My  favourite  walk


Wil Williams

Will you come with me on my favourite walk, locally in Llŷn, a walk that I never tire of nor get bored in doing?  It will take about four hours or thereabout depending on what and whom I see [who’s counting anyway?], the variety is unavoidable, no two walks are ever the same, even if they’re done within a fortnight of each other.  Nature,  history  -  very ancient in some parts  -  present-day industry,  early industry, and a portion of mystery as well, numerous old wells, who knows what will show up.

I leave the car at the National Trust car park near Cwrt, the other side of the road, almost opposite.  The farm is also owned by the National Trust by now, parking is free, and it’s never full.

To begin with, Cwrt has a history, as the name implies, Cwrt translates to Court, it was known as The Abbot’s Court in earlier times.  The Bardsey Monastry and its property on the mainland  -  which was considerable in those days  -  was managed from Cwrt.  A search of the Monastry’s estates in  1547  describes Cwrt as ‘ a house within walls near the Island, called the Bardsey Court, with orchards, walled gardens and buildings estimated about two acres . . .  in the vicinity also were  157  acres of arable land, grazing fields, meadows, gorse-land, also six acres known as ‘Tredom.’ ‘  Does anyone know anything about, or the whereabouts of Tredom?  I don’t.  This is also where cases of crime, laws and justice were held, finance and taxes discussed.

The Reverend John Owen refers in his volumes of ‘The History of Wales1875,’  to a prison on Cwrt farm, to Gallows Hill, one of Cwrt’s fields, on the highest point if you notice, ‘so that the capital punishment will be visible to the whole country as warning.’  There is also a part of the estate there, a field known as The Abbot Hill.

We will now go down the track towards Porth Meudwy,  -  The Hermit’s Cove  -  the cove that led the saints and hermits to the Sacred Island.  We see here a number of boats, quite a number if you come here summertime, as there are twelve to fifteen local boats on their trailers, if you are fortunate, you will see them competing in a regatta several times during the season, a view worth seeing, the competition is very hot to see who wins the most points over the series, with glory and a cup perhaps, presented at the prize-giving dinner at the end of the season.

We have here also one of the local industries that continues, seasonal maybe, but as the climate changes, the lobster-catching season is extended, at least five local lads earn their living at this work.  Another of Llŷn’s industry is farming, this is an all-year-round occupation, and at some periods, lambing-time especially, it’s a round-the-clock job, hard and diligent work, but the farms and crofts look neat and tidy.

From Porth Meudwy and the smell of sea-weed,  -  take a lung-full of it, it will do you good  -  we go to the right and up the steps, steps that have been repaired after a land-slide in  2005, a great deal of damage was done to the Llŷn cliffs as the result of heavy rains, which entailed hard and extensive work to safeguard the paths.

After climbing the steps and passing through the gate, we view the sea proper, and a lovely vista it is, Aberdaron Bay and village, Gull Islands, Penrhyn Point, Penarfynydd Point, Cilan Head, not to mention Cardigan Bay and the Meirioneth landscape, the view is an excuse, if not a good reason to stop for a ten minute breather after the steps, to look around.

The narrow windy path leads us next to Porth y Gloch  -  The Bell Cove  -  from the cliff-top it takes the shape of a bell, but there is another story as to how the name came about, by now it’s part of history.

 It goes like this :-  it is said that a bell from the Bala Monastry was being moved to Bardsey Island for safe keeping at the time when monastries were being destroyed, but that as it neared Pen y Cil,  -  that’s the western-most arm of Aberdaron Bay  -  the bell fell into the sea,  all attempts to get it back into the boat failed, and they had to abandon it and let it rest where it fell, which leads us to an old Welsh saying, ‘As firm as the Bell of Bala.’

We have a great variety of birds and flowers in the area, some of the birds such as the skylark, curlew and the yellowhammer are getting scarcer, while birds like the wheatear, stonechat, woodcock, buzzard and the hawk seem to be holding their own, also sea birds like the fulmar, cormorant and the gulls.  The area is not without its vipers either, in spite of the old tradition that they did not exist on the western side of the Saint River.

Season-wise, there’s a great variety of flowers to be had, like the thrift, sea campion, thyme, hare-bells, heath bedstraw, carline thistle, foxglove and many more like the heather and gorse that go so well together, all very striking.

Well there we are, the next site of interest is one of the old industry, Porth y Pistyll, but is better-known locally as Trwyn Dwmi, Craig y Cwlwm is also close by, I have no explanation on the meaning of either word, I approached Professor Bedwyr Lewis Jones, an expert on place-name meanings, but he could not help.  The rock is granite, and setts for road and kerb making for our towns and cities were produced..  Work was first recorded here in  1907,  and there was a period of work in the  1930s  when  45  people worked the rock, it was so promising at this time that houses were partly built for the workers, they are still standing exactly as they were then,  a shop and chapel were part of the development plan, plus more houses, but the money was spent before any profit was made, therefore, the company went bankrupt, the quarry shut down, an auction was held, some buildings went to Pencwm, Uwchmynydd, others to Rhydgaled, Nanhoron, everything went a-scatter.  Some of the machinery can still be seen at the site.

