Tuesday 17 April 2012

The High Carneddau

Carnedd Dayfdd from Carnedd Llewellyn

This is another of my walks in the Carneddau, from July 27th 2011.

Another gloriously hot and sunny day, with just a light Northerly breeze.
I get the early train fro Llandudno to Llandudno Junction, where I change and hop onto the Blaenau Ffestiniog train.
I'm only going as far as Bettws Y Coed, where I'm catching a Snowdon Sherpa bus to Capel Curig. Luckily it all runs smoothly and I am soon being dropped off where the road turns onto the A4086 at around 9 O'Clock..
There's a little bit of road walking to start until I pass Bron Heulog and head off up the footpath and strike out over the moorland towards Llyn Cowlyd. It's fairly easy going.Birdsong fills the air, Meadow Pipits, Skylarks,Wrens and a Whitethroat all joining in.
The trackway brings me to a man made leat, which I cross and then follow  round as it skirts the bottom of Pen Llithrig Y Wrach (The Slippery Slope of the Witch), across Cwm Tal Y Braich. A family group of 3 Kestrels are hunting in the Cwm and smaller birds are popping up everywhere. Stonechats, Whinchats, Grey Wagtails and Wheatears, a mixture of adults and juveniles.
Llyn Cowlyd

Tryfan and the Ogwen Valley
The leat turns in a South Westerly direction and I follow until it reaches the Southern end of Y Braich. This is the start of my climb up to Pen Yr Helgi Du.
It's steepish but steady going and seems to take ages before I at last see the summit cairn. A ring tail Hen Harrier is quartering the hillside nearby. At 2733 ft this is the smallest of todays hills, but the views from up here are amazing and it's an ideal spot to sit, have a drink and a sandwich and look out over Snowdonia. The distinctive shape of Tryfan and Y Garn on the opposite side of the Ogwen Valley. To the North is the lush valley of Cwm Eigiau  and to the West I can see my next objectives - Carnedd Llewellyn and Carnedd Dafydd.
Summit Cairn, Pen Yr Helgi Du

Bwlch Eryl Farchog

Bwlch Eryl Farchog
Before that though, there's the little matter of Bwlch Yr Eryl Farchog. The ridge that runs between Pen Yr Helgi Du and Carnedd Llewellyn. I retrace my steps a little and join a path of sorts that links up with the ridge. It saves going down the rather steep bit from the summit. It's a narrow ridge but not too narrow. There's a fair old drop either side but nothing too worrying. A bit of scrambling at the end of the ridge by Craig Yr Isfa and then Its the start of the slog up to the summit of Carnedd Llewellyn. A well worn track zig zags its way upwards to the top. After a couple of stops to take in the views and take breath, I'm there at the second highest point in Wales - 1064m/3491 ft. I don't linger for long, because I know that I'll be back here again after my detour over to Carnedd Dafydd and back. I didn't want to get all the way up here and not bag Dafydd as well.
Ffynon Llugwy from Bwlch Eryl Farchog

Looking back to Pen Yr Helgi Du from Craig Yr Isfa

Cwm Eigiau from Craig Yr Isfa
So I head down to Bwlch Cyfryw Drum and across Cefn Ysgolion Duon and up to the Summit Cairn of Carnedd Dafydd at 1044m/3425ft the third highest in Wales. The clouds are rolling in now and Llewellyn has completely disappeared. But it's not long before the blue skies return once more.
I retrace my steps. Ravens call from the steep cliffs of Ysgolion Duon and there's a familiar call of a Chough as I pass back over Bwlch Cyfryw Drum.
Bwlch Cyfryw Drum from Carnedd Llewellyn

Low cloud rolling over Carnedd Llewellyn

Carnedd Dafydd

Soldiers heading into the mist towards Pen Yr Ole Wen
There are a few people up on Carnedd Llewellyn, though not half as many as I thought that there would be. I cross over the summit and through the boulder field, North Eastwards to Foel Grach (976 m/3202 ft) my third 3000 footer of the day.There's a fair size cairn on the summit here.
Foel Grach

