Carningli and Cwm Gwaun Walk

Driving along ribbons of green-edged country lane, I contemplated Carningli’s legend: spend a night up there and you’ll wake mad or a poet. Similar myths surround many mountain summits but, though Carningli has a fiery volcano-past, it’s only 347m-high. Just a hill. What could go wrong?

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TGO Carningli walk

I parked on a balcony track carved around Carningli’s hillside and stepped out, overlooking a panorama of tightly patch-worked fields seamed with darker hedgerows. Under the blazing sun, rain-gorged countryside shimmered with rich greens, buttery yellows and the rust of saturated, dying ferns. A black pony scampered about, peeking mischievously under a thick forelock.

I turned round. A wide grassy scar led straight up. Near the top, I hands-on scrambled over remnants of the volcano’s dead heart: lichen-covered, dolerite scree. From the rocky summit crown, I could see the sea lapping Carningli’s northern skirt hem, the golden scoop of Newport Sands and the green of Dinas Head jutting out.

Above me, a peregrine falcon was treading air. Walking along the ancient summit track I imagined people dressed in tunics and cloaks: Carningli last erupted around 450 million years ago, and had long been a haven for humans, even by the Iron Age (roughly 750BC to AD 43), when it was a hill fort.

Descending, I stepped further back in time, searching out Bronze Age hut remains in the heather. There wasn’t a soul on the vast expanse of rock-strewn moorland over Carningli’s gently-sloping back. Atmospheric indigo clouds were glowering in the distance. The sun shone brightly underneath, making a diagonal slant of rain glow violet.

A wet track glistened in the sun, highlighting the way across Carningli Common towards the tall, Bronze Age burial cairn, Carn Briw. As I splashed across the moorland, the clouds advanced and buckets of rain drenched me instantly. Map over head, I ran.

TGO Carningli Walk

Then the sun shone through blindingly and the wind picked up, transforming the moorland. Waving grass tips glowed orange and sparkled through coats of rain. As I ducked behind the pile of rocks to check the map, the sky darkened and hail bounced viciously off my behind. I began to see why people could go mad or become poets on Carningli.

Emerging, I saw the clouds had cast a beautiful double rainbow into the sea. All was forgiven. I trotted over Mynydd Caregog’s rounded back and continued towards the rocky top of Mynydd Dinas, scattering sheep to bag Mynydd Melyn’s trig en route. The heads of three ponies popped up in the dusk: surprised faces striped with rivulets of rain.

Finally a bridleway led down into wooded Cwm Gwaun, a vibrant, green valley hidden from the world behind the hills. Time seemed to have stood still in traditional villages. Twists and turns of the Afon (river) Gwaun led me along the valley floor. Vibrant moss had crept softly up tree trunks and turned stones into cushions.

It was getting dark as I climbed through woodland to regain the balcony around Carningli. Sheep’s eyes glowed eerily at me in my headlamp beam. The black pony had guarded my car well, so I shared my apple while warming my hands in his mane. The sky had turned a cloud-streaked and smoky red, making Carningli’s silhouetted crown resemble the volcano it once was.

Info:

Distance: 11 miles Ascent: 425m Time: 5 hours Map: OL 35 North Pembrokeshire Start/finish: Car park at SN071 373 Information: Newport TIC: 01239 820912. Regular buses serve Newport. The nearest train stations are Carmarthen, Haverfordwest and Whitland. It’s a two-mile walk from Newport to the start of the walk.

Route:

Climb obvious wide path up to Carningli summit. Follow summit track SW to descend, then follow track W to tall cairn. Descend SW, looking for hut circles. Continue W over Mynydd Caregog and descend to car park. Cross road. Follow bridleway running to the L of a small wall. When it runs out, continue E to gain trig on Mynydd Melyn. Descend SW to road. Cross road and follow bridleway downhill to reach road. Turn L and follow road until, at a sharp right-hand bend, a bridleway points L to Dol-rhanog. Follow bridleway to regain lane leading back to the car.