The highest Welsh peak outside of the National Parks plus the most spectacular waterfall in Wales? This is one adventure that’s anything but mini!
Cadair Berwyn is a substantial hill; 830m of substantial hill in fact. The fact that you can knock off its summit and be back at the car in less than 2½ hours is down to one thing – the car parking. Leaving your vehicle near Tan-y-Pistyll has two advantages: one, it puts you right on the spot to visit the Pistyll Rhaeadr falls either before or after your trek; and two, it means you start your walk at 350m above sea-level.
From here you can commence your uphill journey over relatively gentle gradients. Skirting around the eastern slopes of the Nant y Llyn valley with harsh crags above and lush green pasture punctuated with tumbledown sheepfolds below, Cadair Berwyn and its neighbouring peak of Moel Sych loom up ahead. Reaching the shores of Llyn Lluncaws, an obvious path rises steeply up a grassy spur to the top of Moel Sych. For the more adventurous, a hard slog through the heather, bog and bilberries to the satellite peak of Moel yr Ewig is rewarded with an easy but fun onward scramble to the top of Cadair Berwyn. Grass slopes give way to craggy rock, which takes you right to the cairn marking the true summit. Two hundred metres away, Berwyn’s northern top is marked by a concrete trig point. This is 3 metres lower, but for the
sake of completion, the short journey out and back is no hardship.
The return journey along the top of the Craig y Llyn crags offers an airy panorama over the cauldron below as you traverse the wide, green ridge. Moel Sych’s summit is marked with a cairn – you will have already passed it if you took the easier route up from the llyn. You can either drop back down the spur and retrace your steps back to Tan-y-Pistyll, or stay up high along the ridge, eventually dropping back down into the Nant y Llyn valley near where your journey began. Either route provides you with an eye-catching view of the far slopes above Tan-y-Pistyll, the mixture of rugged crag and trees in the mine-worked terrain unlike anything else in the Welsh hills.
And if you didn’t visit at the start of your trek, now’s the time to check out Pistyll Rhaeadr, one of Wales’ highest and most impressive waterfalls. Not only is this the perfect arena of calm contemplation in which to wind down after your exertions, but the B&B at Tan-y-Pistyll (literally meaning ‘little house under the waterfall’) offers a more tangible aid to your post-trek recovery in the form of cakes, pastries and cream teas. Quite splendid, if you like that sort of thing.