Ruthin – 31st March 2019

Strenuous Leader: Malcolm Chamberlain                              Distance:  10 miles

We head north west out of Ruthin on a minor road before heading across fields to the foot of the Clwydian Range and climbing up to the view point at Bwich Penbarra. Depending on the conditions, we may ascend to the top of the hill fort of Foel Fenili where the views from the top are spectacular if the wind allows you to stand up long enough to appreciate them. Alternatively, we can skirt around Foel Fenili using the Offa’s Dyke path. We stay on the Offa’s Dyke path until we cross the A494, heading back to Ruthin through a mixture of woodland and open fields. Parts of this walk will be muddy and has the total climb is 500m, or1500 ft with some of it steep.

Leisurely Leader: Pam Chamberlain                                      Distance: 8.00 miles

We will leave the information centre’s car park and head through town to pick up some paths which will take us towards the Clwydian Way.

First, we will have to tackle a couple of fields of cows and sheep then we have the fun of some dilapidated stiles. There is a mix of muddy fields, gentle inclines, minor roads and tracks as well as the national trail. We get some good views from the hills opposite our route, if the weather stays clear.

Easy Leader: Cynthia Prescott                                          Distance: 5.00 miles

Cynthia has agreed to lead the easy walk by repeating the walk she did last time here. She has not been able to recci the walk recently but remembers it as a fairly easy walk with manageable uphill sections. The first part of the walk is alongside the river on a footpath towards Rhewl, where she intends to stop for lunch. On this part of the walk there are 5 stiles and a wooden bridge. After lunch the walk is along country lanes. We head back to the river and then move up and down eastwards and back towards Tesco and the coach.

Notes on the area

Ruthin is one of finest small towns in Wales, situated at the southern end of the Vale of Clwyd. rich in history going back 1000 years and is endowed with outstanding buildings from every century in the past 5 hundred years.  It was prone to flooding and so a lot of money was spent on flood defences a few years ago. The name comes from the welsh words, rhudd meaning red which refers to the sandstone bedrock, and din meaning fort. According to the recent census nearly half speak Welsh.

The hilltop town centre is unique in its rich architectural mix and lofty views of the surrounding countryside.  Behind the Davies Brothers magnificent 200 hundred year old wrought-iron gates, is St Peters Church, founded in 1284 and famous for its spectacular 400 hundred year old carved oak roof.  Behind the church is a beautiful group of buildings in a collegiate close reminiscent of the book by Trollope, Barchester Towers. On the Square, the multi-dormered roof of the Myddleton Arms, renamed recently as the Seven Eyes, and long known as the Eyes of Ruthin, dates from the 15 hundreds, and the banks are all housed in handsome, half-timbered buildings. One of these, the Natwest Bank, was once the Old Courthouse, built in 1401, and prisoners were kept in cells below the magnificent beamed court room. The beam used as a gibbet still projects from the exterior north-west wall.

Castle Street is an important part of the town centre conservation area due to its splendid examples of period houses, ranging from at least four centuries. Halfway down Castle Street on the right is Nantclwyd House one of the oldest town houses in North Wales.  The present house is 500 hundred yrs old, but there are traces of a much earlier period. It was inhabited in Elizabethan times by Dr Gabriel Goodman, a very influential man who became Dean of Westminster for 40 years.

The Ruthin Craft Centre was opened in 1982 and is one of Wales premier arts venues, designed to house and encourage the applied arts at a regional, national and international level. There is a complex of ten workshops with tenants working in a variety of media such as silver, textiles, pottery, painting, glass, and pewter, among others. In the gallery area prestigious exhibitions of pottery, textiles, ironwork, wood, jewellery and other media change regularly and attract connoisseurs from far afield. 

Ruthin Castle, a baronial castle was built by Edward 1 around 1277. It consisted of two wards and five round towers originally guarding the inner ward. All that remains today are three towers and the ruined double-towered gatehouse. According to local history, the lordship of Dyffryn Clwyd was given to the Grey family in 1282 after the defeat of Llywelyn, effectively ending the principality of North Wales. 

Ruthin Gaol stands on a site that was first used as a prison in 1684. Until the Gaol’s closure in 1916 it was subject to many alterations and additions, including the wing based upon the Pentonville model, built in 1866. Today, part of it is used to house the County Records Office. After an intense period of building and restoration work, part of the site has been available for the public and educational groups since 2001. Much evidence of the Gaol’s former years remains. The building, acknowledged to be architecturally and historically interesting, is used to tell the story of crime and punishment in the area. At one time Ruthin had three banks and loads of pubs as it was on the Drover’s route into England in the 18hundreds, and, had a railway until axed by Dr Beeching. Many important people had connections with Ruthin with Cynthia Lennon, one we probably all know, who once settled here.