When it comes to mountains, Snowdonia is more than a jewel in the crown – it is the crown. There are plenty more mountain riches though, including our local hills. The Clwydian Range is the first high ground that you pass through as you enter North Wales from England – running south from Prestatyn on the coast, the hills gradually gain height until they reach a high point at Moel Famau.
Situated roughly between Yr Wyddgrug (Mold) and Rhuthun (Ruthin), Moel Famau is a mere 554 metres in height, but like many hills on the fringe of Snowdonia it is a hill with ‘attitude’ – it’s certainly not a hill to treat in a casual manner, especially when a cold wind is blowing from the northwest. Which is exactly the wind we had on our last visit.
Starting from Cilcain village to the east of Moel Famau, it’s easy to be lulled into a false sense of security – the hills act as a barrier to the icy winds coming from the northwest, which is probably why the village is situated where it is. The path from Cilcain gains height gradually, rising a little over 300 metres in height over 3 kilometres, and the summit of Moel Famau comes as a sudden surprise, with views opening up to Snowdonia 40 kilometres (25 miles) away.
We didn’t spend long admiring the view on this trip, though. The cold north-westerly breeze was like a knife, but as the old adage goes, “There’s no such thing as bad weather, just bad clothing”. So, having zipped, buttoned and secured everything possible, we set off for Moel Llys y Coed, following the Offa’s Dyke Path.
At Moel Llys y Coed the Offa’s Dyke Path heads downwards towards the foot of Moel Arthur, an Iron-Age Hillfort at least 2000 years old (see post #99). The path here is quite steep, and was the site of a minor avalanche during the snows of last March (see the end of post #124 for photographs). There were no problems with snow on this trip, but the icy blasts reminded us that winter is well on the way.
We stopped for a bite to eat at the car park below Moel Arthur, but there was little incentive to linger in the cold wind. A gradually rising ramp took us round the shoulder of Moel Llys y Coed, before pointing us on a steady downhill back to Cilcain. The Clwydian hills may not have the drama of Snowdonia, but they have their own charm and for me they are the hills that I now regard as home.
Text and images © Paul Shorrock
p.s. There is an excellent pub in Cilcain – it will not surprise regular readers of the blog to hear that it was closed when we got there!