Carneddau Excursion (Cwm Eigiau loop)

A glorious circular route in the Carneddau, from the remote parking near Llyn Eigiau (SH732663).
A Snowdonia walk for the more adventurous, taking in less walked peaks and an enjoyable ridge.

Summary:
Approximately 9 miles and 2800 ft of ascent.
Section 1 – mainly stoned tracks to Cwm Eigiau quarry.
Section 2 – craig ascent & ridge-walk – mixed rock & grass, some exposure.
Section 3 – descent – unmarked pathless heather & grass.
Allow 6+ hours for an enjoyable day.

The attached map shows our approximate route; given the nature of the terrain you may wish to modify this to suit your own needs. There are several rocky traverses that would become quite challenging in wintry conditions and the potential drops are significant; please be well equipped for the conditions and be confident in your own skills.

Approach:
Take the B5106 alongside the Afon Conwy to Tal-y-bont. In the village turn west up the single track lane to Llyn Eigiau. Note: During snowy spells the lane may become a challenge, even for well shod 4x4s. Park in the car park at the end of the road, SH 732 663.

Walk:
Leave the car and walk down the access track to Llyn Eigiau. The break in the dam wall that caused the 1925 disaster, resulting in the loss of 16 lives, can be noted on the right of this track.

Craig Eigiau towers up behind the broken dam wall of Llyn Eigiau.
Craig Eigiau towers up behind the broken dam wall of Llyn Eigiau.

Continue onward until meeting the main dam wall, at which point turn left over a bridge and then right to follow the lower path along the left side of the wetland. After a short while follow the main path as it crosses the valley floor to the right and bridges the Afon Eigiau.

Crossing Afon Eigiau and the marshy area that would have been flooded when the dam was built.
Crossing Afon Eigiau and the marshy area that would have been flooded when the dam was built.

The track now climbs steadily upwards in to Cwm Eigiau, passing by a small lone dwelling. It is well worth pausing to look back at the view of the valley, as well as keeping an eye open for the Carneddau ponies that live here.

Looking back along Cwm Eigiau from the upper quarry track.
Looking back along Cwm Eigiau from the upper quarry track.

In due course you will come to the old quarry at the end of this track. At this point, we now need to swing right and proceed northerly up the rough grass slope, heading for the waterfalls that feed the Afon Eigiau and located on the north-eastern edge of the craig.

The old quarry workings at the head of Cwm Eigiau with Craig yr Ysfa beyond.
The old quarry workings at the head of Cwm Eigiau with Craig yr Ysfa beyond.

Skirt the left-hand side of this small cascade and head uphill amongst grass & boulders to reach a small plateau. We paused here for a few snacks before moving on again. From here the going is both rough and steep heading up to the higher plateau of Penywaun-wen, beneath the summit of Carnedd Llewelyn. After a careful clamber up to this point, we found it to be a good place to pause for some lunch. The views around are stunning, Carnedd Llewelyn immediately to the NW, Cwm Eigiau down to the east, Tryfan & Glyderau to the SW – you may even spot Snowdon beyond.

The shimmering blue waters of Ffynnon Llugwy.
The shimmering blue waters of Ffynnon Llugwy.

Now continue south-easterly along the ridge to Bwlch Eryl Farchog and then up to Pen yr Helgi Du. This section does include a short stretch, that some consider to be a scramble; if wearing a backpack, as we were, you’ll definitely want to be ‘hands on’. Furthermore in windy / icy / snowy conditions even more care should be taken – its not desperately narrow but the drops are big. Once at the Pen yr Helgi Du end, you can enjoy the view back of what you’ve just crossed.

Looking back across Bwlch Eryl Farchog on approach to Pen yr Helgi Du.
Looking back across Bwlch Eryl Farchog on approach to Pen yr Helgi Du.

Having negotiated the rocks to Pen yr Helgi Du summit, there is a more relaxing & grassy descent to a ladder style at the top of Bwlch y Tri Marchog, before climbing the grassy bank of Pen Llithrig y Wrach (Peak of the slippery Witch), what a name! More interesting views open up from here, especially looking north over Llyn Eigiau, past where you parked, to the N. Wales coast and its offshore windfarm.

