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Craig y Llyn & the Tawe Hills 3 days / 24 miles (39km)

OS Route Map Craig y Llyn → Map GPX Route file →
OS Route Map Tawe Hills → Map GPX Route file →

Date: 24 Jun 2018

Craig y Llyn (2.9m / 4.7km): Start / Finish: Layby on the A4061 Rhigos road (SN926031)
Map: Explorer 166 Rhondda & Merthyr Tydfil.

Tawe Hills (21.1m /34km): Start / Finish: Crai. Roadside parking.
Maps: Explorer OL12 Brecon Beacons Western & Central.

Day 1Craig y Llyn & Moel Feity7.7miles / 1671 feet (12.4km / 509m)
Day 2Llyn y Fan Fawr, Fan Hir & Fan Gyhirych10.9miles / 2744 feet (17.5km / 836m)
Day 3Yr Allt5.4miles / 380 feet (8.7km / 115m)
Pitch on Moel Feity

A 3-day route around the hills of Cwm Tawe combined with a short one-off excursion to claim Craig y Llyn, one of our two remaining hills on the 600m Sims list. Yr Allt, the other Sim hill, is traversed on the main circuit.

The apparently popular approach to hill bagging where you drive a car as close as possible to the summit, claim the top and drive off again, is one that normally we thoroughly dislike. However there are a few cases where the technique fits quite well and Craig y Llyn, the historic county top of Glamorgan, is a case in point. It lies on the Coed Morgannwg Way trail (CMW) but this route did not appeal as a backpack. The hill is blighted by extensive forestry operations and a wind farm is under construction near the top, leaving the views from the northern edge as its only merit.

A return to the Brecon Beacons was long overdue and we designed the Tawe route to include our first lakeside exploration of Llyn y Fan Fawr, approaching from the east and taking in Moel Feity, another new Dewey 500m top.

With a forecast of hot sunny weather following an already dry spell, and given the limestone geology of this area where streams can disappear underground, we predicted problems maintaining water levels and took our Platypus water container to supplement our usual bottles - how right we were.

Day 1 - Craig y Llyn & Moel Feity

Skyline Loop

Arriving late morning after a long drive, the viewpoint layby on the Rhigos road was already fairly busy with the snack van doing brisk trade with day trippers and cyclists. From the western extremity of the layby it appears that the only option is to follow the perilous edge of the road, but there is a good path above the embankment immediately next to the fence. As the road bends the path continues along the northern edge with extensive views northwards to the hills of the Brecon Beacons and Llyn Fawr below. The path is said to be very muddy and horribly churned up by trail bikes in some places, but it was almost entirely baked dry today.


Gaining height at a sharp bend, the CMW track then follows the edge of the mature trees and crosses another track to reach a “Skyline Loop” waymark post. Farther still is the standing stone bearing a buzzard logo with inscription “Cylchoedd-a-Dolenni / Loops & Links” that marks the side track into the trees where the summit lies a short way within.

The first sight of this spot, a cleared surfaced area surrounded by trees, was puzzling: it seemed to be the highest ground but where was the trig point?. Wandering around a bit we spotted it hiding behind a young tree, as well it might, this is a sad summit really although we've seen worse. That said, we have a certain fondness of these terrible tops that stand out for the wrong reasons.

Craig y Llyn summit & trig point
Craig y Llyn summit & trig point (24 Jun 2018__11:36:37)
View to the Brecon Beacons from the forest edge
View to the Brecon Beacons from the forest edge (24 Jun 2018__11:40:41)
Llyn Fawr
Llyn Fawr (24 Jun 2018__11:58:29)

We could have varied the return somewhat by continuing SSE to pick up the bridleway heading eastwards, but it really wasn't worth it in forestry and we retraced our steps to reprise the northwards view towards the Beacons. We then drove to Crai for the start of the main backpack.

From Crai we took the narrow lanes north and west to cross the Afon Crai and join a good bridleway up to the forest and the track that follows the edge south-westwards. Crossing the forest on another track, we realised the debilitating effect of the heat that was forecast to increase even more in the days ahead and fuel the need for plenty of water. Emerging from the forest at the open slopes of Moel Feity, we decided to ascend along the edge to the top of the rise in the hope of replenishing water at the stream head in Cwm Meity. Fortunately the stream was flowing sufficiently where it enters the forest in the deep rough ravine.

Easy grassy slopes climb to the 591m summit marked by a small cairn and there is a 590m rise to the north-west. We made our pitch a little lower down the western slope to catch the meagre light breeze with a view ahead to the main ridge.

