Moel Siabod via Daear Ddu and Carnedd y Cribau walk

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I had not heard of Moel Siabod until this year on Facebook

Moel Siabod through castle door

I have been to Snowdonia many times and explored many of its mountains, but to be honest have not given any consideration to Moel Siabod. It came to my notice on Facebook on a walking group that I subscribe to where folk publish their walks. This year there seemed to be a lot of posts from people who have walked up the mountain. It must obviously be popular so I thought I need to go and check it out.

I found a route in the Trail Magazine which seemed quite interesting. The most direct route and probably the most popular one is from Capel Curig which is described as a steady plod of three to four miles. There are some alternative routes one of which starts at Dolwyddelan a small village on the A470. The route described in the Trail Magazine was a circular route from this village of about twelve miles in length that took in a scramble up Daear Ddu and a cross-country walk to the summit of Carnedd y Cribau, with a visit to Castle Dolwyddelan on the return leg. This seemed a much more interesting route to me.

A bright and early start.

I just do not do early mornings, or maybe early mornings don’t do me! Either way when the alarm went off at four in the  morning I was definitely not ready for it! I have to prepare everything for  my walk the night before as my befuddled brain can only just about cope with wash, clean teeth, make coffee, walk out the door. The first half hour usually consists of “have I got? did I remember?” These days I have reconciled myself to the fact that I have probably forgotten something, I just hope it is not anything too important like waterproof trousers.

It is a long and tedious journey from Leicester to North Wales and I was mightily relieved when I arrived at Dolwyddelan at around nine in the morning. There was an amazingly bright blue sky with a few clouds floating in it when I parked up next to the church in Dolwyddelan. It is a small village with a certain charm about it, very quiet except for the A470 which unfortunately runs through the middle. I guess over the years the village has grown around the major thoroughfare in North Wales.

On an early October morning it is very restful but looking at all the parking restrictions I can imagine that in the summer it is a popular spot to visit. Fortunately there was virtually no one around when I arrived and I was very grateful to be able to drink in the tranquillity after my wearing motorway drive.

It was a gentle start

A short steep climb up a lane through the village brought me to some level fields which had pretty good views themselves, this was a promising start to the days adventure. Crossing the fields I came to an old gateway which led into some extensive woodland. Thankfully the track was clearly marked through the trees, I am always a little nervous walking through woodland there are always more paths than are marked on the map and I have often got confused.

This part of the walk was an easy up hill stroll which I really appreciated, I was still warming up (it takes time) until I reached the edge of the trees. From then on it was harder going.

The slope the path followed got steeper over pretty rough ground and at times it was not easy to work out where the path was. I worked out that basically if I followed the stream I would get to Llyn y Foel.

Llyn y Foel

This is a tarn that sits in the shadow of Moel siabod, it’s dark and brooding waters easily reflect the stone walls of its guardian mountain. It is heavy with the Pre-Cambrian atmosphere of North Wales that walkers in this area love. This is nature stripped back almost to its nakedness of birth. There is a rawness that appeals to those longing to find freedom from their twenty first century cosseted lifestyle. I stopped for a while by its waters to take a break and simply enjoy my surroundings. It was also a good spot to contemplate the scramble I was about to attempt up the ridge of Daear Ddu.

Scrambling to the top

The scramble up Daear Ddu (the black ridge) varies a lot, some of the ascent is along grassy slopes liberally coated with boulders along an easily definable path. Other stretches require all fours to negotiate the rocks that vaguely have the marks of a well used route on them, and then there are the sections that are nothing less than a basic climb. It is a scramble that is within most people’s ability and I was surprised by the number of people I met on the route, including five Welsh ladies who were chatting to each other in fluent Welsh all the way up. They kind of made the ‘Welshness’ of the day.

I really enjoyed the scramble up the crest it is not too acrophobic with sharp drops on either side, but it is exposed enough to feel a kindred with the ravens and crows that are enjoying the freedom of the sky. Even though they seem to almost mock me with their cries as I labour my way upward while they effortlessly glide on the wind.

It is not a long climb and before I knew it I had arrived at the trig point at the top.

It had some of the most amazing views.

