North Wales is famous for its towering castles and rugged mountains.  The walled town of Conwy, with its fine old shell of a castle is a perfect place to visit for both.  Conwy is situated on the coast between the Irish Sea and  Snowdonia National Park (http://www.eryri-npa.gov.uk/home).  The big draw in the park is Wales’ highest peak, Snowdon, but a less touristy more serene hiking experience can be found just outside the walls of the town on Conwy Mountain, or Mynydd y Dref (“The Town’s Mountain” in Welsh). 
On a recent trip to Conwy, I set out for what I expected to be a brisk pre-breakfast walk along some of the roads outside of town, but found myself at a trailhead and decided to take it.  The first part of the “trail” actually went straight through a farmer’s field and past his house.  The feeling that I was trespassing was dispelled when the farmer, who was also up early (aren’t they always?) greeted me with a warm “bore da –good moornin’” as I walked past the barn.  Passing through a set of sheep-proof gates I meandered up the hill through the bell heather and rowan trees.  It wasn’t long until I was at a peak of sorts – and to my great surprise found myself standing in the ruins of an iron-age fort, Castell Caer Seion.  This fort had once ringed the peak and stood as a defensive position for the local Celtic tribe. 
From the peak the town and its castle looked small, and to the east, if I had binoculars, Liverpool would have been visible.  But the view over Conwy Bay and into the rest of Snowdonia was spectacular.  As I wandered around amongst the stones, I came across another surprise – a herd  of wild horses – actual wild horses!  They seemed completely unperturbed by my presence – as long as I didn’t get too close.  A little further down the trail (I took a different trail down) a flock of sheep blocked my path.  They moved en masse as I got closer, but stood just a few feet off of the trail and stared me down as I walked past.  I thanked the sheep for the wool they gave to make my newly purchased tweed jacket, and was on my way back to town.
There is something special about discovering a new place and having a new experience on your own – but at the same time I wanted to share it with others.  At breakfast that morning I told my group members about my early morning adventure – “Why didn’t you wake us up?” was asked more than once.   If I had known about the trails up the mountain, I would have!  And in fact, the next group I take to Britain will definitely have the opportunity to get up early in Conwy and join me on the mountain.  Go to www.OneLifeTours.ca to find out how you can be part of that group! 

Conwy Castle looks pretty small from up here.

Many shades of green in Wales.

Scared sheep.

Brave sheep.  “What are you lookin’ at?”
Wild Horses couldn’t keep me from returning to the town!