Moel Feity summit
Moel Feity summit (24 Jun 2018__16:34:05)
Pitch on Moel Feity with Fan Hir & Fan Brycheiniog
Pitch on Moel Feity with Fan Hir & Fan Brycheiniog (24 Jun 2018__19:18:11)

Day 2 - Llyn y Fan Fawr, Fan Hir & Fan Gyhirych

The profusion of cotton grass on the eastern slopes bordering Llyn y Fan Fawr shows their normally boggy nature but the traverse was easy today in these parched conditions. Just beyond the bwlch we ascended initially on the right of the cleft formed by the nascent Afon Tawe and aimed for Fan Brycheiniog, arriving at the lake shore at the northern end for a superb scene. Walking along the eastern shore there was only a very light breeze that came sporadically but gave good reflections in the calm interludes, along with persistent midges of course.

View to Fan Gyhirych from the bwlch
View to Fan Gyhirych from the bwlch (25 Jun 2018__06:49:10)
Llyn y Fan Fawr #1
Llyn y Fan Fawr #1 (25 Jun 2018__07:39:33)
Llyn y Fan Fawr #2
Llyn y Fan Fawr #2 (25 Jun 2018__07:41:29)
Llyn y Fan Fawr #3
Llyn y Fan Fawr #3 (25 Jun 2018__07:55:47)
Llyn y Fan Fawr #4
Llyn y Fan Fawr #4 (25 Jun 2018__08:02:09)

At the southern end a pitched path slants easily upwards to crest the ridge at Bwlch Giedd, affording aerial views of the lake and temporarily giving us the welcome benefit of a cooling updraught to keep the midges at bay. This time we noticed that the summit of Fan Hir, difficult to distinguish from other nearby high points on its long ridge, is marked by a tiny group of stones that is easily missed.

A long ridge walk with grand views leads to the steep descent to the Afon Tawe and footbridge at Ty Henry. We walked down the grass verge of the road to the cafe and toilets at Craig-y-nos country park where we bought extra food and drink and cooled down in the shade.

Llyn y Fan Fawr #5
Llyn y Fan Fawr #5 (25 Jun 2018__08:10:10)
Llyn y Fan Fawr from the ascent of Fan Hir
Llyn y Fan Fawr from the ascent of Fan Hir (25 Jun 2018__08:33:05)
Fan Hir escarpment
Fan Hir escarpment (25 Jun 2018__09:47:03)

At the bottom of the car park we crossed the footbridge to join the Beacons Way (BW) through riverside woodland. The BW ascends through a conservation area and past old quarries to the Caving Club buildings to enter the Ogof Ffynnon Ddu nature reserve below the rocky edge of Carreg Lwyd. Here we left the BW and ascended the incline of the old tramway to pass more old quarry excavations above the ravine of the Nant Byfre with good views back across to Fan Hir. At the stream head a path cuts off the corner to join the northern branch of the track ascending Fan Gyhirych.

Near the high point of the track we struck out for the summit and the trig point soon came into view. The cairn a little farther north gave a fine view over Cray reservoir and we made our pitch close by.

Carreg Lwyd from near the caving club
Carreg Lwyd from near the caving club (25 Jun 2018__15:52:09)
Old tramway ascending towards Fforest Fawr
Old tramway ascending towards Fforest Fawr (25 Jun 2018__16:02:54)
Fan Hir from the old tramway
Fan Hir from the old tramway (25 Jun 2018__16:18:13)
View northwards over Cray reservoir from Fan Gyhirych
View northwards over Cray reservoir from Fan Gyhirych (25 Jun 2018__18:56:25)
Pitch on Fan Gyhirych
Pitch on Fan Gyhirych (25 Jun 2018__20:10:19)

Day 3 - Yr Allt

A clear sunny morning with a brisk breeze was an excellent way to start the day and we headed eastwards on a vague path to pick up a quadbike trail turning along the escarpment edge and descending to rejoin the track. Here we were surprised to see a JCB standing alongside, its purpose unknown.

At Bwlch y Duwynt we turned back right on a crossing track to reach the fence junction and joined a path to the 604m summit of Yr Allt. Fan Nedd dominated the near view with Fan Llia beyond.

The path continues by the fence to pass an intermediate rise and diverges from it directly towards the lower northern top with a 603m trig point.

Early light on the Fan Gyhirych pitch
Early light on the Fan Gyhirych pitch (26 Jun 2018__06:37:37)
Fan Nedd from Yr Allt
Fan Nedd from Yr Allt (26 Jun 2018__08:07:54)
View back from Yr Allt 603m trig point
View back from Yr Allt 603m trig point (26 Jun 2018__09:26:05)

Heading northwards we crossed the fence at a stile and followed it down easy grassy slopes on the eastern side to a minor road and the sign indicating the public footpath towards Crai. We are always apprehensive about Welsh footpaths outside popular walking areas, but this one following a tiny wooded stream is fully stiled and waymarked.

The path reaches another lane that completes the route to Crai, albeit cruelly uphill and sheltered in the blistering heat.