Tuesday 17 April 2012

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

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