A 4.5 mile circular walk with two peaks in the Llantysilio mountain range
The opportunity for a walk in late winter is certainly not one to be missed. With a variety of cloud formations under a pale blue sky, and an unexpected promise of sunshine bringing warmer temperatures for the day, the Llantysilio mountain range beckoned us off the sofa. The biting winds, chilling rain and general greyness of winter does little to enthuse us to go walking when there's a fire in the hearth and a good book to read, despite the fact that this particular landscape is in our own back yard. So, if I’m honest, there’s really no excuse for not going walking. A surprise upturn in the previously gloomy weather forecast for today, had us into our boots and off walking without protest. For a spur of the moment decision, we chose a relatively short circular walk, which starts and ends from the village of Bryneglwys.
There is a rather impressive sheltered information point on the main road through Bryneglwys, likely as not, more often mistaken for a bus stop. This shelter affords walkers a place to sit and read about the typical flora and fauna in the area, along with a potted history of the village. It is from this point that we take the gentle slope of the lane opposite, a lane which soon turns into a rather steeper one until the road levels out just past a pristine white cottage on the left. Continue with a right turn at the next road junction, which is just past a bustling stream, and track upwards to Plas Newydd, the house at the top of the hill. You’ll know you’re within reach of it since there’ll be a welcoming committee of loudly barking dogs running up and down their garden, or at their garden gate.
Cross over the road and go through a farm gate bedecked with brightly coloured official notices from Denbighshire County Council, advising that the route is closed to motorised vehicles. Once through this gate, down the hill and across a tunnelled stream, the terrain rises and starts to get a little steeper. The odd sheep is often found to be running around in blind panic having forgotten which hole in the stock fencing it sought to explore; and, at this time of year, a fair amount of mud is lying in wait to jump on your boots and hitch a ride up the hill. Continue up this track until you reach the stile at the top. Once over the stile, stop to take in the view (and a breather) back over the way you’ve just walked. Even at this relatively low height, on a sunny day, it’s worth a snap or two on the camera. Turn left (north-east), then bear right at the way marker, through the gorse and along one of the narrow paths running east. From this point, the route is not immediately clear, but once you reach the brow of the field in front of you, you will see the large gap you’re aiming for in the hedge-line ahead. Go through the gate-sized gap and continue in the same direction towards a stile at the end of the sheep-path that you are now following. Climb over the stile, turn right, and you will find yourself on a more obvious track (shown below).
Continue up to the gate which, unlike most gates around here, is well and truly locked up. Either climb over it, or the fence to which it is attached, which is not quite so high. The route is followed to the left, upwards and towards the meeting-point of two mountains: Moel y Gamelin and Moel y Gaer. The latter is the site of an old, Iron Age hill fort which has been excavated in recent years by archeologists. Despite serious damage being wrought in the past by the illegal use of motorised vehicles, notably motorbikes, evidence suggests that two round houses occupied this site; albeit these buildings appear to have been built on top of previous dwellings, about which, little is known. There is a noticeable ‘cross-roads’ to this part of the landscape, which has an ever changing face. Year on year, harsh grey winters have tugged at the visible features of the land, the characteristics of which have been shaped by the geo-diversity of lead mining, slate quarrying and farming. Dormant and dull in its winter hue, acres of heather stretches as far as the eye can see. The only sound might be that of the rhythmic blasts of steam powering a heritage locomotive as it traverses the valley below in and out of Llangollen station.
There are one or two choices at this point. You could take a left turn and head up the tallest of these mountains, Moel y Gamelin, standing at 557m in height. This route will eventually lead you to the Ponderosa Café at the Horseshoe Pass. Alternately, you could continue the path straight ahead, hugging the side of the mountain in the direction of Llangollen. For our circular walk, however, we take a right turn and head up Moel y Gaer. The initial easy slope soon turns into something which requires, arguably, more effort. At 503m, it is the first of the two peaks we will climb today. The descent of this first peak is very steep and the path is one of loose scree and stones given to shift underfoot. However, to the right of this path is an alternative, easier path which zigzags alongside through the heather. The way then levels out somewhat before the hike up to the trig point on Moel Morfydd at 550m. The views on a clear day from up here are breathtaking. Looking in a south-easterly direction the Pontcysyllte Aqueduct spanning the River Dee can be seen in the distance, particularly on a clear day. From an east-south-east perspective, Castell Dinas Bran lies one mile north-east of Llangollen and is not difficult to spot. For an often fleeting glimpse of the mighty Snowdon, turn your attention westwards, and north-north-west for Rhyl up on the coast.
There are not many days where there is not a breath of wind at the trig point of Moel Morfydd, so it’s nice to sit on the grass to the side of it, and take in the sweeping views down over Cae Llewelyn and Rhewl. It’s a great place to enjoy a light snack, or to lie back and relax for ten minutes before heading back down the other side of the mountain. It doesn’t take long before you’re at the bottom and walking on easier ground. Follow the black-and-white way-markers to the right of the main path, down a cart track in the heather, and on to a narrow tarmac road. A left turn here would take you down into Glyndyfrdwy, so turn right, and continue down-hill and over the cattle grid that marks the boundary of the open access land. Not long past Ty Newydd, a large farm on the left, is a stile and a gate into a field. The sign post is misleading, however, since it points in a direction contrary to the one you need to be heading in. Once through the gate (the stile is particularly high), head straight down the field taking the line of the boundary hedge on your left, through the gate-way at the bottom and down toward the old vicarage, the roof of which will be very obvious to you. There is a small wrought iron gate in the left corner of the field. This will take you into the garden and drive-way of the vicarage. It’s all down-hill from here on in and on a road which will take you past a farmyard on the left, before arriving back at the main road through Bryneglwys and the war memorial.