Cadair Berwyn and Moel Sych Hill Walk from Llandrillo
Route Summary: Remote walk to the highest summit in the Berwyn Hills – Cadair Berwyn.
Remote walk to the highest summit in the Berwyn Hills – Cadair Berwyn.
|21.38 km||918 m||7-8 hours|
Calculate the time using Naismith’s Rule and factor in your own pace.
Start and Finish: Llandrillo
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Cadair Berwyn and Moel Sych Hill Walk from Llandrillo Route Map and GPX Download
Llandrillo is well served by the T3 Trawscambrian service that runs from Abermaw to Wrexham.
Summits and Places on this Route
Cadair Berwyn and Moel Sych Hill Walk from Llandrillo Details
This circular hill walk up Cadair Berwyn from Llandrillo is a long route in the Berwyn mountains along a mixed bag of good tracks and high moor. It includes all the main summits from Cadair Bronwen, Cadair Berwyn and Moel Sych.
I’m always concerned about biting off more than I can chew in new areas, as you never know what problems you’ll come across (such as bogs and access problems). The southern edge of the Clwydian Range has just extended to the northern most section of the Berwyn Hills and Snowdonia barely grazes the Hirnant hills to the west. These hills are ignored and unprotected at the moment, but with plans to bring them under the protection of the Clwydian Range AONB.
Cadair Berwyn from Llanrdrillo Route Description
Unfortunately, my planned trip by bus and hostel came to nought. The YH in Cynwyd is no more, as it seems are most Youth Hostels that cannot be crammed to the rafters with schoolchildren. I’m thankful that my membership goes to the Scottish branch (nothing to do with it being cheaper). So a car had to be used to get to the start of the walk, but there are buses from the Llangollen end. There’s a car park near the river if you have to.
From this spot, follow the road east and take the narrow lane that continues on as the road veers left. You pass some bungalows, before the lane turns right and uphill. Continue on the track, and ignore all footpath signs that seek to tempt you off it as the obvious track is the right one. The road ends at SJ040 372, and passing through a gate turns left and through a small wood. As you can see from the photos, the autumn colours were pretty intense.
Navigation now is simple. The track takes you all the way up to Pen Bwlch Llandrillo, but the walk up is pleasant enough. A bridleway crosses (SJ051 375) that offers a shorter route up to the main tops, but misses out on Cadair Bronwen. The only problem with this track is that it’s been churned up in places by forestry vehicles into a right mess. At Nant y Brain, the ford is flooded as there’s large logs blocking the stream and it’s not until you’re past Pont Rhyd-yr-hydd that the path returns to normal green lane. You wonder when you see this if it would be allowed in a National Park, as these peaks are outside Snowdonia. However, there are a National Nature Reserve and a Special Protection Area due to their bird life. The track is rarely steep, and you’ll reach the bwlch at a steady pace.
The bwlch has a memorial stone, dedicated to Wayfarer. Today it also had a CCW truck who probably came up the other side, or really early. Near the memorial, there was a bit of a crag, which was the only shelter in the area except for the truck. Reluctant to leave, we crossed the track and there’s a peaty track marked by a waymarker – “Cadair Bronwen” this way it enticed. It was about all we could see, as the fog was down.
Despite what I’d heard, navigation across the Berwyn isn’t really that hard. Once the first section of path was cleared, a fence can be followed all the way to Moel Sych at the far end. What does take a lot of work is crossing the blanket bogs. Ascending Cadair Bronwen gives you a taste of what’s to come, and a chance to retreat if it’s too much for you. There’s every type of bog here. Good, honest mud is plentiful, as are those small but deep pools of water you can fall into. Unfortunately, there’s plenty of small green patches where you can lose a whole leg unexpectedly, and quaking sections that really feel that they won’t hold your weight. The star of the Berwyn bogs though, has to be the Acme Knee Deep peat bogs, or at least you hope that’s how deep they are. These come in various forms, from the deceptive where you only sink heel deep, to the liquefied pits that if you’d step into you’d leave but a floating hat to mark the spot.
The summit of Cadair Bronwen is a welcome break from bog hopping, and with a sizeable cairn it feels like a summit, but lacks shelter. So it’s off down to Bwlch Maen Gwynedd and yet more bogs. While there’s a lot of bare peat here, there are also some easy boardwalks that take you across most of the worst sections. They’re wide and faced with a grippy, plastic coated metal. They’re also thick like sleepers, so they don’t rock as you walk on them either. The worst bog is actually at the top of the ridge, where you’re better off crossing the fence to avoid going knee deep.
The next section would be a pleasant ridge walk in clearer weather. Rather, we had tantalising glimpses through the mist of Cwm Maen Gwynedd below. Continuing in the mistaken belief that the cloud was about to part at any moment kept spirits high, but we weren’t going to get a view today. It was welcoming to see the trig at Cadair Berwyn , but this is no longer the official high point. That’s along the ridge, through a rather wet col (there’s a lake, so this col should be wet) before climbing the next bump on the ridge.
There’s a summit shelter on the Cadair Berwyn (New Top), and a proper mountain feel as you see some of the only rocks of the day. No doubt you can see Llyn Lluncaws on a clearer day. We could just about see the fence, so we followed this down, and up again to Moel Sych. This hill is a testament to the sense of humour of the farmers who were no doubt asked by some outsider what the hill was called. Knowing that the bogs on the summit were blacker, deeper and more boot-pilfering than any other they decided upon the welsh for Dry Bald Hill. Bald and hill it might be, dry it certainly isn’t.
I was glad to reach the summit, returning to the west of the fence which is much less boggy. The far side is bare and peaty – with this side looking as if it might go that way at some point. Tyre tracks are aplenty, so it begs the question of what’s caused the erosion?
Tracks are retraced to Cadair Berwyn, and the stile opposite the trig marks the path westwards to Llandrillo. This starts off faint, but becomes much easier to follow. Of course it remains wet underfoot, but the terrain finally eases once you pass Foel Fawr and reach the ring contour at 600m. Looking back from here, you get a feeling of spaciousness, they’re hills that you can vanish into for a decent weekend’s wild camping without worrying about the temptation of that village pub or full English fry up.
The path continues straight until you reach SJ046 334 where a post signifies that you turn right. There’s a sheep dip by the river which you’re aiming for. First you need to cross the river, so you might get wet feet. Then the path becomes fainter, but there’s a stile in the wall you can aim on (take a bearing along the path – roughly north). Just beyond this, there’s a quagmire that needs crossing. Only a few small streams, but I felt I was floating on rushes and would fall in at any point! A bit of a detour would no doubt have found an easier way around, but we’d had so much bog we weren’t about to move for another.
Finally the path continues directly to Clochnant, the last section is boggy and steep. There’s a path that veers off to the left off the permissive path that an eye should be kept open for, as the stream is a little deep and the path beyond could be described as boggy. Once the track on the other side is reached, and the boggy section out of the way, the track becomes an easy green lane all the way down to the village and your start point. On a day like this one, even the normally much maligned tarmac is welcome as some solid ground underfoot!