Up onto the Carneddau – Drum, Foel Fras and Carnedd Gwenllian

The third day of my break in North Wales and I was keen to get up into the mountains. The weather forecast predicted cloud high up early on but that it would clear so I had a leisurely breakfast, packed my rucksack and set out late morning. There aren’t many access points to the Carneddau plateau from the north, so I’d decided to repeat a walk I’d done during my holiday the previous July, heading up towards one of the Welsh 3000 footers, Foel Fras via Drum. It’s a fair way up to there (almost 6 “map miles”) and I was going to be starting from only a few feet above sea level so it was going to be a significant ascent too. From the summit of Foel Fras there’s a number of options for the return and I’d decide which I’d take depending on how the day went and how I felt once I got up there.

The start of the walk retraced my steps from the previous day’s amble, along Gwylt Road, but this time I turned off the path up onto the moors just after I’d joined the Terrace Walk.

I passed Garreg Fawr that I’d climbed the previous day. This time I was heading for higher pastures.

Views of the mountains ahead

and, looking back, the sea

carrying along the track, the pylons came into view indicating that I wasn’t far from the Roman road

I reached the fingerpost

this time following the path towards Drum (pronounced ‘Drim’, it means ‘Ridge’ in English) my first objective of the day.

I passed a small herd of ponies – they wouldn’t be the last ones I’d see during the walk

Climbing gradually uphill towards Drum, I was on a broad track, which seems a little out of place given the remote nature of the territory. It was apparently constructed in the 1950’s by the army for a secret project testing a radar system known as the “Blue Joker”. Paul Shorrock has some details and photographs about the project in one of the posts on his excellent blog, which has a good number of posts featuring walks on the Carneddau.

Carrying onwards and upwards, Lynn Anafon in the valley below Llwytmor came into view

and looking back views over the foothills to the sea and Anglesey had opened up

There’s the summit of Drum. It’s also known as Carnedd Penyborth-Goch, but I’ll stick with Drum for this post – it’s a lot easier to type and I’ve a lot more Welsh spellings to try to cope with! The pile of stones is a prehistoric round cairn that has been demolished and hollowed out to form a shelter. It’s welcome for shelter on a windy day (very common up here) but it’s a pity that a prehistoric structure has been seriously compromised.

Time to stop for a while for a bite to eat and to take in the views. There’s Foel Fras, my next objective

Looking north towards the sea

east to the Conwy valley

There’s Tal-y-fan and Foel Lwyd

A couple passed on the track, making their way down the mountain – the first I’d seen since I set out

Setting off to Foel Fras, the military track was no more but there was a clear path which descended about 150 feet before climbing steeply up to the summit. The ground here was potentially wet and boggy and stepping stones had been laid over the worst sections to help keep boots dry and minimise erosion. The ground was relatively dry during my walk, though, following a drier spell of weather.

Looking down towards Lynn Anafon and Llwytmor Bach with Anglesey just about visible in the distance.

I found it a little hard going climbing the path up “the broad bald hill” (the English translation of Foel Fras) and had to take frequent short stops to regain my breath – a sign of getting older combined with, probably, a lack of “fell fitness” – but I eventually made it to the top.

Up to now I’d been walking on grassy slopes, but the summit is a landscape of shattered rock. Walking over to the trip point care is definitely needed to avoid breaking an ankle!

the summit of Foel Fras

At 942 metres (3090 feet), Foel Fras is the northernmost of the Welsh 3000 foot peaks and from it’s summit I had views over the high Carneddau plateau to several of the others including Carnedd Llywelyn, Carnedd Dafydd, Yr Elyn, Foel Grach and Carnedd Gwenllian. It had been a fair climb given that I’d started from only about 50 feet above sea level

I’d really have liked to complete a circular route, heading down over a few more peaks and then down to Abergwyngregyn but although there were several hours of light left, I knew that that would probably have been pushing things a bit beyond my capabilities and, in any case, I hadn’t enough supplies with me and the last thing I would have wanted would be to have a hypo up on this isolated plateau. So, I was going to return the way I’d come up. But I felt I could push myself a little more. The minor peak of Carnedd Gwenllian wasn’t so far away and from there I’d get a closer view of some of the other high mountains, so after a short rest I carried on along the path which descended a little, leaving the rocky summit and continuing over the grassy (and potentially boggy) ground.

Moving swiftly with no need for “blows” – it was easy walking – I made it to the summit of Carnedd Gwenllian in about 20 minutes

It was previously known as Carnedd Uchaf, but a campaign by the Princess Gwenllian Society led to a change of name in 2009 to honour the only daughter of Llywelyn ap Gruffudd, after who the nearby Carnedd Llywelyn is named. Although the summit is 3035 high it isn’t always included in the list of Welsh 3000 footers, as it only rises slightly above the plateau. But I’m going to count it!

