Pistyll Rhaeadr 333m
Swch Cae Rhiw
The rain had been hammering down all week and being stuck inside with little to do was becoming unbearable. A quick check of the forecast revealed that the Sunday before Christmas looked marginally better than the rest and so my Uncle and I rapidly planned a walk over the Berwyn ridge.
Winding our way from Llanarmon through ancient hamlets in the depths of North Wales, we parked in a small layby at Swch Cae Rhiw and set off, trudging up a dirt track towards the rolling, heather covered hills. The two collies, Wren and Katie, raced ahead, snapping and chasing as they ran. Mirroring the excitable dogs, the young River Ceiriog tumbled over itself in the valley trough, rushing with floodwater towards the valley mouth 10 miles away.
Deep within the mists of time Bronwyn, daughter of Llyr and one of the three Chief Maidens of the Mighty Island (Britain), was considered to be the most beautiful woman in all the world. Cadair Bronwen is considered to be the shapeliest of the Berwyn mountains and so it got it’s name.
Detaching ourselves from the dry we pushed on towards the peak of Berwyn. Standing at 830m it is the highest of our walk.
As the mists rose and fell the ridge became quite otherworldly. The wind moaned a ghostly howl, whistling through the rocky outcrop crowning Cadair Berwyn.
The Berwyn range is known to be the geographical location of Annwn, the Celtic Otherworld, where the spirits of the dead dwell in the land of ancient Britons. Ruled by Gwyn ap Nudd, king of the fairy-folk, he and his people live wonderfully in a palace full of laughter, light and warmth. It is said that travellers on the Berwyn moors will sometimes be greeted by this fantastic sight and be invited to join in the revelry. However, once inside the halls of Gwyn ap Nudd there is no return to lands of the mortals.
We were not greeted by any form of apparition, probably in part down to the weather, but perhaps it was the happy voices of the dead that the dogs were so unsure of earlier on…
Looking back down the valley
From the top of the ridge we had reached, the dogs looked out towards windfarms and rainbows in the distance. After a quick sandwich we began the long pull up to the first true peak on our walk, Cadair Bronwyn standing at 785 metres.
Grassland became wetland as we squelched up the path, dogs sprinting forward and back, excited to be out. The weather also became wetter as we became more exposed. Howling winds tore at our jackets, icy fingers grasped at hats holding them away from the clutches of the incessant wind. Hailstones pelted faces. Eyes squinted, visibility became minimal and the previously excited dogs squirmed between legs, seeking comfort and respite from the terrible storm. Through the angry gloom a tiny stone circle appeared. As hope grew we rushed inside and were greeted with warm stillness. The only sound the wind clutching at the more vulnerable rocks atop the surrounding walls. Expectantly the dogs sat, hoping for food which they were duly given. We had reached the summit of Cadair Bronwen.
Towards Cadair Berwyn from Cadair Bronwyn
Suddenly the sun appeared, bathing the valley below in a beautiful golden light. Quickly, we scrambled down the side of the glacial basin to the lake below. Happier now down from the mountain the dogs raced ahead, two pied ripples in the landscape. Our step quickened too, and we strode down the valley towards Pistyll Rhaeadr waterfall and home, leaving the fairyfolk to their celebrations hundreds of metres above.