Friday, 18 July 2014

Opening of the Pilgrim Way, North Wales

The Heritage Minister, John Griffith was unable to come at the last minute, but the Rev. Andrew Jones, Archdeacon of Meirionyddshire, was a more than able replacement.

This is one of the first events to be held in the new Porth y Swnt complex, a part open air timber structure at the rear called "The Fold". 

The North Wales Pilgrim’s Way which stretches for 240km across the region has been officially launched at Porth y Swnt, Aberdaron.

The path linking St Winefride’s Well at Holywell to Bardsey Island makes full use of existing footpaths and sections of the Wales Coastal Path. Following in the footsteps of centuries of pilgrimages to Bardsey, the path is an opportunity for modern day pilgrims to follow the path whilst visiting many interesting historical sites along the way and to marvel at the area’s natural environment.

The North Wales Pilgrim’s Way is a part of the Our Heritage project, a part of Cadw’s Heritage Tourism Project partially funded by the European Regional Development Fund through the Welsh Government. The Our Heritage project aims to maximise the economic and cultural value of north Wales’ local heritage by working towards ensuring that visitors and local communities have lasting experiences by bringing local heritage and history alive and relevant to today’s population.

Councillor John Wynn Jones, Gwynedd Council Economy Cabinet Member said:

“The North Wales Pilgrim’s Way was developed in partnership between the Our Heritage project and the North Wales Pilgrim’s Way Volunteers. This is a great example of different establishments working together across north Wales towards the same common goal of attracting more visitors to the region whilst promoting its rich history.

“I’m confident that the North Wales Pilgrim’s Way will attract many more visitors to the area, as does the Camino de Santiago in Spain every year which inspired the re-establishment of this historical route.”

The official launch at Aberdaron was part of a series of events held across north Wales on 10 July to celebrate the official opening of the North Wales Pilgrim’s Way including events at Basingwerk Abbey in Flintshire, St Asaph Cathedral and Bangor Cathedral.

Councillor Dewi Owen, Gwynedd Council Chairman who opened the official launch at Porth y Swnt added:

“I was extremely glad to take part in the launch of the North Wales Pilgrim’s Way, as the Pilgrim’s Way is a great opportunity to showcase some of North Wales’ most remote and beautiful countryside and historical sites.

“I hope the improvements to sections of the path and the instalment of digital hubs will encourage walkers and modern day pilgrims to follow the historical path all the way from Holywell to Bardsey, just as so many have done before them.”

A series of digital hubs have been developed and installed at many locations along the route of the Pilgrim’s Way. These hubs will display the new Pilgrim’s Way website and information about local history of the surrounding area.

From now until the end of August, an exhibition of work by local school children to develop stamps for the Pilgrim’s Passport will be shown at Oriel Pendeitsh, Caernarfon.

For more information about the North Wales Pilgrim’s Way, maps and route description from Holywell to Bardsey visit:

To learn more about the Our Heritage project visit or contact the Our Heritage team by emailing or phone 01286 679194.

Flintshire Interactive mapping on the way!

Walking North Wales have been commissioned by Cadwyn Clwyd and Flintshire Council to convert the information on the Rural Walks in Flintshire brochure to an interactive format that can be put up on the internet. The routes are all being checked and photographed by the Flintshire Ramblers. This work is now under way and the first results can be seen on the new website:

The home page of the site allows users to display only those walks that meet their particular criteria, such as being of easy, moderate or strenuous difficulty, or of a certain length. At the moment the site hosts 6 of the walks in various stages of completion.

Trelawnyd and Gwaenysgor


Moel Arthur - Penycloddiau

Loggerheads - Moel Findeg

Nercwys Forest

Waun y Llyn - Llanfynydd

We think this project shows local government (Flintshire), local agencies (Cadwyn Clwyd), local volunteers (The Ramblers), and tourism agencies (Walking North Wales) all working together with private enterprise (Ynot Digital) all working together to produce something really worthwhile - the best walking websites in the country.