Looking north from Pen Llithrig y Wrach over Llyn Eigiau to the North Wales coastline.
Looking north from Pen Llithrig y Wrach over Llyn Eigiau to the North Wales coastline.

It’s now time to descend. We headed NE at first, before heading towards the disused quarry workings. There are no paths here, it is rather damp walking across boggy heather. At the old quarry (care needed), pick up the path that will quickly lead you back to the original outgoing path. Now simply retrace your earlier steps, back to the car parking. See below for a few further photos and for the route map.

You may also enjoy my earlier blog post “Carneddau Ponies” with pictures of the ponies that live on this highland region of Wales.

Altitude:

CwmEigiau-walkprofile
CwmEigiau-walkprofile

Map:

Gallery:

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:

Craig Cwm Silyn

Craig Cwm Silyn, a morning walk at the western end of the Nantlle ridge.

This walk starts at a small parking area that the landowner kindly allows visitors to use. Having walked most of the Nantlle ridge earlier this year (see this post), we wished to visit Craig Cwm Silyn at the western most point (the one peak that we didn’t visit before). Here’s the morning view from the permissive parking area:

The view from the permissive car parking for Craig Cwm Silyn.
The view from the permissive car parking for Craig Cwm Silyn.

We followed this track ahead into the sunrise. It passes through a gate, over a ladder style, and then starts to drop downhill towards the lakes at Cwm Silyn. Just before reaching the lakes, turn right, to climb over another ladder style (see photo below).

Early morning sunlight illuminates Tamsin on the ladder-style above the lakes of Cwm Silyn
Early morning sunlight illuminates Tamsin on the ladder-style above the lakes of Cwm Silyn

Now follow the grassy track ahead before turning uphill to your right (away from the lakes) to meet the path that ascends along the edge of the crags. It is from a point early along this section that I took the feature image (top) of the sunrise.

The path steadily climbs and as one nears the top it curves to the left, continuing along the top of the cliffs. The view back towards the coast can be excellent providing that the coastal cloud has lifted sufficiently.

A autumn morning view looking towards the coastline and Anglesey from Craig Cwm Silyn.
An autumn morning view looking towards the coastline and Anglesey from Craig Cwm Silyn.

Continue walking ahead, still gently rising to cross another ladder style before finally climbing to the highest point, a little over 2,400ft above the coast. The summit is fairly rocky and enjoys views towards Moel Hebog, as well as along the further peaks of the Nantlle ridge. On our walk, the morning clouds descended briefly before lifting again to show us this fine view across Mynydd Tal y mignedd (with its obelisk) & the Nantlle ridge in general:

Early sunlight illuminates the Nantlle ridge on an autumn morning.
Early sunlight illuminates the Nantlle ridge on an autumn morning.

There are various ways to extend this walk but as you will see from our way map below, we followed a similar route back down to the car. An enjoyable & rewarding walk to start the autumn with. The scenery and weather inspired me to produce an artwork in Digital Oils of the view towards a cloudy Moel Hebog. You can see the image on my pro site, Natures Universe.

Route Map:

Photo Gallery:

Crafnant and Geirionydd – twin lake walk

This walk is a very pleasant 5 mile walk with about 1200 feet of climb. Parts of it are along well made stone track, some is rougher going with many roots under foot. We walked it early one summer’s morning during a heatwave.

Early morning light casts reflections in beautiful Llyn Crafnant
Early morning light casts reflections in beautiful Llyn Crafnant

To locate the car parking, travel north to Trefriw from, Betws-y-Coed. As the village road crosses the river with the woollen mill on your left, turn left & steep uphill at the side of the mill. Carefully follow this very narrow lane and its signs for Llyn Crafnant. Just before you reach the lake, there is a forest car park on the right (free at the time of writing). Having parked up, walk a little further up the lane, turning right at the beginning of the lake and following the path on its north-western side. There are beautiful views & many reflections to be seen as you walk along this lakeside path.

