Drygarn Fawr from Rhiwnant Walking

High point of the Elenydd, a vast area of moorland and peat bog in the wild heart of Mid Wales, Drygarn Fawr has a surprisingly remote feel. Up on top, the barren moorland is attractive for its spacious scale, while the lower valleys are more conventionally picturesque. Perhaps the two most obvious approaches to the hill are from the south via Cwm Gwesyn, and from Cwm Elan to the north, where the twisting Rhiwnant offers a quietly scenic approach. The Rhiwnant route is described here as a circuit, with the addition of some off-path fun to boost the challenge (easier variants are also possible).

Drygarn Fawr - small hill, big cairn  © Dan Bailey -
Drygarn Fawr - small hill, big cairn
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Detailed description

SN9008261647 Take the side road downhill past the phone box. Cross a bridge over the Afon Claerwen, then follow the road left and then back right around a tight bend near a barn. After a few hundred metres go left through a gate onto a farm track, and follow this around the hillside into the mouth of the Rhiwnant valley. At a small pine plantation turn off right down a grassier track leading to a double ford, first over the Nant Paradwys and then across the larger Rhiwnant itself (which may need care in high water).

SN8909161007 Once over the river, turn left onto a track through trees to reach the open valley floor. Ignore a turn-off on your right, and at the next junction fork right to join an old mine access trail. This makes a scenic rising traverse along the steep north flank of the valley to reach some old workings on a craggy bluff overlooking a bend in the valley.
On the old mine track above the Rhiwnant  © Dan Bailey -
On the old mine track above the Rhiwnant
© Dan Bailey -, Aug 2021

SN8739160625 Cross the Nant y Carw at a ford just above an attractive series of waterfalls, then climb steep pathless ground onto Esgair Ganol. It's tough going on deep tussocks and bogs. Cross the stream of the Nant yr Hwch and head roughly southwest and then south; sticking to the highest ground gives the easiest walking, with intermittent traces of path. The cairns on Drygarn Fawr provide a good reference point, though they seem to get only slowly closer. Bear east across a broad peat-riddled col to join a more obvious path for the final ascent onto the summit. Pass a trig point to reach the enormous beehive cairn marking the 645m high point, a spot that feels a long way from anywhere.
The impressive summit cairn of Drygarn Fawr  © Dan Bailey -
The impressive summit cairn of Drygarn Fawr
© Dan Bailey -, Aug 2021

SN8628458410 Follow the ridge to the second massive cairn at its northeast end, then take the path downhill onto the Bwlch Trypeg. Here bear north, off-path, to skirt the spur of Carreg yr Ast, then bear left down rough slopes to join the stream of the Nant yr Ast. Staying with the east bank, a path of sorts develops, leading down into the secluded upper Rhiwnant valley.

SN8722159841 Now on an increasingly decent path, follow the idyllic valley downstream around the foot of Esgair Ganol to a stream junction below the waterfalls of stage 3. From here there's a path on either side of the river; for the sake of variety stay on the right to reach some mine workings by the Rhiwnant. Here you'll see a track running uphill on the right and a footbridge over the river to the left - ignore both and continue on a boggy path beside the river to reach the ford over the Nant Paradwys. Return via the track of stage 1 to the car park.

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