Walks on less frequented hills and paths

Most people who visit one of the mountainous areas of the UK (especially first-timers), with the intention of doing some hill walking, will opt to climb one of the well-known peaks. That’s natural. These tend to be the highest peaks, the ones they have seen images of, and possibly also the ones they will have read about. In Snowdonia this list will include Snowdon, Tryfan, the Glyders and possibly one of the highest peaks in the Carneddau. Certainly all these peaks are well worth climbing.

[Click any image to see an enlargement – all images will benefit from doing this]

The Nantlle ridge from Mynydd Mawr [From Lt: Y Garn, Mynydd Drws-y-Coed, Trum y Ddysgl]

But it is sad that the other peaks seldom get a look in: ignored because they are not so high, or on the periphery, or because they involve more effort and thought due to the fact that walks up them don’t always neatly end where they started from. Sometimes it may be because the Ordnance Survey map doesn’t show paths up them, and finally perhaps it’s because these outliers and lower peaks don’t look worth bothering with.

The truth is that these lesser peaks and ridges offer tremendous walking, and effort is rewarded. The views are often better because you look from the periphery towards the centre of the range of peaks, and the best reason of all is that on these ‘lesser’ peaks you get away from the crowds and quite possibly you will have the mountain all to yourself. That is most definitely my experience in Snowdonia and I strongly suspect that a lot of these three paragraphs apply to many other mountain areas across the globe.

Traversing from Mynydd Mawr, The final northernmost peak of Nantlle ridge in the background [Y Garn]

Today’s images come from a small clutch of mountains in Snowdonia that collectively are called the Eifionydd Hills (a fact I have just this minute discovered for myself while dipping into Terry Marsh’s excellent ‘The Mountains of Wales’); although to most ordinary people – including me – they are known as the hills of the Hebog and Nantlle ranges.

The Nantlle ridge is not often walked in its entirety because of difficulties reaching the southern end of the ridge.

The Powder House at Ynys Cyngar on the Coast

But a few years ago, before I acquired a digital camera, I walked it in a long 15mile day starting out on the coast at Ynys Cyngar, 2miles west of Porthmadog. [For more information on this place read ‘The Powder House’]. I followed a network of paths inland through some very marshy country until I hit the moorland heading up to Mynydd Craig Goch, the southernmost peak on the ridge. From here a superb roller-coaster of a ridge heads NE crossing 7 summits over 600M in height heading straight into the heart of Snowdonia ending at Rhyd-Ddu where there is an excellent pub serving Leffe beer. The feeling is of walking into a giant amphitheatre of peaks. To my mind there could be no better way to approach the high peaks of Snowdonia. [See the first image at the top of this post for a view of the final three peaks of the Nantlle Ridge]

Rhyd-Ddu is also the starting point for walks on the Hebog range that runs North-Northwest to South-Southeast. A range of four peaks, one of them – Mynydd Mawr – is separated from the other three by the final NE end of the Nantlle ridge. Viewed on a map The Nantlle and Hebog ridges together form the shape of the letter ‘T’.

Looking up towards the summit of Mynydd Mawr

Mynydd Mawr can be climbed in an afternoon from Rhydd Ddu – a delightful little climb with superb views northwards to the coast, or down the long valley Southeastwards towards Beddgelert.

From near Mynydd Mawr’s summit: the view towards Beddgelert. Peak at Lt edge – Yr Aran. At Rt edge in the distance – Moel Hebog, closer to camera the dark ridge of Y Garn

From its summit there are superb views of the Nantlle ridge. And if you are blessed with a good day as I was, then the view of Nantlle alone is worth the effort. The image below combines the first image in this post with another to provide a more panoramic view of the Nantlle ridge – I won’t repeat the names, most are sadly unpronounceable by me, Welsh is a language I have not yet mastered.

Two frame Panorama of the northern half of the Nantlle ridge

Mynydd Mawr can also be climbed from Betws Garmon and traversed descending initally towards Rhyd Ddu, before cutting off right heading down and past some disused levels to hit the road near Bwlchgilfin. [see the second image in this post taken on the traverse].

From Bwlchgilfin (or from Rhydd-Ddu) the main walk over the Hebog range starts.

The Hebog Range: from Lt – Moel Hebog, Moel yr Ogof, Moel Lefn

Pick up the path that threads its way under the steep slopes of the most northern of the Nantlle hills (Y Garn), and into forest. After exiting the forest a path that can be tricky to follow will lead you eventually onto steep open hillside on the approach to the first of the final three of the Hebog peaks (Moel Lefyn).

Moel Hebog as seen from Moel yr Ogof

From there the way is obvious  – an easy 15 minute walk brings you to Moel yr Ogof and a harder steeper descent and ascent will bring you breathlessly to the final summit – Moel Hebog.

