A window onto North Wales & Snowdonia

Walker’s Guide: Cwmorthin from Tanygrisiau

In Walker's Guides on June 15, 2009 at 9:15 pm

Ruins at Cwmorthin

In the first of our new guided walks series, I’ll be telling you about the secluded valley of Cwmorthin, complete with instructions on how to get there and a guided route to follow to get the best out of the stunning scenery.  You’ll also find photos and map links at the end of the article.  Over this series of “Walker’s Guide” posts we’ll be building up a library of free scenic walks for you to follow in the Snowdonia area to help you enjoy your visit.

Cwmorthin is worth the visit, both for its magnificent scenery and the intriguing ruins left over from its history of quarrying.  The route takes you along rough tracks and paths which can be wet in places, but is easy to follow.  It’s about 4 miles to walk up and return by the same route so we’re starting off easy!

Driving directions to start from Tanygrisau

Pick up the A496 from Maentwrog heading East, and take the left turn just past the stone bridge over the River Cynfal towards Blaenau Ffestiniog.  Continue uphill and about 1.5 km before Blaenau Ffestiniog take the left turn signposted Ffestiniog Power Station.

Pass the Lakeside Diner (meals, drinks & snacks if you need a stop-off) and the visitor centre, and turn right over the Ffestiniog Railway level crossing.

Keep right over the bridge and then take the left at the next T-junction for the parking area.

The Walk

From the parking area, a rough track leads quite steeply uphill beside a waterfall on the left.  At a level area turn left through a gate into a ‘garden’.

Go through another gate and follow the path alongside a pool.  The path climbs gently to the ruins at Llyn Cwmorthin.

The valley was filled by a huge glacier during the last ice age that left behind a rock barrier, forming a dam for the lake.  Ancient erosion gullies can be clearly seen flanking the Eastern side of the lake in the satellite images.  There are water lillies on the lake in summer.

The nearby ruins are the remains of quarrymens’ barracks dating as far back as the early 1800s, while further to the left are the ruins of Rhosydd Chapel.  Beyond that more ruins can be found including Plas Cwmorthin.  This was the house for the manager of Rhosydd Quarry and is hidden amongst the trees to your right.

Plas Cwmorthin was built around 1860 with four rooms on each floor.  Near the track is the Rhosydd Stable and further down lies Rhosydd Terrace.  There are six cottages, each was occupied by a quarryman and his family.  Before the quarries were opened, Cwmorthin was a drovers route.

Follow the track uphill and past a large pit wheel on the right.  Keep walking uphill to reach Bwlch Cwmorthin and the main working area of Rhosydd Quarry.

The main mill once stood here and you can see the remains of two rows of barracks to the left, behind them the main adit.  Men would have stayed here from Monday to Saturday and walked in from Beddgelert, Croesor, Llan Ffestiniog and even further afield.

Turn left between ruined houses and a wheel pit, pass a tunnel on the left and climb an incline to the remains of a drum house.  Follow the path up another incline to a level area with great views of Cnicht on the right and Moelwyn Mawr ahead.

From here, you can return back down the same way and explore any hidden nooks you missed on the way up.


Slideshow and geotagged photos in also in Flickr:


OS Grid Reference: SH 678 463
Fly to Lake Cwmorthin on Google Earth: 52°59’50” N, 3°58’16” W

Paper maps: OS Landranger Sheet 124 115 (1:50,000 scale)
Paper maps: OS Explorer Outdoor Leisure Sheet OL18 (1:25,000 scale)

  1. […] Moelwynion Circuit – 15km route for both walkers and cyclists with some challenging gradients, excellent views over the Ffestiniog area. [our walk posted here a few months back covers part of this route] […]

  2. A great article, and the walk sounds interesting. Wonderful pictures, and I hope to be able to walk here soon. Do you have any more articles about the history of the slate quarry and the chapel in Cwmorthin? If you do, please send me the links.

    • Thanks for the feedback Enid!

      We’ve managed to dig up some good history on the quarry so will post a new article for you in the next couple of days, and I’ll see what I can find on the Chapel.

      I’ll post another response this week with links to the quarry article once it’s ready.

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