Because Moel Siabod is a solitary mountain some distance from Snowdon and its adjacent mountains, on a clear day it offers vast views in all directions. I found it especially inspiring  looking at Snowdon. I have never before had such a panoramic view of this iconic mountain. There were quite a few people on the top including the Welsh ladies who helped me with the pronunciation of the name Moel Siabod.

Despite my best efforts my Welsh still had an English twang to it and I never quite managed to reciprocate their fluent tongue, I like the Welsh language and once tried to learn it – but!

It was perfect at the top, there was a slight breeze but I was warm enough wrapped up in my Thermoball Jacket. The cloud that had previously covered the top had completely gone and the Autumn blue of the sky complimented the greys and browns of the mountains to create some of natures great artistry. As I sat there munching my sarnies I thought this is about as near to heaven as I am going to get in this life.

Pressing on

Unfortunately I had to press on – nothing lasts forever! My path took me west over Moel Gid towards Carnedd y Cribau. It was a gentle down hill walk along a wide grassy ridge which offered even more engaging views of Snowdon. I could even see the Llanberis train making it’s way down the side of the  mountain. I really enjoyed this part of my walk it was a contrast to the Ridge scramble, in the low afternoon sun it was so easy to relax and amble along drinking everything in.

The path was easy to follow; basically, it followed a fence line which was easy to see (useful tip if your up there on a cloudy day!).

Carnedd y Cribau to Bwlch y Rhediad was a completely different story. The path continued downwards but now the landscape was rocky and uneven, in places there was pools of water which I had to detour around and bogs that I negotiated  gingerly. It was quite hard going and treacherous under foot.

This was probably the most time consuming section of the walk and I was not sad to reach my next destination Bwlch y Rhediad.

This is where an ancient pack horse track crossed my path and was a part of my route that I needed to take. Before turning south east along this track I stopped for another short break this time enjoying the total silence of the spot.

Castle Dolwyddelan

From this point I followed the old pack horse track down the valley until I arrived at a farm that took me onto a tarmac road. I followed this to another farm and then onto a stone track to the castle. This part of the walk was pretty much simply eating up the miles to get to the castle, although the surrounding land was still just as engaging as the earlier part of my walk.

Although the castle is very small consisting of one well kept keep, another ruined tower and the rubble of the curtain walls it is very atmospheric. Sitting high on the natural mound in the midst of a valley. It’s silhouette was striking against the sky and fired my imagination with pictures of medieval Welsh kingdoms and warriors rampaging across a wild and dangerous land.

I climbed up the steep embankment into the castle grounds and was instantly drawn by the romantic setting of this wild fortress. The stone walls blended perfectly with the surrounding land and its semi ruined state felt almost as ancient as the mountains and valleys that protected it.

Castle Dolwyddelan

Within the castle

The main keep was restored and repaired in the mid eighteen hundreds by Baron Willoughby de Eresby he increased its height and  added the battlements. I climbed the steps at the side of the keep to the large wooden door and was delighted to find the door unlocked.

I pushed the large wooden door open (which pleasingly creaked) and entered into one large rough stone room. There was not much inside except some information boards along the walls. Looking around it was easy to imagine how the keep worked in its day, especially looking at the large open fire. In the corner there was a large dark staircase that led to the roof, this was even more exciting.

A great finish to the walk

As I stepped out onto the battlements the sun was low in the sky, it was not yet at it’s point of setting but it had reached that place where it baths everything in a mellow orange light. This was one of the best ends to a walk ever (my car was only about half a mile down the road). I could see most of my walk and it was with deep satisfaction that I traced my route. This had been a great days walk and Moel Siabod had not failed me. I stayed at the castle for quite a while reluctant to leave, I wanted to feast on all that was around me getting my fill before heading back to the city life.

Moel Siabod from Castle Dolwyddela

Unfortunately as they say all good things come to an end, taking a deep breath I steeled myself for the long motorway journey home picking up my rucksack I set off down the track towards my car.

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I have loved walking in the in the great outdoors as long as I can remember, weather is not an issue and any landscape is a new adventure. Personal details:- Height 5'10"(1.78m), Wt 12st10oz(81kg) Chest 41"(104cm) Trouser size 32"W,32"L, Baselayer/midlayer size medium. Hardshell layer size large.