Notes on some hills of north Wales, mostly Marilyns

David Stone

29th October 2008

These notes record visits to the hills at the middle of July 2008. They are meant to be helpful to anybody else who hopes to visit them, returning the favour others have done by putting their notes on the web. I was expecting that these hills would be so frequented, and so well described in guide books, that it would have been pointless writing these notes. However, on them, except the Aran ridge, I met nobody else, and what I found was often different from what the guide books and maps said. Therefore these notes might be useful.

The hills are mostly north of Cader Idris, and south of core Snowdonia. For those who think in Marilyn region numbers, 30D, 30E, with one from 30F, and en route two from 30C and one from 31B. Most are Marilyns and also Hewitts.

It was a rather wet July, and in particular there was very heavy rain the day before I started walking. Many of the hills I did, because of the weather, by the most straightforward route, rather than the more interesting – but even this was sometimes non-obvious.

My copy of Hermon’s guidebook was only the first edition, not the more recent second: Peter Hermon, Hillwalking in Wales: arranged alphabetically in mountain groups in 2 vols: volume 1: Arans – Dovey Hills, volume 2: Ffestiniog Hills – Tarrens; Cicerone, 1991. So these notes should not be taken as criticism of the current edition. To make this clear, I have added the year in parentheses after reference to the guide books. The Nuttalls’ book I have in the 2nd edition: John and Anne Nuttall: The Mountains of England and Wales, volume 1: Wales; Cicerone, 1999.

Moel y Golfa

(Done en route to relieve the tedium of driving.)

We did this by the public footpath which zigzags up from the road starting just W of Middletown. It goes up steeply through the woods, and was rather muddy and slippery, as well as overgrown with bracken, or fallen trees in a few places. There are some marker posts with arrows, but not quite enough for clarity because of the fallen trees.

Carnedd y Filiast

This is the isolated hill north-west of Bala, not that at the north of the Glyderau.

I parked by the roadside of the A4212, in the layby at SH 858 410.

The route up was straightforward, using the bridleway, a forest track to start with, which then becomes a moorland track (once used by vehicles, but now rather rough). (There is no sign of any junction where the RoW and track separate.) This leads you almost to the top. There was one awkwardness: the crossing of Nant y coed at SH 873 430 in spate was tricky, and I had to seek W through the bracken and heather for a crossing place. At the top, where the track ends, a narrow path continues to the summit.

I could see no path starting by the fence for the route to Arenig Fach recommended by the Nuttalls.

Rhobell Fawr

The Nuttalls said (p104) the S approaches could be wet, so I decided to try the N. I parked at the sharp corner near the tarmac road end in Cwm yr allt-lŵyd, SH 788 291. (When driving there, the main destination signed is ‘Abergeirw’, from which you turn to the final cul-de-sac.)

The farm track to the derelict farmhouse at Dol cyn afon was clear. There I tried to pick up the path shown on the 1:25k (1998). This barely existed – an intermittent marshy groove or ledge on the hillside. There was no sign of the RoW zigzag joining it. However, it could be followed as far as the Nant yr Helyg, where the bridleway enters the forest across a footbridge. I tried this; the start was clear, but very soon, just beyond an old wall, I came across fallen trees which blocked the path. So I retraced my steps to the footbridge, and more-or-less followed the edge of the forest as high as I could. A step-stile SW of the footbridge began the route. For some of the time I managed to find a faint very wet path. The whole area was wet, until the steeper ground around Llechwedd Llyfn. Tedious going. The summit area was easier, with short grass and small rock. The walls near the top were useful guides; I did not need to climb any, since those I needed to cross were tumbled down.

Descending I found a faint path going roughly N, somewhat W of my ascent. However, this petered out even before the marshy ground was reached.

Y Llethr

I started this walk from Cil cychwyn. It is worth noting that several roads leading to there are gated, but one is not. The road from Llanbedr, starting N of the bridge in Llanbedr, signed ‘Cwm Nantcol’, is not gated at all. The road from Llanbedr starting a little S of the bridge is gated, with a few gates below SH 602 250, and another half a dozen gates between there and the junction at SH 626 259. There are no gates on the road between SH 602 250 and Coed Ystumgwern in Dyffryn Ardudwy.

