Blaenau Ffestiniog Slate Walk
The final Snowdonia walk over the Easter holiday was local to where we were staying. We started from Blaenau Ffestiniog and spent the afternoon climbing up through the slate quarries and old waste heaps.
It was miserable weather when we woke up on the Friday morning. The mountains surrounding us were shrouded in cloud and heavy rain filled the valley. It cleared around lunchtime so we decided to walk from the town to Cwmorthin, a lake nearby. The weather continued to very gradually improve so we extended the walk up through the old slate quarries, waste heaps and around the mountain.
It is probably the most gray walk I have done.
The lake was surrounded by mountains of slate debris from the old quarries and mines. Scattered throughout the valley were the remnants of the old slate mining village, with roofless houses and abandoned buildings. Towards the far end of the valley there was a church (also roofless) but the front wall was still standing and had complete arches. I think it must have been rebuilt at some point recently.
As we climbed up the hill, we could see the old village and lake behind us.
We decided to keep on walking and continued up to the next level of the valley, where we found yet another quarry. Then another, and another, each at different levels on the mountainside.
There were more houses at each quarry as we went higher and higher. We also passed by another waterfall coming off the mountain. This one had a large slate wall (everything possible around here is made from slate).
Towards the top I started to spot tunnel entrances, many were flooded so I sensibly didn’t explore into them. Finding myself trapped under a mountain of slate in Wales didn’t seem worth the excitement of exploring a damp mine.
I decided not to explore this one due to a sudden aversion to paddling in freezing cold water.
We continued on up the mountain, passing by many more tunnels and then I spotted one that got lighter as it went deeper into the mountain and wasn’t as flooded. How there was light inside was a puzzle worth braving the gloom for.
I crept along the tunnel and after a couple of metres it opened up into a massive cavern under the mountain. The light was coming from a large hole in the ceiling that opened up higher on the mountain. The path continued into another tunnel the other side of the cavern which I decided not to venture down. It had a musty smell and right in the middle was a large hillock of sheep muck showing that it was a popular spot for sheep to shelter in during the wet weather.
At the top of the mountain we found another old quarry but with no way in. It was a massive hole with steep sides and towering cliffs. And a huge cave sloping down into the mountain.
From the top of the mountain it was a quick walk back down a steep slate staircase set into the mountain.
Read about my experience climbing Mount Snowdon here!