Llanfihangel-y-pennant is a tiny hamlet of a church, a house and a block of public toilets to service the small car park. It’s also the birthplace of Mari Jones who walked 26 barefoot miles, for it was miles they used back in 1800, to Y Bala to buy a Welsh bible.
Now today’s walk is the same distance, if you take inflation into account – being nearly 26km, but the barefoot element depends wholly on your gear budget.
Distance, Ascent and Time 25.5 km. 1500m, 8 hours
This article was originally produced on Mud & Routes – August 2011
Content & Images are copyright of Mud & Routes
The Route The walk starts from the car park, or the church, for they are the same, and along the country lane until you reach a track off t your right. There’s a sign left that reads Cader Idris (sic), but you need to take the track right and uphill. The path contours for a while, before starting seriously uphill along a good track as far as an old cottage, still in use as an agricultural building, called Pencoed. This is where the going stops being easy, and you’ve got a fair slog ahead of you.
Take the stile to the right of the building, and then you want to take a bearing in poor weather towards the fence SH696 113, ideally aiming off to the right. However, on a clearer day you can just head for the top of the slope ahead and you’ll eventually come to a faint path. The ground flattens once you’re on the broad, grassy ridge of Mynydd Pencoed and it’s a much easier stroll up to the slightly rocky summit of Craig Cwm Amarch. This is where your quiet route joins the busier thoroughfares for the main summit, but today we only saw a couple in the process of finding their way off in mist. Probably a wise move, as the fence at the summit carries on for a post or two over a vertical cliff down to Llyn Cau. Views would be spectacular on a fine day.
Finding our way off the summit needs a bit of compass work, as the obvious Minffordd path that crosses the summit becomes a bit faint on top. Not to worry though, as once you’ve set off in the right direction the path becomes obvious. You lose some of your hard earned height dropping to the col where the path from Llyn Cau joins the route. Looking down this, it appears little more than a scree chute, highly eroded.
The onward route to the summit of Cadair Idris, correctly called Pen y Gadair, is welcomingly brief and is well cairned all the way. One section is over some rather large scree, but the rest is easy and the summit soon appears to your right. Today it was cloudy, but we’d been given tantalising glimpses of the view through the changeable clouds and had hoped for it to clear. It didn’t, as you can see from the photo of the summit shelter. Some call this a bothy, but that would be insulting to all the bothys I’ve visited thus far. You could spend a rough night in it though, the benches at each end being wide enough for a sleeper. Mind, you take your chances to come down mad or a poet, though the line between those would be arguably vague.
Weather being what it was, and had been for the whole period of June, July and August (ishan’t use the word summer as i try and keep these route descriptions accurate), it seemed pointless yomping out to Mynydd Moel and back again. So the decision was made to descend the Pony Path, when the clouds started to thin out. Instead, it seemed worth walking out to Mynydd Moel, and it certainly was as the clouds parted completely to give us the views all ‘round that had been missing up to now.
The path to Mynydd Moel is reasonably easy to follow, but just as easy to lose in mist, so again some nav is needed to get there safely. Keep well right if in doubt, as there’s a steep cliff all along this section. This is also where the Fox’s path descends, but that’s another eroded scree run, not to be recommended. It seems that all the routes up to this massif are steep, as it’s well defended on all sides by impressive cliffs.
You return the way you came, just make sure you’ve actually gone far enough to reach the summit. Mynydd Moel’s summit appears at first to be next to a fence with a stile, but the true summit is a short distance away. On the second time up to Penygadair, it was fine weather and much busier. It’s a challenge to name all the summits from here, but once Maesglase was spotted, we had our bearings. Pumlymon and the Berwyn could be seen, as could the Rhinogydd now the cloud had cleared. Hopefully, they’ll be as clear next weekend as i intend to walk the lot in one two day trip.
The Pony Path is an easy path to follow, passing through an old building from which a local used to sell hot drinks to intrepid Victorian tourists. You can still make out the fireplace. Some parts of the descent does need hands, well at least in the wet, but nothing that can’t be tackled by sliding on your arse.
Cyfrwy to the right is worth ascending, but we didn’t today. It’s certainly an impressive arete,and for the record it isn’t a walking option! The path becomes boggy towards the bottom, but considering the recent rain isn’t likely to be in a situation to suck boots off. The penultimate summit, Tyrrau Mawr seems much lower from this angle, having a gradual ascent following a fence. There’s a large pile of rocks, Carnedd Llwyd, that looks like an old quarry from a distance, and the true summit is a short and steeper pull up beyond. Nothing adorns the summit, but you can cross the fence and peer straight down the cliff if you’re careful! If you feel more sedate, you can look down into the Mawddach estuary and the seaside town of Abermaw (Barmouth). Just don’t look too hard towards the last summit of the day.
Craig y Llyn, from this angle, looks like a beast to finish the day on. The highest point of a high, deep bowl containing the small lake of Llyn Cyri. On paper, it’s a 150m climb, but it looks steep. Fortunately, there was someone walking ahead and we realised in time that the scale of the hill had been misjudged. So i munched the last of the jelly babies and we were up in just over 15 mins. It’s another summit devoid of ‘mountain furniture’, with some boggy parts off the path, with the non boggy parts being heathery. Common sense was to continue along the ridge to the point marked as Craig y Llyn on the map (but is lower) and follow the fence SSE to the good track below. There’s even a shelter in the cairn, so in poor weather it makes sense to stop here for a brew. Looking west you can see gentle, cultivated hills rolling off to the sea that would make a great end to the day if you didn’t have to worry about your end point.
The descent follows a fence and what used to be a wall (the OS maps show the two ‘boundaries’ here) to the track, which is an easy descent now to your start point. Just make sure you turn right at the first junction, and down the track to Hafotty Gwastadfryn. Follow the track, though the right of way veers to the left at SH678 114 and isn’t a right of way or on access land for a short distance before rejoining the right of way a little further down.
This land is used for cattle, and you may well find them blocking your way, as we did today. A raised walking stick and a few sharp calls (but non threatening!) made it move, i’d hoped to mimic a farmer i saw doing similar a while back. If you make it safely past the wildlife, then you find yourself on a minor road that leads past a memorial to Mari Jones and back to the start point.