Dolwyddelan Circuit – Moel Meirch and Ysgafell Wen
|28.73 km||962 m||10 hours|
Calculate the time using Naismith’s Rule and factor in your own pace.
Start and Finish: Dolwyddelan Railway Station, SH 737 521 (free parking available) just off A470
Pub and shop in vilage.
Length of routen navigation and traversing a couple of sections of serious bog!
Trains from Betws Y Coed or Blaenau Ffestinog.Traveline for UK Public Transport
Parking and Post Code for Sat Nav (where applicable):
Available at start of route
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Dolwyddelan Circuit – Moel Meirch and Ysgafell Wen Route Map and GPX Download
Summits and Places on this Route
Dolwyddelan Circuit – Moel Meirch and Ysgafell Wen Details
You can treat this as a 2 day walk, or as a lengthy summer day walk. I decided to take it at a more leisurely pace and do it over a weekend, camping at the peaceful Llyn yr Adar again (how wrong would I be!).
The walk starts from Dolwyddelan (which is on the A470 between Blaenau Ffestiniog and Betws y Coed), which has a railway station for access. The timetables are available here (look for the T4). Turn along the A470 towards Blaenau Ffestiniog initially, and walk a short distance along it. There is soon a track that leads right (there’s a milestone on the road at this point) and this takes you past a small cottage that has hens in the yard.
This lane leads to the castle, which you can visit (but the visitor centre with the key, is lower down, so you need to detour if you want to climb the tower) externally for free. Carry on along the direction of the track you have followed, but don’t turn right along the most obvious track, and you come to a stile. It is just a brief downhill walk to arrive at the minor road at grid reference SH 712 519. This pleasant country lane leads you easily, with little need for navigation, to Blaenau Dolwyddelan. There is a chapel marked on the map, but this is a dwelling now, but nonetheless a landmark. Walk along the road for about half an hour until you arrive at a track leading right, marked Coed Mawr. Follow this, and you will see clearly as you leave the farmyard a sign marking the path as a route to Nant Gwynant.
You are now on open hillside at last, and these views of Moel Siabod and Carnedd y Cribau are unfamiliar to most. This is rarely trod terrain, and we saw only a handful of people. The track contours the lower slopes of Foel Goch (which is just the end of the Arddu ridge) that dominates the view to the left, with the Afon Cwm Edno in the valley below. At grid reference SH 678 522 you will cross the river at a bridge, and then the good path vanishes as you go uphill.
Aim towards the stand of conifers that is just visible on the 1:25k map, and keep to their right. Look out for a building (also marked on the map) which is where you now turn left. The rest of this path to Bwlch y Rhediad is very boggy. It was dry for us today after a prolonged dry spell, but would clearly be awkaward under normal conditions. Keep an eye out for small wayposts too, that mark the route of the path.
At Bwlch y Rhediad, there is a gate. While there is a clearer path on this side of the fence, it soon peters out, so take the one on the opposite side. It’s important that you realise this boundary fence is what’s going to take you safely over these hills. You can use it as a handrail all the way around to Moel Druman. This path leads up to Moel Meirch, which is hidden at this point. Between this point and Moel Meirch is extremely boggy. It would take a lot of detours and imagination to get across this when rainfall is at normal levels. Even dry, some parts were tricky. You pass near the tops of the false summits of Cerrig Cochion, and then you realise that the actual summit is further along. Not ideal in such heat as today.
The path is heathery and rocky as it contours around the eastern flanks of Moel Meirch, almost to the top. We decided to press on and skip the summit, which is barely a couple of hundred metres from the path, as there was no decent path and we didn’t fancy boulder hopping with the packs on our backs. I also wanted to get to Llyn Edno for a breather.
Llyn Edno is a beautiful spot to stop. It is hidden until you are virtually at it’s shore. On another day, i’d have camped here, but we wanted Llyn yr Adar and Cnicht. So we followed the fence over, up some of the small summits of Ysgafell Wen, past a couple of the Llynnoedd Cwn until we crested and could see Llyn yr Adar. This is when i had a bit of a shock, and not from the electric fence. There was a group of six or seven tents at one end of the lake. As we made a beeline for the rocky knoll at SH 656 481, i realised that they were camped too close to where we intended to. Fortunately, I’d explored a bit last time i was here, and a decent pitch was found on the opposite side of the knoll.
By evening, we counted 21 tents around the lake (including our two tents). I found this to be incredible pressure on the lake, and I think I’d keep away from this lake at weekends in future. Worse still was that the stream was dry and the lakewater manky. Great test for the new water filter i’d bought (and worth every penny), producing crystal clear and tasty water. My dehydrated meal was disgusting, but countered by the luxury of Bushmills whiskey i’d brought. I think we were all in bed by nine as the wind was bitterly cold.
Cnicht could wait ’till morning. A group of 20 schoolkids (who were responsible for 12 tents) had just gone up there, so we thought we’d go up first thing in the morning. But that was a mistake. As the night went on, the wind strengthened, the tent flapped and we had little sleep. Oh, and the cloud settled in and so did the rain.
So Cnicht was bypassed (as was the route’s end, Moel Penamnen), we took a rough aim towards the ridge above us that we had visited last evening and knew we’d hit the path. Well, we hit ‘a’ path, and this took us to the ubiquitous boundary fence and then on to the summit of Ysgafell Wen. The mist had been so bad, we didn’t realise we made this summit until i checked the GPS. Llyn Terfyn was only visible when we had our boots at the water’s edge, and i was so glad i was on familiar territory. It could have been more difficult.
The path now is quite distinct, so we followed it over Moel Druman and then to the north of the small lake next to Llyn Conglog (which we didn’t see). You need to veer left just after the lake, and this is no more than a sheep track. This contours around Allt Fawr and eventually to a ridge above Llyn Iwerddon. Of course, it was hidden in cloud, but the descent point is at SH 684 478. The path is not at all clear from the top, and barely more so when you are on it, but it takes you to the distinctive, double dammed Llyn Iwerddon.
Cross the dam, and the path then crosses the fledgeling river. Keep to the left bank, and aim for the ventilation tower for the railway that is soon visible ahead (even today!). The path disappears before you get there, and some boggy ground needs crossing. Be careful as it hides a lot of ankle twisting holes. Now you can take a breather, as it’s literally all downhill from here, and on a decent track. Follow the track to the main road, and turn left along the road for a couple of hundred metres. You arrive at a gate and this track leads down to Blaenau Dolwyddelan.
It’s a lengthy track, but easy on the feet and brain (no nav). You are high above the valley and there are probably views to be had. I’m not sure of the latter part of the route, as it crosses a farmyard, and it could well be private land with no access. A footpath does cross the farm named Hendre and this might be be best followed. Following the track past the farm ,you arrive at the road you left at the start of the walk, and you can simply reverse the route to Dolwyddelan. We went via Roman Bidge, but found it was more of a faff (note, the route distance is for this longer route we did).