this year me and some friends are going for the first time to the Mach Loop. It was on my bucket list for many years, so this year it's going to happen, we'll arrive on july the 15th. We are going to stay three days and then we leave for the Air Tattoo. I hope we will see a lot of jets and I think we are going to try both sides, CAD WEST en CAD EAST. Can you tell me something more on how is the position of the sun in the morning and in the afternoon. Thanks Ronny
    • gary_gough
      Hi Ronny, Sounds like you're in for an exciting week. The Mach Loop is a little quiet these days because the RAF aren't flying through at the moment. They might start again soon but nobody actually knows when. The sun rises over Cad East. If you shoot from Cad West in the morning you'll be shooting into the sun. The aircraft fly lower than the mountain (Cad East) opposite so it's not normally a problem. Different vantage points yield their own rewards. If you're doing both locations then hopefully you'll see the benefits both sides offer. There are other vantage points too. Any more questions, let me know Regards Gary
  23. Morning Gary, We're planning on a 2 day trip around the air tattoo next month. Have you any experience on weather it's better to go before RIAT (weds,thurs), or after (monday,tues). Weather will probably be the deciding factor, but would like to maximise the chances of seeing something exotic! Also is there any alternative re parking on CAD west. I've been a couple of times and wondered on the poor souls who didn't make it and so had a long walk. Sidenote-popped upto Bwlch yesterday for the first time under heavy cloud-only thing that flew past were a couple of crows, but what a view!!
    • gary_gough
      Each day is hit and miss, unfortunately. There is no alternative parking. Do what I do and get there super-early and have a nap in the car :)
  24. I am from the US and very interested in eventually getting to the loop. I have not seen any recent dates posted. Are Military aircraft still using the loop in June 2019? Thanks and your videos are awesome! I have been to quite a few airshows in the US but it seems to me the vantage points you capture are truly amazing!
    • gary_gough
      The military is still using the Mach Loop but the RAF aren't at the moment. It's still worth a visit in MHO but it's definitely quieter these days. I'm sure the RAF will resume flying there soon but unfortunately, nobody knows when or even if that will definitely happen.
  25. I've been showing my dad videos of the loop now he wants to make a trip just to see this! Thanks for the info I hope to get there soon!
  26. Looking to take in the Mach Loop on Friday 19th July ahead of the Riat on Saturday. Travelling down from Glasgow. Any advice for a newbie on where to best go and arrival time. Expecting to travel early from Liverpool on the Friday morning then onwards to Fairford. Any advice would be appreciated.
    • gary_gough
      All the info and more here...
  27. NEWS UPDATE needs updating today is the 27 august and below is on the website :-) The RAF aren't flying through the Mach Loop at the moment. We're not 100% sure why. The ban is being reviewed in May/June. I will let you know as soon as I know.
    • gary_gough
      We're none the wiser yet m8. The odd Hawk is flying through but the RAF are still not using the Loop.
  28. I'm hoping to get to the loop at the later part of this week, is anything flying so far? Really would appreciate a heads up as I'm coming over from Derbyshire abw. Thanks in advance.
    • gary_gough
      Hi Andy, I've just seen this comment. Did you go? anything to report?
  29. Hi Gary, no I didn't get, I came down with a cold, spent the two days in bed. Am hoping to get later this month if the weather improves. I went over to the BBMF visitor center and did the hanger tour and watched a few typhoons take off and a pair of F15's go up.
  30. Hello Gary after this lock down I will visit it this area I'm a member of a small camera club 7 before the lockdown we do not have WIFI at our rented hall so do you sell Video CDs about the CAD east and West with advice like I just viewed on the beginners video and camera settings etc. or any other videos ads I could purchase kind Regards Reggie
    • gary_gough
      Hi Reggie, I don't I'm afraid. I will happily email you the video so you can play it on a laptop or PC if you like?
  31. Hi Gary just watched your short films on the march loop fantastic move my best mate I’ve talked about coming to see it for ages and and both now have touring bikes ready to go we’re going on a bit of a journey and trying to include arriving Wednesday Thursday and Friday 23.24.25 September I’m just trying to contact you to find out what sort of time still fly if you could let me know on my email be very much appreciated many thanks Paul
    • gary_gough
      Hi Paul, Nobody knows the flight times at the Loop, it's a mystery I'm afraid. The rule is to go there and enjoy the day. If something fly's through the loop then it's a real bonus. Good luck, Gary
  32. Gary - what an awesome resource your site is. Thank you! I live in New York and I’m planning to hop over the pond in early Feb. for a few days. Wife and kids hate two things in life: cold and hiking. So I’ll leave them to their shopping while I get my daddy downtime up on Cad West. Until now, I was agonizing over which would be the best spot for my purposes. Thanks to you, I know exactly where I want to be. Hopefully I’ll have luck with the weather and flights. But even if I spot nary a pigeon, I expect to have a great time. I’ll be sure to share my experience (and photos, hopefully!) with you after. Cheers, Marc
    • gary_gough
      Thank you kindly for saying. I hope you manage to get across the pond during these very telling times. Regards Gary
  33. Hello Gary, First my complements for all the detailed info in writing and YouTube vlogs. Excellent. The Machloop is on my bucket list, but because I'm from the Netherlands I have to plan this carefully. I have to book a hotel or B&B in the Stabal Cottage & Pods e.g. Than there is a second "handicap" I don't have a drivers licence, but as a understood the entrance to Cad East is a short walk. But my main priority as you can guess is how do I plan a suitable week in 2024 to travel to Wales. The timetables on the internet are not reliable. Can you give me a bit of advise. Kind Regards Martin Tromp
    • gary_gough
      Cheers Martin xx

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