For a long, long time I’ve been meaning to visit the Howgills, that appealing range of velvety lumps on the wrong side of the M6 from the Lake District. That was our plan for the weekend. On Friday evening a route was plotted and bags were packed and early Saturday morning we were off… to Snowdonia.
You can blame the Met Office – they seemed fairly certain that the Howgills were in for a liberal dose of thunderstorms. Meanwhile south Snowdonia looked like it might escape the rain completely. Call me old fashioned, but I prefer my hill walking to be free from the risk of electrocution.
Snowdonia’s Aran Ridge is well known for being not very well known. It is one of those rare places in the National Park where it is still possible to walk all day and barely see a soul. Or at least it used to be. Our last few visits have seen the place positively bustling with walkers – well, half a dozen of so. That’s a lot for the Arans. So when we pulled into an empty car park in Cwm Cywarch at the southern end of the range, we were pleasantly surprised.
We set off along a Right of Way up the side of Hengwm, over the grassy top of Drysgol to the narrow chunk of ridge at Drws Bach, ‘little gap’ then up and round onto rockier ground and the summit of Aran Fawddwy (905m), highest point of the range. Initially warm and sunny, we were hit by a ferocious wind as we left the shelter of the valley. Distant rain looked to be heading our way but fortunately dispersed up the valleys on either side of us. Mostly. We were treated to a fairly wild hail storm over lunch and a few showers before calmer conditions finally returned.
From Aran Fawddwy, we tacked on an out-and-back wander over to the subsidiary top of Aran Benllyn (885m), some 2km away along the main ridge. The way is easy and furnished with an obvious path. However, the going is much better if the path is ignored and the top of the long line of east facing crags is followed instead. It’s no more difficult and the views are well worth it. It was on this section that we saw the only other two walkers of the day. Busy.
From Aran Benllyn we ‘straight lined’ it back towards Aran Fawddwy, cutting round the west flank to meet the descent path over Waun Camddwr, ‘moor of the winding water’. This frequently boggy section was virtually bone-dry following the recent heatwave. No winding water here today, only dried up pools of desiccated bogbean.
The final descent to the car park was alongside a tumbling stream beneath the towering crags of Craig Cywarch, which gave me ample opportunity to get my wild flower fix (harebell, goldenrod, foxglove, lesser spearwort and devil’s bit scabious in case you were wondering).