Traverse of the Rhinogau Walking

Short in altitude but utterly uncompromising, the Rhinogau (aka Rhinogs) are famously among the wildest and roughest hills in Wales. With the sea at its foot the range sprawls all the way from the Vale of Ffestiniog in the north to the Mawddach estuary in the south, its main ridge aligned almost exactly north-south. The northern hills are a chaos of mini crags and heather, with scatterings of little lakes and idyllic wooded valleys - beautiful walking, but hard going - while the peaks further south have a smoother, grassier grandeur. A full traverse of the lot makes a tough single day or a brilliant weekend; there are plenty of spots to camp.

Rhinog Fawr from the south; the descent route follows the scree centre frame  © Dan Bailey -
Rhinog Fawr from the south; the descent route follows the scree centre frame
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Detailed description

SH6096236078 Take the minor road to Soar. From here a path descends through woods, crosses a field, crosses another road and then heads uphill through more woods. Once on open ground pass two farms, then join a vehicle track leading to Llyn Eiddew-mawr. From the south end of the lake go due south through path-free heather thickets, skirting right of Clip. Eventually, descend to a decent path heading towards the farm at the head of gorgeous wooded Cwm Bychan.

SH6464331487 Head through some oak woods on the path for Bwlch Tyddiad to follow the famous Roman Steps, a trail of neatly laid flagstones running up the rocky ravine. It's generally acknowledged that they are not of Roman origin, though their actual provenance is lost in the mists of time. Descend a little on the far side of the pass, looking out for an unobvious cairned turnoff on the right. This rough path leads to Llyn Du, a sombre pool among the rocks and heather under Rhinog Fawr's chaotic north face. Skirt the east shore and take a path up a scree-filled trough on the right side of the face; it's a fairly tough ascent for such a small hill. From the summit a cairned path runs onto the broad eastern shoulder, leading to a gully that cuts between the crag tiers of the south face to give a steep scree descent into the marshy base of the Bwlch Drws-Ardudwy, a dramatic cleft between the two Rhinogs.

SH6598928055 Continuing south, another heathery path (or rather, bewildering variety of semi-paths) ascends past Llyn Cwmhosan, heading uphill below the west face of Rhinog Fach to Llyn Hywel. Overlooked by the rocky peak of Rhinog Fach and a striking smooth slab, this is one of the most impressive of Welsh mountain lakes. It would have been possible to climb Rhinog Fach's west flank, but route finding is more straightforward if you skirt the north shore of the lake to reach the col to its east, before tackling the less confusing south side instead (a drystone wall shows the way). Return to the col and take the obvious wall-side path over the top of the smooth slab for the steep, rough climb onto Y Llethr.

SH6610925803 At the domed summit of this highest of the Rhinogau the terrain switches abruptly from challenging to gentle (probably just as well if you're doing this walk in one day). It's an easy stride along the grassy ridge top, following the drystone wall over Crib-y-rhiw to Diffwys, the last major sumit in the range.

SH6609023399 Keep following the wall south along the crest; it soon curves west to reach the little west top. Keep going on the same line until just beyond spot height 572m, then cut left, descending steadily into a broad grassy valley. The path becomes a farm track, and then a tarmac road heading down into Barmouth.

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