We have done some work on extending the route to the north-west, to the original location of Aberconwy Abbey. Monks from Strata Florida founded an abbey in 1186 at a place called Rhedynog-felen, but they soon moved east to the mouth of the Conwy. This could have happened as early as 1192 according to David Williams, though James Bond (in Archaeologia Cambrensis vol. 154, 2005, suggests it was on the initiative of the great Llywelyn ab Iorwerth in 1198-9.
We can’t be certain about the exact site of Rhedynog-felen. One tradition puts it just south of Clynnog Fawr, where there are two farms called Mynachdy Bach and Mynachdy Gwyn. David Williams in his The Welsh Cistercians suggests it was a little further north, between Llandwrog and Llanwnda, at SH 461 574 or SH 453 573. This seems more likely as there are farms there actually called Rhedynog-felen Fawr (now a ruin) and Rhedynog-felen Fach.
But how to get there? Most of this I haven’t walked for eight or nine years, so it could well have changed. Follow the line of Sarn Helen north of Trawsfynydd until you reach the Iron Age settlement at Bryn y Castell. At SH 72541 42756 take the track to the left and bear to the north, away from the settlement. At SH 72498 43179 you pass Hafod-ysbyty, the summer farm of the Knights of St John who were based at Ysbyty Ifan, some miles to the east. They had the privilege of sanctuary and according to tradition it was abused. Hafod Ysbyty was one of the hide-outs of the Red Bandits of Dinas Mawddwy, who terrorised the area in the fifteenth century.
Continue on the track past Hafod Ysbyty. Below you and to your left are Llan Ffestiniog and Blaenau Ffestiniog, centres of the Welsh slate mining industry in the nineteenth century. Here you will find shops and accommodation.
The path you take here depends on what you want and where you are staying. Head towards Tanygrisiau on the other side of the valley. Walk up Cwmorthin Road, across the railway line and up a steep hill. When the road becomes a stony track by a waterfall,
stay on the right bank, then cross to the left bank at SH 68206 45618 and continue up stream.
Cwmorthin is an amazing, evocative place, the deserted ruins of what was once another big slate mining settlement. Here are the original farmsteads, the cottages of quarrying families, the chapels, the barracks where some of the men from neighbouring villages lived during the week and the actual slate works.
More on the history of the valley and its people at http://www.cwmorthin.com/introduction.html and good photos at https://becausetheyrethere.com/2013/05/22/thirty-years-on-cwmorthin-revisited/ .Specifically on the slate mines see http://www.cwmorthin.org/ .
Walk along the track past the ruins of Capel y Gorlan,
up the slope past quarry buildings and a mill
to the main slate works. Turn right here and walk across the remains of the yard. From SH 66572 46381 a right of way is marked on the map going a little west of north and towards Llyn yr Adar. I walked this about 10 years ago and there was no track on the ground so I had to do it on compass reckoning, working across ridges of outcropping stone.
At Llyn yr Adar you have to be very careful because if you continue on the same line you walk off the edge of a rather spectacular waterfall. A slightly more perceptible track bears to the right, round the head of the little stream that feeds Llyn Llagi, then becomes a much clearer track north of the river. You should be able to find footpaths down to Llyn Dinas and past the Sygun copper mines and follow the minor road south of the river to Beddgelert. Bits of this are a spectacular walk but I can’t really recommend it – navigating from the quarry at the head of Cwm Orthin to Llyn yr Adar is difficult even in clear weather and could be lethal in poor visibility. On the other hand, if you like a challenge, you could use it to approach the Watkin Path up Snowdon.
A better alternative goes down Cwm Croesor. The OS map marks the right of way behind the Cwmorthin quarry buildings but this is difficult to find on the ground. The map also marks a track turning left at SH 66429 46234 but my recollection is that the path is waymarked from the end of the buildings at about SH 66479 46238. Anyway, turn left around here and follow a faint track between outcrops of stone, with a small stream and slate tips to your left. Over the first ridge, cross a stile and keep straight on. The track becomes clearer and continues down through the ruins of Croesor Quarry and on down the valley, eventually becoming a metalled road.
At the cross-roads at SH 63198 44616 turn right. Walk past the school. Next to the chapel, the house called Ael-y-bryn was the home of Bob Owen Croesor, farm labourer, quarry clerk, W.E.A. lecturer and historian (more on him at http://yba.llgc.org.uk/en/s2-OWEN-ROB-1885.html ). The road becomes a steep stony track. (At SH 62829 45079 a footpath to the right would take you up Cnicht, the ‘Matterhorn of Wales’.) The track bears round to the west through heather and bracken. Cross the Afon Dylif and keep going west above the north bank of the river. To your left around SH 61391 45105 is something marked on the map as ‘Cytiau’r Gwyddelod’, ‘the houses of the Irish’ – actually the foundations of Iron Age round houses and field enclosures.
At SH 61196 45113 the track bends to the right and goes sharply downhill. At the crossroads at SH 61163 45247, go straight on and take a very minor road across the Afon Nanmor and over the spur to Nantmor. This is a tricky bit – I haven’t walked it since the Welsh Highland Railway between Beddgelert and Porthmadoc was reopened and the OS map isn’t entirely clear about the paths. If you cross the railway line and continue to the main road, then turn right, you might be able to take a track which bears right at SH 59685 46172 and meets the footpath near Pont Aberglaslyn. Alternatively, you can continue on the road (a main road but not that busy) to the bridge, turn right on the footpath and walk along the east bank of the Afon Glaslyn. There is a right of way through the car park if you turn sharp right at SH 59685 46172 and you can turn left at the railway line for the footpath to Pont Aberglaslyn. I feel it should be possible to bypass the main road entirely by walking along the railway line from the crossing at SH 59874 46099 but there isn’t anything on the map.
Anyway, once you get to Pont Aberglaslyn you can follow a footpath between the river and the railway line to the bridge at SH 59170 47375 then stay with the river into Beddgelert.
This is really as far as we have got, because from Beddgelert we walked south-west down Cwm Pennant towards Garn Dolbenmaen, heading for Clynnog. That was a lovely walk – as the poet Eifion Wyn said, ‘Pam, Arglwydd, y gwnaethost Cwm Pennant mor dlws, A bywyd hen fugail mor fyr’ – Lord, why did you make Cwm Pennant so beautiful, And the life of an old shepherd so short?
Alas, it goes in the wrong direction for us. There are paths up the west bank of the river going north from Beddgelert but it’s hard to see how to get further west without a lot of road walking. We might settle for Cwm Pennant and Garn Dolbenmaen, after all, and the cycle track up towards Llanwnda.
Or look at the footpath across the mountain from Llanfihangel-y-pennant via Bwlch Cwmdeulyn to Nebo and throiughthe lanes to the cycle path a little further north.
Once you get there, Rhedynog-felen lies between the Coast Path and the North Wales Pilgrims’ Way, so you could use either to get to Aberdaron and Bardsey, or follow the Pilgrims’ Way in reverse to Bangor and Conwy.