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You’re never far from a mountain in Wales. The main interest is in the old favourites such as the Snowdon group, the Glyderau, the Carneddau and others, but any reasonably large lump of ground is likely to be called ‘Mountain’ by the locals. So, near where I live, we have Graig Fawr at a magnificent 153 metres altitude, but it’s known to the locals as ‘Meliden Mountain’ – and why not!
Half an hour away, down the A55, sits the attractive walled town of Conwy, with its magnificent 730-year-old medieval castle. Above the town sits ‘Conwy Mountain’ at 244 metres height. The Welsh name for the hill is Mynydd y Dref which means ‘The Town Mountain’ and the summit is topped by the remains of a much older fortification, about 2500 years old. It’s also a great dog walk!
You won’t find solitude here, because the ‘mountain’ is popular with hikers, mountain bikers and horse riders as well as us dog walkers – there’s even a small crag where you often see youth and school groups doing some easy rock climbing, as we did on our visit. For Border Collie ‘Mist,’ it must be heaven with new, unfamiliar ‘doggie’ smells all over the place.
As height is gained (bearing in mind there isn’t a lot of height!) the summit comes into view with the remains of the 2500 years old Iron Age fort of Castell Caer Seion – the name should correctly be Caer Seion which translates as ‘Fort Zion’, but a mistranslation into English around the end of the 17th Century added the Castell bit. There’s not a huge amount to see, which is hardly surprising after 2500 years, but the line of the ramparts can be traced quite easily.
The multitude of paths over the mountain converge at Bwlch Sychnant (‘Dry Stream Pass’). Most dog walkers stop here and go back to Conwy, but we usually carry along the hillside path above the village of Capelulo (‘Ulo’s Chapel’). There’s a lovely section where the path clings on to the hillside, though I wouldn’t say that Chris was all that keen on it!
The narrow hill path soon arrives on open moorland at Waen Gyrach which is on the very edge of the Carneddau and was on the home stretch of my Carneddau traverse in 2014 (see post #160). It’s quite common to see the local wild mountain ponies down at this level, and there are also frequent reminders of ancient human habitation and remains, one of the most notable being an ancient stone circle at Cefn Llechen (‘Slate Back’), probably 4000-5000 years old.
On the return, we passed the charming small lake of Llyn y Wrach, which translates as ‘The Witch Lake’. The likelihood of witches in the neighbourhood didn’t seem to put ‘Mist’ off a paddle, but it was now time to cross back over Sychnant to head back to Conwy. Perhaps not the greatest trek in North Wales, but did I mention? – It does make a great dog walk!
Text and images © Paul Shorrock