Carnedd Llewelyn via Drum and Foel-fras

A substantial walk in the beautiful Carneddau mountains. Amounting to almost 13 miles in length with about 3,250 ft of ascent. Choose a clear day and allow 7+ hours to enjoy the scenic views and, if you’re lucky, a sighting of a wild pony or two.

To reach the car parking (free at time of writing), travel northwards from Llanrwst along the B5106. Pass through Trefriw & Dolgarrog, then turn left & uphill just after the river in Tal-y-bont. Now carefully follow the twisting single track lanes to the small car park at the lane’s end SH 72058 71556.

Start the walk by leaving the car park westward along the old Roman road (walking beneath the power lines). After approximately 1/2 a mile there is a gate across the track, go through the gateway and then turn immediately left uphill alongside the stone wall.

Looking back along the Roman Road before turn uphill away from it.
Looking back along the Roman Road before turning uphill away from it.

The small path now winds up the ridge to Carnedd y Ddelw. Having started our walk just after 7am on a gloriously clear autumn morning, we thoroughly enjoyed the fine westward views towards the coast and Anglesey.

The morning view NW towards Puffin Island from the slopes of Drosgl
The morning view NW towards Puffin Island from the slopes of Drosgl

Upon cresting this rise there is a panoramic view encompassing Drum, Foel-fras, Llwytmor and Llyn Anafon.

Looking southerly to Drum, Llyn Anafon and Foel-fras from Carnedd y Ddelw.
Looking southerly to Drum, Llyn Anafon and Foel-fras from Carnedd y Ddelw.

Turning slightly to our left we now approach the summit of Drum (Carnedd Penyborth-goch) and join the larger stoned track just prior to the summit. It was at this point that we had our first view of one of the Carneddau Ponies; silhouetted by the low sun through some morning haze.

A mountain pony grazes amongst the glare of morning sun and haze.
A mountain pony grazes amongst the glare of morning sun and haze.

She looked like a veteran mare who was perhaps the matriarch of the small group of 9 ponies that we now saw on Drum.

The Old Mare stands grazing on a mountain skyline.
The Old Mare stands grazing on a mountain skyline.

We now proceed SSW, initially downhill, then across some marshy ground before rising steadily up the long haul to the summit of Foel-fras. Definitely worth pausing occasionally to enjoy the changing westerly views.

Looking down to Llyn Anafon from Drum
Looking down to Llyn Anafon from Drum

As one approaches the summit, you come to the corner of a stout stone-wall; bearing left around the corner, the stony trig-pointed summit comes in to view.

The stony trig-point marked summit of Foel-fras
The stony trig-point marked summit of Foel-fras

We noted more wild ponies just beyond the summit and as we began to drop away towards Carnedd Gwenllian (Uchaf) a trio of young ponies came over to investigate who was wielding a camera.

A group of young mountain ponies come to a fence-line - investigating who's taking their photograph.
A group of young mountain ponies come to a fence-line – investigating who’s taking their photograph.

From here we rise again slightly to the peak of Carnedd Gwenllian, a flattish stony peak.

The view looking SW across the summit of Carnedd Gwenllian
The view looking SW across the summit of Carnedd Gwenllian

Bearing left from here, we fall & then rise again to the summit of Foel Grach. After the rocks of Foel Grach we drop again before making the final climb to the summit of Carnedd Llewelyn. It was on this last section that we spotted a third group of ponies. Stood enjoying the autumn sunshine with the peak of Yr Elen behind them, a beautiful view of these Carneddau Ponies in their natural environment.

Carneddau ponies enjoying autumn sunshine, high on Carnedd Llewelyn. With Yr Elen and Menai Strait in the background.
Carneddau ponies enjoying autumn sunshine, high on Carnedd Llewelyn. With Yr Elen and Menai Strait in the background.

Now for the push to the 1064 m summit of Carnedd Llewelyn – 2nd highest mountain in Wales, after the peaks of the Snowdon massif. It was becoming quite hot for mid-September and we appreciated our cold drinks with an early lunch stop, sat enjoying the huge views all around.

