Penmaenmawr is a town in the parish of Dwygyfylchi, in the county borough of Conwy, traditional county of Caernarfonshire, north Wales, population about 2,500. It is a seaside resort and quarrying town, though the latter is no longer a major employer, on the North Wales Coast between Conwy and Llanfairfechan.
The town was bypassed by the A55 Expressway in the 1980s, losing its fine old Edwardian period promenade in the process, which was largely replaced by a modern and still popular one. Penmaenmawr is noted for its spectacular mountain and coastal walks. Nearby is the popular attraction of Bwlch Sychnant, or the Sychnant Pass, and the town also lies partly within Eryri, the Snowdonia National Park.
Most of the town lies on a small coastal plain about 2 miles in length and half a mile deep facing Conwy Bay and the Irish Sea to the north. The bay is sheltered by the south-east tip of Anglesey and Ynys Seiriol (Puffin Island) to the north-west and the limestone headland of Pen-y-Gogarth (the Great Orme) to the north-east. The sea is shallow here between Traeth Lafan and the Conwy estuary. The beach is extensive, consisting of smooth pebbles and a wide expanse of sand. Two impressive headlands separate Penmaenmawr from its neighbours. In the west the huge bulk of Penmaen-mawr ("Penmaenmawr mountain") lies between the town and neighbouring Llanfairfechan and the wider coastal plain extending to Bangor. To the east the smaller but no less rugged headland of Penmaen-bach divides Penmaenmawr from Morfa Conwy (Conwy Morfa). To the south an arc of hills and uplands extends east to west from the latter to Penmaen-mawr, beginning with Yr Allt Wen above Dwygyfylchi, Bwlch Sychnant (the old road crosses this pass to Conwy), Pen-sychnant, the rounded hill of Foel Lys, Gwddw Glas (Green Gorge), Bryn Derwydd and the head of Cwm Graiglwyd and finally Penmaen-mawr itself. Penmaenmawr is very wooded and also has a fair number of fields. The coastal plain itself is nearly divided by Trwyn-yr-Wylfa, which also marks the boundary between Pant-yr-afon and Penmaenan in the west and the "Hen Bentra'" or "Old Village" of Dwygyfylchi and Capelulo in the east. Finally two small rivers flow through the area. The first, Afon Pabwyr, runs down from wooded Cwm Graiglwyd then under the town centre, Pant-yr-afon, to the beach; the second and larger, Afon Gyrrach, runs for about 4 miles from the northern slopes of Tal-y-Fan to the sea near Penmaen-bach, passing through Nant Ddaear-y-llwynog (The Fairy Glen) and the "Old Village".
The uplands above the town have a wealth of prehistoric remains, including the site of prehistoric axe factories on the western slopes of Cwm Graiglwyd near the top of Penmaen-mawr. This was once one of the most important stone axe manufacturing sites in Europe. There is evidence that axes from Graiglwyd were exported widely 5,000 years ago, examples having been found as far afield as Cornwall and south-east England. The nearby Meini Hirion, known in English as Druid's Circle, is a prehistoric stone circle, one of the finest in Wales. A prehistoric trackway from Bwlch-y-ddeufaen to Conwy runs by the circle. The summit of Penmaen-mawr, from which the town takes its name, was 1,500 feet above sea-level until reduced by modern quarrying. The summit area was crowned by Braich-y-Dinas, one of the largest Iron Age hill-forts in Wales and indeed Europe, comparable with Tre'r Ceiri near Trefor on the Llŷn peninsula; unfortunately nothing remains today, the last remnants having being obliterated in the 1920s.
Medieval and Early Modern Period
In the Age of the Saints tradition has it that the 5th or 6th century Saint Seiriol, after whom Ynys Seiriol (also known as Puffin Island or Priestholme) is named, had a hermit's cell in Cwm Graiglwyd. A declivity, Clipyn Seiriol, above the modern road tunnel through Penmaen-mawr, also bears his name, as does the modern church of St Seiriol's near the town centre. Saint Seiriol was a son of Helig ap Glannog, a Prince who lived at Llys Helig, covered by the sea, and which has given rise to the legend of the drowned Palace. The older church of St Gwynin's in Dwygyfylchi is the parish church today. Penmaenmawr is also associated with St Ulo, Capelulo being at the foot of Sychnant and reputedly the site of an early medieval chapel.
From the early Middle Ages onwards the parish has been part of Arllechwedd Uchaf, and this ancient Welsh cwmwd (English commote), which together with neighbouring Arllechwedd Isaf makes up the cantref (hundred) of Arllechwedd, is still used by the church as an administrative unit today.
Quarrying Town and Seaside Resort
The industrial quarrying of granite at Penmaenmawr began in the early 19th century with the forming of the Penmaenmawr & Welsh Granite Co.. As the industry grew workers and their families flocked to Penmaenmawr from all over north-west Wales and beyond. The link was especially strong with Trefor, also the home of a significant granite quarry on the slopes of Yr Eifl. The community which sprang up in the present day wards of Penmaenan and Pant-yr-afon was close-knit and almost entirely Welsh-speaking. By the early years of the 20th century about 1,000 men worked in the quarry and its associated workshops. Neighbouring Llanfairfechan was an integral part of this process. Life was far from easy for the quarrymen, especially those who worked on the higher slopes. They were expected to walk up to the summit area in all weather and faced losing pay if unable to. Naturally a strong spirit of camaraderie developed and this was reflected in the town's chapels, pubs and cultural societies. Granite was exported by rail to ports like Liverpool and the cities of England and by sea from the two quarrying jetties to Liverpool and also to a number of European ports such as Hamburg.
Amenities, Clubs and Societies
Amgueddfa Bythynod New York Cottages Museum: Concentrating on the history of the quarry and the community which flourished around it. These early cottages built to house quarrymen are on Ffordd Bangor (Bangor Road).
Clwb Golff Penmaenmawr Golf Club: A 9 hole course on Hen Ffordd Conwy (Old Conwy Road), one of the most scenic in north Wales.
Eden Hall: Small but historic gardens near the town centre.
Arriva Cymru services 5 and X5 (limited stop) (Caernarfon - Llandudno) each run every 30 minutes weekdays; KMP services 9 (Llangefni - Llandudno and 9A (Llanberis and Caernarfon - Llandudno) each run hourly on weekdays. Real time passenger information on these services is sponsored by Gwynedd and Conwy Councils. In addition a local service Llanfairfechan - Llandudno via Penmaenmawr and Conwy is served by 'Conwy Clipa' (bus 75).
Penmaenmawr lies on the route of the A55 Expressway providing access to and from the rest of the north coast. A smaller road links the town to Conwy via Sychnant.
Hourly service from Penmaenmawr railway station by Arriva Trains Wales to Holyhead and Chester on the North Wales Coast Line. These trains continue every two hours to Crewe and to Wrexham, Shrewsbury, Hereford, Abergavenny, Newport and Cardiff.
An all day outdoor music event held annually on July 29th, featuring artists from the Conwy area, with the proceeds going to charity.