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  The Mines and Mills of Gwydir Forest

A walk through the history of Wales at work and play.

Llwanrwst walk Llanrwst has long been the market centre for the central Conwy Valley and is an ideal centre for rambling. To the west are the great Forest of Gwydir and the first upwellings of the great mountain vastness of Snowdonia. It is to the west that this walk heads, climbing to the drowned valley of Llyn y Parc, deep in the Forest, then continuing to discover tantalising remains of the thriving lead and zinc mining industries that once flourished in these tortured hills - the last major mine closed only in 1960. Walking through the mixed woodlands of Gwydir is a pleasure as the area is a treasure trove of wildlife, and you'll also get brief glimpses of Llanrwst's famous Gwydir Castle and Gwydir Uchaf Chapel - best left for tomorrow as these and muddy boots don't mix!

Take the footpath from the western end of the Pont Fawr (old bridge) and walk upstream, river on your left. There's an awkward old kissing gate behind a pavilion, but persevere. You're following a flood embankment. After 600 yards (and past the power cables) go through a difficult gate, then turn right and trace the hedge past a gnarled oak and up to the road. Turn right, then in 100 yards go sharp left, up the tarred lane for the Forestry Offices. As this bends right, keep ahead up the path into the woods near a bench. This meets a wide, graded forest road, along which turn left. A long, gentle ascent, marked by yellow-tipped posts, takes you past a vigorous stepped waterfall, the trees thinning here and there to allow vies across the Conwy Valley. Past a further small waterfall, the track narrows and steepens, then hairpins to right, then left, rising and sweeping right to a major junction of roadways.

Turn left to walk downhill for around 200 yards. At the point where a series of poles are close together, turn right off the roadway along a path to the shore of Llyn y Parc. Turn right to follow the waterside path. It's a superb trail beneath old pines and oaks, carpeted by heather and bilberry. Look for buzzards quartering the skies above, and the reflections of the wooded bluffs in the mirror-like surface. At the top of the lake the path (follow the poles) climbs up to meet a forestry road; turn left along this. In 300 yards fork left down a steeper, narrower track to reach another complex junction.

Turn sharp left here and walk to the old mine building. This is the first of many relics in this area of the Forest. Near the building is a solid green-painted post with a crossed hammer and pick way mark. These are the posts you now should follow, a winding path past further buildings and shafts bringing you to a forestry road. Turn left and trace this for about 800 yards to a way mark pole beside a culvert on your left (if you reach a minor road you've gone 150 yards too far). Take this path, winding through the woods to a substantial area of ruins, the remains of an old crushing mill (there's an interpretive board below the buildings).. Spend time here before continuing along the main path, passing further remains and climbing a series of steps to reach a minor road. Turn right along this.

Fork left after 300 yards up along a rough lane (way marked). This rises steeply to a sharp left bend, at which point climb the stile on the right and descend the steps to gain the top of the spectacular old Hafna Galena mine. A series of interpretive boards details the history of this remarkable site; steps eventually bring you to a rough car park above the minor road. Don't take this road but, rather, follow the forestry road up from the car park. After this bends left, take the way marked path on the right, a long, steepish path falling to a lane. Cross straight over and follow the path to and alongside a fence to reach the viewing area over the former Parc Mine. This was worked for zinc until 40 years ago, but is now totally reclaimed. Take the chance to look down into Kneebone Cutting, the name is explained on a board.

Join the tarred lane and walk downhill to a minor road. Go ahead to a junction. Your route is right, along the forestry road, but first divert left along the lane for Llanrhychwyn for about 200 yards. On the right a ladder stile give access to a viewing path beside the spectacular twin waterfalls of the Grey Mare's Tail. Return to the junction and pick up the forestry road. This skirts the edge of the woods to reach a junction above the Forestry Offices (and Gwydir Uchaf Chapel). Keep downhill to reach the main road. Turn right to a fingerpost on the left, retrace your route from here back to the Pont Fawr.

Walking in Snowdonia ::: Walking in North Wales

Map - click to enlarge

C. 7 1/2 miles (12 km)
3 1/2 to 4 hours
Mostly woodland paths and tracks with some modest climbs
Ample parking at the riverside car park near the old bridge on the B5106
Inns, restaurants and cafes in Llanrwst
Daily buses to Llanrwst from Llandudno, Conwy, Betws-y-Coed and beyond. Rail service (not Sundays) from Llandudno
Near start
Start from Llanrwst O.S. Outdoor Leisure 17
798 615

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