Bwlch Eryl Farchog from Foel Grach
Next its West over the grass moorland to join the footpath which is marked on the OS map but not recognisable on the ground. I head towards the Northern foot of Pen Yr Helgi Du to join Afon Eigiau. There are old work buildings and spoil tips showing that this was quite an industrious place in its day.I find a proper track which leads me through Cwm Eigiau, past the ruined farmhouse of Cedryn. After a while, I leave the track and follow the footpath up over the hill, past another ruined farmhouse (Eilio), over another hill, down the other side... under the massive water pipe which comes from Llyn Cowlyd and out on to a tarmaced lane near Siglen. It's a bit of a hard slog from here. My legs are tiring and the road seems to go on forever, before dropping steeply down into the village of Trefriw, where I get a cold can of Pepsi and an Ice Cream. From Trefriw there's a long lane to the river, where a footbridge crosses Afon Conwy. A few more yards and I am at the station for a welcome sit down to wait for the train. Ten and a half hours of hill walking, over 20 miles and taking in three more of the 3000 footers and some great countryside. All in all another terrific day in the mountains.  

Old Quarry Workings in Cwm Eigiau

Quarry Buildings in Cwm Eigiau


Bridge over the Conwy at Trefriw

The quiet side of the Carneddau

The Great Orme from Conwy Mountain
I've been thinking a lot about the mountains of Snowdonia recently and thought that I would put a few posts up of a few of my walks there before we moved to Ireland.
First up is a trek across the lesser known hills in the Carneddau.

20th July 2011
I set off from Llandudno Junction and walk across the Conwy Estuary and past the Castle into Conwy.
Conwy is a lovely old walled town, dominated by the Castle. I'm following the A547 for a little way before turning off and over the railway bridge into Cadnant Park, then down a narrow lane and joining the North Wales Path through the woods and up to Conwy Mountain (Mynydd Y Dref). At it's highest point it's only 244 metres (800 ft) but it has commanding views over the Great Orme and Conwy Bay.
As I go along the ridge I pass Castell Caer Sion, an Iron age hillfort. The path starts to lead down and round eventually coming out onto a minor road (the Sychnant Pass). I cross the road and go through the gate into the Pensychnant nature reserve and still following the North Wales Path make my way up to the Eastern Carneddau. Passing Maen Esgob on my left. As I go over the stile I am lucky to see two Peregrine Falcolns fly over from Fairy Glen. Turning left and leaving the North Wales Path. Llyn Y Wrach (the lake of the Witch) has dried up completely ! On reaching the dry stone wall I turn right and follow the wall along. After about a quarter of a mile I come to Hafodty Stone Circle. It's not in the best of states.... only three stones remain upright. Several more lay flat or half buried ! There is a standing stone (Maen Hir) several fields to the South (more easily seen by following the wall until you are due West of it).
Hafodty Stone Circle

Maen Penddu
Carrying on along the path in a Southerly direction then veering off a little South West around some enlosures and I come across the big bulk of Maen Penddu Standing Stone,which stands about 6ft tall and 3 1/2 ft wide. The farmer comes by on his quad bike and stops for a chat before heading off for his lunch.
The next stop is going to be Caer Bach. Another fort, possibly post Roman rather than Iron age.
Then following the wall South West, I stop and have a long chat with another Farmer doing some stone wall repairs. Time's getting on a bit and I've got a long way to go still but I miss the footath which shoots off across the fields, so I carry on to Cae Coch farm.
Cae Coch Standing Stone

Maen Y Bardd

Maen Y Bardd
There's an old Roman road which runs up from Caerhun and crosses through the mountain gap down to Aber then on to Caernarfon (Segontium). Well I'm detouring down towards Rhiw to see the Standing Stones of Cae Coch and Ffon Y Cawr and the Dolmen of Maen Y Bardd (Stone of the Bard).
Retracing my steps back up to Cae Coch Farm, I follow the tarmaced road (which runs parallel to the Roman road), looking out for the small stone circle of Cerrig Pryfaid on the left. It's not easy to spot, all the stones are low and the grass is tall ! A step stile gives accessover the wall and I seethat there are a couple of outliers assosiated with the circle here as well.
The tarmaced road comes to an end a few hundred yards further on and there is a small car park which would be ideal for anyone just wanting to visit the Tal Y Fan area and it's richness of stones.
The road now rejoins the Roman road which is now just a track. Coming to the top of the pass, here are the two Standing Stones which give the pass it's name Bwlch Y Ddeufaen "Pass of the two stones". Two substantial stones in a great setting, only marred by the line of electricity pylons which runs up the valley.
Cerrig Pryfaid Stone Circle

