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4.5 Miles / 2.5-4 hrs
A challenging path with some steep sections, and cliff edges above Minllyn quarry. Navigation can be tricky at the top in poor weather.
The route gives spectacular views of Maesglase, the Aran range and the Dyfi and Cerist valleys and also goes through the impressive abandoned Minllyn slate mine.
The path can be followed using this Ordnance Survey Map.
Dog Walkers: There are several stiles on the route. Much of the route is wild sheep grazing, and even the forest sections can be home to a few feral sheep.
The route is described in an anticlockwise direction but the path is also signed in the opposite direction.
Park in Dinas Mawddwy car park, opposite the Llew Coch (Red Lion) Inn. There are public toilets at the entrance to the car park.
From the car park entrance turn right, uphill, on Wyle Cop street to the A470. Turn right and, after 100m, cross the road to a layby with a footpath at its far end.
As you go up Wyle cop Street, the concrete wall on the right doesn’t look like much, but it one of the oldest in the world. It was the latest innovation when it was built around the mansion of the wealthy and spendthrift Edmund Buckley, Lord of Mawddwy, in the 1860s.
Take the footpath and follow it steeply up to a forestry road. Turn right on the forestry road for 50m and then take the signed footpath on the left, immediately after a set of steps (which lead only to the water works). Climb steadily up through the forest and out onto the hillside.
Near the lay-by was the site of the Dinas Mawddwy jail. It also had a whipping post, stocks and fetters which were secured around the ankles to stop escape.
Dinas Mawddwy was a medieval Borough up to 1886 and it held fairs over the centuries, and was a centre for keeping local law and order.
Follow the narrow path as it traverses the hillside above Maesglase valley.
You are now in Cwm Maes Glase, “Valley of the Cloister Field”. In the main valley below is the River Cerist with Graig Wen waterfall on the hillside opposite. The area was mined for lead and now Red Bull downhill mountain biking races are held there.
Thomas Pennant, a relation to the owner of the Dinas Mawddwy estate John Mytton, wrote about the area in his 1810 book Tours in Wales : “Dinas Mawddwy was noted for a bluish ochre, which the shepherds wet, and pound in a mortar, then form into balls, and used in marking their sheep. An old proverb of the three things Mawddwy wishes to send out of the country shows their long knowledge of it.
O Fowddu ddu ni ddaw, dim allan
A ellir ‘i rwystraw,
Ond tri pheth helaeth hylaw
Dyn atgas, NOD GLAS, a gwlaw.*
“From the black Mawddwy, nothing comes out that can be stopped,
but three plentiful things [in particular]
Evil men, blue-marking earth, and rain”
Continue traversing the hillside for another 1km, crossing a stile and then continuing on awkward ground to a fenceline on a ridge. Turn right alongside the fenceline and follow the path for a few hundred metres down to the low point of Bwlch Siglen, where there is a pedestrian gate.
After 500m or so you will be above a large farm, this is Ty’n y Braich, home of the Jones family.
On the 1st of September 2012, some 60 members of the family met at the farm for a special anniversary. This was an unique family celebration for the descendants of a family that stretched back 1,000 years. It was organised to commemorate the 1000th anniversary of the family’s roots: a family tree, kept in a handed-down Bible and Apocrypha, shows the family have farmed the land since 1012.
Ty’n y Braich entered the limelight in 2002 when author Angharad Price won the Prose Medal at the National Eisteddfod for her novel ‘O! Tyn y Gorchudd!’, translated into English under the title ‘The Life of Rebecca Jones’ and numerous other languages as well by now.
Angharad’s novel was inspired by the life of her great aunt, Rebecca Jones. One of seven children, she had five brothers, including Robert, who was the father of the farm’s current incumbent. Three of the brothers were blind: Gruffudd, who went on to become a distinguished vicar; William, a gifted translator in braille; and Lewis, who worked in IT at Nottingham University.
But what makes Ty’n y Braich so special is the fact that the family’s history was recorded, dating back to a time when the local holdings were tenanted and few could read or write.
The farmhouse is home to a literary tradition that would be continued by the likes of Ty’n y Braich poets John and Robert Jones.
Go through the pedestrian gate and follow the path for 100m to a T-Junction. Turn left and descend to a forestry road. Cross straight over and continue downhill for 500m until you reach a footpath sign on your left. Turn left along the footpath.
If you miss the footpath sign you will quickly reach the ruins of a farm, so turn back to find the path again in that case.
On the mountainside opposite Bwlch Siglen is the impressive Pistyll Maes Glase, dropping down several steps. The total descent is about 160 metres, making it equal tallest in total height of all waterfalls in Wales. Its tallest single drop is a very respectable 85 metres, and the second tallest is 34. This is over twice as tall as the better known Pistyll Rhaeadr at Llanrhaeadr ym Mochnant.
Bwlch Siglen was traversed by slate miners and other travellers between Aberangell and Dinas Mawddwy. Siglen is the Welsh word for a marshy area due to the wet and often dangerous conditions on the route down to Dinas Mawddwy. About halfway across there used to be a flat stone and those who stopped there for a breather or to admire the stunning views into the two valleys would carve their initials into it.
Follow the footpath, which soon runs close alongside a little stream. After 500m, cross at a footbridge and then bear left through fields to a final gate onto moorland. Hop over a tiny stream and then climb steadily up the hillside to the top, at a broad col.
This area used to belong to Cae Baty farm, which does not exist any longer, though its name is still in use for a field. From the early 19th century smallholdings that were proving to be uneconomical to provide even subsistence farming were being amalgamated in an attempt to increase their capability to provide a living. It has been suggested that the minimum amount of land necessary for survival in the uplands of Mawddwy was around 40 acres and even this was dependant on vast tracts of open mountain for rearing sheep. Of the five farms located in the upper Mynach valley Cae Baty at 30 acres was the smallest and the first to be amalgamated when it was swallowed by Blaenycwm farm in the 1880s.
