Friday, 24 January 2014

Go Bala

There's a new website - which has a series of downloadable routes based around the town of Bala and Llyn Tegid - Wales' largest natural lake. The website and leaflets were developed as part of the Experience Gwynedd Project which was supported by Gwynedd Council, North Wales Tourism Partnership & Mid Wales Tourism Partnership. The walks range from wheelchair accessible all-ability trails, to strenuous mountain walks. Well worth checking out if you happen to be in that part of the world.

Burn 5000 calories in 24 hours!

Those looking to get fit for 2014 should take a look at Sophie Donnelly's article in the Daily Express. Sophie recently went on an activity weekend in Snowdonia, featuring Mountain Biking, White Water Rafting, and Open Water Swimming in the frigid waters of Llyn Padarn.

Tuesday, 21 January 2014

The Gwydir Chapel and the Wynne Legacy

Llanrwst Church is not ancient. Throughout its history Llanrwst has been repeatedly sacked and rebuilt. At the start of the 15th century Llanrwst supported the uprising of Welsh hero Owain Glyndwr and was razed to the ground as a result. It was then sacked again by the Earl of Pembroke during the Wars of the Roses. However, the church was rebuilt in the 16th century, largely by the Wynne family who also build Gwydir Castle on the west bank of the River Conwy. They managed to reserve for themselves a large chapel on the south, into which they built their family tombs, and very impressive they are. I suspect that many of the memorials which came from the nearby abbey (sacked in the 1530s) were incorporated in order to associate the Wynne family (who claimed descent from the royal house of Cunedda) with the aristocracy of old.

On the south wall there is an ornate marble monument in honour to Maredudd ab Ifan who brought the family to this area and to Sir John Wynne and his wife Sidney.
The empty stone sarcophagus is said to be the one in which Prince Llewlyn Fawr was buried in, in 1240.

A stone effigy of Hywel Coetmor is very often mistaken for the lid of Prince Llewellyn’s sarcophagus.

This tomb bought to mind that famous poem by Philip Larkin, where he visits a similar tomb which contains "They would not think to lie so long..."

"They would not guess how early in
Their supine stationary voyage
Their air would change to soundless damage,
Turn the old tenantry away;
How soon succeeding eyes begin
To look, not read. Rigidly they

Persisted, linked, through lengths and breadths
Of time. Snow fell, undated. Light
Each summer thronged the grass. A bright
Litter of birdcalls strewed the same
Bone-riddled ground. And up the paths
The endless altered people came,

Washing at their identity.
Now, helpless in the hollow of
An unarmorial age, a trough
Of smoke in slow suspended skeins
Above their scrap of history,
Only an attitude remains:"

St Crwst's Church.

Friday, 17 January 2014

Walks through Time

Gwynedd Archaeological Trust has a number of guided Walks planned in the near future, exploring the county's rich heritage. There will be one tomorrow in Caernarfon concerning early Christianity. Booking is essential, so please contact Daniel at or 01248 366971.

You can find more information at

Llanbeblig, Caernarfon
18 January 2014 10am
Explore the rise of Christianity in a Roman and post-Roman context.
Distance: 3km 2hrs
Meeting Point: Llanbeblig Church LL55 2LNJ - SH487623
Walk Leader: Andrew Davidson, Gwynedd Archaeological Trust

9 February 2014 2pm
During this walk around the town of Criccieth we will look at the castle, the development of the town and new research into the Princes of Gwynedd.
Distance: 3.5km 2hrs
Meeting Point: Carpark at east end of beach
opposite Moranedd Cafe LL54 OHU - SH504381
Walk Leader: Spencer Smith, Gwynedd Archaeological Trust

9 March 2014 2pm
Explore the origins and growth of Pwllheli from medieval to modern times.
Distance: 3.5km 2hrs
Meeting Point: Pwllheli Station LL53 5HG - SH375350
Walk Leader: Andrew Davidson, Gwynedd Archaeological Trust

Talysarn, Dyffryn Nantlle
5 April 2014 10am
A visit to the slate quarry of Pen-y-Bryn.
Distance: 3.5km 2hrs
Meeting Point: Car park by the community centre LL54 6HL - SH492532
Walk Leader: Spencer Smith, Gwynedd Archaeological Trust

16 May 2014 1pm
Visit a rare example of WW1 practice trenches.
Distance: 5.5km 2.5hrs
Meeting Point: Llangoed Village Hall LL58 8NL - SH610797
Walk Leader: Robert Evans, Gwynedd Archaeological Trust

Thursday, 16 January 2014

A River Walk at Llanrwst

It might seem a bad time of year to recommend a river walk in Wales. However, this walk has a good hard surface, a  free car park, lots of things of interest and can be done between the showers, as it is of modest length. These photographs date from early December, and it is astonishing to see how much foliage was still on the trees. It would all have gone now!

