Well it’s National Park Week in the UK and since it’s far to wet and dull (as it is in Summer), I’ve decided to share an adventure from my first year studying in Bangor; and also because this is my first Snowdonia post in over a year, so one is pretty overdue. After all I do seem to recall naming this blog Student in Snowdonia.
The Moel Eilio Hills are some of the smallest mountain peaks in Snowdonia and form the northern end of the Snowdon Range, encompassing three seperate peaks; Moel Eilio, Foel Gron and Moel Cynghorion (thats Kin-Hor-Yon). The town of Llanberis sits at their foot, along with the castle of Dolbadarn, meaning the mountain peaks are extremely accessible and are perfect for family outings or for those walkers looking for a slightly easier day out.
Back in May 2015, my exams were over and I was counting down the days before I had to return to Sussex. I was due the next day to go for a walk up Snowdon, but I decided to first get some practice in and limber up my legs somewhat.
My walk began at the Llanberis Village Car park, which borders the shore of Llyn Padarn, one of Wales’s largest lakes and a wonderful beauty spot, the perfect site to end a walk at. From the carpark I had to navigate around the town, and, I confess, I initially got rather lost, though I eventually found my own way. Typically walkers will take Ceunant Street which leads to the Youth Hostel (which by the way is perfect for those looking to explore the wonders of Snowdonia cheaply), however I ended up going the Fron Goch Road, up past the Plan Garnedd Care Centre and beyond. This route initally consists of a greater degree of elevation that the Ceunant Path, but that means you only get higher, quicker.
I then continued on this path for some time, ignoring all turns off until finally, about one mile later, I came to a dry stone wall that cut across the lane. Just on the other side of this wall was a grass path that led up to the summit of Moel Eilio, my first conquest of the day. The path can be pretty easy to miss at first, but it grows more apparent the further up the mountain you go. Amazingly, despite the early assent, I had found the walk to be pretty easy so far, and I was soon bounding along the path. As I gained even greater heights, the view began to open up before me, while the summit of Moel Eilio reared up like a bulge on the landscape. At the finally 100 metres or so, the acute gradient suddenly increases, making it a bit of a slog to reach the summit.
However, once I did reach the summit, I was incredible pleased with myself, happy to have found the walk so easy. At 762m (2,382ft), Moel Eilio was the highest of today’s summits, meaning the worse of climbing was now out of the way. The name Moel Eilio means Eilio’s Hill in Welsh, who this Eilio was, we don’t know, but I can’t help but wonder if the name is actually a corruption of Tysilio, an ancient Welsh Saint who built an island hermitage in the 7th century just outside of today’s Menai Bridge, (I did some photography there in my second year which you can see here). I could clearly see the island from my vantage at the summit, though the clouds were now rolling in and a distinctive chill was in the air. A shame considering I started the walk under a hot sun and clear, blue skies. However, my view was still extensive. Since it is the most northerly summit of the Snowdon range, there is actually no higher point, directly northwards, until the coast of Scotland and the Galloways Forest Park, which both lie far across the Irish Sea. I could see all the way along the North Welsh coast, including down to the hills of Llyn, Bangor Town itself, and all the way along Anglesey’s coastline. I could even make out the Edward I’s grand castle at Caernarfon, sheltered by the Abermenai Straits. Unfortunately, I did not yet have my super zoom lens, so you guys will just have to trust me on all that.
Unfortunately, the creeping cold told me it was time to move on. Heading south, I followed the ridge-line, skirting around the mountain lake of Llyn Dwythwch, where old Welsh folk stories tell of children being abducted from the lakeshore by mean-spirited fairies. The hills are fairly indistinguishable from one another, and one is in serious danger of passing over the next peak, Foel Gron, without even realising it. The only thing marking it out as a peak is a small cluster of stones that aren’t even worthy of the name cairn. No sooner had I reached this point, that the cloud lifted to reveal a new view, down into the Rhyd Ddu Valley and, with that, the mountains of the Nantlle Ridge and Moel Hebog reared into sight; and coupled with that was the sun shining down on Llyn Cwellyn. It was, without a doubt, one of my favourite views of Snowdonia.
Moving on from Foel Gron, I started to descend rapidly. Eventually, I found myself at a mountain pass which divides the final peak, Moel Cynghorion, from the rest of the range. Now, at this point, I had no idea of Moel Cynghorion’s real location. I had assumed that I had simply passed over it, when coming off of Foel Gron, without realising it. I had no idea this peak was separate from the rest. As far as I was concerned, the only thing that lay in front of me was the beginnings of the Snowdon Massif. Luckily, I was feeling super fit and eager, so I decided to go up and see if I could snap some photos of the great mountain. Naturally, this mean’t another uphill climb, though it was no where near as long as the climb up Moel Eilio, taking only some 15 mins to reach the top.
There, I happened upon another small cluster of rocks which signalled the summit of Moel Cynghorion, though I wouldn’t realise that until I got home, I just thought it was a subsidiary of Snowdon. Much like the rest of these grassy hills/mountains, there is little to distinguish Moel Cynghorion from it’s fellow summits, besides the inviting view. However, its most interesting feature is certainly its name. Cynghorion means council, so the Hill of the Councils definitely ranks as one of the more fascinating mountain names in Wales. Whether this has always been its name or not is not certain, but one story accredits the name to when a group of Welsh chieftains surrendered atop the peak to Edward I’s army during his conquest of Wales. It’s perfectly possible, North Snowdonia served as the last bastion of defence during the conquest and it was only a short way away, in Bera Mawr, that Dafydd ap Gruffydd, the last prince of Wales was captured. Perhaps these so called ‘chieftains’ were locals desperately trying to spare their communities from the wrath of the invading English. Perhaps it was a rather apt place, seeing as it sat in the shadow of Snowdon, the largest of all mountains in Wales and England, and considering Edward’s enemy, Llwelyn ap Gruffydd, had styled himself as the Prince of Wales and Lord of Snowdonia.
I must admit, Snowdon did look mighty tempting, though maybe my fitness fuelled mind was deceiving me. The Llanberis path does follow this route, so it’s perfectly possible to reach the summit from where I stood and there was still plenty of light in the day (the walk had only taken some two and a half hours by this point), but I decided it could wait for tomorrow. Turning my back on the mountain, I descended back to the mountain pass, which provided me with a delightfully long and gradual path, and followed it eastwards, back to the Youth Hostel and the Ceunant Path.
In all, though the Moel Eilio peaks are rather undramatic, especially compared to Snowdon which constantly overshadows them, they do offer lovely vantages of the coast and two different valleys. An easy walk for easy people mostly, though if you do want a challenge, one can easily combine them with a larger walk to include Snowdon itself. Though you’d then better prepare for a very long day. Subsequently, Llyn Padarn provides the perfect place to cool down and relax your limbs after a day of hiking in the hills.
To those in the UK, I hope you have enjoyed National Park Week, or at least you have enjoyed some fond memories of sunnier times at said National Parks. I most certainly have.