One possible origin of the name is from the old custom of ‘batting’ the land, by burning it and using the ash as a fertilizer. If so, its original name was Cae Batin.
The surrounding area has also been given the name of Cwm Glan Mynach and Blaen Cwm Mynach, (valley of monks), which has resulted in speculation that sometime in the past there was some monastic connection with this remote corner of the south Merionnydd hills. An alternative origin for the name is ‘Cae Abaty’ meaning ‘Abbey field’
There is little documentary evidence to back up such a claim: no land in the area appears to have been given to such abbeys as Strata Marcella (Welshpool) or Cymer (near Dolgellau) during the Middle Ages, although they did have a dairy farm in the next valley. It was, however, customary for landowners to bequeath small portions of land to the Abbeys in return for absolution, particularly if they had led a somewhat wayward life.
One such gift could have been this small farm. There is a strong belief that the name Maesglase over Bwlch Siglen indicated an Ecclesiastical connection. Small, isolated monastic cells where a few monks lived a spartan existence were often found in remote parts of Wales during the Middle Ages, and tradition has always maintained that such a building was situated at Blaen Cwm Mynach. Two other sites of early churches, now long vanished, have been associated with the immediate area, one at Cwm yr Eglwys near Ty’n y Braich and at Cefn Llandybo South of Aberangell, where some remains were still clearly visible until the 9th century.
On the left as you climb is the Cae Abaty Slate mine. This was worked with Minllyn quarry on the other side of the mountain, which you will pass later. The roughly hewn slabs would be hauled up the slope on a tracked incline and then lowered down to the main workings on the other side. Prior to this most of the slate extracted from the Cae Baty mine was used for local building. Bearing in mind the importance of Cwm Glan Mynach in the Middle Ages it is probable these excavations were among the earliest in Mawddwy.
The remains of a winding drum can still be seen on the Cae Baty site as well as parts of the turntable on the plateau between the two quarries.
It is doubtful if the expense of constructing the inclines between the two sites was justified. The rough slabs hauled over the mountain were dressed in the ‘upper’ sheds, a procedure that appears labour intensive and inefficient.
By the early 1900s any further development at Cae Baty was considered uneconomical. There were hopes this quarry would prove very productive, with good quality slate, and there were plans to connect it with the Minllyn workings by a tunnel, but this was never built.
The extensive workings are not the safest places to explore, but enthusiastic explorers will find the remains of a few buildings and the lower drum house of the Cae Baty incline.
Once at the col, you gain fabulous views into the upper Dyfi valley, provided the weather is kind. Below you is Minllyn quarry and 50m to your left are a few well-hidden remains of the inclines used to take slate from Cae Abaty mine.
The waymarked path bears slightly right here, taking an easier route down to the quarry than the footpath marked on OS maps. Follow the marker posts down through the quarry to the ruined slate-working sheds at the lowest point of the quarry. Next to the largest ruined building turn right through a pedestrian gate and follow the broad path downhill for 600m to a forestry road. Cross the forestry road and you will quickly arrive at the main A470.
Minllyn Quarry was developed between 1793 – 1800 by a local owner and then further developed by Edmund Buckley. This was a slate quarry and famous for slate slabs for making billiard tables, fireplace and floors as well as toilets and urinals. There was a water powered mill on the treatment floor near the open pit by 1845 and it was the first integrated mill in the region employing 3 saws, 3 planers and slate treatment machines; the water wheel was later replaced by a pelton wheel with backup steam. From the mill there was a steep slope down to the valley below with a further short incline to the Mawddwy Railway. The quarry eventually closed but was re-opened and re-equipped in 1872 and for a short time a workforce of over 100 produced slate annually at 100 tonnes per year. A larger new mill with 40 engines was built on the valley floor. By 1894 the workforce had reduced to 20 with 550 tonnes of slate being produced.
Productivity continued to decline until the quarry closed in 1925, by then there were only 3 saws and 2 planers. The large shed and other sheds are still visible at Meirion Mill – a shop and café and also another shed owned by the Wool Board which is still used for receiving and processing wool from the surrounding areas. Meirionnydd farmers started a co-operative post-war to produce blankets but that work ceased and the sheds were purchased by the current owners.
It is thought that there was a fortress between Minllyn bridge and the quarry above called Caer Bryn but there is no record of it or any remains except for high earth and shingle banks.
Workmen building the foundations of the Buckley Arms hotel found three or four graves containing human remains. The Hotel was built for Victorian tourists who were encouraged to visit the quarry and to climb the Aran and visit other sights in the area. The Hotel is constructed of in-situ concrete, built in 1873 for Sir Edmund Buckley to the designs of James Stephens of Manchester. It is said to be the oldest reinforced concrete building in Europe and the second oldest in the world.
The hamlet of Minllyn developed in the 1860s when people were moved here by Edmund Buckley, Lord of Mawddwy, to make way for his mansion in the village of Dinas Mawddwy.
The primary school is located inMinllyn after it was moved from the Minllyn common above Caer Bryn.
Cross the A470 and turn left and then bear right into the village of Dinas Mawddwy. In the village the Hen Siop Cafe will serve you tea and cake or you can continue to the Red Lion for a well-deserved beer. The car park is opposite.
The point at which you join the A470 was the location of the turnpike gate until the late 1800s. You had to pay a toll to go through which was used to maintain the road between Dinas and Dolgellau.
The white building, Brynteg, was the home of the Evans family and their Garage. Gwyndaf Evans became famous for rallying and now his son Elfyn is following in his footsteps.