Tal-y-Fan – Snowdonia’s smallest mountain
A walk centred on the attractive village of Rowen with a rise to Tal-y-Fan – possibly Snowdonia’s lowest mountain – and a visit to one of the oldest churches in the area.
Distance: 6¾ miles
Start: From Ty’n-y-groes on the B5106, take the signed lane west to Rowen. This pretty village sits at the foot of the eastern Carneddau close to the old Roman road over the hills to Caernarfon.
Cars can be parked at a number of locations in the village, most easily between the Post Office and the ‘Ty Gwyn Hotel’.
Grid ref: 760 719 (Ordnance Survey Explorer OL17).
1. Walk towards the village centre from the direction of the Post Office passing the ‘Ty Gwyn Hotel’. About 300 yards after the hotel take the lane on the right (signed for the Youth Hostel). This rises steeply out of the village and up to Rowen Youth Hostel, situated in a superb location overlooking the valley. The tarmac ends by the Youth Hostel but so has the steep gradient. The lane continues more gently as a stoney unsurfaced farm track.
2. Bear right along the lane and take the signed footpath on the right in about 75 yards. A good path rises directly up through two rough grazing fields separated by a stone wall and crossed by a stile.
Just below the crest of the ridge, cross a stile over the wall on the right. Turn left up beside the wall at first, then veer half-right to the rounded crest of the ridge where a stile leads over the wall. Cross the stile and bear right to follow the path along the ridge – a mix of grass, heather and rocks – with wide views on both sides.
Continue along the ridge to its eastern end – an enjoyable high-level jaunt with just a hint of the higher mountains about it and spectacular views on all sides.
At the eastern end of the ridge where the wall turns to the right and begins to drop, bear left down the northern slopes (aiming a little to the right of Llandudno visible down on the coast) and take one of the faint paths which drop into a small hollow where there is a small stone enclosure on the left.
Continue ahead and soon you will be able to see to a small fenced area of mine workings below.
Pass the mines on their left-hand side to join an obvious track immediately below the spoil heap.
Follow this track to a T junction with another track and turn right.
Shortly you pass a small Bronze Age standing stone (Mean Penddu) on the right.
About 15 yards beyond the stone, and just before the track bends left, bear half-right off the track and aim for a large metal gate in the wall ahead.
About 10-15 yards before the gate, bear left to walk beside a stream and soon you will pick up a reasonable path between stone walls.
Stay by the left-hand wall until it opens out into a large field. Walk straight ahead through the centre of the field in the direction of a small pointed rocky summit ahead.
In the bottom corner go through a gap in the wall and walk ahead again (still aiming for the pointed summit ahead) to eventually meet a grass track. Bear left along the track.
3. Follow the track out of the field which becomes contained between stone walls to a junction. Bear right and follow the path/track to the tiny church of St Celynin on the left.
The main fabric of this fascinating little church dates from the fourteenth century – an estimate you will likely agree with once you have looked inside.
The interior is very plain and simple but conveys a great sense of age and history.
The nave is the oldest part with the chancel being added in the following century. Several later additions were demolished in the 1800s and the building has remained unaltered ever since.
Outside the church are a number of informally arranged gravestones dating from the early 1700s and in the corner of the yard is Ffynnon Celynin, a tiny wall-enclosed well, reputed to be an ancient holy well associated with St Celynin, which probably predates the church.
Turn left out of the church gate and follow the wall-enclosed bridleway for almost ½ mile to the woods of Parc Mawr. Follow the path ahead which drops steeply through the trees ignoring paths on either side.
At the bottom edge of the woods a large gate leads onto an access road. Turn right and follow the road to enter fields again by a stone footbridge and stile just beyond a house (‘Nant-y-Coed’).
Keep to the left-hand field edge and bear left through the first gate in the wall. Bear right into a second field and then walk diagonally down the field to a ladder stile which leads into a narrow lane.
Turn left, follow the lane to a T junction and turn right. Walk along the lane and look for a signed field path on the left in about 200 yards. Go through the gate and walk down the field edge.
Cross a ladder stile in the bottom corner (ignore a stile to the left here), turn right and walk along the field edge to a second stile which leads onto an access road.
Bear right along the road and in about 200 yards turn left over stone steps and a ladder stile into fields again.
Turn right immediately and pass through a gap in the wall, then walk through the centre of a field heading for a large metal gate beside farm buildings. Go through the gate and follow the road to the village centre.
Turn left past the ‘Ty Gwyn Hotel’ to complete the walk.