Waun Y Llyn, Hope Mountain

The ‘mountains’ in Wales might not be the highest ones ever but they sure offer spectacular views. And Hope Mountain in Flintshire is no exception.

I started my circular walk in Coed Talon, trying to include some local industrial history along the way. From the Railway Inn, I followed the disused railway line towards Llanfynydd. What is now a quiet and peaceful wildlife corridor including Wood Pit, a wetland nature reserve, was once part of the Mold-Brymbo railway line and a very noisy and bustling place. The area was heavily mined and trucks transporting coal, oil and stone from the nearby works and mines used the tracks. A far cry from the sound of birds chirping away and woodpeckers that greet you now.

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If it looks manmade, it probably is. The disused railway line.

A far cry from the sound of birds chirping away and woodpeckers that greet you now.

After leaving the old railway line it was uphill to the top and Waun Y Llyn Country Park.

Waun Y Llyn has always drawn people up here. The panoramic views over Snowdonia, Liverpool and far beyond are amazing especially on a sunny day like this.

People used to take a bracing walk up here from the fashionable spa in Caergwrle 100 years ago. Though it would have been less peaceful up here back then.

 

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Love this kind of stile: hole on the left for dogs, steps on right for humans

 

In the 19th and early 20th century, the hard silica sandstone of Waun Y Llyn was quarried and taken down the hillside by tramway to Coed Talon where it was ground into silica powder, used in glass making. Millstone grit was also quarried from the mountain and used for buildings and millstones for mills int the Alyn Valley below.

 

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Remains of the stone base of the top winding house.

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Winding house at the bottom

 

More hills to climb – Clwydian Range

“After climbing a great hill, one only finds that there are many more hills to climb.” Nelson Mandela

Well, I don’t think he was referring to geographical features but in the Clwydian Range you can take this quite literally.

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Moel Famau and the Jubilee Tower

The range of hill lies on the border between Denbighshire and Flintshire in Wales and has been classed as an Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty since 1985. The highest hill is Moel Famau (555m) with the Jubilee Tower on its summit. And even though the tower marked a joyous occasion it’s kind of a sad story really.

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Only the base is left of the tower

The Jubilee Tower was built to commemorate the golden jubilee of King George III in 1810. Designed by Thomas Harrison of Chester it was supposed to look like an Egyptian obelisk with three tiers. Supposed to – due to a lack of funds it was never completed and a major storm brought down the incomplete tower in 1862. The remaining upper part of the tower was demolished for safety reasons, leaving just the base. Rubble and smaller stonework was reused by local farmers for dry stone walls.

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Even what little remains of the Jubilee Tower can be seen from far away.

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Love those carvings, the top one dates from 1850

So instead of finding a magnificent structure, you are rewarded with spectacular views across the Wirral and Merseyside to the east and across to the coast, Snowdonia and the Dee Valley to the west and south.

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Looking towards the Dee Estuary, you can just make out Flintshire Bridge

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The views are fantastic.

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The path I came up is visible on the left. Ruthin can be seen in the background.

You can also see the chain of Iron Age Hillforts that follow the range on the other hill tops. About 2500 years ago these peaks were occupied and defended and had huge earth ramparts constructed around them.

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Moel Arthur. You can clearly see the earthen banks and ditches.

You might think, that being on the highest hill already it would be quite easy to visit these. Not quite. It goes down. And up. A lot.

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And down and up the hill again…

Made it! It was so worth the effort.

Made it! It was so worth the effort.

All the while during my hike I didn’t quite know where to look because the views were so beautiful all the time. And once I had left Moel Famau it was so quiet. No man-made noise, just me and nature.

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A Welsh castle worthy of Shakespeare

“Wales. Before Flint castle.
Enter, with drum and colours, Henry Bolingbroke, Duke of York, Northumberland, Attendants, and forces”
This is how Act III, Scene III in Shakespeare’s The Tragedy of King Richard II. starts. And if Flint Castle is good enough for Shakespeare to mention it (ok, it actually played a part in Richard II. history), it is certainly good enough for me to pay a visit.