Tamsin on top of Carnedd Llewelyn
Tamsin on top of Carnedd Llewelyn

The view south from here is dominated by the cliffs of Carnedd Dafydd with many of the main Snowdonian peaks visible beyond.

Looking from Carnedd Llewelyn to Carnedd Dafydd - with Tryfan, Glyderau and Snowdon beyond.
Looking from Carnedd Llewelyn to Carnedd Dafydd – with Tryfan, Glyderau and Snowdon beyond.

After a brief lunch break we re-traced our steps back to the car, enjoying the peaceful wander back.

As an alternative: If one had two cars & drivers available, a 2nd car could be left at the Youth Hostel Car Park by Llyn Ogwen. Then instead of retracing ones steps, one could walk across to Carnedd Dafydd to then descend via Pen yr Ole Wen.

Either way this is a challenging but very enjoyable walk across big open country.

Map:

Llyn Morwynion & Y Garnedd

A short walk in wild country to the east of Ffestiniog.

This walk is a little over 3 miles in length with around 700 ft of ascent. It takes in the small dammed lake ‘Llyn Morwynion’ and the peak of Y Garnedd. Most of the walk is across open-access land.

Parking is available (currently free) just off the B4391 near the viewpoint for Rhaeadr y Cwm. It is definitely worth taking a small diversion to view this cascade of falls. Some of this area can be very boggy, so do be prepared.

Leave the parking and walk west along the B road for a short distance before crossing a gate on the right and following the water company track to the dam of Llyn Morwynion. Proceed around the head of the lake on a small pathway. As you now walk northerly along the western edge of the lake, gradually climb to the higher ground away from the lake. The views behind you are extensive, across moorland towards Arenig Fawr.

Llyn Morwynion Reservoir
Llyn Morwynion Reservoir

Now turn north easterly along this small ridge towards Y Garnedd. Carefully choose a route across the marshy ground at the base of Y Garnedd before climbing up between rocky outcrops to the small summit. We found some colourful sheep amongst these rocks ..

The local sheep sporting a fashionable hair do in red.
The local sheep sporting a fashionable hair do in red.

Upon reaching the summit, perhaps pause to enjoy the views that continue to be panoramic across this upland region; including a view north to Llyn Mawr Gamallt & her crags.

Llyn Mawr Gamallt with Craig Goch y Gamallt beyond.
Llyn Mawr Gamallt with Craig Goch y Gamallt beyond.

We now descended towards the south-east. Care must be taken here to avoid the loose rock / cliff falls by the old quarry. Skirt the southern edge of the quarry and zig-zag down to its access road. Follow this track for a short distance until it turns sharply to the left. It is possible to follow this track back to the road and walk along the road back to your car – this would avoid the boggy crossing. We however, turned off the track to head SW across the peat bog back to the northern edge of Llyn Morwynion. Care must be taken to select a suitable route (especially in winter). Upon reaching the lake, turn left, through a small gateway and follow the narrow path along its edge back towards the dam. This is a very peaceful upland lake, slightly sheltered from the wind on the day of our walk (see post header picture).

Short-eared Owl (Asio flammeus)
Short-eared Owl (Asio flammeus)

As we crossed this tufty marsh grass area, a well camouflaged short-eared owl took off just in front of me. There was no time for a quality photo but I did get this quick snap of him.

To return to the car park, either retrace your steps along the dam access road or take the indistinct footpaths across the rough grassland, as indicated on the outline guide map below.

Do take a few minutes to enjoy the nearby waterfall viewpoint, or perhaps follow the footpath down closer to the river cascades.

The cascading waterfalls of Rhaeadr-y-cwm - as the Afon Cynfal descends from high on the moorland east of Ffestiniog.
The cascading waterfalls of Rhaeadr-y-cwm – as the Afon Cynfal descends from high on the moorland east of Ffestiniog.

Map:

Exploring Cwm Prysor

Alongside the A4212 from Trawsfynydd to Bala runs the old disused railway line, a section of which has kindly been made in to a permissive footpath. We took the opportunity of a fine January morning to explore the section through Cwm Prysor, with its fine old viaduct being the centre of attraction. A small amount of parking is available at the side of the main road, see map below. The walk is a straight walk & return that is mainly level and which can be extended or shortened to suit your wishes.

