Tal y Fan, Caer Bach, Llangelynin

Hello people and pooches. Joe the Cocker here again after a day in the hills. It was a Friday morning in July and the Covid restrictions had been relaxed enough for us to explore the countryside a bit more than we had been able to of late. I knew that we were going out for the day because my lazy human was out of bed earlier than usual. He had prepared his rucksack the previous night so, I was suspicious and hopeful. When he got out of bed, I kept a very close eye on him just in case he dared to leave the house without me. He made corned beef sandwiches for himself, which I thought that I would be scrounging off him later in the day. He made his flask of coffee and a mug for in the car and eventually, started to bag my food and treats and fill my water bottle. Phew! That confirmed my suspicion that he was taking me with him. I don’t know why I doubted him because he always takes his hiking buddy with him when he heads for the hills. He had chosen the only day of the week with a good weather forecast for us to head out so, we set off, after much faffing about, for Snowdonia, our playground. It had been almost six months since we had last visited the mountains of Snowdonia but, we didn’t want to hike in an area that would be busy so, we chose to walk the less frequented Northern Carneddau.

Heading to St. Celynin’s Well

We chose to hike in the Tal y fan area. The mountain is the most northerly of the Carneddau and is literally only just a mountain. It was remeasured several years ago to confirm its status as a mountain. At 610 metres it is 60 centimetres above the cut off point to qualify for mountain status. We wanted to start our hike from a point within the hills so we chose the small parking area at Garnedd Wen, by the Llangelynin Old Church, on the minor road out of Hendre, Conwy. The road is very narrow, with few passing places, and really steep in places. The lane culminates a few hundred yards away from the remote church. The parking area is big enough for three vehicles and was empty when we arrived. After a few more minutes of checking and rechecking the contents of his rucksack and a quick look at the map, we were finally ready to hike.

Llangelynin Old Church
Llangelynin Old Church

It was only a few hundred yards to the grade 1 listed Old Church of Llangelynin, or St. Celynin. It is one of the oldest and most remote churches in Wales and dates from the 12th century. Within the grounds of the church is a 6th century rectangular well. The church was probably built on the site of an earlier church and was once at the centre of a widespread community. It was abandoned in 1840 but has since been reinstated and used for just three services a year. It must have been a popular place at one time, as there was an inn built attached to the graveyard wall! Under normal conditions, the door is left unlocked for visitors but due to Covid restrictions, we could not enter the building. The well is purported to have healing qualities as sick children were cured by being dipped in the water. The children were taken to a nearby dwelling overnight and their clothes washed in the well. If their clothes sank, it was said that the child did not recover but, all would be well if they floated.

St. Celynin’s Well
The well

We spent a while in the grounds of the church while my human ‘soaked up the atmosphere’, as he put it. We went into the well enclosure, in the corner of the yard, and I decided to lean over to have a quick slurp, as I do. I don’t know how it happened but, the next second, I was under water! I fell in. My dad said that I was a clumsy so and so. He was too busy taking photographs to concentrate on pulling his canine son out of the water. I was dragged out by the collar and after a few good shakes, all was well, if you pardon the pun!

Head first into the well!

After our eventful visit to St. Celynin’s, we headed back along the track, to join the North Wales Pilgrim’s Path, in a westerly direction along a rough track. We had our first views of the Irish Sea with Conwy and its castle in the foreground. It was a warm morning with a fresh sea breeze keeping us cool but, I took every opportunity to wade and drink from the many streams, as we gradually gained elevation. We passed many sheep grazing on the hillside but, we were both surprised to meet a wild Carneddau pony with its foal, on the footpath. We walked slowly around the mother and child while I took it all in my stride. No barking and no pulling on the lead so, my human was proud of me. He said that I had come a long way since I was a crazy pup who used to chase his own shadow.

Sheep pen
Heading toward the hills
First views of Conwy and the Great Orme
First slurp from a stream
Carneddau pony and foal
Mother and daughter

Shortly, we came to a junction with a wide track where we turned sharply left, to head toward Tal y Fan. This path was on a steady incline as we passed a standing stone and a couple of small ruined buildings. Things changed as we neared the abandoned slate quarry. The path became steeper as we passed the spoil tip on our left. We reached the flattened area on the top of the spoil tip and stood there for a few minutes as we admired the view. The caban, or workman’s hut, is still intact and with a squeeze it can be entered from a small doorway. Inside there are stone benches and a fireplace. A grim refuge for the miners but, probably a welcome shelter from the weather. We waded through the water in the entrance to the quarry or mine but, decided against going fully into the workings. There are foundations of other quarry buildings close by that the big feller insisted on investigating.

Conwy estuary
Standing stone
Ruined building
Another ruined building
Caban entrance
Caban interior

The view from the spoil tip was extensive over the Conwy estuary, The Great Orme and Llandudno Junction. The distant views over the Irish Sea were hazy due to the cloud but, still they were impressive. The footpath turned a corner after the slate mine to rise higher up the hill and then to roughly contour the hillside. The going became progressively boggier, which I loved as it was wet and cooling in the sunshine. Twinkletoes, on the other hand, was spending forever picking out the driest route that he could. If I could laugh, I would have done, when he misjudged where he was placing his size ten and sunk into the bog up to his ankle. Hilarious!