The extra mile (or thereabout) was worth it for the views over to the nearby mountains across the plateau to the south

The view from Carnedd Gwenllian towards Foel Grach, Carnedd Llywelyn, Carnedd Dafydd and Yr Elyn,
zooming in on Carnedd Llywelyn, Carnedd Dafydd and Yr Elyn

After soaking up the views it was time to set off to retrace my steps back to LLanfairfechan. A circular route is usually preferable but a “there and back” allows you to get a different perspective and this one is a case in point as going down provides excellent views down to the sea.

Foel Fras with Llwytmor to the left

On the way back to Foel Fras I passed another herd of ponies with their foals

Approaching the summit of Foel Fras
Looking down towards the sea and Puffin Island
Looking down the mountains towards Anglesey
Looking over towards Drum

I started the descent from Foel Fras. It was easier than the climb up!

More ponies!

Reaching the Bwlch I had the option of varying my route by descending “off piste” down the grassy slopes towards Lynn Anafon. I could then make my way back to LLanfairfechan, but I’d be walking down a valley and would be missing the views down to the sea so I decided to keep following the high track.

On the way down from Drum

Another option I had to vary the route was to take the fork off the military track over to Drosgyl. I seriously considered this but decided against it as it would have added a little extra distance to the route and, after my diversion to Carnedd Gwenllian I was beginning to flag a little.

More ponies, probably belonging to the herd I’d seen on my way up
Approaching the Roman road

I carried on taking the now familiar path past Garreg Fawr stopping to chat with a father and daughter out for an evening walk with their dog. They were the 12th and 13th people I’d seen during my walk.

Looking back towards the mountains

I carried on along the grassy path down off the hills rejoining the minor road and then made my way back to my accommodation. It had been a long day but a good one! Time for a brew then a soak in the bath before making an easy meal and settling down for the evening.

I had another full day in Llanfairfechan to come and the weather forecast looked promising.

Sea or mountains?

Monday morning it was overcast when I got up. I’m not one for lying in (why waste the best of the day?) and I knew conditions were likely to change during the day so was hopeful of some sunshine. I was faced with a minor dilemma – should I head into the hills or go for a walk along the coast? Both have their attractions. I’d been up on the hills the day before so the coast would make a change, but then… I ended up doing both!

I always feel the coast is at its best when the sun is shining and it was still cloudy when I set out, so I thought I’d head to the hills and see what transpired. A short distance down what used to be the main road (that isn’t that busy since the through traffic is on the A55 which bypasses the town) I turned off down a quiet track with the hills in sight.

an old water fountain on Gwylt Road

It took me up to Gwylt Road, a minor road that runs parallel to the coast, turning into the Terrace Walk, with views over the town to the coast,

Looking towards the sea from the Terrace walk with Anglesey and Puffin Island visible

and then the Valley Road which eventually turned into a track up into the wilds. So a little more walking on tarmac than I like but it was a different way of accessing the fells to that I’d taken during my last break in Llanfairfechan. The Valley Road runs along the hillside above the Afon Llanfairfechan which runs through the Nant y Coed Local Nature Reserve, an attractive wooded valley.

Looking across the valley towards Penmaenmawr

Nant y Coed was once a tourist attraction created by late 19th century to local businessman John Rowland Jones, who charged visitors for entry. The estate was sold to the Local Authority in 1923 and can now be accessed and enjoyed for free. With proper planning I could have worked out a route that would have taken me through the woods, which would have been more pleasant than plodding along the tarmac. However, after passing the nature reserve the road turned into a track leading up onto the moors.

I was soon making my way through rough fields and heath

Looking back downhill towards the sea

I carried on along the track but at one point I missed a turning and ended up following what I thought was a path but turned out to be a sheep trod. A little scrambling through scrub, under low branches and over a tree that had fallen over a fence, I managed to regain the path and carried on heading upwards

Foel Lwyd ahead
Drosgyl ahead and behind it, in the distance, Y Drum

I carried on along the path until I eventually reached the old Roman road that runs along the pass through the hills towards Abergwyngeryn. Although known as the Roman Road and marked as such on the OS map, this is an ancient route that was used by prehistoric people and then later by travellers and drovers.

A long line of tall pylons carrying power lines also follows the valley. It’s hard to completely ignore them but it’s easy enough to cast your eyes to the high hills and mountains behind them or towards the sea.

It was decision time now. There were a number of options of routes up into the mountains but given that there was some low cloud and mist lingering higher up, and the sun was shining over the coast, I decided to head west along the track and then double back over Garreg Fawr towards Llanfairfechan.

I made my way to the hill that overlooks the town.

