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This is a strenuous 7.5 mile/12km walk that takes around 5hrs.
At 905m Aran Fawddwy is the tallest mountain in the area, taller even than the more well-known Cader Idris.
It is not to be underestimated, and a map and compass and the skills to use them are essential, especially if the weather is anything less than perfect. There are many boggy sections and care should be taken on the planked sections which are now showing their age.
The path can also be followed using this Ordnance Survey Map.
The start and finish point is the head of the stunning valley of Cwm Cywarch – ‘Valley of Hemp’ – once a popular local crop.
The hillsides around Aran Fawddwy are peppered with the remains of small mines of lead, iron, copper and manganese. Gold was extensively mined just a few miles North of here. Peat for heating & cooking was the other natural resource taken from these hills and the easy-angled descent path for this route was made for taking the peat, loaded on sledges, down to the valley floor.
Park in the free National Park car park at the head of the Cywarch valley at OS Grid Ref SH852188. There are toilets at the car park.
To find the car park, drive from Dinas Mawddwy to the village of Abercywarch. At the sign to Cwm Cywarch turn left onto the single-track lane. The car park is at the very end of the valley, after 2.5 miles (though it feels further), just before the final farm.
From the car park, turn left onto the lane and almost immediaely take the signed footpath to the right of the buildings of Blaencywarch farm. Follow the broad path for around 300m and then, where the wall on your left ends, turn left uphill off the farm track taking a signed footpath leading over a stile. The path leads diagonally rightwards up the hillside.
Points of interest:
1. Directly behind the parking are Tai Newyddion (New Houses) – these used to be the barracks for lead mine workers. Lead has been mined here periodically over the centuries. In the industry’s heyday, around 1870, up to 80 men worked here.
After a few hundred metres of climbing the track crosses a wooden footbridge and then follows the right side of a stream all the way to the col (1-1 ½ hrs from the parking). As you approach the col, you will see wooden posts marking the route and, at the col itself, a fenceline running left to right.
Points of interest:
2.Just ahead is Bryn Hafod, now a Mountaineering club hut.
3. About 200 yards from the stile at the bottom there is a bare rock on your right, from the top of which black powder blasting was undertaken to celebrate special occasions.
4. 100 yards higher are the remains of the large ditch where the Nant Camddwr stream was diverted to prevent the mine from flooding.
5. Llywelyn’s path is on the hillside opposite, climbing up the rock face from right to left. Two brothers (Llywelyn and Morys Moel Goch) met regularly at the head of Craig Cywarch. One day a storm broke out and while Morys took shelter Llywelyn escaped down the path. It is now heavily overgrown.
6. Higher up, where the gorge begins to narrow, an old trail follows the edge of the gorge; where the footprint of Sawdl Efa (Eve’s footprint) can be seen (Efa was the sister of Samson, the Mawddwy giant).
7. Higher up the land flattens, and the remains of Hafoty’r Gesail can be seen; cattle would be milked here and the butter taken down to Cwm Cywarch valley below.
8. The Fox Lock is very old. A dead sheep would be thrown into the lock as bait to attract a fox, which would then be killed. The shepherd’s hut remains in the pen are from a later date.
Once at the col, turn right and follow the fenceline, diverting around the boggy sections where necessary. Beware of the old planking over these sections, which can be very slippery.
Follow the fenceline as it gently climbs. After a final steep section, cross another fenceline joining from the right and pull onto the summit plateau. The summit proper is 400m ahead, marked with a triangulation point. Around 3hrs from the parking.
Points of interest:
9. Following the fence for about 400 yards and looking over to Rhydymain you can see the remains of the iron ore mounds – Tyllau Mwn. Here iron was mined, one of the earliest miners being Mrs Baker, Y Ladi Goch (the red lady), who mined here during the First World War. Tyllau Mwn is a Site of Special Scientific Interest due to its special geological features.
10. On the slope facing you before climbing the last section up Aran Fawddwy are the remains of an American plane from the Second World War.
11. It is said that it was the residents of Mawddwy who erected a cairn on the summit of the Aran to make sure that the Aran was higher than Cader Idris, but in fact it is a Bronze Age cairn.
From the summit retrace your steps for 300m, and then bear left over rocky terrain to pick up the fenceline you crossed earlier (or return all the way to the fenceline and turn left). Follow the fenceline downhill, with impressive views down to Creiglyn Dyfi below and passing a memorial plaque at Drws Bach (Little Door).
Bear left, keeping to the now broadening ridgeline, close to the fence and with the deep valley of Hengwm to your right onto the broad summit of Drysgol.
At Drysgol bear right, following the head of the Hengwm valley and continue for 600m, descending beside a fence, to a flattening before Waun Goch. Here, a broad track leads diagonally down the side of Hengwm. Follow this track, which becomes a metalled road at the bottom, all the way to the valley floor. Cross the Afon Cywarch at the bottom and at the T-junction turn right. The car park is 150m ahead.
Points of interest:
12. The path that skirts down the slopes of Hengwm is a peat track, built in the 19th century after residents cut all the peat on Y Fawnog Fawr on the valley floor of Cwm Cywarch where the common is located.