The Princes of Gwynedd

I was on my way to the start of the Watkin path near Beddgelert and was passing Craflwyn, and called in to see if the Princes of Gwynedd exhibition was yet up and running. I am delighted to be able to report that it is both working and a very impressive little exhibition. The wall displeys would introduce a new comer to the lineage of the Princes of Gwynedd and they might learn something about the importance of these princes to Wales. The video (where the viewer has a choice of films) is working and is of a high standard.
You could combine this visit with walks around the grounds of Craflwyn Hall and the woods above the house.
This is a depiction of the killing of Llewelyn the Last at Builth Wells.

The exhibition is at the western side of Craflwyn at the car park near the entrance and highlighted by these signs.

The visitor can see other sites associated with the Princes of Gwynedd, and may be inspired to go and visit them. There is some debate on this - how interested is the average visitor in a royal line in a principality which vanished in 1282? I suspect that visitors might be inspired to visit these sites, not because they are so associated, but because they are beautiful places in their own right.

The videos are well made and have interesting content.

This image has been burned onto the entrance door, and is a replica of a mediaeval illustration.

I was impressed by the effort and imagination that went into this, slightly eerie, sculpture. 

Treasure hunting on Pen Lleyn

Meinir Hughes of the National Trust
The Walking North Wales team have got together with the Llŷn Archaeological Trust, Aberdaron Link and the National Trust to create a geocaching trail around the western end of Pen Llyn. Details of all the caches can be found at (search for Aberdaron). If you haven't got a GPS or you are new to this new sport then you can borrow one of 3 units which are available free of charge from the Porth y Swnt National Trust centre on Aberdaron car park.
Gedd of the National Trust will show you how the kit works.

This is a map of the headland showing the location of all its geocaches, including some not on the trail. You can visit as many or as few as you have time for - but it does make a great day out.
This GPS trail is essentially both a treasure hunt (each cache contains interesting swap items) and a tour of the historic sites of this area. You are taken to a 19th century quayside, a mediaeval house platform, an Iron Age dwelling, the site of a mediaeval church and well, a 2nd world war observation post, a 2nd world war military camp, a non-conformist chapel, an ancient well, a secret nuclear bunker and an ancient corn mill. There is a cache at each place containing information in both Cymraeg and English. The trail was declared open today and the first 10 people to complete this treasure hunt will be able to claim a prize from Porth y Swnt.

The Porth y Swnt centre in Aberdaron carpark.

Aberdaron and Porth y Swnt. A great place to visit.

Tuesday, 15 July 2014

Wales Coast Path diversion for pints and prayers.

The Wales Coast Path comes inland at Dinas Dinlle to join the A499 heading south west. A very brief diversion north east takes you to the pretty estate village of Llandwrog, where there is both an excellent church and a fine pub, both of which are open on a regular basis and can provide sustenance for the soul and the stomach before tarmac bashing on the A499.

The Harp Inn is directly opposite the church. There is a wonderful garden and good beers are served with hearty pub grub.
The church spire is a landmark in this very flat area.

The church was rebuilt in the 19th century by the Wynn family, who owned the Glynllifon estate.

The seating is unusual and resembles an Oxbridge college chapel in that the seats do not face the altar.

This is a swivelling lectern, probably installed to easily switch between Welsh and English versions of the Bible.

A stone rood screen (thought to be from an earlier church) adorns the west end.

The family tombs of the Wynn family, later the Lords Newborough, are in a small chapel to the south of the chancel. Beware a swarm of bees who seem to have taken up residence in this chapel. 

The glorious east end window is dedicated to Lady Newborough.
For those who want to make this into a circular walk from Dinas Dinlle, and are intrigued by the life of the aristocracy on the Llyn, then I would recommend a visit to Glynllifon Park (now owned largely by the council) and the incredible sight of a first class stately home stood silent and empty.

Relief from the A499 on the Wales Coast Path

I was walking along the A499 Caernarfon to Clynnog Fawr road after my adventures in Llandwrog. This is a very lengthy tarmac stretch between Llandwrog and Clynnog Fawr. The actual path is along a cycle track, so you are not at risk of being run over, but traffic goes at a frightening and noisy pace, and it was with some relief that I got to Pontllyfni and headed for the coast for a small loop that takes you back to the road at Aberdesach. This is only a 1.5km stretch but it was welcome nevertheless.

