Cas­tle to Cairn

Har­lech, Gwynedd

Countryfile Magazine - - Contents - Dorothy Hamil­ton en­joys watch­ing wildlife and tak­ing long walks in the coun­try­side.


Lo­cated in the an­cient district of Ar­dudwy, be­tween the stun­ning estuaries of the Mawd­dach and Glaslyn, is the town of Har­lech, famed for its dra­mat­i­cally po­si­tioned cas­tle on a rock. Su­perb views stride out from the me­dieval fortress over a shim­mer­ing sea to the rocky hills of the Llŷn Penin­sula and the lofty peaks of Snow­do­nia.

Har­lech Cas­tle – built in the late 13th cen­tury to con­sol­i­date Ed­ward I’s con­trol of Wales – was de­signed by Savoy ar­chi­tect Master James of St Ge­orge. In 1404 it was cap­tured by Welsh rebel Owain Glyn­dwr and held for five years. It also saw ac­tion in the Wars of the Roses and the English Civil War.

High above the cas­tle and town, a Bronze Age track­way runs through a mag­i­cal land­scape, dis­turbed only by the mew­ing of buz­zards and the song of the sky­lark. Choose a fine, clear day dur­ing a dry spell and fol­low this peace­ful, lin­ear walk to­wards Bryn Cader Faner, a strik­ing Bronze Age cairn set in the wild foothills of the Rhinog moun­tains.


From the cas­tle, walk up to a cross­roads, then fol­low the steep, wind­ing lane to a sec­ond cross­roads high above the coastal plain. Turn left and look out for a pointed stand­ing stone on the right, one of sev­eral mark­ing the Bronze Age route to the Moel Goe­dog hill fort.

Ig­nore a lane on the right and, at a cat­tle grid, you’ll see a tall stand­ing stone on the left be­low Foel Senigl. After half a mile, look out for a foot­path sign­post on the right and fol­low the track for a few yards to a right bend. Here, stay left to go through a gate. You’ll pass a mas­sive stand­ing stone be­fore ar­riv­ing at a point be­tween two stone cir­cles on the lower slopes of Moel Goe­dog. From here, there are wide views of the Dwyryd es­tu­ary, Llŷn Penin­sula and the moun­tains to the north.


Con­tinue north-east through gates, ig­nor­ing a track on the right to hid­den Llyn y Fedw. After two stiles and a right bend, climb a stile on the left.

The walk now fol­lows the way­marked Ar­dudwy Way as far as Llyn Tecwyn Isaf.

Go ahead to join a track, turn right, climb two stiles and turn left on a way­marked path. The Bronze Age track­way now passes through a wild up­land land­scape of rocks, reeds and cairn re­mains. As the track bends north, Bryn Cader Faner – one of the most dis­tinc­tive Bronze Age mon­u­ments in Bri­tain – ap­pears ahead. Note the way­marked track on your left just be­fore the site (this will be your de­scent route), and then as­cend a slight hill to a heap of jagged rocks.

The small cairn, prob­a­bly the burial site of a sig­nif­i­cant per­son, is edged with thin stone slabs set at an an­gle like the rays of the sun. It was used by the army as tar­get prac­tice be­fore WWII, los­ing some of its stones on the east side, but the cairn has kept its im­pres­sive sil­hou­ette.


De­scend to the way­marked track and fol­low the trail through bog and over small foot­bridges. Pass be­low the rocky hill of

Y Gyrn and then veer right to emerge on to a lane. Turn left to an­other lane, then go right and left to the pretty wa­ters of Llyn Tecwyn Isaf. Ig­nore a lane on the right and go left to

Bryn Bw­bach, then turn right down­hill to the A496.

The bus stop for Har­lech is on the left in Cil­for, while

Llan­decwyn sta­tion is ahead be­side the Dwyryd es­tu­ary. Be sure to check bus and rail times from Llan­decwyn be­fore you set out on your walk. There are am­ple lodg­ings and re­fresh­ments back in Har­lech.

Har­lech Cas­tle, built by Ed­ward I be­tween 1282-1289, was de­signed to with­stand a sev­enyear siege. At one point, it had 1,000 ma­sons, dig­gers and car­pen­ters work­ing on the struc­ture

Bryn Cader Faner – or ‘The Welsh Crown of Thorns’ as it is of­ten called – was de­scribed by ar­chae­ol­o­gist Aubrey Burl as one of the won­ders of pre­his­toric Wales

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