Bwlch Y Ddeufaen Standing Stones

Bwlch Y Ddeufaen Standing Stone
Just beyond the stones, the track passes through a gate and this is where I leave the Roman road and head up hill towards the first big hills of the day. The going gets steeper as I pass the cairn of Carnedd Y Ddelw and South up to Drum (2526ft). There are great views of Llyn Anafon overlooked by Llwytmor and Foel Fras. There is a cairn here marking the summit- Carnedd Penyborth Goch, which has been turned into a shelter from the wind.
Carnedd Penyborth Goch
From Drum, I climb higher, the ground is a little boggier being the watershed for the numerous streams that feed down into Llyn Anafon.
The low cloud descends as I approach Foel Fras, which at 3091ft (942m) is one of the Welsh 3000's and the highest point of my days walk. It's a vast stony plateau, the summit marked by a trig point. Luckily the misty low cloud evaporates and the extensive views open up once more. I hear the familiar call of a Chough and sure enough a group of four birds fly up from just over the wall.
Foel Fras

Garnedd Uchaf
Moving on, it's a fairly easy stroll over to Garnedd Uchaf (3038ft), now renamed Carnedd Gwenllian after the daughter of Llewellyn. It's another of the Welsh 3000's. There are lovely views over to Carnedd Llewellyn, Carnedd Dafydd and Yr Elen. All the hills in this part of the Carneddau have extensive boulder fields around the summit and Carnedd Uchaf is no exception.
It's all downhill from here. Passing Yr Arig and onto Bera Bach (2648ft) then Drosgl (2487ft). A slight detour up Gyrn Wigiau (2110ft), then down and around Moel Wnion.
The great waterfall of Rhaeadr Fawr (Aber Falls) comes into view, gushing down off of the mountains. I can hear it from up here !
Bera Mawr, Bera Bach & Drosgl

Bera Bach
My path takes me round Moel Wnion, over Cras, passing a cairn on the way and down to rejoin the North Wales Path, this time in an Easterly direction. Three more Choughs are feeding down amongst the Sheep.
Once again I leave the North Wales Path and head down the steep footpath which leads to Aber village. It's a killer on the knees. I always think that going down is way worse than going up !
Down in the village, I make my way to the bus stop and sit and wait for the bus to take me back to Llandudno.
It's been a long (11 and a half hours and about 23 miles),but pleasant walk in the quieter half of the Carneddau. Other than the two Farmers and a couple of people on Conwy Mountain I've not seen a soul. My legs are aching but I'm feeling good !
View of the higher Carneddau fro Bera Bach

Cairn on Cras

Friday 13 April 2012

Illane and Cappaboy Beg

Cappaboy Beg
Thursday 29th March 2012

A nice early start today, the sun is shining as I drink my cup of tea and have a look out in the garden.
Todays plan is four more stone circles !
I say plan... well, I've got a vague idea, a sort of half plan of where to go but not sure what order to do it all in. Whatever way we are going to do it we have to head through Bantry first. Decision made as we head out of the otherside of town -  Up the Cappanaboul Lough road,then take the turning towards Gortroe. We spot a standing stone in the field to our left - Shandrum Beg standing stone. I did know that there was a stone somewhere around here - it's marked on the map, but that doesn't mean a thing here in Cork ! A quick jump over the gate for a closer look and a photo ! Strange shape this one ! but a decent stone and worth seeking out. A good start to the day !
Shandrum Beg
Further on down the lanes, I hear my first Willow Warbler of the year singing away, just as we turn off down a rough track... a real rough track,possibly even, the worst one so far ! it goes on.... and on.... until we get to Derryarkane farmhouse at the end.
There's no answer !  I don't want to wander off over the fields without asking - It's a shame but it looks like this one is out for today !
So we turn round and take the track back. A tractor is heading towards us driven by a youngster. We ask if we can go up to the circle, but he tells us that the circle is in Kealkill ! He is as helpful as he can be, and is unaware of the stones that we are looking for and gives us rough directions for that one. We've been to Kealkill before.... it's obviously the well known circle in the area. I'll have to see if I can get to this one from the other direction one day. Definitely don't want to inflict anymore damage to the suspension on my poor long suffering car.
Amazingly another car passes us on our way out - busy track this !
We head through Kealkill, stopping off at the shop for a few supplies.Then past the castle, turn left and through the lanes past Maughanasilly stone row to Illane Townland. There's a right turn with the Townland sign fixed to a stone so it's easy to find.We drive down to the end to ask permission. The nice old man who lives there says it's ok - if I'm up to it !
Illane Stone Circle