To view the route in Google Maps, click here.

The best car park to access this route is the free car park behind Glasdir, just off the main road heading north.

The route is well marked with good hard standing and regular seats.

This house is the remains of a leather tanning factory, which apparently stank to high heaven. People often don't realise how, in some ways, life in small towns has improved so remarkably in the last century. Imagine the stink from all the privies and these small factories.

This is Pont Fawr bridge, with its three beautifully proportioned arches. It is dated 1636. At the far end of the bridge is Tu Hwnt i'r Bont (Beyond the Bridge in Welsh) a 17th century court house, now a tea rooms and gift shop owned by the National Trust. 
Tu Hwnt in all its glory on an early autumn day. A mark by the door of the oak beamed parlour records the hight of Conwy river floods in the past. Flooding is not a modern phenomenon! Nearby is the stone Gorsedd circle commemorating the holding of the National Eisteddfod in Llanrwst in 1951.
This is a short walk and it could easily be extended by following the Llanrwst Town Trail walk which takes you along Bridge Street and on to Station Road, which neatly takes you back to Glasdir car park, near the library.

Welcome to the World

The first lambs of the year have started to arrive on Pen Llŷn yesterday the 15th of January. On our reckoning, these will be amongst the first in Wales, thanks to our mild climate. Has anybody seen any earlier than this?

Wednesday, 15 January 2014

Kite Surfing - The New Rock 'n Roll

Surfing, then wind surfing, and now kite surfing! This is the latest sport to hit the Llŷn. The long sandy beaches, easy parking, the empty bays, and wind aplenty makes the Llŷn an ideal place to pursue this sport. It's also very much a sport that can be enjoyed throughout the year, providing you are experienced and know what you are doing. We have had a group staying in Manaros, in Aberdaron, and they enjoyed their time on Penllech beach just 5 miles away enormously.

If you have never done this before and haven't got the kit then a company in Abersoch, Off Axis (ask for Jack) will provide kit and lessons. The costs would be £120 for a 6 hour session, which would typically involve 3 hours of land based training and three hours in the water. Normally this instruction is one to one, but it could be one to two, though the price is still £120 per person as a lot of this cost is hire of the kit. If only two people in a much bigger party want to have the lessons, then don't worry, the rest of the group will enjoy what is also a great spectator sport. The best time of year for lessons is not in the Winter when the water is at its coldest.

Porth y Swnt - Gateway to the Sound

The National Trust Interpretation Centre is taking shape on the car park in Aberdaron and is due to open at the end of March 2014. It will be an excellent base for coastal and lane walking at the tip of the Llyn. It has been named Porth y Swnt, by the winner of a competition in the local schools. Porth means gate or gateway. It is often taken to mean harbour, but in fact "porthfa" is the word for harbour - though this is often shortened to porth! Y Swnt means "the sound" referring of course to Bardsey Sound, the infamously rough stretch of sea between Bardsey Island and the mainland. We under stand that entry is going to be free to all those using the car park, There is a charge for the carpark, but this is waived for National Trust members. Exactly what is going into the Interpretation Centre we don't yet know, but we are hoping that it will be a major attraction for many years to come.

Spring 2013 as the new car park is surfaced, and the foundations for the centre are laid.

November 2013, the roof goes on

January 2014, the walls are rendered, and the fitting out begins.

Felin Uchaf keeps growing

Three miles outside Aberdaron, the Felin Uchaf Education and Environmental Centre continues to flourish. There is a ready supply of overseas and UK volunteers and one by one the buildings envisaged in the grand plan (which many thought pure fantasy) are being constructed. The recent storms caused no damage here as the whole place has been sturdily built using traditional methods and natural materials. It is hard to describe to anyone who hasn't been there. It is open most of the time, and I recommend a visit and then use of the car park as a base for a circular walk along the narrow lanes at the centre of Llŷn. In this wet weather it is hard going across the fields, and these tarmac lanes, with virtually no traffic are a real joy in winter.

Story Telling in the Iron Age style Roundhouse happens most weeks in the summer, and has proved a hit with visitors.

Cob building was the traditional building method in most of Britain at one time, and is shown here in the construction of a compost toilet at the Centre.

A traditional oak frame is being constructed to form the new Visitor's Centre.
Thatch is the predominant roofing cover at the centre.
This is the vision of 7 years ago, and little by little it is being achieved.

Snowdonia Marathon - time to sign up!