Someone had planted a Welsh flag on the top of its rocky summit

I stopped for a while – it was dinner time now so time to eat and take in the views over the sea to Anglesey and Puffin Island

to Penmaenmawr

and back over to the Carneddau

It was a steep descent back to the town

I made my way through the narrow streets

down to the promenade of the Edwardian resort

Looking east – the Great Orme in the distance

It was sunny, but somewhat windy as I set off heading west along the coast path, passing a group of houses which include three built in the the Arts and Crafts style which were designed by local architect H L North

I carried on towards the salt marshes of Traeth Lafan nature reserve

Since I was here last year a number of wooden benches have been installed which feature different types of birds that breed on the marshes

one even has a panorama of the hills

Looking over the salt march with views over to the Carneddau

Reaching another Arts and Crafts style house

I left the coastal path, crossed over the railway via the railway crossing and made my way back to my accommodation. This involved walking beside the busy A55 for a short distance. It’s surprising but you don’t really notice the traffic noise when you’re on the coastal path even though the road is not that far away.

Arriving back at the flat it was time for a brew and after showering I settled down with my book for what was left of the afternoon.

Rowen, Llangelynnin, Caer Bach and Tal-y-fan

Last week I managed to get away for a few days to North Wales. I stopped in the same accommodation in Llanfairfechan as last June – a good sized and well equipped self contained flat ideally located as a base for walks straight from the front door up into the northern Carneddau mountains as well as along the coast. I was lucky with the weather – generally fine although not too hot.

I set out early Sunday morning heading for Rowen in the Conwy Valley for a walk up on the hills. Luckily I’d checked out Google maps the night before as I discovered that the M56 near Runcorn was closed all weekend so that a bridge could be demolished. There was a diversion but you know what they’re like! So I used the knowledge gained over many years of travelling to Chester and North Wales to plot an alternative approach to avoid the M56 altogether and join the A55 east of Chester. I reckon it took me about 10 minutes longer to reach my destination than if I’d taken the usual route using the M56, but far preferable to sitting in a queue of frustrated motorists following the designated diversion.

I arrived in Rowen mid morning. It’s an attractive small village sitting at the foot of the eastern Carneddau hills and mountains. It was originally a working village with the occupants working in local farms and quarries or in home based textile production, spinning or weaving wool. Quarry workers would walk for miles to reach their workplaces and their are stories of some walking across the moors to Penmaenmawr on the northern coast and back every day. The Huw Tom walking route is based on following the footsteps of one such worker who became an active trade unionist and politician. I found out about it when I bumped into a couple of walkers following the route over from Penmaenmawr during my own walk.

There’s plenty of attractive stone cottages that used to house the workers that have been done up. No doubt quite a few are holiday lets. There’s a pub and a chapel (this is North Wales, after all) but no other facilities, although I think there’s a shop / cafe that’s open at weekends (although I didn’t come across it).

I’d found a route I fancied on using the OS map website and printed out a map the day before, but arriving at Rowen I discovered that, together with my OS map, I’d left it at home. No problem, I’d had the foresight to download the relevant map using the OS app on my phone. Alas, when I switched to the app I found that it hadn’t finished downloading and, not really a big surprise in an out of the way location, there was no phone signal. I thought I could more or less remember the route, so set off anyway. It was a fine day and I was hopeful I wouldn’t get completely lost. Fortunately, after a mile or so, the signal had picked up and the map finished downloading. I had strayed off the planned route, but was still heading in the right direction.

My route took me through pleasant woodland, through fields and across moorland

with views over the Conwy Valley

Having strayed off the original route a little I ended up cutting through some woods where there there was a massive display of bluebells. Although at the end of their season they were more or less in their prime here. My photos below really doesn’t do justice to the sea of blue that I saw.

Leaving the woods, a walk across a stretch of rougher moor brought me to my first destination – a medieval chapel in the middle of nowhere.

Llangelynnin old church is a fascinating, well preserved medieval place of worship built in the 12th Century with some later additions, including the 15th Century porch. It’s still in use today and there was a service in the afternoon on the day I visited (although I’d long gone before it started!)

The church stands on the mountainside, with great views over the Conwy Valley and the foothills of the eastern Carneddau a few miles from the nearest settlement (not counting the two houses a short distance away), and I couldn’t help but wonder why anyone would want to build a church here. However, it stands on a number of old routes used by farmers, drovers and other travellers, including pilgrims on their way to Ynys Enlli (Bardsey Island) and so was probably built to serve their needs. Drovers must have been an important target group as the small side chapel was built for their use – as well as an Inn and a cock fighting pit outside the churchyard boundary!

inside the small church looking along the nave.
Notice the writing (and skull and crossbones) on the wall
The octagonal font – probably from the 13th or 14th Century

In the corner of the churchyard there’s a “holy well”, which is alleged to have the power to cure sick children

I spent some time looking round the church and churchyard, but then it was time to carry on up the track that led up the hillside

Looking back down towards Conwy and the Irish Sea

I wondered whether I’d see any of the semi-wild Carneddau ponies. Yes, there’s a herd of them with some very young foals as I approached my next objective, the ruins of the Caer Bach (Small fort) Iron Age fortress.

