Penmaenmawr to Rowentop
- Location: Penmaenmawr
- Distance: 6 miles
- Description of this walk: A linear walk from Penmaenmawr, up into the hills along the Huw Tom Upland Walk before dropping down into Rowen.
- Map: O/S Explorer Map OL17
- Download a map of this walk to print off and follow in Derek's footsteps. (PDF 1.4MB) Having trouble with the map? Download the latest version of Adobe Reader.
This walk was done using a GPS device and we've included GPS marker points with the directions, should you wish to follow them.
Penmaenmawr lies between Conwy and Bangor on the North Wales coast and renowned for its spectacular mountain and coastal walks as well as the nearby Bwlch Sychnant (Sychnant Pass) and Mynydd y Dref, and the town also lies partly within the Snowdonia National Park.
Before the 1830s the town was small, with a population of around 200 people but within 20 years this had swelled to over 4000 thanks to the areas Victorian seaside resort status, railway and local quarrying industries.
Small scale quarrying still exists today and the old Victorian quarry clock still exists up on the hillside, now keeping time for the local residents rather than workers.
This walk begins a few hundred yards west of the town centre where you'll find some terraced houses on the main Bangor Road and it was here that we met up with the guide for this walk, Sian Williams from Conwy County Borough Council.
1. Start: New York Cottages
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The 'New York Cottages' are a row of terraced houses originally built in the 1840s to house local workers from the nearby Graiglywyd Quarry.
Many of the workers at the time were leaving Wales for New York in search of work, hence the name and house number 4 is now a small museum documenting the quarrying industry in the area.
If you stand on the bridge opposite and peer over the edge, you can still see the old quarry conveyor, used to transport quarried stone off the mountain and down to the jetty where ships would transport it to buyers around the world.
2. Quarrymen's houses and tunnel
Walk a short distance along the main Bangor Road and turn left into David's Lane.
Head up towards the rows of terraced houses lying in the shadows of the mountain. In 1895 these were considered quality accommodation for the quarry workers and have stood the test of time.
Head into the tunnel
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Pass David Street and enter a tunnel taking you underneath the old quarry conveyor.
Exit the tunnel, and turn right onto Gilfach Road and head up the hill towards Craiglwyd Terrace - a pretty lane, with small, quaint cottages and terraced houses.
Luscious green fields line the road side here and you'll walk past an old, white-washed farmhouse on your right.
Continue along the road for approximately 600 metres and turn right up a narrow lane for the fisheries (marked with a footpath sign straight after the turning for Graiglwyd Hall). This is the start of the steeper section of walk.
3. Graiglwyd Springs Fishery
N 53.26288, W -3.91510
Graiglywyd Springs is a former water board pumping station and now popular haunt of local fisherman who come here for the prized trout.
Walk up the road and at the entrance, turn right onto a public footpath skirting the southern edge of the fishery.
Follow the path around the fishery perimeter over a stile and turn left up into the fields beyond: N 53.26198, W -3.91315
4. Plas-Uchaf farmhouse
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Walk along a track and into a wide, open field towards Plas-Uchaf farmhouse on your left.
5. Kissing gate
In the far corner of this field is a kissing gate. Pass through this and turn right onto Mountain Lane which soon becomes fairly steep.
Whilst you're huffing and puffing your way up the hill, keep an eye out for butterflies among the wild flowers that line the verges here during summer.
6. Jubilee Pillars
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After 500 metres you'll pass under some shady oak trees and emerge at a cattle grid.
Keep going straight up the hill until you reach the Jubilee Pillars where you'll find a picnic table to sit down and enjoy the coastal views from.
The pillars mark the start of the Jubilee Path around Foel Lus which opened to commemorate the 1887 Golden Jubilee of Queen Victoria.
This particular circular walk takes around three-quarters-of-an-hour to complete (and could be added to this route if you're feeling fit).
If you look up to the top of Cerrig Gwynion in the distance (to the South West) you'll notice some large standing stones which form part of a Druid's stone circle, placed here in Neolithic times.
Neolithic stone masons visited this area over 5,000 years ago to quarry their own stone and fashion hand axes here.
Many unfinished examples have been found nearby, suggesting they quarried and roughly shaped them on site but finished and polished them, elsewhere.
Don't follow the Jubilee path, instead turn right and follow a steep gravel track, that hugs the edge of Foel Lus on your left.
7. Marker stone
Walk up the track towards a large white marker stone, giving directions for the Huw Tom Upland Walk, Druid stone circle and other routes.
At the next sign post, veer left and follow a grassy trail which splits into three.
Keep right, ignoring the signpost for Ty'n y Ffridd farm and stay on the middle track.
8. Stone wall and stile
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Follow the bend around, passing a rocky crag until you spot a large stone boundary wall with a wooden stile and signpost for Llwybr Cyhoeddus public footpath.
Walk down towards the wall (which incidentally connects up with another walking route, higher up the hill) and cross over the stile.
9. Wooden footbridge
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Turn left and make your way across a boggy area, passing large boulders on your way towards a stile and wooden footbridge taking you over the Afon Gyrach.
The Victorians believed the stream here was named after a hideous witch who lived at the source of the river.
To your left are fabulous views over the Great Orme and you might even catch a glimpse of the Gwynt y Mor windfarm situated off the coast near Llandudno.
The bracken covered fields here were once divided into long narrow strips during the Middle Ages and you can still see the old field boundaries when the bracken has died back.
The dry stone wall boundaries were built well over a 100 years ago. They are maintained/re-built not only to keep livestock enclosed but also offer shelter to the animals and wildlife in this vast expanse of wilderness.