According to the newspapers, some 25% of the British population at this time of year are (or intend to!) addressing health and fitness issues - going on a diet, joining a gym or setting themselves a physical challenge. Obviously, these will vary from person to person, but if you are aiming high then look no further than the Snowdonia Marathon which takes place on October the 25th this year. The event is now open for entries and will probably be full by the end of the month. So, 9 months to go and time to set yourself a real challenge to run up Snowdon with the best of them. The event is supported by the cancer charity Tenovus. You can enter here.

Tuesday, 14 January 2014

Roll up for the Forum!

One of our jobs at Walking North Wales is to organise the Outdoor North Wales Forum for TPNW. This year it is to be help on Wednesday March the 5th at Glasdir Conference Centre in Llanrwst (pictured below). We have teamed up with the Outdoor Tourism Project administered by Clare Sharples of Conwy County Council to provide a fairly full day of interesting speakers and discussions related to supporting the place of North Wales as a great centre for outdoor Tourism - The Heart of Adventure! We have a full range of speakers which can be seen here on the agenda. Entry is by invitation only, but if you would like to come then please email and explain why you would like to come. Places are filling up fast so please don't delay.

Glasdir Centre

Storm Damage diversions in place on the Wales Coast Path

The recent winter storms have caused some damage to the Wales Coast Path in Flintshire, but the authorities have been quick to put diversions in place and to maintain the integrity of this great path which goes all the way around the coast of Wales. So, please study this map which shows a new suggested path which will enable you to walk all the way along the Dee estuary even now.

Climbing Carn Fadryn

If you are looking for a walk of about 90 minutes, with the maximum benefit to effort ratio, then look no further than Carn Fadryn, the "mountain" that dominates the centre of the Lleyn Peninsula and rises just above the village of Garnfadryn. Zoom out of the map below to find directions and an OS map. I recommend that you park at the chapel, where there is a large free car park. Turn up the lane towards the mountain, bear right after the gate and simply follow the path uphill.

Carn Fadryn is a prominent feature in the landscape. Even at only 371m high, you can't miss it.

The lane up from the village runs alongside the old chapel.

The lane up turns into a grass track and follows a stone wall.

The track up is well marked and pretty well drained. It is quite a pull to the top, and if you're not fit, it's worth taking your time, but the benefits of the view are quickly apparent.

This is just half way up, and already you can see the mountains of Snowdonia looking east.

This is the view from the top looking west south west. You can see Bardsey Island at the top left, and the Uwchmynydd headland centre left. The geological feature in the foreground, which looks like a little river valley, is actually an escape channel carved out by meltwater from the ice age glaciers which once sat north of the Llŷn Coast.

Looking North East you can see the Yr Eifl range and the beginning of the Edge of Wales Walk.

Looking south over the Cilan headland, Abersoch and St Tudwal's islands.

It's a long story...

The Lleyn is home to quite a few ancient monuments, one of the most striking of which is the remains of a Neolithic tomb (from the new stone age - about 5000 years ago) at Cefnamlwch near Tudweiliog, sometimes called Coetan Arthur.

The large capstone is supported by 3 upright pillars. The stone in the foreground may be a fourth, fallen pillar.
Although it may look like a mini stone henge, these three stones were actually buried underground, supporting a mound of earth. There would have been a hollow underneath the capstone, in which a local chieftain would likely have been buried. At some point in the intervening millennia, the earth was removed, leaving just the stones behind.

The site is surrounded by a strong fence, as cattle are kept in the field during the summer. The summit of Carn Fadryn, at 371m above sea level, can be seen in the background.
There is a (most likely tall) tale, that during the 18th century the cromlech was moved to the edge of the field by the landowner, Squire Griffiths. However, all the cattle in the field allegedly laid down around the stones, and refused to move until the cromlech was returned to its rightful place. It's nice to know that cows can take such principled stands against archaeological vandalism. You can find a map of the location here. If you zoom out on this map then you will see that there is a series of tarmac lanes in this area which can easily be made into a very rewarding circular walk when all the fields around are waterlogged.

Monday, 13 January 2014

Altitude with Attitude!

One of the things that attracts a lot of people to visit North Wales is the extent and quality of its event program. There is something going on most days, see
A fair proportion of these events relate to walking and I can thoroughly recommend the Walking Festivals at Prestatyn, and Trefriw, which are coming soon. Sooner still is the Excalibur Marathon which takes place across the Clwydian Range on May the 10th, starting at 8am.

This is in aid of Claire House children's hospice in Liverpool. This is a tough trail, either 26.2 miles or 13.1 miles, which can be completed as a walk or a run traversing the spectacular Clwydian Range of North Wales. With over 5500 feet of steep ascent, Excalibur is promised to "take you to the edge. Excalibur tests the limits of each and every person who attempts to conquer it. Both a head for heights and a brave heart are needed to complete this challenge. Do you have what it takes?" The website is a call up for "Adrenaline junkies, fitness fanatics, seasoned fell runners, ultra marathon runners and hill walkers." See you there?