Some of them seemed to be guarding the ruins from English interlopers

but they must have realised that I’m part Welsh as they didn’t attempt to impede my progress.

It’s difficult to show the extent of the remains of the prehistoric strongpoint in a photo but the top of the small hillock was encircled by the ruins

Some of the remains of the fortifications of Caer Bach

After resting for a while and a bite to eat I carried on. I could have stayed low and circled back to Rowen, but it was such a fine day, and I wasn’t in a hurry, so I decided to tackle Tal-y-fan, the most northern mountain in Wales. I’d been up before, last autumn, and knew it was a fine viewpoint. This time I tackled it straight on climbing up the steep slope towards the top – with regular stops to regain my breath! It was hard work.

Looking back down from part way up the mountain

Nearing the top, views opened out over to the high mountains to the south

and northwards towards the Conwy valley and the sea

I joined the path towards the summit

Made it!

Looking towards the mountains including Drum and Foel Fras – I had plans for them
Looking north towards Penmaenmawr and beyond towards Anglesey and Puffin Island

It was a steep descent down from the summit to the bwlch (pass) between Tal-y-fan and Foel Lwyd and then crossed over the stile taking the path down the hillside to the old Roman road which was build over an even earlier route through the mountains. After a short stretch on the tarmac I turned off down the track that would gradually descend back down to Rowen.

You should have realised by now that there’s a lot of history up here and without even trying I passed a Neolithic standing stone

and the remains of a cromlech (Neolithic burial chamber)

Maen y Bardd – “the rock of the bard”

Carrying on, as the track turned into a narrow metalled road, I passed the Rhiw Youth Hostel

and descended very steeply back towards the village (knees starting to hurt a little now).

back in Rowen

Passing the village chapel I spoke to the resident of the house next door who acted as caretaker and he told me I could look inside

It was well looked after and was still in use. There was also an interesting little exhibition about the history of the village, the chapel and Methodism in general. Definitely worth a look.

Leaving the chapel I stopped for a little while and chatted to the elderly gentleman about life in Rowen, rugby (he followed Rugby League too) and life in general before heading back to my car. It had been an excellent walk packed with scenery, history and prehistory.

It wasn’t so far to where I was staying – a few miles up the valley to Conwy and then along the A55 coastal road. I stopped at the local Co-op to pick up some supplies and then it was a short drive to my accommodation. I settled in, showered (it had been a hot afternoon) and fried up a steak and some potatoes, then settled in for the evening. I had hopes for a decent few days and had several walks in mind. To be continued!

Tal y Fan

Last Sunday I was up early and set off for a quiet journey through the M6 roadworks and along the M56 and A55 to Conwy. Then up the narrow Sychnant Pass where I parked up at the foot of Allt Wen. I wasn’t going up that modest, but steep and rugged hill, though – I’d planned a route to take me up Tal y Fan, which, at a tad over 2,000 feet, is the most northerly mountain in Eyri – the Snowdonia National Park – and, indeed, Wales, seperated from the main Carneddau plateau by the Bwlch-y-Ddeufaen.

After booting up, I crossed the road and went through the gate, joining the Cambrian Way, the long distance path that traverses the ridge of Tal y Fan.

The path weedled around and up and down for a while, passing the remains of prehistoric culture from a time when what today is a quiet corner was occupied first by Neolithic farmers, who cleared the forests from the slopes and valleys, and then by Bronze Age people who errected stone circles and megaliths.

Looking back with views over the sea to Puffin Island and Anglesey
There’s Tal y Fan in the distance
Through the gate the path descended, losing height, before climbing back up the fell side
A lonely cottage on the fell side
The remains of a stone circle with Tal y Fan in the distance
A complex of sheep folds. This is where sheep gathered from the fells are sorted to be reclaimed by their owners

Just after the sheepfolds I passed a couple of walkers taking a break on a convenient rock. I stopped for a few moments while we swapped greetings before I carried on. We were to met again later in the day.

A herd of Carneddau ponies in the distance
A prehistoric standing stone. Shortly after the path took a left turn and started the climb up to the summit of Tal y Fan
Looking back as I climbed
The remains of a quarry were bypassed before resuming the climb

It was a fine Autumn day but as I’d climbed the wind had picked up. Reaching the top of the ridge there was a little scrambling up and down. There’s false summit, and I had to descend a few metres then scramble back up before reaching the highest point of the mountain.

