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Conwy: Castle High and Castle Low

Conwy's magnificent castle lies at the foot of the Carneddau, but up there in the foothills there's a remote fort, an outpost of the Celtic era.

Distance 6.4 miles (10.4km)

Minimum time 4hrs

Ascent/gradient 1,214ft (370m)

Level of difficulty Medium

Paths Good paths and easy-to-follow moorland tracks, 6 stiles

Landscape Town, coastline high ridge, farmland and copse

Suggested map aqua3 OS Explorer OL17 Snowdon

Start/finish SH 782776

Dog friendliness OK on high ridges, but keep on leads elsewhere

Parking Large car park on Llanrwst Road behind Conwy Castle

Public toilets At car park

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1 From Conwy Quay head north west along the waterfront, past the Smallest House and under the town walls. Fork right along a tarmac waterside footpath that rounds Bodlondeb Wood. Turn left along the road, past the school and on to the A547. Cross the road, then the railway line by a footbridge. The lane beyond skirts a wood to reach another lane, where you turn right.

2 Another waymarker guides you on to a footpath on the right that, beyond a stile, rakes up wooded hillsides up on to Conwy Mountain. Follow the undulating crest of Conwy Mountain past Castell Caer.

3 Several tracks converge in the high fields of Pen-pyra. Here, follow signposts for the North Wales Path along the track heading to the south west over the left shoulder of Alltwen and down to the metalled road traversing the Sychnant Pass.

4 Follow the footpath from the other side of the road, skirting the woods on your left. Pass Gwern Engen on your left-hand side and continue to pass to the left of the Lodge, to reach a lane. Turn right along the lane, then turn left, when you reach the next junction, into Groesffordd village. Cross the road, then take the road ahead that swings to the right past a telephone box, then left (south east) towards Plas Iolyn.

5 Turn left at the next junction, then right at a signposted enclosed footpath that crosses fields all the way to the B5106. Turn left along this, then right when you get to the entrance to a caravan park, following frequent waymarkers through scrubland and scaling several stiles. After crossing a surfaced vehicle track, and descending into a little hollow, the path climbs left (north) along a pastured ridge, with a telephone mast straight ahead.

6 Turn left along the road you have now encountered then go right to pass to the right-hand side of the telephone mast and Bryn-Iocyn farm. On reaching Coed Benarth wood, turn left then follow the narrow path northwards through the woods.

7 Go over a ladder stile on your left-hand side and descend a field to a roadside gate at the bottom. Turn right on to the B5106 to return to the quayside, or turnleft to get back to the main car park.

Conwy is special. Approaching from Llandudno Junction, three fine bridges (including Thomas Telford's magnificent suspension bridge of 1822) cross the estuary beneath the mighty castle, allowing the road and the railway into this medieval World Heritage Site. The fortress dates back to 1287, when the powerful English King Edward I built it as part of his 'iron ring' to repress the rebellious troops of Llewelyn the Great, who had given him a great deal of trouble in his conquest of Wales.

Great town walls with gates and towers still encircle old Conwy. You should walk these walls, for they offer a fine rooftop view of the castle, the Conwy Estuary and the rocky knolls of Deganwy, before you arrive at the quayside where you can watch the fishermen sorting their nets and the seagulls watching out for any scraps.The walk description begins at the quayside, not the car park, as you will probably want to take a good look around this medieval town. The route starts on a shoreline path under the boughs of Bondlobeb Wood.

Not long after passing through Conwy's suburbs you're walking the hillside, on a path threading through gorse and small wind-twisted hawthorns. If you liked the views from the castle walls, you'll love the view from the Conwy Mountain ridge. Looking back, you can see the castle, towering over the town's roof tops; but now added to the scene are the Carneddau, the limestone isthmus of the Great Orme and, across the great sands of Lafan, Anglesey.

There is quite a network of paths criss-crossing the ridge and usually the best course is the highest: you'll need to be on the crest path to see the remains of Castell Caer. This 10-acre (4ha) fort has been linked to both Roman and Iron-Age settlers - it certainly has formidable defences, with clearly visible artificial ramparts that overlook spectacular sea cliffs on one side, and a wide view of the land to the south. Beyond the fort, the path misses out the peaks of Penmaen-bach and Alltwen, which is just as well, for the former has been heavily quarried for its roadstone - you probably drove over some of it on your way up the motorway. Instead you should descend to the Sychnant Pass, a splendid, twisting gorge that separates Conwy Mountain from the higher Carneddau peaks.

It's all downhill from here, but the scenery becomes more varied and still maintains interest. As you descend you can see the tidal River Conwy, twisting amongst chequered green fields. Little hills present themselves to you, on your way back north. One last one has pleasant woods with primroses and bluebells, and it gives you another fine view of Conwy Castle to add to your collection before returning to base.

What to look for

There is evidence of over 50 Iron-Age hut circles at the Caer Lleion fort on Conwy Mountain. Although the foundations still remain the huts would have been wooden with roofs thatched with rushes and reeds. The Celtic tribes that inhabited the huts would have disappeared from the hills after long battles with the Romans in the first century ad.

While you're there

Bodnant Gardens near Conwy is an 80-acre (32ha) garden of exotic plants, fine herbaceous borders, and ponds with a profusion of water lilies. It is in two parts, the upper known as the Terrace Gardens, is more formal with lawns and borders, while the lower, known as the Dell, has a more natural beauty and includes the Pinetum and Wild Gardens. Open mid-March to late October. Dogs are not allowed in the gardens.

Where to eat and drink

The Castle Hotel in Conwy's High Street is a rather grand 16th-century hotel that has a brasserie type restaurant and a lively bar where you can get excellent meals if you get there early enough to grab a table.

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