Bryn y Castell Hillfort Walk
This stunning walk in the hills above Ffestiniog takes you to Bryn y Castell, an Iron Age hillfort perched on a small hill in remote moorland above the ancient Roman road known as Sarn Helen that once stretched north to south across the length of Wales.
Occupied from the late Iron Age until the arrival of the Romans, Bryn y Castell was primarily concerned with the production of iron. Excavations in the 1970’s revealed foundations of wooden houses and stone buildings, as well as the remains of smelting furnaces and iron debris. It’s well worth a visit as the rampart and some buildings have been partially reconstructed which gives you a good idea of how it would have once looked, and the 360 views from the top are simply spectacular!
The walk returns past the fabled lake, Llyn Morwinion ‘Lake of the Maiden’ where according to a tale from the Mabinogion, Blodeuedd and her Maidens of Ardudwy drowned whilst fleeing from the wizard Gwydion and the men of Gwynedd.
Distance: 2½ miles – 4 km
Time: Approx. 2½ hours
Difficulty: Moderate (some steep sections and can be wet underfoot)
Parking: Cwm Cynfal Viewpoint Car Park
Postcode for Sat Nav: LL41 4PT (approx.)
Grid Ref: SH 735 418
Ordnance Survey Map: OS Explorer OL 18 (Harlech, Porthmadog & Bala)
The walk to the hillfort starts from a car park on the B4391. Heading from Llan Ffestiniog towards Bala, the car park which has spectacular views of Cwm Cynfal is approx. 2 miles from Llan Ffestioniog on the right.
1. From the car park, turn LEFT and the road until you see a gate and a public footpath sign on the right. Go through the gate and head up hill to join a gravel track.
2. Turn RIGHT, and follow the track up hill to a lake, Llyn Morwynion, and continue around the lake to the dam.
3. Walk along the dam and follow the path to the left, crossing a stream to a small metal gate.
4. Go through the gate and turn LEFT, following the public footpath downhill past the remains of the Bryn-glas slate quarry on your left.
5. Continue along the path, following the wall on your left towards a ladder stile at the bottom of the hill. When you reach the stile, DO NOT go over it. Bear right following the path along the wall until you reach a second, tall ladder stile.
This part of the walk is wet and boggy.
6. Go over the stile and follow the public footpath straight ahead, keeping the wire fence on your left until you reach an abandoned farmhouse called Garreglwyd.
7. At Garreglwyd, go over the stile and follow the public footpath around the farmhouse and then follow the path across the field.
8. Whilst walking across the field, in front of you, you will see a horizontal stone wall. With your eye – follow the wall from the buildings on the left (Water Works) to the right until there is a drop in the wall’s level. Aim for that spot, there is a stile there.
9. Go over the stile, and head up to join a grass track. Turn RIGHT and follow the track up hill, and bear right when the track forks.
10. In around 200m you will see a gate across an old quarry track in front of you, and to your left a hillock; this is Bryn y Castell. Walk around the hillock until you see the remains of an old roundhouse, then walk up into the hillfort – enjoy the 360 views, they’re stunning!
11. From the hillfort, walk back down past the roundhouse and go straight ahead and over the stile next to a gate.
12. After the stile, go RIGHT up the hill to join the old quarry track, and then follow the track left, uphill to the remains of the Drum slate quarry.
13. Continue along the quarry track until your reach a slate tip. Follow the path around the tip keeping it on your left. Follow the fence that encloses the old mine shaft. You will shortly see a small, picturesque lake, Llyn y Drum.
14. Continue walking alongside the fence, upon reaching the top of the mine shaft and keeping the lake on your right continue straight ahead to climb the hill, heading towards a lake in the far distance.
15. At the top of the hill, you will see the lake Llyn Morwynion below. Walk down to the lake over open country, keeping the rocky crags to your right and bear RIGHT.
16. On reaching Llyn Morwynion, follow the public footpath to the end of the lake, climb over the ‘protected’ wire fencing on your LEFT and join the path that leads back over the dam.
17. To return to your campervan, retrace your steps around the lake and back down the path – you’ve finished your walk so put the kettle on and have a well-deserved brew, and enjoy the view!
Please note. These directions are for guidance only, we can accept no responsibility for any loss, damage or injury resulting from the use of this information. Always take a map with you and be prepared for the weather to turn. Do not venture out in bad weather and always take care with coastal tides.