#175 – Tal y Fan in the Northern Carneddau

Tal y Fan seen from Foel Lwyd

Tal y Fan seen from Foel Lwyd

The route (heading clockwise)

The route (heading clockwise)

The Roman invasion of Wales, completed in 78 AD, must have been a real culture shock to the locals in more ways than one. The Romans must have appeared to be in a permanent state of ‘hurry up’, building roads that were the equivalent to the motorways of today, but I guess you might well be in a hurry with places to invade and rebellions to put down. One of their routes takes advantage of the pass between the high Carneddau Plateau and Tal y Fan, the northern outlier of the Carneddau range.

On the old Roman road between Caernarfon and Caerhun

On the old Roman road between Caernarfon and Caerhun

The Roman road ran from Caernarfon to Caerhun in the Conwy Valley, with the highest point at 400 metres altitude at Bwlch y Ddeufaen, which translates as ‘Pass of the Two Stones’.    The Roman soldiers marching over the pass way well have wondered who placed the stones – they would probably never have guessed that in 78 AD, the stones had already been in place for 2000 to 3000 years.

Standing stone next to the Roman Road at Bwlch y Ddeufaen

Standing stone next to the Roman Road at Bwlch y Ddeufaen

At 610 metres altitude (2001 ft) Tal y Fan just qualifies as an ‘official’ mountain, but it’s undoubtedly part of the Carneddau, even though separated from the rest of the range by Bwlch y Ddeufaen and the Roman road.   It’s easy to put together a circuit that traverses the summit ridge and also includes some interesting bits of history, which is probably why Chris and I keep going back there – Border Collie ‘Mist’ just thinks it makes a great dog walk.

The start of the serious uphill stuff

The start of the serious uphill stuff

It seems to go on ….

It seems to go on ….

…. and on ….

…. and on ….

…. and on (looking back towards Drosgl in the centre)

…. and on (looking back towards Drosgl in the centre)

Sometimes it helps to have a good viewpoint

Sometimes it helps to have a good viewpoint

Eventually it starts to calm down a bit

Eventually it starts to calm down a bit

Looking back to the Carneddau plateau

Looking back to the Carneddau plateau

We usually start on the Roman road, heading for the bwlch, where the two ancient standing stones are an obvious landmark.  The route follows an easy line, which is probably why the National Grid decided to use this as a way for their power cables, but the sweeping scale of the hills prevent the pylons from intruding too much.   When it’s time to leave the old road and the pylons, things suddenly get steep, but there’s soon a great view looking back towards the mountains of the Carneddau.

The view out to sea, with Orme Head visible

The view out to sea, with Orme Head visible

The summit slopes of Tal y Fan ….

The summit slopes of Tal y Fan ….

…. with a zoom view to show the scale (see the people top right)

…. with a zoom view to show the scale (see the people top right)

The view back to Foel Lwyd and the Carneddau

The view back to Foel Lwyd and the Carneddau

Nearly there!

Nearly there!

The final few metres to the summit ….

The final few metres to the summit ….

…. with ‘Mist’ the first to arrive (as usual) ….

…. with ‘Mist’ the first to arrive (as usual) ….

…. and the author striking a heroic pose (as usual)

…. and the author striking a heroic pose (as usual)

The major part of the ascent is on the lower peak of Foel Lwyd (603 metres) on the way to Tal y Fan.   These hills are usually deserted, but on Foel Lwyd we met up with fellow mountain rescue team member Mark and his walking companion – they were about to descend the route we had taken up, before climbing up from the bwlch to join the main plateau of the Carneddau, making a fairly long day for them.   Our day was considerably easier, and we were soon at the summit of Tal y Fan.