We now turn our looks southwards along the cliff-top path until we come to Henborth  -  The Old Cove,  -  as far as I know, there is nothing unusual about it, but the sea looks very nice from this height, you might see a fox hereabout.  Pen y Cil is our next point of interest, where the Island of Saints come into plain view, [loosely translated, Pen y Cil becomes ‘the last corner or point that leads the hermits to Bardsey’],  and this is where one mystery shows itself, carvings on a rock,  ‘William a John,’  who on earth were these two?  What was their job?  Farmers?  Fishermen?  Were they brothers?  Were they related at all?  They obviously knew each other, friends perhaps.  More than likely.  We shall never know, but they have spent some time with hammer and chisel, could they be masons perhaps?  Who knows.

We have some climbing to do now, but it is worth while looking at the view from almost sea level, no doubt it is different to what it will be when we get to the top of Grepach Mountain.  But before we reach the top, another mystery that the area keeps to itself is approached, another carving, this is beside a natural seat in the rocks, the carving this time is ‘R G   M O  1844,’  and further to the right are two more letters like ‘J W.’  Is there an explanation do you think?  I believe not, but it gives rein to the imagination, does it not?

A few yards on towards the very top of the hill, we see still another rock carving, but I can explain this one away, the carving,  ‘J. H.   H.H.  1929.’  These were two brothers, they lived at Grepach, the small-holding that gives the hill its name, or is it the other way around?  Jeremiah Hughes, and Hugh Hughes.

Jeremiah became Jerry Maenhir, PengroeslonHugh became Hugh Bryn, Pencaerau, both had families who still live in the area, and there we are, solved one out of three.

We go on a bit further and stand above and in view of Parwyd, the ideal spot for archaeologists, the bare rock is high and sheer, revealing the layers  and upthrusts of rock found in this cove.  It is a favoured nesting site in the spring.  From this spot, we look inland rather than towards the sea, with a good vista of Mynydd GwyddelMynydd MawrAnelogCarregGarn FadrynY Rhiw, and on towards The Rivals and Snowdonia.  Winter-time Snowdonia looks beautiful, with the sun shining on a covering of snow.

Bardsey Island fills our gaze by now, but between us and the island lies Graig Ddu  -  Black Rock  -  that stands in the powerful currents of the Sound, the currents are very strong, and it is quite understandable why the inhabitants in the old days turned to prayers when making the crossing.  On the rock and around it, you can see seals swimming, and hauled out on the rock.

Next we come to the open heathland of Mynydd Bachestyn, Pigs of Ystum say some, but I think not.  We head seawards where we come upon the ruins of very old buildings, one looks like an oblong building within a much larger oblong earth enclosure.  Adjoining these are ruins of much older buildings, one square and one round, how old, no one knows.  There are two or three wells nearby, and three more further on.

After going over a stile, the path nears the sea again, where we see signs of mining or quarrying, carried out I’m almost certain, by a man named George Spargo, who along with a number of different partners, did a lot of exploratory digging, seeking minerals and fortunes.  He married Margaret Griffith, Pengraig, Llangwnnadl, related to the cancer-curing family.

Porth Felan  -  The Yellow Cove  -  is our next point of interest, this was used by the early inhabitants and pilgrims when other crossing points were not practical due to adverse weather conditions or wind direction.  On top of the cliff, within view of the cove, stands an old lime kiln.  Two hundred yards on, at the foot of Mynydd Gwyddel, we see  a row of very old, ruined, square buildings, five or six in numbers.

We have a climb ahead of us now to get to the top of Mynydd Gwyddel, the view changes again, we look down towards St. Mary’s Church, or the ruins of,  where the saints took shelter, were fed and cared for while awaiting to cross the Sound to Bardsey Island, the wait could be weeks long when bad weather dictated its terms.  We see now Maen Melyn Llŷn  -  The Yellow Rock of Llŷn  -  it is partly jasper and is covered by yellow ken, hence the name  -  that is situated above St. Mary’s Well, the fable regarding the well is quite interesting, if you can hold a mouthful of water from the well without swallowing it, and climb to the top of Mynydd Mawr, whatever you wish for is yours.  I have witnessed this feat, but the person would not reveal his wish, we parted that same day and have not met since.  The well water is fresh in spite of having the salt water waves wash over it.

We make our way down the wide path from Mynydd Gwyddel  -  notice on your left, a well that used to work a ram to pump water to Tŷ Mawr and Gwyddel before mains water from Cwm Ystradllyn came, the two farms shared the cost of the installation, which was  £150,  water had to be piped into the cowsheds before the Creameries at Rhydgwystl would accept the milk.  We now climb part-way up Mynydd Mawr, then fork right towards Safn Pant, there is a lively well behind the house, there is also another one at the foot of Mynydd Mawr that worked another ram to pump water to the top of the hill, H.M. Forces occupying the whole of Mynydd Mawr and several other sites then during World War II., but we shall not follow that today.


 Bardsey Island

Our path takes us down-hill now, between Safn Pant and Safn Pant Bach until we reach the road, which we cross, and follow the path across fields which will bring us to Pwllciw, past Gwag y NoePwll Ciw was known in the early days of carriers, goods and passengers, back and forth to Pwllheli, the local township.  We now follow the road back to the car park at Cwrt, passing Bodermyd Isa’ and Tir Glyn.

Thank you for your company, it will be nice to remove the boots now. 

Wil Efail Rhos.


Many thanks to Wil for this excellent walk.

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