Picturesque and Idyllic
Picturesque and Idyllic
Crafnant Pathway
Crafnant Pathway

Be careful to keep to the main lake side path, not straying uphill & away from the lake on any branched tracks. Towards the head of the lake, the well sign-posted path will take you through several gateways & around on to the other bank; follow the small lane for a little way until an obvious footpath strikes off to your right, uphill & into woodland. Take this path (as per the route map below) and follow it over the wooded hillside.

Trail of light and dark
Trail of light and dark

As one descends in to the adjacent valley floor, you will emerge from the woodland at the head of Llyn Geirionydd. Cross a style to stay on the near side of the lake (rather than crossing to the lane on the eastern bank). Whilst this path is a little rough in places, it is easy navigation, just follow the lakeside.

Llyn Geirionydd
Llyn Geirionydd

This is a peaceful place when water-sports are not taking place on the lake and there is plenty of wildlife to look out for. We were serenaded by the morning calls of a Sandpiper and were lucky enough to capture a bit of video footage:

Sandpiper Calling from AnnMarie Jones on Vimeo.

A Sandpiper calling out from a branch overhanging Llyn Geirionydd.

At the north end of the lake, keep straight ahead to view the Taliesin monument. This commemorating the reputed birthplace of Taliesin, chief bard of the 6th century. Whilst here Tamsin heard a crunching sound, which turned out to be a Golden-ringed Dragonfly having some breakfast (see Gallery at end for a photo).

Taliesin Info Plate
Taliesin Info Plate

Do look back from the monument at the view back along the length of the lake.

Monument on the shores of Llyn Geirionydd commemorating the birthplace of Taliesin, chief bard of the 6th century.
Monument on the shores of Llyn Geirionydd commemorating the birthplace of Taliesin, chief bard of the 6th century.

Once done here, continue roughly northwards along the clearly defined & waymarked path until it crosses a stonewall via ladder-style. At this point be sure to take the path ahead & uphill. We will now pass back over the hillside in our return towards the car park. On the way back down, keep an eye out for the old quarry workings.

Looking for Quarries
Looking for Quarries

The cool air emanating from a little mining tunnel was very enticing on such a warm morning and of course Tamsin couldn’t resist exploring.

Indiana Tamsin
Indiana Tamsin

Meanwhile I walked over the top of the spoil, only for us both to discover the same quarried cave. The dripping water, cool shade, coloured rocks and imagination inspiring mouth; made this an interesting bonus to the end of our walk.

Quarry Opening
Quarry Opening

From here it is but a 5 minute walk down a forest track and back to the car. An enjoyable 3 hour walk on a glorious morning.

GPS Route:

Photo Gallery:

Nantlle Ridge circular walk

This walk, along a spectacular section of the Nantlle Ridge, provides great views across Snowdonia, as well as out to sea. It is one of the classic Snowdonian ridge walks. Our version is ~ 7 miles long with a 3000ft climb; both starting and finishing in the car park at Rhyd Ddu – next to the Welsh Highland Railway station. Having parked up (£5 for the day, at time of writing), leave the car park by crossing the A4085 and enter the field opposite via an an interesting metal gateway. The stoned path bridges the Afon Gwyrfai, keep right (ignoring our little excursion on the GPS track below) to reach a corner in the Nantlle road (B4418). Upon reaching the lane, immediately turn left on to a path to the base of Y Garn. Soon the path will split, take the path up Y Garn – we shall be returning along the lower path in a few hours. As you steadily climb Y Garn the views back to Rhyd Ddu with Snowdon beyond are well worth a short breather pause – there was plenty of early haze on our day.

Looking back through haze towards Snowdon and the morning sun.
Looking back through haze towards Snowdon and the morning sun.

Continue up Y Garn, the uphill walk is straightforward enough but could be quite a haul if you were not fit to hill walking and the spring lambs seemed quite curious of our ascent.

