Heritage Walk - Capel Curig - the Heart of Snowdonia

Capel Curig tourist information and accommodation guide - hotels, guest houses, bed & breakfast, camp sites and self catering cottages, shops, places to eat, outdoor pursuits, attractions and much more

Moel Siabod
Heritage Walk

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This walk has been reproduced by kind permission of the Friends of St Julitta’s. The walk should take about three hours at a leisurely pace - walkers should wear suitable footwear as some of the ground is rough

Much of Capel Curig’s history revolves around the development of roads in the area - roads constructed by the Romans in their campaign to destroy the power of the druids, packhorse trails that were the principle means of access pre 18th century and turnpike/coach roads that brought the first passenger carrying vehicles to the village at the end of the 18th century

The walk starts from the car park behind Pinnacle Stores and Joe Brown's - leaving the car park you cross Hen Bont a rugged stone bridge dramatically spanning the gorge of the Afon Llugwy. This unusually tall bridge was built at the end of the 18th century to bring Lord Penrhyn’s first coach road from Nant Ffrancon in the north west to Capel Curig around 1790 From the bridge Llugwy Terrace, formally known as the New Stable Yard, a group of one and two storey buildings can be seen around a courtyard. These were the coaching stables for the Capel Curig turnpike road which replaced the first road (on which horses broke their legs and coaches overturned) and connected Capel Curig to Betws-y-Coed after 1802.

The cottage and stables allowed travellers to change horses at the road (without going down to the Capel Curig Inn) and accommodated the mail and stage coaches. The single storey building with massive slate window ledges on the corner with the main road was once the tap room of the Capel Curig Inn. This is were travellers took drink and refreshment whilst waiting for their horses to be changed

{short description of image} Across the river is an interesting group of model farm buildings, Royal Farm, built by Lord Penrhyn around 1800 to serve the hotel and probably designed by Benjamin Wyatt the hotels architect. Of the same period is Pont-y-Capel the elegant bridge over Afon Llugwy which took a branch road down to the Capel Curig Inn.

Turn right down the A4086 and on the right of the former coaching stables the central cream coloured cottage of Llugwy Cottage fills in the arch through which the coaches used to pass

{short description of image} Immediately after the bridge is the old church of St Julitta’s, the smallest in Snowdonia. The churchyard is tucked in beside the river with an abundance of lady ferns softening the hard edges of the gravestones and walls adding to the tranquillity of the pastoral landscape, blending the churchyard into the open view down the river valley. There are many fine and interesting tombs and graves in the churchyard. Primroses and daffodils add colour to the scene in spring.

The 13th/14th century church was formerly Curig’s Chapel which gave its name to the village but with the growth of tourism in the 19th century the church became too small to house the summer congregation and a new church was built at the crossroads and took the name of St Curig’s

St Julitta’s was the original heart of the village where stood a smithy and the only shop in the 18th century. Eleanor Price took over running the shop on her parents death and every month would ride on horseback to Llandegaito pay for flour and order the following months supply. One bleak winter journey she caught a chill which turned to pneumonia and she died in 1855 leaving her husband with six children to care for - her grave can be seen in the churchyard.

{short description of image} The small building opposite the church is the bier house which housed the bier used to carry coffins into the graveyard.

Continuing along the A4086 to the group of buildings now Plas y Brenin National Mountaineering Centre - the buildings include the Capel Curig Inn built by Lord Penrhyn in 1800 as the first fashionable hotel in the area. The site was chosen some way off the high road to take advantage of the well known view over the twin lakes of Llynnau Mymbyr towards the Snowdon horseshoe. A stable block to the left accommodated the carriages and horses of guests whilst the original hotel building with its pump room is nearest to the lake The hotels popularity led to expansion in the village. In 1808 the Shrewsbury to Holyhead mail coach (named the Ancient Briton) was re-routed away from the North Wales coastal route to run via Capel Curig. Queen Victoria and Kings Edward VII, George V and Edward VIII all stayed at the inn which changed its name to the Royal Hotel in 1870.

Immediately past Plas y Brenin turn left down a footpath leading to Pont y Bala footbridge over the outflow of Llynnau Mymbyr - known in Victorian times as the Rustic Bridge.