Moel yr Ogof from the Col

As I reached the col before the final haul to Moel Hebog I took two frames. The first looked back to Yr Ogof – a clear fine day.

The view north – Craig Wen, Yr Aran, and furthest away Y Lliwedd

I turned to look north and a mixture of haze and rather threatening clouds greeted me. In colour this did not look up to much, B&W I think suits it much better. The view (to the best of my knowledge) looks over Craig Wen, then Yr Aran and on to the top of Y Lliwedd, one of the peaks in the Snowdon Horseshoe).

The view back to Moel Hebog from the foot of the descent

The descent to Beddgelert from Hebog’s summit will take up to two hours but Beddgelert is well equipped with B&Bs and Pubs to solve a serious thirst after another long day on the hills. The entire walk over the Hebog range starting with the traverse of Mynydd Mawr is perfectly possible in a long day for someone who is fit – allow 7-8hrs (2-3hrs for Mynydd Mawr and 5hrs for the main ridge).

These are rewarding days out if the weather is good, in bad weather navigation can be difficult particularly when leaving summits, and these really are peaks to be savoured in good weather if at all possible.

It was while taking a break from combining text and images last night that I discovered by one of those strange coincidences that Paul Shorrock (a man who has done far more fell walking than me in the UK) had just posted his account of a walk across the Hebog Range – but in the opposite direction. My first thought was to delay this post, but then I thought: the more publicity we can give between us  to the neglected peaks of Snowdonia the better. Do take a look at Paul’s blog. He is a great writer, you will learn a lot particularly if you are interested in walking in the UK’s mountain areas, and he takes some good pictures too to guide you on your way. The one thing that will annoy him however is that I was blessed with better weather on my trip than he was! Sorry Paul. My luck! C’est la vie, as they say.

About LensScaper

Hi - I'm a UK-based photographer who started out 45+ years ago as a lover of landscapes, inspired by my love of outdoor pursuits: skiing, walking and climbing. Now retired, I seldom leave home without a camera and I find images in unexpected places and from different genres. I work on the premise that Photography is Art and that creativity is dependent on the cultivation of 'A Seeing Eye'.
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23 Responses to Walks on less frequented hills and paths

  1. rigmover says:

    Sounds like some really good walks, great shots to, thanks Andy.


  2. Another great post! I’ll be going to the mountains soon. This revs me up.


  3. Ah, you make this flatlander’s heart yearn. Thanks for the vicarious trip.


  4. I’m sold. The next time I’m in the UK I’m going to be asking you for some advice on where to go. Fantastic images Andy.


  5. Hi, I’ve been a silent follower of your blog for a while now. I love these hills; as a child I used to have summer holidays at Nantlle and would canoe on the lake. Those were the days when you had to ask the farmer for permission to climb the mountains and I’d go out for the day with a leaky nylon cagoule, a pair of jeans, a wooly jumper and a lump of malt loaf! I’ve walked over all the hills in this area a number of times and your post brought back a lot of memories.


    • LensScaper says:

      Thanks so much for your comment. It’s always so rewarding to discover that a simple entry on a blog can make a very personal connection with someone else. I first went to Snowdonia when I was a small boy and have been going back for the last 50+ years! I’m sure you would enjoy taking a look at Paul Shorrock’s blog (click on the link in my post) – I know he has posted other entries on Snowdonia.


  6. oneowner says:

    Your photos alone are very enticing to those of us who haven’t made the trip there. Excellent!


  7. Wonderful images (as usual!) and a great write up. And thanks for the mention, Andy.

    Next weeks post is the start (for you) or finish (for me) of the Nantlle Ridge, i.e. Craig Cwm Silyn. It was a short trip out, but an enjoyable one. I’m following that up with two (separate) days in the Rhinogs, the second one being today in heatwave conditions!

    Thanks again for todays post, a great read with some beautiful images.


    • LensScaper says:

      Thanks very much for your comments, Paul. I’ll look forward to those posts – must walk Nantlle with a digital camera sometime. I walked the Rhinogs end to end about 15yrs ago in rain, that drowned my first mobile phone, and I looked like a drowned rat too at the far end. Hoping to get up to Snowdonia late this month or early October for a couple of days.


  8. Rick says:

    Awesome views especially of the Nantlle ridge! Thanks for sharing!


  9. seekraz says:

    What a beautiful countryside, Andy…and photos well-done, as always. Thank you for sharing your explorations.


  10. Rhyd-Ddu – gosh that name has not been on my mind for years; I lived there for a short time when I was knee high to a grasshopper (Many years ago….)
    As you say, the whole area is great walking country and your images have rekindled many memories: thanks, a good post.



    • LensScaper says:

      Thanks for commenting David. What a small world it is! I’m so glad you enjoyed the trip down memory lane. What a lucky lad you were to spend time in that area – but inwinter I guess it can be rather bleak.


  11. Very nice and interesting landscape. Love both the sea and the mountains.


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