A Welsh Mountain Lamb watches the two humans climb Y Garn.
A Welsh Mountain Lamb watches the two humans climb Y Garn.

When almost at the summit the ground becomes quite rocky and the views open up all around. The summit itself is just to your right by the cairns. Once finished here, we should strike off again in a SSW direction, keeping the cliffs to your right. We are now heading for Mynydd Drws-y-coed.

A pause for photos after Y Garn and before Drws-y-coed.
A pause for photos after Y Garn and before Drws-y-coed.

We paused by the stonewall here, to admire the views with mountains peeping up above the morning clouds. The next section is the only part of this route to involve scrambling, just maintain good contact with the rock and take particular care of any exposed places above the cliffs to your right. I should also say that this would be significantly more challenging & risky in wintery conditions where considerable equipment & experience would be vital.

Looking up the topmost crags of Mynydd Drws-y-coed withTrum y Ddysgl beyond.
Looking up the topmost crags of Mynydd Drws-y-coed with Trum y Ddysgl beyond.

Having reached the summit of Drws-y-coed, we shall now keep the cliffs on our right as we descend and then climb again to the summit of Trum y Ddysgl. Take care not to miss the point at which the path splits, to take in the summit one needs to bear right & more steeply uphill again.

Looking back eastwards as we approach the summit of Trum y Ddysgl.
Looking back eastwards as we approach the summit of Trum y Ddysgl.

This is glorious walking and having reached the summit, we now swing to our left along the ridgetop. Towards the south-westerly end of this ridge we now have the option to turn westerly and cross to the obelisk marked peak of Mynydd Tal-y-mignedd.

Mynydd Tal-y-mignedd from Trum y Ddysgl
Mynydd Tal-y-mignedd from Trum y Ddysgl

Given my propensity for “just one more peak” we did of course go to view the obelisk.

Tamsin and the stone pillar obelisk at the summit of Tal-y-mignedd.
Tamsin and the stone pillar obelisk at the summit of Tal-y-mignedd.

This was a good spot to pause and have a snack to lift our energy levels. Spicy pork steak sandwiches & salad were greatly appreciated but there were rather too many midges who thought that we looked like a tasty breakfast :O

Next up was the return walk, retracing our steps back to the Trum ridge.

On the Nantlle Ridge: the view back to Trum y Ddysgl from Tal y mignedd
On the Nantlle Ridge: the view back to Trum y Ddysgl from Tal y mignedd

Having regained the ridge we now head down the south-east spur, descending towards Bwlch-y-ddwy-elor and Beddgelert forest, which should be to our left. As we descend, Cwm Dwyfor and the head of the mines of Cwm Pennant are down to our right.

The view back to part of the Nantlle Ridge as you descend to Beddgelert forest.
The view back to part of the Nantlle Ridge as you descend to Beddgelert forest.

Upon reaching the Bwlch, a gateway will be seen entering the forestry, take this track and follow it down through the picturesque forestry. When you meet the vehicular forest tracks, take close note of our GPS tracklog. In brief, turn right and then almost immediately left, follow this track with a stream on your left until you meet a ‘T’ junction. At the ‘T’ turn left over the stream and then right again to short cut on to another forestry vehicle track. You will notice a bridle-path leaving this track on your left (North). Take this bridle-path, follow it through the forestry & then across the open farmland, back to where you originally turned uphill to climb Y Garn. From here you should simply retrace your steps back to the car park at Rhyd Ddu.

Once you’ve completed the walk, you may be lucky enough to see a steam train in the station.

Ex South African Railways NGG16 Class Garratt Loco manufactured by Beyer-Peacock 1958, now operating on the Welsh Highland Railway.
Ex South African Railways NGG16 Class Garratt Loco manufactured by Beyer-Peacock 1958, now operating on the Welsh Highland Railway.

The steam train is a majestic and probably less energetic way to take in some of the natural beauty of Snowdonia, but perhaps that’s one for another day 🙂

Tracklog:

Photo Gallery: