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:

Carneddau Ponies

Living in the Carneddau range of mountains (being the largest contiguous area of high ground in Wales & England) are a true gem of wild Wales – the Carneddau Ponies.

These rare ponies are a glorious insight in to British equines of the past. It is believed that they have roamed freely across these beautiful but bleak hills for some 2,500 years or more, at least since 500BC. A genetic study carried out earlier this decade by Aberystwyth University, concluded that the ponies have been genetically isolated for several centuries minimum.

Living up and around 2000ft, these ponies have survived cold snowy winters, potential predation by wolves (before they were eradicated from the hills), the enforced historical culls of wild ponies and more recent regulatory pressures. Thanks to the hard work of local farmers & the Carneddau Mountain Pony Association, the ponies hopefully have a long future on Snowdonia’s wildest of areas.

In February of this year I was lucky enough to take the picture below, of one of these hardy little ponies:

A wild Carneddau pony bounces off a rock on the slopes of Pen Yr Ole Wen (with a wintery Y Garn in the background).
A wild Carneddau pony bounces off a rock on the slopes of Pen Yr Ole Wen (with a wintery Y Garn in the background).

More recently, in great autumn weather, Tamsin & I set off on a long day in the Carneddau, photographing the ponies & their environment. Here are a few photos for you to enjoy:

Horsey Companions

Format Image

I’d like to give a shout out for all those wonderful equines that many of us are fortunate enough to be able to spend time with …
Horse Poster