Bryneglwys to The Grouse and back (6.8 miles)
If you live in Bryneglwys, the nearest pub/restaurant is 3.4 miles away by foot, the most direct route being half on tarmac and half via fields and a forest. The walk only has one slightly challenging section: the long and fairly steep forest path directly behind Carrog, which needs to be climbed on the return leg of the walk (unless you opt to return via the road).
The Grouse Inn at Carrog is a traditional family pub with three rooms and a large covered patio overlooking the River Dee (see above). Because of its idilic setting, it is very popular with visitors and tourists on sunny weekends, but food is served all day long, so if you time your walk to miss the midday rush, you shouldn’t have to wait long to be served. The food on offer is what we like to call ‘perfect pub-grub’ that is both plentiful and tasty. The pub’s owner, Sarah, sure knows her stuff when it comes to catering, especially for those with food intolerances.
The first half of the journey to the pub couldn’t be simpler: take the Bryneg to Carrog road that begins at Trem Y Foel, leaving the village in a south-westerly direction past Tyn-y-wern farm. After about 30 minutes walking (1.4 miles), you will decend a hill to a junction, with a road forking off to the right (that joins the A5104) and a large metal gate on your left. The tarmac becomes more recently laid at this point. Walk another 40 yards or so and you will see a small metal gate on your left, next to a bridalway signpost (shown below).
Go through this gate and head up the field and to your right, aiming for the nearest group of trees roughly in the centre of your horizon. Just past these trees and round the corner is a wooden gate and style - this marks the start of the ancient part of the Clwydian Way drover's path, with trees lining the trail all the way to Bwlch Coch (red gap). Just keep within the two lines of trees and you can't go wrong. The path can become a little overgrown in the summer, and patches of tall nettles are best negotiated in trousers, not shorts, but a regular footfall of walkers ensures that a visible path through the overgrown parts of the trail can always be found. As you pass the stone ruins of drover's huts and overnight sheep pens, you'll realise that you're treading a route that pre-dates most of the roads that make up the modern highway system. The peace and tranquility of nature envelops you as buzzards circle overhead and kites swoop low down in the valley to your right; for you are in the heart of the North Wales countryside now, far from busy roads and towns.
As you emerge from the ancient tree-lined section of the Clwydian Way, go through or over the gate ahead and keep to the left of the dilapidated dry-stone wall as it bends round to the left. Go though or over the first gate that you come to on your right, and walk towards the Dee Valley that should be opening up before you. If the weather is calm, stop and take in the silence for a moment - few places we know are quite this quiet. You'll likely hear the whistle of a steam train every now and then, and buzzards calling to each other across the valley sides, but other than that the silence is deafening. Look for the top of a Chestnut tree poking up from the field's horizon, and head towards it (shown below). Note the naturally-formed seat of rock below this tree, for this is where you'll take a break in a few hour's time. For now though, walk past the tree and down the path to the stile on the edge of the forest before you.
If this part of the hillside had a name, it would be called Silver-Oak Down, for growing out of the lush ferns all around you are hundreds of silver birch and oak trees, forming a high canopy and offering tantalising glimpses of the River Dee below and to your left. As you descend down the soft, loamy path, know that lunch and a cool pint of lager or Guinness is only minutes away now. Take care during the last short downhill section as it is steep and slippy underfoot where so many people have climbed before you in search of the views by the Chestnut tree. As you emerge from the path (shown below during the relocation by the author of three lambs to their mother's side), the beer garden of the Grouse Inn invites you to stop and take in the majestic River Dee in all its glory. Enjoy your lunch.
Before you leave the Grouse, psyche yourself up for the climb back up through the forest, and buy a bar of chocolate as an incentive to enjoy when you reach the top. If you're lacking the will-power to make the climb, you have the option of returning to Bryneg via the Bryneg/Carrog road. To do so, leave the pub via its front door, turn right, and follow the main road west through Carrog until you come to the church and school. Follow the road to the right of the church and left of the school, through what looks a farmer's yard, and onwards to Bryneg. Whilst taking the road avoids the 'big climb', the route is longer, there are still plenty of smaller hills to climb, and since when has walking on tarmac been anything like as satisfying as a peaceful hilltop walk with a fantastic view?
Assuming you've bitten the bullet and chosen the shorter route, retrace your steps up the hill and find the rock-seat by the Chestnut tree. Enjoy the views and your chocolate treat - you've earned it. At this point you'll be wondering how you can possibly find the energy to make it back to Bryneg, but worry not, for after the next short climb through the field behind you, it's all more-or-less gently downhill to Bryneglwys, which is far more easy-going in its entirety than the steep climb you just made.
Retrace your route through the ancient Clwydian Way, and head down the hill to the gate onto the Bryneg/Carrog road (shown above). From here, turn right and stay on the road all the way back to Bryneglwys. This road is only used by residents and farm traffic, so on a weekend it is quite normal not to see a single vehicle or person all the way to the village, only sheep, horses, cattle and buzzards.
If you complete this walk, please let us know what you think of it in the comments section below.