The trig point was on the opposite side of a drystone wall that runs along the ridge. I climbed over the stile to take in the views over the Conwy valley

and across to the high mountains of the Cardennau including Foel Fras and Drum that I’d climbed during my break at the end of June

It was particularly windy on this side of the wall – the wind was blowing from the south – so I climbed back over and perched on a rock for a brew and a bite to eat. A couple of walkers arrived and we chatted for a while and another pair arrived, coming up from the opposite direction I’d taken, as I started my descent, following the wall in the direction from which they’d arrived. Again, as on my way up, there was a bit of scrambling up and down before the final steep descent down off the summit into the bwlch.

Looking back up towards the summit ridge.

As I reached the bwlch I saw the couple I’d met near the sheepfolds coming up having first climbed a stile over the drystone wall that had run up, along and down the ridge. I asked them about their route and they told me they’d circumnavigated the south side of the mountain and were going to go over the top and then return via the route I’d taken up. I had planned to return to the Sychnant Pass over the plateau to the north of the mountain but thought the alternative sounded more interesting – and that’s the way it worked out!

I climbed over the stile and took the path through the fields heading downhill towards the old Roman Road. There were good views down into the valley and across to the mountains as I descended

Reaching the Roman Road I walked along a short stretch of tarmac and onto a rough track before taking a path back across the fields near the farm at Cae Coch

I followed the path which ran parallel to the Tal y Fan ridge

The view down to Rowen and the Conwy Valley

I was head towards Caer Bach (‘Small Fort’), the site of a Prehistoric hill fort where I’d turn north. As I approached I spotted a herd of ponies

I made a short diversion, climbing to the top of the mound where there were visible remains of the fortifications

I carried on along the path passing to the east of Tal y Fan, taking in the views of the Carneddau to the west

Leaving the ponies behind as I climbed a modest slope the sea cam back into view

I passed some former mine workings as I approached the standing stone I’d passed earlier in the day

Rather than take the same path I’d followed during the morning I climbed up Cefn Maen Amor, a modest hill, and joined a narrow path along the ridge. A little further along I passed through another herd of ponies

They didn’t pay much attention to me and just carried on munching

I reached the summit of the modest hill which was crowned by a rock formation

and where there were good views back down to the coast and the Great Orme

and the Conwy Valley

I joined the route of the north wales Coast path which would take me back to the Sychnant Pass

Conwy Mountain
Back at the pass

It had been a good walk of about 12 miles on what had been a fine Autumn day when I’d seen more ponies than people! Time to drive back down the pass to Penmaenmawr and then on to home.

Bodnant Garden

Returning home from my break in North wales I decided to stop off at Bodnant Garden, a National Trust site in the Conwy Valley. It’s known for it’s extensive gardens spanning 80 acres of hillside and includes formal Italianate terraces, informal shrub borders, ornamental ponds, lakes and riverside walks, with plants from all over the world.

The site was gifted to the National Trust in 1949 by  Henry McLaren, Lord Aberconway. However, the family still own the estate and Michael McLaren inherited the estate in 2003 on his father’s death and plays an active role as garden director. The house is “out of bounds” as it’s occupied by the family and the large shop/Garden Centre is owned and run by the estate and not the Trust. Personally, I’m never comfortable with these arrangements, but that didn’t spoil my enjoyment of the gardens.

View from the terrace over to the Carneddau

Most National Trust properties have a reasonably priced guide which will explain the history of the site. This wasn’t the case at Bodnant where the guide was a hardback costing, if I remember rightly, £30. Being rather stingy I decided against purchasing a copy, so was going to do some research online after my visit. However, Eunice posted an excellent detailed account on her blog just a short while after my return so she’s saved me some work!

I spent a couple of hours wandering round the gardens and more or less following the riverside paths in “The Dell” down to, and round, the Skating Pond, before making my way back through the Glades and Yew Garden to the house.

Pwll Trochi – (The Bath)
The Pin Mill – brought from Woodchester in Gloucestershire to Bodnant in 1939
Looking down to Hen Felin (the Old Mill)
Hen Felin (the Old Mill)
The canyon
The skating pond
The small boathouse on the Skating Pond
Y ‘Poem’ – the family Mausoleum
Y ‘Poem’
Pont y Rhaeadr (Waterfall Bridge)
Stepping stones
“Pwll Trochi”

Returning to the house I visited the Craft centre and bought a rather attractive small porcelain hanging sculpture decorated with impressions of local flowers by Charlotte Bellis an artist who studied in Cumbria but who had grown up in Snowdonia.

Checking the pedometer app on my phone I found that I’d walked just over 2 miles exploring and wandering around the grounds. There were long queues in the two cafes on the site so I decided to give them a miss before returning to the car. The drive home along the M56 and M6 was not fun, but then it rarely is! I was surprised how busy the motorways were as it was only early afternoon and the roadworks “upgrading” the M6 to a so called “Smart Motorway”. didn’t help. Still, it would have been worse later in the afternoon.

