The word “Snodownia” is very often synonymous with well known ranges such as Snowdon, or the Glyders and South Snowdonia, to many, is singularly restricted to Cadair Idris. For those who like to stray from the beaten path, however, the Welsh mountains offer an amazing array of trails across rough, weather beaten, trails and that wind through some of the most beautiful scenery our Island has to offer. Aran Fawddy is very much one of Snowdonia’s hidden gems.
A full day, circular, hike Aran Fawddy takes walkers up steep slopes and through boggy marshlands; past elegant waterfalls and steep crags; and finally, across a rock laden and barren summit where one can breathe in the beauty of the surrounding mountains. It is a gem in that it is also one of the less trodden trails, and as well as the beauty of nature, hikers can experience the beauty of almost near solitude with only the elements for company.
The trail head starts at a small car park in Cwm Cywarch. To find Cwm Cywarch can be a challenge in itself. Broadly, one must turn off the A470 at Dinas Mawdyy and as you drive further into the village, take a left at Abercywarch. If the road narrows to a single vehicles width and the appearance of sporadic passing points emerges, you’re probably on the right track. A single red phone box signals you are going in the right direction. From the car park, hikers should then follow the road towards the farm and head through a kissing gate on the right. follow around past the farm house and bear right once more, through a large metal gate.
After circumventing the farm house, the trail starts in earnest. The first section of the hike is a combination of fighting your way through head high ferns and up a steep gully with daunting, rocky, faces on either side. Following the streams and waterfalls, the trail here is steep and arduous; stopping to catch your breath is probably advisable; take the opportunity to look back upon Cwm Cywarch and the rolling valley and watch your car park disappear into the distance as you climb higher and higher. This section was, for me, one of the highlights. The weather was a beautiful British summer’s day. The sky was a vibrant blue, the foliage was a lush, deep, green and the running water from the nearby stream created a very calming atmosphere that allowed us to forget our exertions.
Once you reach the top of the gully, bear North East until you hit a fence. Most of the rest of the trail towards the summit is relatively easy to follow. Although there is no real discernible trail, if you trace the fence line you will be heading in roughly the right direction. However, the ground here is a boggy mess. Straying a little from the fence line onto firmer ground may save your feet from a cold, unnecessary, bath. As our group reached the top of the gully, the weather came in relatively quickly. The beaming sun from before faded behind thick black clouds, and the rain began hammering down. Thunder was heard in the distance, but thankfully stayed comfortingly far away.
As we pressed higher and higher, the clouds got thicker. The visibility was very poor, and the instinct to go where we thought the trail should go was very strong. We stuck by our guns and stuck by our compass, and despite having to descend slightly, we soon found ourselves at the summit cairn – however without the reward of the expansive view that South Snowdonia’s highest peak would normally produce.
As we wanted to do a circular walk rather than retrace our footsteps, we bore south and started to head down the Aran ridge, towards a cairn built in memoriam of an RAF Mountain Rescue team member who lost his life in a thunderstorm. Sad as that event may be, it is certainly a beautiful spot to pay tribute. As our group reached the cairn, the sun seemed to blow away the clouds, and we were left with the type of view that reminds me why I go back to Snowdonia time and time again. Looking, once more, over Cwm Cywarch and the hills that envelope it was simply stunning. The Sun light lit up the valley, dancing off the colours of the land and creating a simply stunning visual spectacle.
We sat…and sat; no one uttering a word, simply taking in the majesty of nature.
The rest of the descent is relatively straight forward, following the fence line until you bear west onto a well trodden path that descendings along the side of the hill and brings you back to the firmer ground of the car park.
The Aran range is a must for all of those who crave the beauty and the isolation that nature offers. My experience of Aran Fawddy this weekend was as close to being back out in the middle of nowhere as I have experienced since I returned to the UK.
However, as with all the Welsh mountains, the weather can be unpredictable; if I was to impart any advice it would be to:
- Treat this as any other hike – ensure you have adequate clothing
- Take a map – know how to read it
- Take a compass – know how to use it
- Remember that the stiles that you encounter have grid references on them
- Keep the range to yourself – one wouldn’t want to spoil it now 🙂