Rhinog Fawr via the Roman Steps Walking

The Rhinogydd (Rhinogs) are renowned for the roughest terrain in Wales, a maze-like tangle of rocky summits and boggy hollows cloaked in deep heather and cut across by countless terraces and slabs of rough gritstone. Off-path progress is tortuous here. We’ve described a full traverse of the range before, but many equally worthwhile shorter walks are available too. A perfect introduction to the range is the ascent of Rhinog Fawr via the so-called Roman Steps. This gives a full dose of the area’s trademark rugged scenery, in a manageable hit. The approach journey is something special in itself, along the winding single track road through Cwm Bychan’s idyllic oak woods to the secluded lake at the road end. Things only get better from here.

On the Roman Steps in Bwlch Tyddiad  © Dan Bailey - UKHillwalking.com
On the Roman Steps in Bwlch Tyddiad
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Detailed description

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SH6456231454 From the car park go briefly east along the road, then turn right onto a footpath signed for the Roman Steps. This leads south through pasture, then begins to climb through a small, open oak wood.

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SH6487130813 At a trail junction near the edge of the wood stay left, following a little stream uphill between hillsides that are a typical Rhinog jumble of rock and undergrowth. In places wet, the path crosses and re-crosses the stream, soon entering the rugged gorge of the Roman Steps. Despite the name these are actually thought to be medieval in origin. Part of an ancient packhorse route connecting Harlech on the coast with distant Chester, via the wild heart of the Rhinogydd, this long and painstakingly built flight of stone steps makes light of the tangled contours, and the ascent to the high point of Bwlch Tyddiad is a real joy.

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SH6590529968 At the rugged pass a view opens out over the forested hills to the east of the Rhinogydd. Continuing east-southeast, follow the path downhill from the pass for about 150m, then look among the heather for a side trail on the right. This cuts south and then southwest, climbing to lonely Llyn Du; it's rough going in places, with plenty of rocks, bilberry and heather, and even a couple of hands-on moments.

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SH6567729450 This is a really wild spot. The north flank of Rhinog Fawr rises above the lake, a mass of steep heather, scree and craggy terraces. A diagonal line on grass and scree cuts up from left to right through the outcrops to give a hands-free ascent; alternatively follow the lake shore west to a wall before doubling back to climb the hill's northwest flank. Both options are hard going, but both have traces of path and the height gain is only around 200m. A trig point and cairns mark the domed summit.

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SH6569228999 To make a scenic circular route it's possible to contrive a way back to Cwm Bychan via Gloyw Llyn, but more straightforward to just go back the way you came – the Roman Steps are just as good in descent.

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Further Routes

by Dan Bailey - UKHillwalking.com