Walking up Rowen's winding main street, the most challenging part of the walk is almost immediately evident. Pass by the Ty Gwyn pub and continue to the junction, here turning right - there's a Youth Hostel sign on a telegraph pole. Remain with this lane past traditional whitewashed and slate Welsh cottages, keeping ahead at another junction up along a "Dead End" lane. This immediately steepens considerably, and then more so as bends snake up to the uppermost building in the village, a remote Youth Hostel. Note the enormous boulders used to construct lane-side walls here, particularly the base layer.
Past the Hostel the tarred lane deteriorates into a stony track, passing through a gateway and leveling considerably into a grassy field side roadway. It's a case of eyes peeled from now on to see some of the countless monuments recorded on large scale maps. On the right in about 500 yards is a splendid cromlech just yards from the track. Three upright stones support a horizontal capstone; when built the whole was probably covered with earth and is a burial chamber. A little further on a tall standing stone pokes over the wall to the left, whilst before another gateway is an enormous upright stone off to the right.
Before the stone barn climb the ladder stile on the right, beside the gateway to Cae Goch farm. Bend right with the grassy track and, as this runs left to the cottage, keep ahead through gates and alongside a wall. Simply remain with this field road, roughly parallel to the wall and rising gently through closely cropped sheep pastures amidst dramatic, craggy countryside. The most noticeable feature is the strange, low-growing gorse that covers vast areas, prickly green mounds ablaze with yellow flowers throughout the summer. Further gateways and ladder styles take the green lane past sheep pens and alongside ancient walls. Occasional small, flat areas are marked on maps as "house Platforms". These are the remains of Hafods, or summer dwellings where, in the Middle Ages, stockmen lived during the summer whilst their flocks and herds grazed these upland pastures.
The path starts descending gradually, soon reaching a junction of walls your side of a distinct crag. There's a wall stile down to the right, but ignore this. Walk a few paces alongside the wall on your right, then bear half left to the nearby low, flat-topped rise. This is Caer Bach, a Neolithic settlement protected by a ditch and bank, still clearly evident, particularly on the western flank. Return to the line of wall and follow it northeast for 75 yards to a distinct stone gatepost in a fallen wall. Keep left here, passing by two small walled fields (right) then alongside a line of low walling. Fine views unfold ahead down the Conwy Estuary and ahead to the distinctive Great Orme. Let the wall bend away right whilst you keep ahead, the path eventually joining the line of an old rutted green track around the left flank of Craig Celynin. Keep the walls well down to your left, curving round with this track to reach sheep pens, through which you pass via two gates. Beyond, trace the muddy lane down to a junction well above a cottage.
Bear right to arrive at the boundary wall of sublime St Celynin's church. It is virtually unchanged since it was built in the fourteenth century, right down to its fabulous wooden rafters, slab floor, ancient pews and faded wall inscriptions. Rejoin the track and follow its walled course to and through a gateway into the Woodland Trust's Parc Mawr woods. There's much felling and replanting, but the sunken track remains obvious. Near the foot of the woods look ahead-right from a sharp bend to see a wood rail fence and gateway. Leave the woods here (there's an interpretation board here) and turn right along the rough lane, tracing it to and past an isolated cottage.
At the muddy turning area cross the slab bridge and stile and keep alongside the fence to your left. Go ahead through the upper gateway and head half-left to a ladder stile above a cottage. Take extreme care, as this is a giant of a stile with a large drop beyond. Turn let down the lane to a junction beside an old water trough. Keep right here, along the grass-centred lane. Pass by houses to reach a lane, here turning left, then left again at the junction to return to Rowen.
Map - click to enlarge
c. 5 miles (8 km)
Allow 2-3 hours
Steep to start, then filed paths and tracks
Bottom end of Rowen, near the public convenience sign
Pub, tearoom an shop in Rowen
Rowen is 4 miles south of Conwy and is signposted off the B5106 road between Conwy and Trefriw.
Daily buses to Rowen from Llandudno, Conwy, Llanrwst and Betws-y-Coed
Start from Rowen O.S. Outdoor Leisure 17