I’d had an enjoyable solo stay in North Wales and was pleased that I’d managed to get up on to the Cardennau. I’d also been surprised on just how nice the coast was here and how my enjoyment hadn’t been affected by the proximity of the Expressway, which I hardly noticed at all. Arriving home I decided I needed to return to this stretch of coast, the mountains and the Conwy valley before too long.

Arts and Crafts Houses in Llanfairfechan

Something I hadn’t expected to find in Llanfairfechan were some rather attractive Arts and Crafts style houses. I’d spotted three distinctive white rendered houses on the sea front during my walk along the coast on the Tuesday, all with some interesting architectural features. It turned out that they were all designed by Herbert Luck North, an architect who had lived in the village in the early 20th Century.

I though that this house was particularly attractive.

Whitefriars built in 1933. Designed by Herbert Luck North for a retired seaman
Another view of Whitefriars

and next door were a pair of semi detached houses, also designed by North, built almost 30 years earlier.

A pair of semi-detached houses from around 1906. Designed by Herbert Luck North.

Herbert Luck North was born in Leicester on 9 November 1871. He studied at at Jesus College, Cambridge, after which he worked as an assistant to William Alfred Pite and Edwin Landseer Lutyens. After qualifying as an architect he worked in London before moving to Llanfairfechan in 1901, where his parents lived, establishing an architectural practice there.

Higher up the hill, in the old village, there’s a street of 25 houses, the Close, 24 of which were designed by North. The first of these, built in 1898, was, apparently, the first house he’d designed. The others were built quite a few years later, between 1922 and1940.

House in The Close
Houses in the Close

The Arts and Crafts movement emerged in Britain in the 1880’s and was heavily influenced by the ideas of John Ruskin, William Morris and others who felt that the mass manufacture of goods during the second half of the 19th century had led to a design in standards and poor quality products and that mass production had led to workers being alienated from the products of their labour. The movement’s vision was for a return to craftsmanship. The use of machinery wasn’t dismissed entirely, but should be used to produce well designed, good quality products. The movement’s ethos is probably well summarised by a quote from William Morris

Have nothing in your house that you do not know to be useful, or believe to be beautiful.

The movement’s principles were applied to architecture as well as furniture, fabrics, tiles, ceramics, and metalwork. Many of the buildings designed by the well known practitioners of the style, such as Charles Voysey, Hugh Baillie Scott and Charles Rennie Mackintosh, built homes for wealthier clients but the homes designed by Herbert Luck North were for more modest, albeit Middle Class, clients.

There isn’t one uniform “style” of Arts and Crafts architecture. However, the general approach involved the application of traditional building techniques, good quality craftsmanship, the use of local materials, asymmetry and avoiding excessive ornamentation. Many early Arts and Crafts style buildings were inspired by Medieval and Tudor design but as the movement evolved plainer, more simple styles become more dominant, with “form following function” at least to some extent. These buildings influencing the simpler Modernist architecture of the 20th Century. This was certainly true of Herbert Luck North’s houses that I saw in Llanfairfechan. They were relatively plain at first glance but had distinctive features including white rendered walls, steep gables, slate rooves (probably with slate from the many local quarries), arched doors and  “eyebrow” windows.

Further along the coast towards Bangor,  I’d spotted a rather nice house by the entrance to Traeth Lafan Nature Reserve, close to the level crossing over the railway line. It was similar in style to the houses I’d seen in Llanfairfechan. I wondered whether it was another building designed by North, but my research has drawn a blank.

There are certainly some other buildings by North in Llanfairfechan featured on the History Points website. Unfortunately, I didn’t have time to seek them all out during my short break. Another time, perhaps.

Aber Falls and a coastal walk

Aber Falls is one of the most popular tourist attractions in northern Snowdonia. The dramatic waterfall is very accessible by an easy path making it suitable for a wide range of visitors. The falls, near to Abergwyngaren, are only a few miles from where I was staying and I had them on my list as a destination for a walk. I’d devised a lengthy route where I could walk over to the falls via the Roman road and then return via the coastal path. However, after a long hard walk up into the mountains the day before I decided to cut out a few miles by taking the bus to Abergwyngaren – the bus stop was almost opposite where I was staying.

I walked through the village and then after the falls car park I walked through the woods before joining the path along the valley that led to the falls.

It’s about 1 1/2 miles from the car park to the falls, passing several sites of Pre-historic settlements from teh Bronze and Iron ages.

Excavated Iron Age hut circle

Then, there are the falls just a short distance away.

There are actually two falls – Rhaeadr Fawr and Rhaeadr Bach, the easy route leading to the former.

Rhaeadr Fawr

I stopped for a short while to take in the view of the water cascading 37 metres down from the hanging valley of Cwm yr Afon Goch, before crossing over the wooden bridge spanning the river to take in the view from the other side.

