Waun Oer Ridge directions – Isfryn to Minffordd
This 16km long day walk (5-8hours) links 2 ridges that form the Western end of the Aran range. The ridge is between 600 & 700m in altitude for most of the route and there is nearly 1000m of total ascent. It is equally good done in either direction, but if it is windy you might consider having the wind at your back which usually means doing it West to East (Minffordd to Isfryn).
The route takes you through one of the less-trodden parts of Snowdonia, often on paths not marked on the map – it is unusual to meet other people on this walk! Nearby pre- or post-walk watering-holes at the Western end are the Minffordd Hotel or the Cross Foxes both 2 miles from the parking The route is also possible straight to or from Dinas Mawddwy. Drop me a line if you’d like directions for the alternative options.
We strongly recommend you take an OS map and compass – there is a map in the bureau and we can lend you a compass if you don’t have one.
Start: Isfryn Cottage
Finish:Bwlch Llyn Bach pass (Tal-y-llyn pass) car park on the A487 (SH 753 135) – the car park 400m beyond the high point of the pass, if coming from the North.
1. From Isfryn turn left, crossing over the river Angell, to the upper village. At the top of the hill turn left at the road junction and continue through the village. After around 500m the houses peter out at a hairpin right turning, but continue straight on and pass the spring of Ffynnon Byseiri to your right with its slate sign (which translates roughly as “it unfailingly gives drink”) – turn the big brass tap for a drink of cool spring water.
2. 100m past the spring you will reach a house on a Y junction. Turn right and follow this road for 1.5km and, at a Y junction where the tarmac ends, turn left down and then steeply up a track. Follow this track for another 1.5km, over a broad ford (which can be deep after rain) to a barn at the edge of some woods.
3. Continue onwards from the barn through the gate (or awkward stile to the right) into the woods. The track takes you past several large ruined slate buildings which may be associated with the abbey that was in this valley in medieval times; the local names still reflect that – the river is the Afon Mynach (Monk’s river) and the top farm is Cae Abaty (Abbey Field).
4. Follow the track as it bends leftwards and climbs past recently felled land to your right and then cross the forestry road, where the track becomes a footpath. After 300m you will reach a signed path junction where you turn right (straight uphill). You will shortly pop out of the trees at Bwlch Siglen (a bwlch being the low point on a ridge between 2 peaks). Below you in the Maesglase valley are the ruins of the Red Dragon gold mine which closed in 1856. This valley is also the setting for one of the greatest Welsh novels of recent times “The life of Rebecca Jones” about a farming family with hereditary blindness (who still live here).
5. Turn left and continue alongside to the fence line, following a footpath Westward as it ascends steeply uphill, keeping the forest on your left. By the way, if you’ve come here between July and October this is a great place to pick blueberries!
6. As you reach the fence at the upper end of the forest turn right following the fence line NW uphill towards Cae Afon & Craig Rhiwerch (both parts of the Maesglase summit).
7. After walking uphill for around 1 mile and just before the summit of Craig Rhiwerch, you will reach a step-over stile next to a fence coming in from the left. You’ll be turning left over this stile, but you can make a brief diversion to the summit of Maesglase by following the fence N and then NE for 500m. If you’re lucky the RAF or USAF will give you a flyby but even if you don’t get an airshow, you do get stunning views of the Arans, Cader Idris and the rest of the Snowdonia mountains to the North. Return to the stile, cross over and descend along the footpath, keeping the fence line on your left. The footpath descends down a ridge before ascending to the summit of a hill at 587m; it then descends again and then ascends to the summit of Craig Portas. You will have great views of Nant Cerist to your right and Nant Maes y Gamfa with the ruins of its old slate mine on your left.
8. From the summit of Craig Portas turn right, following the fenceline running roughly NW down to a bwlch and then up the slopes of Cribin Fawr in front of you keeping the fence and the forestry on your left. Keep following the fence line until you reach two stiles. Cross the step-over stile in front of you and turn left, keeping a fence to your left.
9. Now follow the path downhill keeping the fence to your left descending until you reach another stile. Cross the stile and then climb steeply to the summit of Waun-Oer. At the top you will see the summit trig point on your right.
10. Carry on along the footpath keeping the fence on your left and walk along the long ridge towards Mynydd Ceiswyn.
11. In approximately 1.5 miles you will reach a ladder stile on your left. Turn right (NW) and follow the way marked Right of Way downhill. As the path and signs peter out, aim towards the stone wall at the bottom right corner of the field and look out for a gap in the fence to cross a minor tarmac road that is thought to be part of Sarn Helen, the original Roman road running North-South in this part of Wales.
12. Cross the road and go straight ahead, keeping close to the stone wall on your right for 150m and then bear left slightly to reach the A487 below.
13. As you reach the A487 main road, either cross the stile onto the road or follow the permissive footpath that goes along side the main road keeping the fence on your right. You will be passing the cliffs of Llam y Lladron (robbers’ leap) on your left. “thither, it is said, thieves and felons were taken, and made to leap over; if they could clear the bound they saved themselves, and if not, the jump was certain death”. From here it is a few hundred metres to the Bwlch Llyn Bach pass car park.
14. Drive back home via one of the local pubs (we’d vote for the Red Lion at Dinas Mawddwy) for a well-earned pint.