Looking back to the hotel , its "Strawberry Hill" gothic style architecture can be fully appreciated, though the ski slope has replaced the rose garden and ornamental pond

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Turning left over the bridge the track leads to the 16th century cottage of Bryn-engan. This is an example of a lobby entry house, one of the solutions used in post-medieval houses for siting the chimney inside the building with the side of the fireplace facing the entry, forming a small lobby

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The track continues through the ancient oak wood of Bryn Engan, strewn with massive moss covered boulders, the trees dripping with lichen and polypody ferns. Amongst the sessile oaks there are some large rowan and birch trees also encrusted with lichens. Downie birch predominates wherever there is sufficient light to allow natural regeneration (as along the track or where fallen trees have created space)

Rich green mosses cover the ground, plentifully speckled with tiny yellow tormentil and wood sorrel, with patches of bilberry and wild raspberries: this plant community is typical of woodlands on thin, moist, acid upland soil

The path continues following the direction of the river and on the left across the marshy flood plain stretched along the A5 the neat white inns and guest houses originally built to fuel the Victorian tourist era

{short description of image} As the riverside path climbs above a rocky gorge we begin to appreciate the engineering feat involved in the construction of the coach road which runs on a high embankment above the Llugwy gorge. Across the river we can make out one of the mile stones erected by Thomas Telford when he re-engineered the road in 1815.

The path now descends to a footbridge which leads to Cobden’s Hotel. Sited at the narrowest part of the pass the hotel was originally known as Tan y Belch until purchased in 1890 by the famous cricket Frank Cobden - it houses a large colony of Pipistrelle bats which can often be seen in large numbers in summer after sunset streaming from the eaves.

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Leaving the riverside field over the wooden footbridge at the far end we bear left along the path leading to Capel Curig’s most celebrated bridge, Pont Cyfyng, set picturesquely over the Cyfyng Falls. This was Lord Penrhyn’s solution to carry the 1805 coach road through the narrowest part of the gorge. However the bridge and road beyond was not wide enough to allow two coaches to pass safely. Telford’s improvements to the London to Holyhead road around 1819 involved the construction of an even more massive embankment on the north side of the falls - seen to the right as you cross the bridge.

Over the bridge turn right to reach one of Telford’s happily placed little alcoves built in the breastwork protecting the road to afford the best view of the old bridge, the turbulent river and falls.
Opposite Pont Cyfyng the single storey building with its patterned slate roof is the former pay office of the Rhos slate quarry whose remains stand high above the village on the slopes of Moel Siabod - slate was loaded onto carts at the bridge for transport to Trefriw where they were loaded onto boats {short description of image}

{short description of image} Turn left onto the A5 and the next cottage on the right, Ty'r Bont is copied from the cyclopean style of the well known "Ugly House" - its walls constructed of huge stone blocks and the overhanging roof supported by carved stone corbels

Continue on the A5 to the Tyn-y-Coed Hotel - the back bar and cellar date from over 300 years ago. Quarrymen walking from Trefriw would use the pub on their way to and from the Siabod quarry Opposite the hotel is an old coach - the Yorkshire Rose which acts as a reminder of Capel Curig’s heyday from 1808 when the new Holyhead Mail Started to run along the "Great Irish Road" - this era ended in 1849 with the advent of railways {short description of image}

Just before the old school dated 1907 (with separate entrances for boys and girls) turn right over the stile and follow the slate path up through the oak wood of Coed Bryn Bethynau nature reserve. The lower slopes of the woodland appear to have been frozen in mid-succession for it consists mainly of old birches with only a few scattered oaks. The well placed birch trunks with their widely spreading crowns and lack of oaks which would be expected to naturally replace birch in acid woodlands suggests that this area had been woodland pasture for generations

Some recent oak regeneration implies that the reserve may be progressing towards oak woodland if over grazing is now prevented After crossing the stile out of the wood climb the grassy knoll on your left to see a good example of a cist cairn. The cairn has been partially dismantled - probably by grave robbers in the 17th century - leaving a clear view of the stone chamber which held a bronze age cremation. Some of the boulders are part of a recent field clearance. On a clear day you will enjoy a superb panorama of Moel Siabod, the Snowdon horseshoe, the glyders and Cameddau from this spot

Follow the footpath signs across the field, through a gap in the dry stone wall and across a stile with the Llama enclosure on the right. Crossing a track follow the footpath signs bearing to the right across another stile through some conifers from which you emerge onto the high pastures of Nant y Gerault. Here sheep and cattle would be brought for the summer months with the family moving up to the old hafod summer farm further up the track towards Llyn Crafnant.
On crossing a stone slab footbridge fork left to head west along the old packhorse trail to Llanwrst - the main route to Capel Curig until the construction of the 1790 coach road. In the summer note where the packhorse trail crosses a watery mire area - the bog myrtle and water mint scent the air. {short description of image}

{short description of image} Continue along the track until it descends past the "new" church of St Curig and rejoins the road. Built in 1880 on land provided by Lord Penrhyn it replaced the old church which had become too small to house the congregation of summer visitors. Just to the left along the A5 is the former turnpike cottage of Tyn-y Lon where a toll gate barred the road till 1890 - however people going to church where exempt from tolls