Yr Aran Circuit
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A mid-level walk around Yr Aran
Route Start Location: Rhyd Ddu
|22.94 km||848 m||6 hours|
Calculate the time using Naismith’s Rule and factor in your own pace.
Activivity Type: Hard Walk, Trail or Fell Runs
Summits and Places on this Route
Pub with excellent ales in Rhyd Ddu.
Bwlch Cwm Llan path is short, but steep and loose in places and can be slippery in the wet.
Parking : LL54 6TN
Plenty of parking the car park (paid for) – usually a good bet on a busy weekend.
Sherpa Buses and WHR to Rhyd Ddu.
Yr Aran Circuit
Sometimes, you just need a long mid level walk without actually climbing any summits. Maybe you’re not equipped for snow or it’s forecasting thunder. Or just to get some distance in on the legs.
Here’s a 23km route around Yr Aran near Yr Wyddfa that does just that. Of course, you can easily tag the mountain onto this trip if you wish.
You can start this walk anywhere along it’s length, with Rhyd Ddu, Beddgelert or Nant Gwynant being the most obvious. Rhyd Ddu has the advantage of walking down the Rhyd Ddu path to the pub, which feels like a more natural ending to the walk than then having to walk another hour and a half on to Beddgelert.
1 – Start off at the Welsh Highland Railway Station in Rhyd Ddu which is also a bus stop and a car park (around £4 a day) crossing the main road towards the obviously signposted path to Beddgelert. This is a new multi use track that makes this first section exceptionally easy to follow as it’s signposted all the way including distances in Kms only, welcome to the 21st Century!
2. Follow the Lon Gwyrfai (not to be confused with the other Lon Gwyrfai between Caernarfon and Waunfawr) as it passes Llyn y Gader on a wide causeway, complete with overkill eyesore mesh fence and then through Beddgelert Forest and on to Beddgelert. There are a few highlights, mainly when you leave the plantations and the track finds some ancient woodlands. These are few and far between, unfortunately. Nevertheless, this makes a pleasant enough route between these villages and one that can be used to extend walks from Moel Hebog or the Nantlle Ridge.
3. After the precisely measured 7.6km you’ll arrive in Beddgelert, which makes a convenient lunch stop. To continue onward, you’ll need to cross the car park opposite the WHR station that’s exceptionally well hidden if you’re trying to do this route in reverse, and turn left on the main road. Turn right after a 100m or so down past the Tanronnen Inn (or through the inn, via the bar which is the author’s recommended route) and the public conveniences and you’ll cross a footbridge.
Turn left at the bridge and you can follow the Glaslyn up to Llyn Dinas via a quiet lane and well built footpaths.It’s straightforward enough, with 200m on a footpath, then a couple of kms on a quiet back road. Follow this as far as Sygyn Copper Mine where the road veers left and then the path veers right and directly along the riverbank as far as Llyn Dinas.
4 . Stop here for second lunch. It’s a wonderful spot, but as it’s so close to the main road it can be far too busy with tourists. Thankfully, you can continue right along the South Eastern shore on an easy to follow path. It can be very wet in places, and you also need to cross a small stream that makes wet boots very likely whilst in spate. Just beyond the ford, the path can be followed directly along the lake shore or a drier alternative is right up through the forest.
Once out of the forest, the path again crosses a slightly wet area before joining the farm track at the National Trust Farm of Llyndy Isaf. This brings you out on another lane where you turn left and onto the main A498, where a right turn brings you within a few minutes to Nant Gwynant.
5. Nant Gwynant has thankfully a decent cafe, but not one that can be depended upon to be open in the off season, even on a weekend unfortunately. Time was against me anyway, so stopping here would have made the next leg one in total darkness rather than in the gloaming. The Watkin Path is unmissable just beyond the cafe, with some rather spiffy slate markers now adorning all the main paths up. You need to follow this path up past the waterfalls and just into the lip of Cwm Llan above.
Just beyond this point above, there’s a bridge over the river. You’ll need to keep an eye out for a path to your left that’s obvious enough once you’re on it! This brings you up onto a length of old tramway that’s nice and wide, and could be followed all the way to the quarries if you choose. However, this is the tricky bit of the walk as you’ll need to head off directly towards Bwlch Cwm Llan, and hopefully find a path. You could head directly uphill from the tramway if you wanted to climb Yr Aran heading for a quarry at SH615 516 and following the grassy ridge up.
6. The largely pathless section is wet, but if you can see the Bwlch then it’s an easy enough task to aim towards it and the eroded path that brings you to the steps that mark the start of the South Ridge Path. The panorama above shows Yr Aran to the left and the notch of Bwlch Cwm Llan clearly visible before the South Ridge.
7. You can climb Yr Aran from here as well, with this approach providing some interest in the form of short scrambly sections. It was precisely sunset on my arrival here and so downhill seemed the most logical choice! Thankfully, it’s a largely straightforward descent. After crossing an initially grassy section (image below), then descending a short, sharp scree path, it’s an old quarrying track all the way down with the final section following the Rhyd Ddu path.
It had been a rather dismal looking December afternoon, but this walk holds enough interest even on a day like this. It was also touch and go as to wether I’d be needing my headtorch on the final section. This didn’t bother me that much, as I did my Mountain Leader night navigation around here and my headtorch really does make it easy to both navigate and walk in the dark. I was getting some odd looks though, and I can’t recall if I was still in my shorts until I reached the bwlch or not?!
The route is best capped off by a pint, or better still, a pint and a single malt in the Cwellyn Arms.