You can find more information on their Facebook page, or Twitter.

Glimpses of Nanhoron

One of the advantages of walking in Winter in Wales is that you often get to see views that are otherwise obscured by vegetation and trees. I recently took a walk from Nanhoron to Abersoch and caught this view of Nanhoron House through the trees. This is a Regency Mansion that has extensive gardens which have been featured in Country Life and Posh Plots on BBC TV. It also has a rather special holiday cottage, Hen Dy (old house) which can sleep up to 7 people and is set amongst the gardens. The house itself was used as the setting for the film, Autumn, which featured Anthony Hopkins in the title role. The Estate, some 5,000 acres of it, has been in the Harden family for 700 years (back to the time of the conquest of Gwynedd in 1283. The home farm of 1200 acres used to run as an intensive dairy farm with all the cattle housed in sheds. It is now moving towards establishing a commercial beef enterprise, mainly grass fed Herefords, and with some crops grown for forage. It is part of a Tir Gofal (Land Care) programme which protects the archaeological heritage and the natural environment in one scheme.

The Gardens at Hen Dy

Winter sunsets.

One of the delights of walking on the Lleyn in Winter is the quality of the sunsets. Last Saturday was a nice crisp day with plenty of sunshine and ended in a spectacular sunset. I haven't photo-shopped the above image (which is beyond my technical ability anyway). If you want to enjoy some great walking, then there is plenty of accommodation available in Aberdaron at this time of year. Give me a call on 01758 760 652.

Can you really see the Irish Coast?

It is approximately 50 miles from the Uwchmynydd headland to the nearest point on the Irish coast. It is a further 20 to the highest point in the Wicklow hills. Many visitors to the headland at Uwchmynydd - "the Land's End of North Wales" cannot see the Irish coast because of haze, but on a clear day it is obvious. Also, at sunset in summer, when the sun sets behind the Wicklow Hills, then it is very clear. In winter the sun seems to set over Bardsey Island. But it can sometimes light up the Wicklow hills and it did so yesterday. An excellent walk on the Uwchmynydd headland can be seen at If you catch sight of the Irish coast, please send us a photograph.

The Moon in Lleyn

Having enjoyed a wonderful day's walking around the Llyn on Saturday, I finished the day on the Uwchmynydd headland, taking some great shots of the sun as it set over Bardsey and highlighting the Irish coast. On my return, I took this image of the Moon as it shone out over the Llyn it brought to mind that great poem by R.S. Thomas, that highlighted his doubting faith, something of the despair at receding Christianity, but also elements of hope, and the renaissance of pilgrimage. It was written as if he were in Aberdaron church.

The Moon in Lleyn

The last quarter of the moon
of Jesus gives way
to the dark; the serpent
digests the egg. Here
on my knees in this stone
church, that is full only
of the silent congregation
of shadows and the sea's
sound, it is easy to believe
Yeats was right. Just as though
choirs had not sung, shells
have swallowed them; the tide laps
at the Bible; the bell fetches
no people to the brittle miracle
of bread. The sand is waiting
for the running back of the grains
in the wall into its blond
glass. Religion is over, and
what will emerge from the body
of the new moon, no one
can say.

But a voice sounds
in my ear. Why so fast,
mortal? These very seas
are baptized. The parish
has a saint's name time cannot
unfrock. In cities that
have outgrown their promise people
are becoming pilgrims
again, if not to this place,
then to the recreation of it
in their own spirits. You must remain
kneeling. Even as this moon
making its way through the earth's
cumbersome shadow, prayer, too,
has its phases.

Friday, 10 January 2014

Storm damage - a second look

My post earlier in the week indicated that Aberdaron had escaped extensive storm damage. However, now that calmer weather is with us (temporarily) I have had a chance to take a closer look, and we may not have been so lucky. I guess a lot of communities along the Welsh coast are having the same experience and wondering where all the money is going to come from to fix things.
This was an access to the beach. It had been undermined in recent years, but is now beyond repair.

The storm flipped over the concrete section nearest the sea.
This is the area of the new powerboat access to the sea. The slight shelf on which the timber boarding had been laid in the summer months has now disappeared. 

Another foot or so has been taken off the receding cliff.

This doesn't look much of a crack in the promenade, but it wasn't there before, and will have to be fixed, or the whole Queen's area will be in danger.

This wall was completely demolished.

Aberdaron is known for its many benches. Most of the timber ones given by visiting families in memory of loved ones have been smashed up, and most of the concrete ones have been knocked over.