Time to start heading down

Time to start heading down

The second group we met up with (Orme Head in the background)

The second group we met up with (Orme Head in the background)

‘Mist’ at Maen Penddu standing stone

‘Mist’ at Maen Penddu standing stone

Iron Age hill-fort Caer Bach

Iron Age hill-fort Caer Bach

Chris below Caer Bach, with wild ponies (mare and foal)

Chris below Caer Bach, with wild ponies (mare and foal)

Then it was time to head down, passing another group walking the opposite way – we were astounded to find out later that one of them was in his 90’s, so walking in the fresh Welsh air can’t be doing him much harm.   We dropped down to Maen Penddu (the ‘Black-topped Stone’) before heading back over the low ridge to the remains of Caer Bach, a tiny Iron Age hill-fort.   These hills are packed with history, and as well as the ancient sites dating from 2000-5000 years old, we also passed within 200 metres of two separate air-crash sites from WW2.

Time to start heading back

Time to start heading back

The Roman Road above Rowen

The Roman Road above Rowen

Maen y Bardd Bronze Age burial chamber ….

Maen y Bardd Bronze Age burial chamber ….

…. or perhaps a Bronze Age dog kennel

…. or perhaps a Bronze Age dog kennel

My favourite site round here is the Bronze Age burial chamber at Maen y Bardd (the ‘Poet Stone’) on the return leg, just above the Roman road but much older;  higher up the hill is another burial chamber that we didn’t visit on this trip. In fact there’s more than enough to keep drawing us back to this quiet corner of the Carneddau.

The last kilometre

The last kilometre

Text and images © Paul Shorrock

About Paul Shorrock

I've been mucking about in the mountains for longer than I care to mention. I started out by walking my local hills, then went on to rock climbing, mountaineering and skiing. Still doing it, and still getting a buzz. I'm now sharing the fun, through my guided walking business (Hillcraft Guided Walking) and by writing routes for other publishers, mainly Walking World and Discovery Walking Guides. Just to make sure I keep really busy, I am also currently a member of my local mountain rescue team.
This entry was posted in 5. North Wales, Border Collies and tagged , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

9 Responses to #175 – Tal y Fan in the Northern Carneddau

  1. I enjoyed your photos! This place looked a bit steaper than others (?).
    Your story about the roads and Romans made me think of my historical hero, Queen Boudicca.
    Boudicca was the Celtic Queen of the Iceni tribe of modern-day East Anglia, Britain, who led a revolt against Rome in 60/61 AD. Not sure if I’m even close, geographically speaking… 😃

    • Thanks Plant Girl – yes, that first uphill is a bit steep, and If that’s not a good example of British understatement, I don’t know what is 🙂

      This Roman road is about 200 miles from East Anglia, though that’s in a straight line – our modern road system could learn something from the Romans 🙂

  2. Like the dog kennel 😉 Don’t think I’ve seen that particular burial chamber, although my Mum and me used to look for things like that in Wales when we were out.

    I remember Tal-y-Fan as one of my earlier walks when I was little – I remember it precisely for all the false summits! My brother and I hated that! It’s a great hill for bilberries though – you went up at the wrong time – you’ll have to go back up when they’re out 😉

    I call that the ‘Power bwlch’ because of all the power lines running through it. I like to take photos with the pylons and the standing stones in as I think the ‘ancient and modern’ look is quite interesting. I tried following the route down the other side once for a while though and was most uncomfortable as one of the power lines (a very high voltage one) follows over the path for a long way. I’m always afraid it’s my turn to have a cable dropped on my head!
    Carol.

  3. LensScaper says:

    Great photos Paul. I was surprised to see Pylons straddling this area – I can’t see them being allowed if they were to be installed nowadays. The posts you have written about the Carneddau really give insights into how vast this range truly is.

  4. Thanks for that Andy. There is talk about burying power cables in parts of Snowdonia, and the cables at the bwlch would probably be amongst those considered – however, they do get lost in the big backdrop of the Carneddau. Further along towards Caernarfon, the cables leap across the deep valley leading to Aber Falls – they do look rather majestic there.

  5. codemanbc says:

    I must confess, the images with your gorgeous dog are much more interesting. Thank you!
    Tom and Magic

  6. Pingback: #240 – Roaming with the Romans on the northern Carneddau | Paul Shorrock – One Man's Mountains AKA One Pillock's Hillocks

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