The zigzag farm track leading up from Cil cychwyn was easy. Note that to find its start, you have to right up to the building at Graig Isa. Its upper end leads you to a gap in the fence (not on my 1:25k, OS 1998, nor Harvey 2006), from which a faint sheep track contours S to the stone wall. If there is a stile over this, I could not see it in the mist; but it was climbable. The path shown on the 1:25k OS and Harveys is easily found on the other side. This wanders away from the wall, but wanders back higher up. Its upper end fades away, but by then you just go back to the wall. At SH 660 255 on the main ridge there are stiles, though you only need the one to reach the summit enclosure, since the top is to the W of the wall.

In descent, the harder part is knowing where to cut across to find the farm track. There are some curious features in the path which help: a loop of it cutting across the main path, and also a peat hole in the middle of the path of about 3m size which you go around. Near here is the right time to cut N over the wall.

Craig y Castell

A face-saver for a rainy afternoon which turned out to be a pain. This little hill, SW of Dolgellau, E of Kings YH, had good views for such a low height, but the final vegetation was very unpleasant. The track from Kings YH was straightforward, even oversigned. But once I turned off it, the final 400 m to the top was a tangle of bracken, heather, and gorse.

Y Garn

This is the Garn in the SE of the Rhinogydd, near Dolgellau.

The guidebooks talk about climbing the walls, but on the route I used this was not necessary. I guess that it wouldn’t be from Abereden (Ganllwyn) either, since the N end of the RoW could be used (I used the S) for the lower approach.

I started from the road end at blaen y Cwm-yr-wnin, roughly SH 714 217. From there I took the RoW through the forest. This was clear, without problems. There was one slight confusion: near the start a junction led another path off L – this wasn’t marked on my map. From the N edge of the forest (step-stile) I turned by the wall. It is more pleasant underfoot, and gives better views, to keep roughly to the SE ridge, Cefn Coch [Uchaf?], rather than the edge of the trees. At SH 712 228 a broken-down wall gives access to the enclosure N, named Bryn Bedwog on the OS 1:25k. From there I followed the R (NE) side of the wall – a faint track goes through the heather – to SH 709 230, where a step-stile allows access to the summit enclosure. From there it was just a matter of going due W to the summit. This was pathless, through heather and tussocky grass, with some small crags to go round. In descent, although it is too hard to make a straight way, the walls funnel you to the step stile, so even in mist it is not difficult.

Rhinog Fawr

See the section on y Llethr about the gated roads.

I parked at Maes-y-garnedd (£2). From there a track leads to Cwm Nantcol, and then a path just to the W of the house. There are traces of a path through the sloshy area, roughly along the line of the RoW, but it can be hard to follow. The rule is to take each step-stile you see in turn. Also pass close to the ruined building (near SH 642 277, I guess). Above the top stile, on the open hillside, a clear but narrow path leads on through the rocks and heather. However, if you keep following it, it does not lead directly to the summit. Instead, it leads round to the N side of Rhinog Fawr, from which you can then gain the summit ridge by a steep climb alongside (just E of) the wall going upwards SE near SH 651 289. To follow the main W ridge, you have to cross to a different path also winding through the heather. I do not know exactly where this was (perhaps vaguely SH 648 287), but it is marked by a small patch of large boulders, surmounted by two small cairns – follow the cairns for a very short distance (30 m?) to switch to the other path. This other path leads to a step-stile just W of the cairn at the W of the summit ridge (roughly SH 651 287). There is a clear path between this cairn and the summit.

In descent, Hermon’s warning (p202) about leaving the cairn is apposite. There is a prominent path leaving the cairn, which goes vaguely SW and does not cross the wall, at least for some while. However, a fainter path goes vaguely W and leads you very quickly to the step stile, less than 50 m away but invisible from the cairn.

Aran Benllwyn a Aran Fawddwy

There is not a great deal to say about this. I went up and back the N ridge from Pont y pandy (Llanuwchllyn). There are many stiles, not all of which should be taken – if in doubt, choose according to whether a path continues clearly on the other side. Otherwise, it’s just a matter of following fairly close to the ridge. There is a path all the way. The going underfoot is wonderful (compared to most of the rest of the hills described here): short grass with some stones. A few boggier areas have planks crossing them (on the slopes of Rhobell Fawr these areas would be the drier ones – they’re not really boggy).