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View of the castle from the outer bailey with the prominent Great Tower in the back. The small fragment in the foreground is the remains of the outer gatehouse.

Flint Castle was the first castle to be built by Kind Edward I. in a chain of castles which he built to encircle North Wales, the so-called Iron Ring. It was started in 1277 and stands at the eastern doorway into North Wales.

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Approaching the castle with the South West Tower on the left and the Great Tower on the right. The modern bridge leads over the inner ditch into the castle grounds.

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The North East Tower. The views across the Dee estuary bring us in contact with England, and the Wirral.

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Inside the North East Tower.

In 1282 Dafydd ap Gruffydd, brother of Llywelyn the Last, attempted an uprising against the Crown and attacked the castle. In 1294 it was attacked again by Madog ap Llywelyn and with the end of the Welsh Wars English settlers and merchants were given land and property in the new town of Flint next to the castle.

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West curtain wall and North West Tower from the inner ward. The well is clearly visible in the foreground.

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Entrance into the North West Tower.

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Inside the tower.

In 1399 Richard II of England was held in the castle before being taken back to London. The Royalists held the castle during the English Civil War and it was finally captured by the Parliamentarians in 1647 after a three month long siege. It was partly destroyed under Cromwell’s orders so that it couldn’t be used again.

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Looking back across the grounds towards the bridge and the Great Tower on the right.

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The North East Tower viewed from the top of the Great Tower with the estuary in the background.

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Stone vaulted gallery running through the basement of the Great Tower.

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You really get a feel for the thickness of the walls down there.

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After my tour around the castle I decided to go for a walk along a stretch of the Wales Coast Path. I was really impressed, even though some parts were still closed due to damages caused by the severe weather, and I will definitely explore more of it.

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The Wales Coast Path passes Flint Castle. View of the North East Tower (left) and North West Tower (right).

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The waters of the estuary once ran up to the slopes of the castle’s bailey and would have provided an excellent defensive barrier.

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A reminder of the contrast between our modern world and the Middle Ages – the castle and marches with Connah’s Quay Power Station and Deeside Industrial Park in the background.

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Flint Castle seen from the marches with the Great Tower on the left and the North East Tower on the right.

Caergwrle Castle – Queen’s Hope

With spring and some drier weather finally here I am trying to tick off the last items on my ‘castle list’. There are many castles in North Wales, some well known and popular (like Caernarfon Castle) and some a bit more overlooked. Particularly those that were left in ruins and are more difficult to get to because of their location. But sometimes it’s exactly that location that makes them spectacular.

Caergwrle Castle

Caergwrle Castle

Here are a couple of historic facts for those of you who are interested: Caergwrle Castle, also known as Queen’s Hope in scholarly texts, is located (as the name suggests)in the town of Caergwrle, in Flintshire. Built on a steep hill near the Anglo-Welsh border, it was the final castle to be built by Welsh rulers before the loss of Welsh independence in 1283.

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From the other side. The views extend far into Flintshire and Cheshire.

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Looking up the north tower.

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“Inside” the north tower which still features remains of a fireplace and privy on.

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Dressed stones, up to head height, were robbed to build structures in the village in the 17th century.

 

Construction of the castle began in 1277, after King Edward I gave the lordship of Hope to Dafydd ap Gruffudd as reward for his service in the Welsh war concluded earlier that year. The castle  was apparently still unfinished when Dafydd revolted in 1282. By the time Edward had gathered an army to invade Wales in June, Dafydd had already retreated from Caergwrle, and had slighted the castle, even blocking up its well to deny it to the English. Edward promptly began rebuilding the castle, and gave it to his wife, Eleanor of Castile. However, a fire in 1283 gutted the castle and it was never rebuilt.

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The blocked up well.

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The castle had quite a substantial size considering it was built up on a hill.

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An old oven that once fed the army of stonemasons can still be seen.

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Looking back towards the north tower.

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An old archway.

One down on my list, three more to go. And I already picked up a leaflet in the local TIC with more castles to visit…