One of the old rail line cuttings
One of the old rail line cuttings

Parts of the walk can be quite wet despite following the old rail line but these damp cuttings offer much in the way of mossy foliage & trickling water.

Icy clutching fingers protrude from the cutting walls
Icy clutching fingers protrude from the cutting walls

As one approaches the viaduct it is possible to view from the left side of the line. A little closer and one can carefully drop down the forest edge of the viaduct to join the North – South FP right of way (which barely exists anymore). I can’t say that this is an ‘official’ or recommended action but it does give access to more dramatic views of the viaduct.

Morning light floods in to the forestry under the arches of Cwm Prysor Viaduct
Morning light floods in to the forestry under the arches of Cwm Prysor Viaduct

The highest arch of the viaduct is 105 feet tall, certainly enough that perspective corrections were needed on my HDR image stack above! There are more photos taken from this lower footpath in the gallery at the end of this post.

Heading back up to the rail line, we can now cross the viaduct, taking care not to lean too firmly against the old fencing at the edge of the precipice.

The view westward along Cwm Prysor viaduct
The view westward along Cwm Prysor viaduct

On our previous walk, over Arenig Fawr, we had spotted the viaduct from the summit; this prompted our exploration of Cwm Prysor a few days later. Don’t miss the view back to Arenig Fawr from on the viaduct..

Arenig Fawr as viewed from Cwm Prysor viaduct.
Arenig Fawr as viewed from Cwm Prysor viaduct.

Having crossed the viaduct, one can now continue westwards along the old line. It is possible to take diversions in to the hills via paths and open access land or to reach as far as Trawsfynydd; check your maps. The views open up westwards, towards the Rhinogs.

From the old Trawsfynydd to Bala rail line
From the old Trawsfynydd to Bala rail line

Once you’ve walked far enough for your liking, just retrace your steps back to the start. On our return walk I paused just before reaching the viaduct to take this infra-red photograph of the scene, hoping to give the viaduct view an old but timeless feel ..

The old Trawsfynydd - Bala viaduct at Cwm Prysor. Photographed in infra-red.
The old Trawsfynydd – Bala viaduct at Cwm Prysor. Photographed in infra-red.

It’s a great walk for a fine day. In spring & summer the old line will be busy with birds & butterflies, in winter it’s a peaceful walk with great views.

Map:

Gallery (click on any image to bring it up as a slideshow with exif data):

An enjoyable scenic route over Arenig Fawr

The Arenigs are a less walked group of Snowdonian peaks, yet Arenig Fawr with its central positioning, enjoys huge panoramic views across most of Snowdonia. Here’s a circular route that we walked early on a very frosty January morning. The GPS track reported 7.25 miles of distance with about 2000 ft of climb. Allow 4 hours or so – more in adverse conditions. The ascent follows paths that are generally obvious whilst the descent & return crosses un-pathed grassy slopes before following tracks & lanes back to the start.

Morning path to Llyn Arenig Fawr
Morning path to Llyn Arenig Fawr

We start at a small lay-by on the minor road south of Llyn Celyn (if no parking is available here, then park at the old quarry just west of Arenig village). Cross the lane and follow the track uphill away from the road in an initially south-westerly direction. This path twists and turns over the moorland of Moel y Garth with beautiful views down on your left towards Bala and Llyn Tegid.

Golden light pours into the valley and begins to lift the sleepy mists of night.
Golden light pours into the valley and begins to lift the sleepy mists of night.

The track gives access to the small dam of Llyn Arenig Fawr and we shall soon find ourselves descending slightly to this beautiful lakeside. Here you will find a small walker’s bothy that could provide some useful shelter on a less pleasant day. Cross the ladder style next to the bothy and head across just below the dam.

Arenig Bothy a useful place to know of.
Arenig Bothy a useful place to know of.