Arenig Fawr

We parked where the minor road crosses the old railway, and then went along the track, and up by the wall/fence on the NW ridge, as described by the Nuttalls. This was easy going generally on short grass with stones. The wall and fence run parallel and close all the way; both disintegrate the higher you go, until on the summit ridge the wall is merely a line of stones hard to distinguish from the natural stones, and the fence is merely an occasional post lying on the ground.

Arenig Fach

This, unlike Arenig Fawr, was not such easy going.

A permissive path starts from the road A4212 when the E end of the track/footpath to Rhyd-y-fen joins the main road. It is marked as part of the ‘Tir Gofal’ scheme. It is not shown on my 1:25k. A series of posts with arrows leads you up through the lower pastures to a gate in the intake wall, roughly SH 823 403. Then there is no path, just a steep slope of thick heather: not dangerous or difficult, but hard work. (Hermon, p56, says the heather is a ‘joy’ – it must have been shorter when he visited.) Some scree areas can give a short respite from the heather. It is best to aim for the top of this slope on Y Foel, and not contour around W, because at the top of the steep section a narrow path starts, becoming wider, as if made by a quad bike, as it ascends. This ends on the summit plateau, roughly at SH 822 412, near two large isolated boulders. From there faint fragments of path lead to the summit.

In descent a clearer path leads from the summit more SE; I guess this leads down to Bryn Du, though we did not follow it.

Moel Llyfnant

We parked where the trackway to Blaenlliw isaf leaves the minor road between Llanuwchllyn and Trawsfynydd. Note that this is a gated road; there were half-a-dozen gates to open as we drove from Llanuwchllyn.

The track to Hendre-blaen Lliw was clear and easy. Beyond the farmhouse, the RoW was hard to follow in marshy ground (Fridd Fach). A step stile near SH 810 342 (or SH 803 341?) was the only clue. Near SH 810 345 we turned up a steep slope (some scree, some short grass, some bilberry), to reach the corner of the fence at SH 810 348. (The boundary shown on the 1:25k is also marked on the ground at this corner, by the ruins of a wall.) Thence the fence or wall leads you on to the summit; there are fragments of a narrow path.

Foel Boeth (Gallt y Daren)

For this boring hill (or, if you believe the Nuttalls, pair of hills) we parked where the road enters the now-felled forest, SH 779 333. Note that signs tell you that the once-forested area is dangerous, being once an MoD firing range; except during the minute before midnight, you should not venture on to it (the signs say it is dangerous from 00:00 to 23:59).

We followed the E edge of the erstwhile forest to the corner at SH 777 337, then headed N to the fence triple point SH 778 342, then the fence N to the summit. The summit is just E of the fence, so best to keep to that side. Oddly, just S of the summit there is a disused telegraph pole still standing. Straightforward on somewhat tussocky grass; damp in places.

Foel Goch

This is the hill N of Bala.

We parked near SH 966 404, intending to gain a little height compared with the guide-books’ recommendation of the turn for Pentre tai yn y cwm. The path and track were clear enough through the lower fields, but once the rough pasture was reached, there was no sign of the track shown on the old 1:25k (1985), which went towards the Nant Cwm-da. Instead, the track goes up, onto the shoulder of Bryn Bras, and continues, becoming fainter, until just below the last slopes up to Orddu; we followed this. On Orddu there was an (unmarked) electric fence running W–E; there is no need to cross this if heading W for Foel Goch. We followed its S side to the col with Foel Goch. From there a path curled, starting WSW, up Foel Goch, eventually leading to the top. Just E of the summit there was a cairned junction; I don’t know where the other ways went (perhaps a more direct route from the col). These paths are not marked on the maps.

Descending S from the col we tried to follow the RoW. This was easy and clear to begin with, but it disappeared in the marshy area Waun Tafolog near the confluence. We then crossed over, trying to find the track end near SH 961 412 as on the old map – but we could not find this at all, and struggled through tussocky grass, gorse, and high bracken, before eventually reaching the higher track we had used in ascent.

I note that the more recent OS 1:25k have removed the track we could not find, and added the one we did – obviously a problem with our having an out-of-date map.

Moel y Gamelin a Cyrn y Brain

These were easy hills to break up the journey home. Both are straightforward from the top of the Horseshoe Pass (Bwlch Oernant). A wide easy path leads to Moel y Gamelin. In the other direction a track lead to Cyrn y Brain. Note that off the paths these would be heavy going in deep heather.

The café at the pass is visually intrusive, but at least provides shelter and (free) toilets.