Posted on 23/05/2018 by David
This is the second instalment of our brand new blog series, Sunday Afternoon Strolls, in which we share our favourite leisurely North Wales walks. You don't need to be an experienced hiker or super fit, you just need to enjoy the Great Outdoors and be willing to explore. At the end of each walk we'll spotlight a delicious place to eat... after all, Sundays are as much about the food as the feet, aren't they?
Today’s walk is a little more strenuous than the last one, but if you’re feeling up to the challenge, you’ll remember the views for a lifetime! One of my favourite walks to take in North Wales is from Sychnant Pass to Conwy. Before the railway arrived on the North Wales coast, the road through Sychnant Pass was the route of choice for mail coaches at high tide, when the faster route along the sands was unstable.
This route is equally challenging in either direction but there's a pub at each end, so it’s personal preference as to which direction you take! The walk takes about 1.5 - 2 hours, and while suitable for families with active children, I don’t recommend heading up there with prams, pushchairs or wheelchairs.
An historic natural landscape
The best time of year to take this walk is in August. This is when the pretty pink ling and bell heathers, and sunny gorse are all in flower. Delicious local honey is made from the heather here and is very popular at the 700-year old annual Conwy Honey Fair held every September.
This walk feels like you’re entering the heart of North Wales more than other popular tourist routes, but it has the benefit of still being accessible to visitors.
If you don’t drive, catching the bus from either end is a doddle. I recommend taking the bus as the only way to vary the route on the walk back is to walk along a busy A road, which isn’t enjoyable at all!
Hop on the Number 5 bus which travels between Bangor and Llandudno, and serves the village of Dwygyfylchi in both directions. Get off at nineteenth century St Gwynan’s Church, which is well worth exploring if you have time.
Built between 1888 and 1889, the site has been used as a place of worship since the medieval era and the mysticism is tangible when you walk around its dark and leafy graveyard. The pews of the present church were crafted from the roof timbers of an earlier church building constructed in 1760.
Proceed up Old Mill Road, which runs alongside the Afon Gyrach, or Gyrach River. There's a gentle ascent up this road that starts with pretty cottages and gradually gives way to woodland and views of the craggy peaks of Tal y Fan. Follow Old Mill Road right up to Sychnant Pass, and then turn left and continue.
If you’re hoping to grab a bite to eat before your hike, turn right at this junction and walk for a few minutes until you reach the Fairy Glen. On Tripadvisor, it has a reputation for fantastic meals (big portions) and has some great daily specials. We think the pub's real ale collection in particular is excellent.
Once you’re on Sychnant Pass, there’s a steeper ascent that can take your breath away if you aren’t fit as a fiddle. A couple of stops to catch your breath makes this demanding jaunt really enjoyable and it’s all the more reason to stop and admire the view.
From the road, you can see miles of coastline, the Carneddau mountain range and the headland of the Great Orme in Llandudno. There are several fascinating archaeological features nearby, including stone circles and medieval hafodtai (farmsteads used during the summer months). If you're interested head towards the hills on your right and explore the remains at your leisure.
The most intense part of the walk is mercifully short, and levels out once you reach the car park of the Pensychnant Conservation Centre & Nature Reserve. During the summer months, there’s usually an ice-cream van here, so go ahead and treat yourself!
The path then gives way to hilltop farmland and some amazing animals. You’ll meet sheep and horses (domesticated and perhaps even the wild Carneddau ponies too) all along this walk and in spring and summer you'll spot butterflies, dragonflies and bumblebees lazily exploring the foliage.
Eventually, the path along Conwy Mountain leads down into Conwy through the world-famous medieval town walls.
There's so much to do in Conwy but there's a few favourites that I can never resist. Foregoing the temptations of the Pensychnant ice cream van, I save myself to enjoy a Parisella’s of Conwy instead. The flavours are varied and delicious (my favourite is Key Lime Pie) and you can let your legs recover sat on the quayside while you slurp a waffle cone or tub.
Prefer something stronger? After such a long walk, how about a bite to eat and a pint? Visit the Castle Hotel on Conwy High Street and drop into Dawson's Bar & Snug which serves delicious locally-sourced food all day.
If you've got time before making your return journey, I recommend spending some time exploring Tudor merchant's house Plas Mawr. This stunning period property stands as a symbol of a prosperous age in Great Britain's history and is frequently referred to as an 'Elizabethan gem worth its weight in gold'. However, this fascinating family house harbours dark secrets too and if you're a fan of the paranormal, Plas Mawr will not disappoint!
Make a stay of it
Not ready to leave just yet? We don't blame you! Why not extend your visit and stay at one of our cottages near Sychnant Pass?
Pant Glas - a beautiful, two-bedroom country cottage at the foot of Sychnant Pass. It's within walking distance of the Welsh countryside but close to the pub too, perfect!
Plas Newydd - if you've been inspired by the grandeur of Plas Mawr, stay at this palatial property on Conwy Mountain. Set within acres of beautiful garden, you'll feel miles from anywhere but you're just a few minutes drive from the hustle and bustle of Conwy.
Minafon - another quaint cottage at the foot of Sychnant Pass, this property sleeps three and comes complete with the ubiquitous log burner for the complete rural experience.