Another visitor enjoying the sunshine

A large proportion of visitors will return by retracing their steps back to the car park but there’s another option. Following the path from the bridge there’s a route that passes Rhaeadr Bach and then goes up over the moors before descending back down to the village.

Turning a corner Rhaeadr Bach was revealed. I thought that these falls which tumbled down the mountainside in a series of cascades were more interesting than the more popular (and more accessible) Rhaeadr Fawr.

I carried on along the path which looped round to the north climbing up the hill side above the valley, passing a couple of DofE exhibition groups (yes, it was that time of the year!).

Looking back there was a great view of both falls and the slopes of the Carneddau.

Height was gained gradually opening up views over the valley

and, eventually, over the sea

Looking back across to the mountains, the weather was quite different tan over the sea

My route now took me down a steep path back to the village. The picture shows how much height was gained on the return leg

Reaching the village I stopped for an ice cream and then took the minor road under the Expressway towards the coast where I joined the coastal path to walk back towards Llanfairfechan

This stretch of the coastal path passes through the Traeth Lafan Nature Reserve which stretches along the intertidal sand and mud-flats along the Menai Straits between Bangor and Llanfairfechan

I reached  Morfa Madryn and then continued, retracing my route from a few days before.

The weather was much brighter this time

Looking inland

Approaching Llanfairfechan

I walked along the prom before climbing up the hill along Station Road, turning right at the crossroads for the last half mile or so back to my accommodation.

Drum and Foel Fras

My reason for choosing to stay in LLanfairfechan was that I wanted to get up on the northern Cardennau. There aren’t many access points to the plateau but the village is one of them. So on the Wednesday, despite the promise of cloud, mist and some rain up on the high fells, it looked like that would clear during the day, so I took my chance, booted up and set off.

The first part of my route was reprise of the previous day’s walk up Garreg Fawr, except that this time I by-passed the summit, carrying along the path towards Drum.. heading into the low cloud that had descended on to the hills.

As I walked along the path I encountered two walkers coming back off the hills – they must have had an early start. They told me it had been clear up top. I didn’t see anyone else for another couple of hours.

There’s a long stretch of power lines that cross the lower slopes of the northern Cardennau which emerged from the mist as I approached them.

Just after I’d passed them I crossed the Roman road from Chester (Deva) and Caernarfon (Segontium) which also traverses the lower slopes

Shortly afterwards I encountered my first herd of ponies of the day

I carried on along the clear track heading towards Drum

The cloud came and went, bringing intermittent drizzle and rain, with Drum appearing from time to time as the cloud passed over.

As I climbed I gained a view of Foel Fras, Llwytmor and Llyn Anafon

Eventually I reached the summit of Drum and stopped in the shelter for a rest and a bite to eat

And as I watched the cloud began to clear

revealing views right down to the lower hills nearer to the coast, the Menai Straits, Puffin Island and Anglesey,

Foel Fras


While I was snapping some photographs I saw my third walker of the day who came up the path I’d followed, but carried on towards Foel Fras. Not long after I resumed walking, dropping down from the summit of Drum before starting the steep climb up Foel Fras. The path was obvious but not as good underfoot. There were sections of boggy ground but stepping stones had been laid over the worst sections helping to keep my boots reasonably dry.

The weather continued to improve

The view over to the coat from the path up Foel Fras

On the way up, what did I see? yes, another small herd of ponies

It was a steep climb at first, but the slope eased gradually and it didn’t take too long to reach the boulder strewn summit of the northernmost of the Welsh 3000 foot peaks at 3097 feet.

Looking over to the southern Carneddau – Carnedd llewelyn was covered with cloud
Zooming in
Looking back down to the coast
Looking over Llwytmor towards the Menai Straits and Anglesey

I stayed for a while taking in the view without another soul in sight. I contemplated whether to carry on over the plateau, but decided that a circular route down towards Abergwyngregyn would have been a little too ambitious, so it was time to return, retracing my steps, down towards Drum.

The weather kept improving as I descended

There’s the great Orme in the distance
Looking back to Foel Fras, Llwytmor and Llyn Anafon – a clear view than this morning

Up until now I’d only seen 3 people up on the fells, but as I descended I saw a small group loaded up with large packs heading up. They told me they were making their way up to wild camp up on the plateau near Foel Grach.

On my way down I passed the herd of ponies I’d seen on my way up

Reaching the Roman Road I decided I’d take a different route back to my accommodation. I followed the track in the direction of Abergwyngregyn

and then, after a while, took a path across the moor heading north towards Rhiwiau

A path through the woods then took me to a farmhouse where I joined a metaled track

and then I weedled my way along some minor roads back to the flat.