The Rivals look better and better the closer you get. The name "The Rivals" is an Anglicisation of "Yr Eifl" which is a Welsh word for a fork or trident. You can clearly see the three distinct peaks of the trident on the right of the photo above.

There is a good path along the coast from Pontllyfni and it is kept cut.

There is a good bridge across the Desach.

The path is above the shingle and easy to walk.

However, the path runs out just beyond Aberdesach, and unless you fancy risking your ankles on these large stones you must head inland back to the A499. This is not a fast eroding coast, and I don't see any reason why the path can't simply be extended along the cliff top.

The Quarry Path

An interesting landmark can be found on the single track road between Llithfaen and Nant Gwrtheyrn. On the little plateau on the crest of the hill, next to the car park, there are three standing stones, decorated with swirling carvings. As much as I would like to tell you that these are important, neolithic artefacts, marking a sacred site that was occupied for thousands of years, I'm afraid that they were installed just a few short years ago, during the refurbishment of Nant Gwrtheyrn. However, they are undeniably striking, especially with their engraved markings that are meant to resemble genuine stone age art.

In between the three stones is a piece of polished stone, inscribed with a poem in Welsh - "Ar lwybr chwarel", or "On the Quarry Path".

For those not familiar with the Language of Heaven, the poem roughly translates as follows:

On A Quarry Path

On their knees, who are they
That come to work through the teeth of the wind?

Men tied to the bread of this rock
With their nails chiselled to it
Summer or Winter, the same yoke
Of stones on their shoulders

But they, on this celestial path
Bent, tripping to the peak
Of the mountain, they are the cornerstones
Of our walls – and us,
So far from the knife of the winds

Are the shavings of what they were

The car park has been massively extended in recent months. It seems that Nant are expecting a big influx of visitors!

New Section of the Wales Coast Path

There has been a distinct improvement to the route of the Wales Coast Path in the section between Caernarfon and Clynnog Fawr. We have a number of customers who want to walk all the way around from Caernarfon to Porthmadog, some 95 miles in total, but we have always been a little apologetic about the first section of the route which has always entailed a lot of roadway. Tarmac bashing on the first day of a walking holiday can upset the feet and the old route that used the old railway track (now a cycle path) went too far inland to be considered a coastal route.

However the route has now been shifted nearer the sea after a bridge has been built over the Afon Carrog. This makes for a much better route. I walked it at the weekend and was really impressed at the landscape - more like fenland than anything else, a wonderful new experience.

As you leave Caernarfon and the Mennai Strait behind, you walk around a tidal bay called Y Foryd

This is a muddy area at low tide and much favoured by wading birds

Eventually Y Foryd itself narrows as you go South and you reach the Afon Carrog, a source river to Y Foryd

The path turns North North West, a grassy stretch that is most welcome to the feet

This area was dry in Mid July. But come the winter I imagine that waders may be required.

This is the bridge over Afon Carrog

Afon Carrog

The path is raised above the fen and has some really interesting grasses.

Even at low tide there are pools of water

The views of Snowdonia are excellent.

The path leads to the Morfa Caravan Park where it turns sharply left towards the sea.

The path heads for the sea

The path turns to Tarmac again

The path passes Caernarfon Airport

The Caernarfon Air Museum is part of the Airport

The hills of Bwlch Mawr and the Yr Eifl range beckon to the West

Caernafon Airport is used by small aircraft only and it is possible to buy a pleasure flight at a reasonable price.
Once the path reaches the dyke which protects the low lying land from the sea, you have to take a steep left turn along the top of the dyke where a tarmac road runs. If it is low tide then you have a marvellous walk along the sandy beach as above.
A fabulous view of Bwlch Mawr, Gyrn Goch and Yr Eifl as you approach Dinas Dinlle.

The path eventually reaches Dinas Dinlle, a terminal moraine (in geographic terms) but later made into an Iron Age fort which was taken over as a Roman signalling station and is now being steadily eroded by the sea. There are pubs, public toilets and cafes in this settlement. A great opportunity for fish and chips.