Illane Stone Circle
Back a hundred yards or so to the track on the right. I park up and leave J in the car. It's a windy old track up, coming to an end into a field. The track did carry on but is now too overgrown to use. There is now a choice (though I don't find this out until I come back !). Either over the rusty gate on the right or through the field and over the barbed wire fence. I go over the rusty gate and through the young(ish) pine forestry plantation eventually coming out onto the open hill.There are various animal tracks through which you can follow but It's not easy and I went more on instinct and luck than judgement.Once out, I head up for the highest point and scan the surrounding moorland. There's no sign.The map seems to be a bit off, but I eventually find the circle just 30 yards away slightly North East. A dinky little 5 stone circle. Aligned NE-SW with great views of Knockboy, Carran and Coningar. There is a cairn and standing stone adjacent to the circle and there should be another standing stone some 200 yards away somewhere ! but I can't see it. Though small, it's still another nice circle and I'm certainly glad that I've made the effort to get up here.
Illane Stone Circle
The sun is beating down, so I head back. This time, across the top of the plantation and over a gate. This is the end of the track that I came up on ! but as I mentioned earlier is well overgrown. I jump over the next gate and walk down through the field but find that I have to step over the barbed wire fence. It's not difficult though.Then I rejoin and follow the track back down to the car. Joanie had just been watching a Hare on the track, just before I got back !
We eat our sandwiches before heading off back through Carriganass and left up the main road, taking a left turning (signed Talagh Candles) for Cappaboy Beg NW. It's a long long lane and I'm wondering whether we're on the right road. Eventually we pass two old farmers having a chat. I stop and ask if this is the right way to the circle. They tell me that we are well off course and that the circle is in Kealkill ! This time I show the map and they say - you must mean the stones at the end of the road and to keep going and knock at the house at the end on the left hand side for advice.
Well, at least we are on the right road this time. We find the house and knock. A man answers. He has a really thick Cork accent, but he isn't the owner so can't give us permission to wander over. That is a shame ! We could see that it was a few fields over but it's another no goer !!
One more to try for, for today -
Back out to the main road and head in the Macroom direction, on past the school and park in a gateway about 750 yards further on. From here there's a good track up the hill to Cappaboy Beg SE - it's a steep walk up but easy enough with the track.There's a whole complex of stones here and the first thing to come into sight is the Four Poster and accompanying Standing Stone.
Its a fair size - and considered a circle even though it's more trapezoidal than square or circular.This is the first of the very few four posters that are recognised, that I have visited.
Cappaboy Beg Four Poster

Cappaboy Beg Four Poster with Standing Stone in ackground

Cappaboy Beg Four Poster
There is another possible standing stone over the other side of the track - not sure.Further up the hill is a stone pair. One massive stone and one small stone ! I follow the wall back down looking for the radial cairn circle and its accompanying standing stone. They aren't easy to find in the gorse but there they are ! The stone is against the dry stone wall and the cairn is quite large in diameter, but the stones are all low.
This would have been an important site back when it was put up and who knows what else is laying undiscovered on the peaty moorland. A ringfort has already been totally engulfed by the forestry plantation !
It really is hot up here, it really has been like a summers day. I head back down to the car for a drink . Two out of four - not too bad ! I'll be back for the other two one day soon !
Cappaboy Beg Standing Stone

Cappaboy Beg Stone Pair
Cappaboy Beg Standing Stone by Radial Cairn

Sunset over West Cork

Monday 2 April 2012

Greetings Cards

A bit of shameless self advertising today !!
I've started up my own little business selling greetings cards, postcards and prints of my photographs.
At the moment I have 10 different greetings cards (all of West Cork and County Kerry) and a single postcard (of Dunbeacon Circle)
Prices for greetings cards are - €3.50 each or 5 for €15.00  ($4.00 each or 5 for $20, £3.00 or 5 for £12.50) all + P&P (shipping and handling)
The postcards are €1/$1/£1 each + P&P
for more information and to see what's available please have a look at
or email michaelmitchell592@eircom.net
thanks and I look forward to hearing from you.