10. Waen Gyrach abandoned settlement
N 53.25675, W -3.89002
Make your way up the hill passing the romantic, abandoned settlement of Waen (moor) Gyrach which the local sheep now call home.
You'll soon become accustomed to hills on this walk as they roll on, in your search for the elusive village of Rowen and its lovely downhill section through the valley.
At the top of this grassy hill are even more breathtaking views of the wonderfully carved out hills of Cerrig y Ddinas directly in front of you, which, if you half squint - resemble a sleeping dragon.
11. Stone sheep pens
N 53.25412, W -3.88424
High up on the hillside of Cefn Maen Amor (to your right) is an impressive looking boulder; probably deposited there after the last Ice Age which you might like to visit (if you're feeling fit) or ignore and continue on, past the multi-cellular sheep pens.
Here, all of the sheep belonging to different farmers were herded from the uplands into the main big pen and then sorted into the smaller pens (petals) depending on who they belonged to.
To your left is the ruined farmstead of Tyddyn Grasod - a testament to the harsh conditions the small hold farmers endured here but the views are fantastic - over the coast, Conwy Castle, Conwy Valley, rural Conwy and the mountains.
This area is littered with burial cairns from the Bronze Age as well as Iron Age stone circles and standing stones, so it's well worth taking an O/S map with you to pin point their exact locations.
Follow a grassy track to the right keeping the pens on your left and walk along the stone wall, enjoying its sheltered aspect.
11. Stream crossing
N 53.24458, W -3.88240
Head down into the pass below and cross over a shallow stream. The trail leads you down, into a dip and as you make your way up between two small hills, cross over - so the stone wall is now on your right-hand side.
As the ground levels out, the track divides in two. Keep right and continue for roughly 1.2 km until you arrive at a spot where the wall has collapsed, opposite Caer Bach hillfort.
13. Caer Bach hillfort
N 53.23874, W -3.88217
This small Iron Age hill fort situated on a rounded hill, dates from the first millennium BC and has commanding views over the Conwy Valley and river below.
A little further on, you'll come to a small gated animal enclosure and beautifully crafted stone stile, built into the wall and easily overlooked as it blends in seamlessly. Pass through an old iron gate and continue for around 200 metres.
14. Huw Tom's house
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At the old stone gate post, turn left into the field and walk diagonally down towards a ruined cottage in the corner.
This cottage called Pen y Ffridd Farm was the childhood home of Huw Tom on two separate occasions.
In 1906, aged 14, Huw walked to and from work at Graiglwyd Quarry every day - following a similar path to the one we're on.
From these humble beginnings Huw Tom became known as the 'Unofficial Prime Minister of Wales'.
Huw Tom Edwards
As a boy, Huw Tom worked with his dad in the quarry but eventually ran away to South Wales to work in the coal mines.
After being wounded in WW1 he returned to work in the mines and slate quarries of North Wales where he set up branches of a trade union and the Labour Party.
He later became an important, influential figure in Welsh public life from the period of the Attlee government and became the first chairman of the Council of Wales and Monmouthshire in 1949, producing important reports on devolution.
Huw was a devout socialist and a member of the Labour Party throughout his life until 1959 when he joined Plaid Cymru, but he reverted to his former allegiance in 1965.
He famously declined an invitation to be knighted at the Investiture of the Prince of Wales at Caernarfon Castle in July 1969.
Not bad for a man with very little education and from a humble background!
15. Stone stile
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Below you now, are the village of Rowen, the River Conwy (marked as Afon Conwy on OS maps and know as Afon) and the Clwydian Range in the distance to the east.
Head through the wooden gate and walk diagonally across the field towards a stone wall with a stile built into it.
The stile can be difficult to spot from the other side of the field but look for an old ivy bush growing over the wall and you'll soon find it.
The route from here can be tricky to follow as there are various alternative grassy tracks taking you down the hill but bear right and head in a southerly direction towards the stone burial chamber and a wooded area in the distance.
As you near the trees you'll pass over a dry river ditch which could fill up during rainy periods, so (depending on the time of year you visit) you may have to find an alternative crossing point higher up.
16. Maen y Bardd (Rock of the Bard)
N 53.22899, W -3.88699
This Neolithic burial chamber is situated below Pen y Ffridd and is right next to a Roman road which you will follow down into the village of Rowen.
In the late afternoon with the sunlight blasting down through a threatening sky, this spot feels very magical.
You can understand why our ancestors chose this place to bury their dead, aligning them in a specific direction with the River Conwy below.
17. The Roman road to Rowen
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The Roman road down to Rowen is a lovely way to end the walk, with commanding views all the way down to the village. You'll pass the local youth hostel as you walk down a very steep hill.
On rainy days this route can become very slippery with water cascading down off the hills and mountains.
18. Rowen village
Rowen village stands on an old drovers' route which once took cattle from Anglesey all the way to the cattle markets in England.
These days Rowen is a quiet, picturesque village full of quirky old cottages with the Afon Roe, a tributary of the River Conwy, flowing down behind the houses.
19. End of the walk: Huw Tom memorial stone
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Follow the road down the hill and at the junction in the village, turn left and walk down past the Ty Gwyn pub.
A little further on, next to a small footbridge spanning the river opposite is a slate plaque commemorating Huw Tom's life - 'Hewn from the rock, Welsh Patriot, Trade Unionist, Socialist, Author'.
The bus stop and car park taking you back to your car are situated a little further down the road on the left hand side.
Buses leave from Rowen to Conwy once every hour where you can join more frequent bus and train services back to Penmaenmawr.
Take a look at photos taken during the Penmaenmawr to Rowen walk.
Follow in Derek's footsteps as he walks through stunning locations in Wales.
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