#135 – Three days in the Aran Hills of Wales (Part 1)

The Aran Ridge, seen from the southeast

The Aran Ridge, seen from the southeast

So, where are these Aran Hills then?  I Have to confess that for years I didn’t have a clue where they were, and I didn’t get round to tracking them down until a year or two ago.  It was only in the last month that I actually got my boots on the ground, and discovered yet another hidden corner of Wales, ignored by many.

The cliffs of Craig Cywarch

The cliffs of Craig Cywarch

The valley above Bryn Hafod

The valley above Bryn Hafod

Looking back down the valley

Looking back down the valley

The route out to Drysgol and Aran Fawddwy

The route out to Drysgol and Aran Fawddwy

The valley of Cwm Cywarch has one of the narrowest roads in Wales – it doesn’t need to be bigger as there are only a handful of farms in the length of the valley.  For connoisseurs of remote ‘trad’ style rock climbing, there is the additional attraction of Craig Cywarch, about 2kms of imposing steep rock with a climbers’ hut (Bryn Hafod) below.  The valley head is also the springboard for exploring the Aran Hills from the south

Looking back down the valley towards Craig Cywarch

Looking back down the valley towards Craig Cywarch

The upper part of the valley

The upper part of the valley

Heading towards the plateau ….

Heading towards the plateau ….

…. with Drysgol beyond

…. with Drysgol beyond

The day had started with a dental appointment for Chris – following the fun and excitement of that, she had decided against a hill day, but Border Collie ‘Mist’ was happy to make up the numbers.  I started up a gradually rising path heading for a big grassy plateau below Drysgol, with great views back towards Craig Cywarch and the upper part of Cwm Cywarch.

First views of the Aran Ridge, and the small lake of Craiglyn Dyfi

First views of the Aran Ridge, and the small lake of Craiglyn Dyfi

Drws Bach

Drws Bach

The memorial cairn

The memorial cairn

The height gain was easy, but there was still more to come.  Drysgol was passed with the Aran Ridge coming into view as I headed for the memorial cairn at Drws Bach.  The cairn was built by members of the Royal Air Force mountain rescue team of St Athan, in memory of team member Mike Aspain who was killed by lightning whilst training with the team in June 1960.  Serious accidents to rescue team members are thankfully rare, but I paused here a while before heading on to what was, literally, the high point of the day – Aran Fawddwy 

Looking towards the summit of Aran Fawddwy, with the mist coming down

Looking towards the summit of Aran Fawddwy, with the mist coming down

The summit trig column

The summit trig column

With an altitude of 905 metres, Aran Fawddwy is the 16th highest peak in Wales.  It is a mere 9 metres (30 ft) short of reaching the old yardstick of 3000 ft, which is probably a good thing for all concerned – the 15 Welsh peaks above 3000 ft can all be done in a fairly long and strenuous day, but Aran Fawddwy is more than 40kms (25 miles) from the Snowdon hills as the crow flies.  Had this peak been added to the ‘Welsh 3000’s’ it would have presented an insurmountable challenge for most ordinary mortals.

The way off, looking towards Glasgwm

The way off, looking towards Glasgwm

Looking back towards Aran Fawddwy

Looking back towards Aran Fawddwy

Wooden boardwalk across the worst of the bogs

Wooden boardwalk across the worst of the bogs

 Cascade in the descent valley

Cascade in the descent valley

The summit cleared of mist long enough for a quick photograph, before I set off down the line of the ridge heading southwest towards Glasgwm – that would have to wait for the next day though, so I turned down the valley, heading down to the hut at Bryn Hafod.  I had seen just one other person all day – yes, that missing 9 metres on Aran Fawddwy is definitely a good thing.

On the way down

On the way down

To be continued ….

Text and images © Paul Shorrock

About Paul Shorrock

I've been mucking about in the mountains for longer than I care to mention. I started out by walking my local hills, then went on to rock climbing, mountaineering and skiing. Still doing it, and still getting a buzz. I'm now sharing the fun, through my guided walking business (Hillcraft Guided Walking) and by writing routes for other publishers, mainly Walking World and Discovery Walking Guides. Just to make sure I keep really busy, I am also currently a member of my local mountain rescue team.
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15 Responses to #135 – Three days in the Aran Hills of Wales (Part 1)

  1. Yasmine says:

    lovely photos – glorious landscape

  2. Thanks Yasmine – they are lovely quiet hills. I don’t know why I waited so long before visiting them.

  3. Have to confess I wasn’t certain where the Aran Hills were – I’ve just googled them! Look rather nice though!

  4. lanceleuven says:

    “The valley of Cwm Cywarch has one of the narrowest roads in Wales”

    Certainly quite a tough won title! I’ve been genuinely taken aback on a number of occasions by the roads my sat nav has directed me down in Wales. I was surprised that some of them were even on the sat nav’s maps as they seemed to be just narrow tracks more than roads.

  5. Pete Buckley says:

    Nice post Paul – like the Arenigs nearby it’s a gem of a place that’s often missed on the way to Snowdon!

  6. Thanks Pete – I’m a convert! The next two posts will also feature the Arans.

  7. Just looks ideal Paul…sometimes the more obscure and less visited places can be the best….

  8. Pingback: #136 – Three days in the Aran Hills of Wales (Part 2) | Paul Shorrock – One Man's Mountains AKA One Pillock's Hillocks

  9. Pingback: #137 – Three days in the Aran Hills of Wales (Part 3) | Paul Shorrock – One Man's Mountains AKA One Pillock's Hillocks

  10. Mike Rushton says:

    My favourite hill in Wales first visited in the early ’70s. Thank goodness it is those 29 feet short otherwise we would get the wrong sort of person fouling up this beautiful part of Wales. Superb photos by the way. The cairn has a metal box under it with a book in which one can leave one’s thoughts etc. The entry I liked most was, ‘Norfolk has changed a lot since I was last here, Mark Thatcher (lost again.)’ By the way, take a few bob with you to leave as a donation in the box towards the RAF mountain rescue.

    • Hi Mike and thanks for the comment. Didn’t see the box under the cairn, so I guess another trip is in order – no problem with such a great hill 🙂

  11. Pingback: #147 – Ring out the old … 2013 hill memories | Paul Shorrock – One Man's Mountains AKA One Pillock's Hillocks

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