Heather Bashing in the Hirnant Hills
Route Summary:Hewitts of Cyrniau Nod, Pen y Boncyn Trefeilw, Foel y Geifr (Hirnant), Foel Goch (Berwyn)This walk includes the 6 Nuttalls of Cyrniau Nod, Pen y Boncyn Trefeilw, Foel y Geifr (Hirnant), Foel Goch (Berwyn), Y Groes Fagl, Stac Rhos
|21.69 km||842 m||7 hours|
Calculate the time using Naismith’s Rule and factor in your own pace.
Start and Finish:
Heather Bashing in the Hirnant Hills Route Map and GPX Download
Summits and Places on this Route
Heather Bashing in the Hirnant Hills Details
The hills surrounding the Hirnant valley south of the town of Y Bala are, when they are mentioned at all, often grouped with the Berwyn Hills. It’s difficult to know where the hills of the Berwyn end and the Aran hills begin, and it’s often simpler to call this disputed area the Hirnant Hills (never add an ‘s’ to the end of a Welsh hill range name!).
Whatever this corner of Snowdonia is called, it’s certainly tough, rough and not for the faint hearted. There may not be any exposure, other than the risk from the biting wind owing to the lack of any shelter, but the going is tough. Thankfully, there’s a good track that crosses the main ridge, making the going much easier! This may seem like cheating, but spend half an hour bashing Hirnant heather before making that judgement.
Heather Bashing in the Hirnant Hills Route Description
This route takes in what looks like the benign ridge of Moel y Geifr (spoiler alert: it isn’t) before following the track across the moorland and returning via forestry tracks from which you may or may not choose to make dog-legs to bag some of the outlying peaks.
1 The route starts in Aberhirnant where there is parking for a handful of cars (SH957 327) and follows the minor road for the first 4 km of the route.
3 The fence turns left at the forestry, and you need to follow the fence up steeply along a rough heathery path. This may be a short section but it’s very steep and would be tricky in descent, especially in the wet. Once the slope eases, the going continues difficult as you yomp through boggy heather. Keep as close to the fence as possible, until you feel you can pick up a route left towards the summit of Y Foel Goch. We turned left where the ground dropped into a boggy section just after the 590m contour, and a faint path does lead to the summit.
4 After the effort, the summit is a disappointment, but the view across to the Aran range and the Arenig does make up for it. This is probably the only summit you could pick up and steal in your pack.
5 The path along the ridge is now clear, if not great. It seems to be one of those paths that finds rather than avoids the wet areas. Luckily, they’re more of an annoyance than an obstacle and you’ll pass over the summit of Trum y Gwragedd (Gwrgedd on some maps) without really registering it. More of the same leads you finally to the trig point on Foel y Geifr. There’s no shelter here again, but at least the views make up for it!
6 The final bit of bogtrotting for the day involves finding a way to the minor road, and there really isn’t an obvious track to follow down from the summit. We contoured along the NE of the summit on a heathery track which joins a very faint track that becomes clearer a you descend. Head for the gate in the fence, though it was an absolute morass which meant we had to cross the fence carefully further up.
7 From the minor road, you’ll be spoilt. An easy track winds its way along the moors, with the choice as to whether you venture off to bag the summits depending on how sick you are by now of heather and bogs! While most are just off the track, with the number of named summits considerable when you think how prominent they are. The first pull up to Pen y Cerrig Duon, really gets the climbing out of the way, but you’ll need to continue to Pen y Boncyn Trefeilw in order to bag your first listed summit! You can add to this tally after Stac Rhos, by turning south towards Cefn Gwyntog, which is barely a kilometre away but will take considerably more effort to reach.
Cross Foel Cedig (not prominent enough to be a summit in it’s own right) and finally, the peak bagger realises that the main summit of Cyrniau Nod is a couple of 100m off path along the fence, how desperate are you to tick off that summit? Much easier to stay on the track!
8 Finally, the track descends into the forest, just before Y Groes Fagl, while the hardy could continue on to Foel Cwm Sian Llwyd, but do you really want to leave the track. It’s a direct line down to the minor road and the ruined barn at Foel-y-ddinas where you turn right back to the start.
*Bwlch y Groes can be used as a rather arbitrary boundary for the Berwyn range, though the hills of Llechwedd Du and Esgeiriau Gwynion are more Berwyn than Aran. The lowest point between these hills lies between Foel y Geifr and Pen y Boncyn Trefeilw and is 488m!