From the spoil tip
Mine building ruin
Mine entrance
Tal y Fan slate mine
Mine building with Conwy backdrop

We found a way to the summit of the mountain by following an indistinct path that took us steeply from the footpath to a higher path, just short of the highest point of the mountain. We both had to scramble for a short distance. We probably could have found an easier route but, it was fun, and people had been up that way before as we could see the boot prints. It only took us a few minutes and we were at the stile on the opposite side of the wall to the trig point. I couldn’t climb the ladder stile over the wall and as we would be continuing on our hike on the side that I was on, my dad nipped over the wall to take photographs. He was only gone for a few seconds and I waited patiently. It was time for a break so, my human found a suitable rock to park his butt on in the shelter from the wind while we ate our food.

Anglesey and Puffin Island
Conwy valley
Tal y Fan summit trig point
Stile on the summit ridge
Tal y Fan summit

From our lunch stop we could see Anglesey and Puffin Island as I ate my food and then some of his corned beef butties. I knew that I would be getting some of his. I just have to sit and give him the look and he gives in to me. Sucker! I had a relax in the cooling grass as he drank his coffee as he said, for the thousandth time, ‘this is the life, hey Joe’. Hey Joe? I could sense a song coming on. As I had feared, for the rest of the day, I had to put up with his rendition of ‘Hey Joe’ by Jimi Hendrix. Painful!

Resting on the summit ridge

We rested for longer than usual at the summit. It was a good spot with some shelter and great views so, why should we hurry. The clouds drifted down to us for a fleeting moment but, there was no rain forecast. We left our lunch spot by walking parallel to the ridge wall and down a scramble over boulders. Well, it was a scramble for him at times because he doesn’t have four paw drive like me. I waited for him as he struggled so I received a head ruffle and a ‘good lad’ when he caught up with me.

Coming down from the summit
Heading downhill

We soon came across a ladder stile over the wall that we had followed. I waited at the bottom of it knowing that I would have to be carried over it. My human lifted me up and said that I was a lump. I could see that he was struggling to carry me safely over this obstacle but, it had to be done. It was a relief when I was back on terra firma. We had survived. The path down into the valley was over firmer land than on the opposite side of the mountain. However, I could see another ladder stile looming ever closed as we headed for another large wall.

Waiting to be carried over the stile

This time my dad encouraged me to attempt to climb it on my own. No problem. After a moments hesitation I went for it. Success. I was over it safely in a few seconds. I waited for the big feller on the other side in narrow lane. When he had clambered over it, he gave me a lot of fuss. It looks like this will be the future for us when we reach ladder stiles.

I nailed this one!

We walked for a short distance along the lane, which was part of a Roman road, until we met a track veering to the left. This path led us past lots and lots of sheep. My dad was pleased with me as I stayed on a short lead without pulling toward the sheep. Why would I? They don’t want to play, they just run away. The path followed a wall for some distance as we looked down onto the Conwy Valley. After about a mile we came to Caer Bach hillfort above us on our left. We climbed the hill to walk around the site of the fort. My dad found a boulder in the centre of the remains, in the original position of the roundhouse, to sit on while he drank more coffee and we both ate some snacks.

Conwy valley
Caer Bach hillfort site

Little is known about the hillfort. It sits on a hillock overlooking the Conwy valley at around 410 metres above sea level. It is a small fort, hence its name Caer Bach. Many of the rocks from the construction are scattered around the site and the circular defensive wall and bank can be easily identified. We had the place to ourselves while my human pondered the structures history.

View from the hillfort
The boulder in the centre of the fort

We had less than a mile to walk back to the car so, after finishing our snack, we set off along the feint footpath over the grassy hillside. Hovering above us we spied a buzzard and followed it with our eyes as it plummeted to attempt to catch, unsuccessfully, a mouse or some other unsuspecting creature. We also came across more Carneddau ponies grazing on the lush grass in another boggy area. There are approximately 300 of these semi-feral ponies with a history going back as far as the bronze age.

Back at the car. Drive me home, dad!

We headed downhill, after rounding a hill on our right, as we caught sight of the Old Church again. After a few hundred yards of walking along the path that we had set off on earlier, we reached the car. We had only seen two other people on our trip and had perfect hillwalking weather with great views. We had both loved our first day in the North Welsh hills for what seemed an age. Till next time!


4 thoughts on “Tal y Fan, Caer Bach, Llangelynin

  1. Good idea to visit a less popular spot. You have inspired me to get out in the hills again! Also well done on the ladder stile, they are tricky, especially when wet.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. We have missed the hills but we haven’t missed overcrowded places like we have seen on the news lately. Thank you again for reading and commenting. See you on the hills. I don’t bite but my human might if provoked 🤣🤣🐾🐾👍


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