Wednesday, January 5, 2011

The Berwyn Mountains Ridge Walk

Looking down to Llyn Lluncaws from Cadair Berwyn

The centre at Cynwyd is at the foot of the Berwyn mountains which are a superb range of hills mostly overlooked by hillwalkers due to them not being in the Snowdonia National Park. Like many other people when we used to travel to North Wales we saw the drive from Llangollen to Corwen as a slow section that needed to be done as quickly as possible before we could get into the National Park. We first visited the Berwyn Mountains as part of the Northampton East District Scouts District Winter Expedition (see specific blog on this). This opened our eyes to the area and since then we have returned again and again to do day walks and expeditions within the area. In 2005 Northampton District Scouts bought the former Youth Hostel at Cynwyd and this started us doing more activities within the Dee Valley and on the Berwyns.

Track into Pistyll Rhaeadr.
A picture by John Johnston
Our favourite walk from the Centre is the whole ridge walk. For this walk you will need to travel by car to Llangynog. Leave the Centre and turn left onto the B4401 heading towards Bala. At the sign for Pale Hall (next to a pub) you turn left and at the next junction you again turn left. You are now heading to the start of this walk in Langynog which was once a busy lead mining and quarrying village. Llangynog is situated in the Tanat Valley at the foot of the Milltir Cerrig mountain pass. You need to park in the main village car park which has toilet facilities in it. This car park is free and from it you can look up to Craig Rhiwarth which rises impressively behind the village. On Rhiwarths east side Cwm Glan-Hafon is the back way to the highest Berwyn Peaks. From the car park follow the lane that skirts the foot of Craig Rhiwarths south flank. Take the bridleway on the left hand side and head up into Cwm Glan-hafon. Just after you get to the footpath/bridleway junctions take the right hand bridleway and cross the river to the other side. Turn left at the track and follow this to Nant Ddial. Turn right onto the zig zag path to the moorland col and then descend the quarry track into the Afon Rhaeadr valley. At the footpath turn left and head to Pistyll Rhaeadr waterfall. At the waterfall there is a café and toilet facilities and this makes a good place for a break.

Once you have sampled the delights of refreshments at the Pistyll Rhaeadr café you need to take the footpath to Llyn Lluncaws. To do this leave the car park and up the road which very soon levels out. After about 800 metres take the path on the left across a style and into open access land. You will head on this clear footpath under Cerrig Poethion to Llyn Lluncaws which makes an excellent place for lunch or a snack. The path that you have been following is a long drag of ascent but is achievable by even novice walkers and by keeping a steady pace you soon reach the Llyn. From the Llyn follow the permitted path up a short but second really steep section of the day onto Moel Sych. The path is close to the edge and you need to be aware that not everyone is happy with this and certainly with young people close party management is necessary. The hard work of the climb pays off with some spectacular views down the valley and novice walkers will be impressed on what they have achieved. You can rest now in the knowledge that most of the hard work of climbing is done. Once on the ridge continue north east to the summit of Cadair Berwyn and the highest point of the day at 830 metres high. For a shorter walk you can return to Pistyll Rhaeder using the permitted path south east to Trum Felen which makes a good descent.

Cadair Berwyn to Cynwyd

Cadair Bronwen
A picture by John Johnston
If continuing on the whole ridge walk you need to head north east to the trig point at 827 metres and then along Craig Berwyn. The ridge walk navigation is made easy as a fence on your left hand side keeps you on track. Following the fence line down to the junction of the fences where you head north west for 100 metres before heading north down to the saddle and junction with the bridleways. From here you have two options either head up (with now weary legs) to Cadair Bronwen or follow the bridleway down to eventually meet the B4401. To finish the full walk go on to Cadair Bronwen then head north east still following the fence line over ground that is not the easiest to walk on as it is heather. You are going down now and although the descent from Cadair Bronwen is not easy you eventually hit the good track and memorial stone to Wayfarer a cyclist. Here there is a book to sign in at and a great place for your final rest of the day before returning to the centre. You now need to head east down the good track. After about 400 metres you come to a sheepfold and just after this you need to take the right hand fork. The track eventually becomes tarmac and then turns into a B road that comes out on the B4401. Before you get to the B4401 you come to a gated road on the right hand side. Walk along this road and either take the footpath on the left or continue along this mainly unused road. Once you get to the junction turn left and head back into Cynwyd down the road on the opposite side of the river that passes the centre.

This walk has been used many times by staff at the centre and is our recommendation for a great day walk that offers impressive views and definitely tired but jubilant participants.

Walk Information

Distance 23km (14 miles)

Ascent 1208 metres

Time 8 – 9 hours

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