The Dulyn Reservoir hike: in the shadow of Carnedd Llewelyn’s crags

Walk length: 9.5km (round trip).

Snowdonia is renowned for its llyns (lakes): certain parts of the national park are fairly spattered in them. But the Dulyn Reservoir remains very much in the category of lesser-known lakes, despite its setting in the shelter of one of Snowdonia’s more famous mountains, Carnedd Llewelyn. And who doesn’t want an unforgettable wild swim as part of their moorland hike?

The approach lane to the Dulyn Reservoir Hike ©Luke Waterson

Sequestered within a stunning cirque below the Carnedd Llewelyn ridge-line, the Dulyn Reservoir is removed on so many levels. The lane up to the parking place alone beggars belief: it must be one of the steepest bendiest paved roads in Britain (woebetide you if you need to reverse on this one)! There is also the fact that the parking, for those that do make it, is for access to the long and lovely Llyn Eigiau, and not for Dulyn Reservoir at all. Then there is the added tourist distraction of Carnedd Llewelyn to further thin out prospective visitors. So whilst Snowdonia is vast enough, by and large, to disperse its many holiday-makers in trickles rather than torrents, it is still a breath of very fresh air to encounter so few other people on such a spectacular hike.

What to do

Hike! There is the Dulyn Reservoir Hike described by us below, but this is also the access point for clambering up Wales’ second-highest mountain, Carnedd Llewelyn. The route here sweeps around the southeastern edge of Llyn Eigiau along the way, making for another lovely hike.

History! On the first stretch of track alone there is a standing stone and a ruined croft to see, with another ruined settlement towards the end of the walk.

Wild swim! In either Llyn Eigiau or, as detailed below, Dulyn Reservoir.

Bag a bothy! Dulyn Bothy, detailed below is one of the remotest bothies in North Wales, and a great place to stay over combined with a long walk in the surrounding terrain.

The route

By the time you park your car, you are properly in the mood for a moorland adventure as open hill country has been hemming in on both sides of you for the last two miles. Glancing at your OS map, it is one of those heartening moments when you realise how humblingly insignificant the approach road or any other manmade structures seem besides the immensity of Snowdonia’s mountains and foothills stretching away north, west and south of here. Quite why a metalled lane stretches so far into wilderness is a mystery! The choices before you are to head southwest on the main track towards Llyn Eigiau/ Carnedd Llewelyn or to walk northeast on another distinct track heading gradually uphill: the latter is the way to Dulyn Reservoir.

The great thing about this hike is that it is an easy way of penetrating quite remote moorland scenery, without the need for much compass work, and with a surprisingly distinct easy-to-follow track to accompany you for the majority of the route.

Your track continues dead straight over the moor to reach a sheepfold (Point A). Take note: here, there is a crossroads with a fainter path to the left and your return route to the right, but for now you want the continuation of the track you began on which passes a ruined croft on the right and kinks first right and then left to climb around the hill ahead. And now, on up this delightful, wide-open boulder-scattered valley of grass and bracken you go. You are making along what is known on OS maps as the Clogwyn Maldy, and you continue initially west and then southeast to gain the upper reaches of the valley (here, we saw a tough-looking fell runner jogging past us on his way up Carnedd Llewelyn, but we were not about to and see the first of two reservoirs below. The first that swings into view is Melynllyn Reservoir, after you pass a quarry of the same name up on your left. Whilst you are still above this reservoir, note that there is little need to take the path to its left-hand edge (as you will be looking at it, facing the steep slopes of Carnedd Llewelyn beyond): rather, continue on the now rough and rocky track that heads northwest to its northernmost edge. And do not be disappointed: Melynllyn Reservoir is admittedly not that special (and quite dusty and stagnant, we found) compared to the drama of the surrounds, and what is to come.

What lies ahead… looking toward Dulyn Reservoir ©Luke Waterson

You then proceed north on a zigzagging sheep path towards the highlight of the hike: you cross a rise and then, out of the perfectly ampitheatrical rocky cirque and craggy ridge of Craig y Dulyn ahead, the Dulyn Reservoir, or Llyn Dulyn (about 530m above sea level). As you descend on what briefly becomes a fairly steep path to the small dam on the southeast side that makes this a reservoir, the feeling is one of utter remoteness, despite the small pumping station and dam indicating that mankind has made some impression here. ‘Llyn Dulyn’ means ‘Black Lake’ in Welsh and this seems apt when the waters, even on a sunny day, reflect the steep rocky slopes all around and thus have a dark appearance. Remote as it is, the lake (for lake it was, even before a dam was built here) was once scene to a bizarre event: King Edward I, following defeat of Llywelyn ap Gruffyd, supposedly threw a victory celebration on the shores here, which doubled up as the monarch’s 45th birthday party! Its most famous moment in the history books is in stark contrast to that of the Carnedd Llewelyn, Wales’ second-highest peak, above, which is certainly named after one the last great rulers of Wales, Llywelyn ap Gruffyd or Llywelyn the Great. Today, the lake supplies much of Llandudno with its water and reaches a depth of almost 60m. Anyway, the rocky shoreline to the west and north of the dam makes the perfect picnic place, with the southern shore also a great place to plunge into the icy waters for an ultra-invigorating swim! We at Undiscovered Wales certainly didn’t hold back – although we were fortunate enough to go on one of the most glorious late summer days of the year.

Coming down to the lakeshore… ©Kerry Walker
The beginnings of the Afon Dulyn Valley ©Luke Waterson

The way back from here is down through the valley pictured above – the start of the Afon Dulyn, a stream that eventually flows into the Afon Conwy, the ancient dividing line between the two halves of the Kingdom of Gwynedd. The way, whilst not on a distinct track as before, is nevertheless obvious, passing the red-roofed Dulyn Bothy (where you can stay if the weather closes in) and on down the northern side of the valley, keeping above the stream and with the stream on your right as you descend. This is the toughest part of the hike, especially after the bothy, with the going often through rough moorland/ bog, but after 2km you will see a footbridge and small dam rising above the stream and it is this point you should aim for. Once here, the path crosses the footbridge and then curves uphill in a pretty path to another old ruin, marked on OS maps as Maeneira. Head gradually uphill (almost due south) from Maeneira for about a kilometer on a grassy, heathery path that soon reaches the sheepfold (Point A) that you passed on the outward route. From here, you can see the car park below.

NEXT ON THE JOURNEY: It’s a 58-mile run south from here to Mallwyd, start point for our exciting alternative trek up Cadair Idris, southern Snowdonia’s highest peak…

At a glance

How to get there: 9.5 miles southwest of Conwy. Head south from Conwy on the B5106 (Conwy-Llanrwst Road). Between the villages of Castell and Tal-y-bont the road crosses a small river bridge, carrying you across the Afon Dulyn (Dulyn River). Immediately after the bridge turn right and then you are in for a treat on a very steep, narrow, singletrack lane with sporadic passing places as you ascend 3 miles to the parking place at the very end of the paved road (gates help demarcate the fact it IS the road’s end).

Parking: This is the parking for Llyn Eigiau and for Carnedd Llewelyn, and there is a decent-sized gravelled parking lay-by with room for 10-15 cars.

Refreshments: Bring your own picnic (stock up in Conwy to the northeast or the Co-op in Llanrwst to the southeast); alternatively Tal-y-bont, the village below the reservoir, has places to eat including the Lodge Hotel and the attached Indulge Restaurant.

Best time to visit: Late spring or summer. Whenever a fine day of dry weather beckons, but some sun with a little heat helps if you want to go wild swimming!