If your are lucky enough to have great weather (as we did) the morning reflections in Llyn Arenig Fawr are glorious and it is well worth while pausing to soak up some of the tranquillity.

Llyn Arenig Fawr in the winter golden hour. Reflections and warm glow on a frosty morning.
Llyn Arenig Fawr in the winter golden hour. Reflections and warm glow on a frosty morning.

Now we must climb up the hillside to the south of the lake, via Carreg Lefain and on to the point known as Y Castell. The climb is steeper here and follows a smaller path but the way is clear and there are no significant obstacles.

The pull up to Y Castell
The pull up to Y Castell

Having crossed an old dilapidated fence-line near Y Castell, we continue ahead, slightly less steeply for the moment. Shortly we will find ourselves walking parallel to another fence-line and with great views of Arenig Fawr ahead. Whilst there are various options here, we chose to cross the fence-line to our right and head uphill on to the shoulder of Arenig Fawr.

Arenig Summit in view
Arenig Summit in view

Now progress consistently uphill south westerly towards the summit. There’s a little patch of scree and boulders but the path makes for easy crossing along its upper edge. Eventually you will notice the summit trig point ahead of you.

Trig point on the summit of Arenig Fawr
Trig point on the summit of Arenig Fawr

The views from the summit are spectacular, though you will need a clear day to appreciate it at its best. Rhobell Fawr & Cadair Idris to the south (see header feature photo), Snowdon a little over 17 miles to the north plus Rhinogs, coastline and more to the west. As so often, there was a little haze on our morning but still very enjoyable views.

From the summit of Arenig Fawr: Moelwyn, Cnicht, Nantle Ridge.
From the summit of Arenig Fawr: Moelwyn, Cnicht, Nantle Ridge.

There are lots of possibilities for the descent from here, we chose to partially retrace our steps for a few metres to the NE. A westerly facing gully will be noticed just beneath you (headed by an old post when we were up there). Drop down through this gully and then bear to your right (NE again) to carefully descend on to the rough grassy western slope of Arenig Fawr.

Descending to the track by Amnodd-wen
Descending to the track by Amnodd-wen

From here we are crossing pathless open access land to descend towards the old abandoned farmhouse of Amnodd-wen. As you get lower down the slope, head for the gateway through the stone wall and then down onto the track just south of Amnodd-wen, turning right (northerly) when you reach it. It’s worth pausing at Amnodd-wen to look back at the mountain you’ve just crossed, as well as to perhaps consider what life was like living here in years gone by.

Looking back from Amnodd-wen
Looking back from Amnodd-wen

Now follow this track to the north. When you meet the old railway line do not stray on to it, just continue to follow the track back to the local lane. When you reach the lane, turn right on to it and follow it back through Arenig village to where you parked. A beautiful walk which you may well have all to yourself.

The lane back to the start of the walk.
The lane back to the start of the walk.

Maps & more photos below.

Altitude:

AreningFawr-altitudeprofile
AreningFawr-altitudeprofile

Route Map:

Gallery:

Ode of the Dawn Walker

Ode of the Dawn Walker

As golden flood pours in
Sleepy night gives way to mists of morn
In vale below the cock doth crow
And hound speaks forth
The darkness sundered and torn.

The tweet of birds stirring in heather
The prominences of walker fresh & cold
Caressed by sun born anew, like gentle glowing feather.
Still the frosted path leads ahead
A serpent slithering amongst the mountain folds.

Reflections deep and vivid speak
Eye to the soul of mountain borne
Up ridge, through col to lonesome peak
View and atmosphere a magic spawn
This traveller shall return, for another dawn.

The way ahead lies twisted and frozen.
The way ahead lies twisted and frozen.

  • Aperture: ƒ/6.3
  • Credit: AnnMarie Jones
  • Camera: COOLPIX B700
  • Caption: Morning path to Llyn Arenig Fawr
  • Focal length: 5.4mm
  • ISO: 100
  • Keywords: Landscape, Mountain, Seasons, Winter, scenic
  • Shutter speed: 1/1600s
  • Title: Walking into the Sunrise

(inspired by a lovely walk, whose route I’ll post next week)