Nick Livesey is our guide to a bus-enabled linear walk away from the crowds onto Foel-goch, an Eryri hidden gem.
In recent years the Ogwen Valley has become almost as well known for its parking issues as it is for its incredible mountains. This is a shame, as it can put people off – especially those who seek solitude or want to avoid adding to the stresses on local infrastructure. A simple solution is to utilise public transport, and with a little imagination a full-blooded Ogwen adventure away from the crowds can be yours!
This route, which links the Ogwen Valley and Llanberis Pass, is sublime and visits three deserted cwms before topping out on an imposing but seldom-trodden peak. The return journey is similarly bereft of visitors and as you ride the bus back to Capel Curig you can feel smug – or at least content – in the knowledge that you’ve enjoyed some of Snowdonia’s hidden gems and had them all to yourself whilst at the same time avoiding the car park lottery and saving yourself a few quid in petrol as well.
Words and images: Nick Livesey
Foel-goch: route guide
Start/Finish: Ogwen Visitor Centre (GR: SH649693) | Distance: 6 miles/9.7km | Ascent: 518m/1,700ft | Duration: 4 to 5 hours | Maps: OS Explorer OL17 – Snowdon/Yr Wyddfa (1:25k), OS Landranger 115 – Snowdon/Yr Wyddfa (1:50k)
1. SH649693 From the busy visitor centre, follow the ‘old road’ past the YHA hostel. Once over the cattle grid you enter a world of quietude and calm with an uninterrupted view down Nant Ffrancon. After the road bears right, you arrive at the little scout hut of Yr Hafod. A faint path leaves the back of the hut and soon becomes indistinct, but following the contours should guide you to a fence and stile. Cross the stile and weave a rising traverse rightwards to a major stream, which forms a gorge in its upper reaches. Find somewhere nice to cross the stream and follow it uphill to a tumbled-down wall.
2. SH637604 On the right and just above the wall you’ll find a shy little path that quickly improves as it contours airily across the hillside. Care is needed in several places where slabby rock intrudes but the path is a sheer delight and takes you into Cwm Coch, a lonely hanging valley with impressive rock architecture. The path descends into the cwm and then rises to a fence, which is followed into Cwm Bual where Foel-goch pyramidal profile looms large.
Cross the first stile you come to and walk a short distance straight ahead to a steep-sided grassy gorge. Escape the gorge by stone steps built into the wall and commence a brief, pathless slog up onto the broad ridge. A path traverses the ridge before rising gently to Bwlch y Brecan where a left turn will see you at the foot of Foel-goch steep zig-zags. A short tussle gets you to the summit where an unrivalled view of the Ogwen giants can be enjoyed.
3. SH628611 Leave the summit, follow the fence for 800 metres and stick with it as it doglegs down onto Esgair y Ceunant, a gorgeous rocky ridge high above the Afon Dudodyn. The fence eventually becomes a sturdy wall that is followed through several enclosures as height is lost. As the angle starts to relent, trend rightwards to a good path by a footbridge. Ignore the bridge and continue along the path as it leaves access land. There is a network of rights of way hereabouts and all roads lead to Rome, but carry on straight ahead to gain a good track that spits you out tantalisingly close to the pub which in turn is a stone’s throw away from the park and ride bus stop.
Transport: For the outward journey catch the T10 bus, which runs along the A5 through Capel Curig. Return by the S1 bus from Nant Peris.
Information: Visit Snowdonia (01286 697686)
Nearest YHA: Idwal Cottage