Thursday, 12 November 2015

A Berwyns Day Out

As the crow flies the Berwyns are the nearest mountains to Liverpool but despite this, they are relatively unknown and lack the crowds that flock to the big hills of northern Snowdonia.  Although I was well aware of them as they hold are quite a few unticked Nuttalls, my only previous visit was in 2003.

We started from Wales’ highest waterfall – Pistyll Rhaeadr – and after pre-walk refreshments at the falls café we started up the south ridge of Moel Sych.  The main ridge continues to Cadair Berwyn which has only been recognised as the range’s highpoint in recent years and took the title of Denbighshire’s summit from Moel Sych.  After a quick lunch stop, we continued north but turned eastwards towards a ridge rich in summits yet to be visited by me.

the Cadair Berwyn escarpment

Tomle was the first and was quickly followed by Foel Wen, Foel Wen South Top, Mynydd Tarw and the Bridge summit of Rhos.  The Berwyns is an area rich in potential for ticking multiple 2000-foot summits in quick order; I’m looking forward to returning for some productive days out.

Moel Sych, Cadair Berwyn and Tomle from Foel Wen

Before staring the final rise to Mynydd Tarw half of our group dropped down into Cwm Maen Gwynedd to pick up a strategically parked car and drive around to Pistyll Rhaeadr to retrieve the rest of the group’s vehicles.

The rest of us continued along the ridge for the final two summits before heading for the Llidiart-cae-hir junction where we had arranged to be picked up by the drivers.

The walk had covered some continuously straightforward ground but the slapstick moment of the day occurred when one of group’s experienced members went thigh-deep into a bog which was also occupied by the remains of a sheep.  A reminder of the dangers in the hills, and also the value of a spare set of clean clothes in the car boot !

We didn’t have long to wait to be picked up and we retired to The Hand in Llanarmon Dyffryn Ceiriog for a welcome pint in front of a warming log fire.


I’ve been on holiday to Galloway a lot over the past ten years or so but the only significant venture to what could be classed as elevated terrain was an afternoon excursion to bag the summit of Criffel.  The lure of Merrick had been gnawing away at me for some time and as it is a TRAIL 100 mountain, a midweek day out from our holiday cabin had been pencilled in the diary.

After parking at the Bruce’s Stone car park in Glen Trool I hastily lacing my boots to minimise exposure to the troublesome midges.  The path leading away from the road quickly left them behind and it wasn’t long before Culsharg bothy came into view.  I stopped for a quick look around when I spend my first night in a bothy, it won’t be here; although reasonably spacious, it just felt a bit tatty to me!  Perhaps Culsharg is not an unusual example and my future bothy experiences are going to be a bit disappointing.

Benyellary above Culsharg bothy

The path from Culsharg quickly reaches the forest road and enters the forest where the ascent starts in earnest.  As the path reaches open ground there is a paving stone marking the terrain boundary which is unique in my hillwalking experience.  From here it is an easy walk to the summit of Benyellary followed by equally easy terrain over the Neive of the Spit to the Merrick’s summit.  The views to the west coast as you traverse this high route are impressive with the granite outpost of Ailsa Craig drawing the eye.

the boundary stone

Neive of the Spit to Merrick

Ailsa Craig

There were a few other walkers on the way up but I soon gained solitude by descending Merrick’s south-east ridge of Redstone Rig, aiming for the Grey Man of Merrick, a geomorphological mimetolith bearing an uncanny resemblance to a bearded man.  A wide gully led me almost directly to it and I tried many angles to take the best photo, but the classic view is unbeatable.  Unusually for a rock feature, it was recognisable as a face from the left, the right and head-on.

the Grey Man of Merrick

I originally had a plan to walk over to the Murder Hole and follow the Gairland Burn path back to the car but I decided that the path marked on the Ordnance Survey Explorer map alongside Buchan Burn would be a shorter route take less time.  The path was hard to follow, which may explain why it wasn’t marked on the Landranger map and when it was clear to see, the ground was somewhat damp!  It turned into a muddy quadbike track in the forest and when the gradient eased it turned into very boggy ground.  At one point I went knee-deep into the morass and as I tried to regain my footing I split my trousers!  But luckily the forest road wasn’t too far away and the walk past Culsharg to Bruce’s Stone was quiet enough to hide my embarrassing attire.