That had been a grand walk through mist rain and sunshine. Just over 13 miles, reaching the northernmost of the Welsh 3000 foot peaks and back.

Garreg Fawr

On Tuesday afternoon of my North Wales break, I stayed indoors relaxing and reading while the it rained outdoors. At around 4 o’clock I had itchy feet and, looking out the window, convinced myself it was easing off so I booted up and set out for a walk.

There’s a relatively modest hill that overlooks Llanfairfechan, and which was visible from outside the property where I was staying, so I thought that was a good bet for a short walk.

A short way down the road I cut off down a track which took me to the narrow Gwyllt Road near a group of houses. I turned left, heading east. At a junction next to an attractive cottage I turned on to the Terrace walk and then a short distance further on there was a gate on the right leading to a path that would take me towards my destination.

The path climbed steeply and was concreted over, I guess to make it easier for quad bikes to get up on the fell.

After a short while it levelled off and I was climbing steadily on grass up on to the moor.

Looking back there were good views over the Menai Straiys towards Puffin Island and Anglesey

The rain had eased off but there was a strong wind blowing.

When planning this holiday I’d hoped that I might get the chance to see some Carneddau ponies. These small mountain ponies are allowed to roam on the fells throughout the year, even in window. They’re owned by 7 local families who round them up for health checks once a year, otherwise they’re “hefted” to the mountains. I’d seen a herd in the distance when I was up on Cony Mountain the previous day, but this time I was treated to a much closer view .

It was raining further on into the mountains

But I turned left and climbed up the more modest slopes of Garreg Fawr

It was very windy when I reached the ridge and made my way towards the rocky summit – 1168 feet high.

Reaching it, it was difficult to stay on my feet as I took a few snaps of the views

Looking south towards the main high Carneddau range
Looking over Llanfairfechan towards the Menai Straits, Puffin island and Anglesey

Penmanmawr – the hill. The town of the same name is on the other side.

I didn’t stay too long on the summit for fear of being blown into the sea(!), but stared to make my way down. I didn’t return by the same route but descended down into the top end of the small town.

A row of former workers’ cottages in Llanfairfechan

I walked down through the town turning left just after the Co-op for a short walk back to my holiday accommodation. Although a relatively modest hill at 1168 feet, but I had started from not much above sea level. I hadn’t got too wet and had enjoyed my short walk. It had set me up nicely for the next day.


I had a relaxing night in my Air BandB apartment. After eating I watched the penultimate episode of Sherwood before turning in early.

I woke on Tuesday morning to a mixed day. It had been raining during the night and with wind and rain forecast it didn’t look too promising for getting into the hills. I wasn’t inclined to stay indoors all day so decided to get out for a walk along the coast. The apartment was well situated for accessing the coastal path, albeit that required walking along a short section of path beside the Expressway. Then following a quiet lane and crossing the railway emerging on the salt marches on the edge of the Morfa Madryn Nature Reserve.

It’s part of the Traeth Lafan Nature reserve which stretches along the intertidal sand and mud-flats along the Menai Straits between Bangor and Llanfairfechan. It’s an important habitat for wintering waterbirds, especially Oystercatcher and Curlew.

I had a brief walk through the woods, popping inside the bird hide overlooking the sea, before heading east along the path towards Llanfairfechan through another section of the Reserve, Glan y Môr Elias.

Looking over the Glan y Môr Elias salt marsh with Puffin Island visible in the distance
Looking inland to the moody mountains

I carried on along the path, leaving the Nature Reserve, walking parallel to a sandy beach.

I was getting closer to Llanfairfechan now. I passed some attractive houses facing the coast (more about them in a later post!) and the boating lake, reaching the Prom.

The view along the beach towards the Great Orme

Looking back over the grey water of the Menai Straits towards Anglesey and Puffin Island

The beach here brought back a lot of memories as I came here a couple of times when I was camping with the Scouts a few miles away in a field near Crmlyn.

I didn’t take any photos of the prom. Like many Victorian seaside resorts it’s seen much better days However, most of the houses on the Prom looked like they’d been “done up”. There’s a large free car park on the Prom and a cafe, which looked as if it was popular with locals and visitors. So it’s not an unpleasant place to visit.

I walked up the hill along the main shopping street. Again I didn’t take any photos but here’s one from what looks like the 1960’s from the Llanfairfechan Community Hub website. This looks very much like I remember from my youthful visits. Today the occupants of the shops have, inevitably changed but, overall, they looked very much the same.

Reaching a crossroads, I crossed over what used to be the main North Wales coastal road and carried on to purchase a few supplies from the Co-op. I suspect that the the small town north of the crossroads was the original settlement. Other than the newish Co-op building, the shops in this part of the town were run-down, but the town itself looked reasonably prosperous.

I had a brief mooch around the town but rain was threatening so I made my way back to my accommodation, only a short walk away.