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Cwm Cyneiniog, Esgair Goch (455m/1,493 ft), and Pen Craig y Pistyll

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Upper Cwm Cyneiniog is something of a ‘hidden valley’, a small triangle of green ringed with steep craggy hills and forests, with only a tiny lane leading up to it, and this walk is one of superb contrasts and variety. You start in the craggy splendour of the cwm, and emerge suddenly onto a wide open windy plateau of rough grassland, surrounded by distant peaks…giving a real feel of semi-wilderness. A lakeside path gives way to a slightly vertiginous and exciting scramble to the top of Esgair Goch, finishing with an easy, downhill, magnificent track to the starting point. The walk is on good paths or tracks almost all the way. If you would rather miss out the short section of scrambling, a detour can be taken from Point 11 below.


Length: 
10 km (6 ¼ miles)
Ascent: 
372 m
Challenge: 
Moderate/Difficult
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Grid reference
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SN710878

To arrive at the starting point, turn off the A487 at Talybont, and take the narrow lane signposted to ‘Bontgoch’. 2.5 km along this lane, where streams meet at Pontbren-geifr, turn left towards Tynant, and follow the very narrow lane until it arrives at a ruined mine, and a flat, wide turning/parking space.

RachelSeabrook.net | Wild Walking | Cwm Cyneiniog and Craig y Pistyll | pic01
  1. There are actually two possibilities for starting this walk up the cwm….either the lower Public Right of Way, or a higher old miners’ track higher up. They converge further on, anyway. For the latter, take the path rising up to the level track on the far side of the mine ruins, and then simply follow this gently ascending higher-level path.

    RachelSeabrook.net | Wild Walking | Cwm Cyneiniog and Craig y Pistyll | pic02 RachelSeabrook.net | Wild Walking | Cwm Cyneiniog and Craig y Pistyll | pic03 RachelSeabrook.net | Wild Walking | Cwm Cyneiniog and Craig y Pistyll | pic04 RachelSeabrook.net | Wild Walking | Cwm Cyneiniog and Craig y Pistyll | pic05
  2. You soon enter a forested area, but the path remains easy to follow.

    RachelSeabrook.net | Wild Walking | Cwm Cyneiniog and Craig y Pistyll | pic06 RachelSeabrook.net | Wild Walking | Cwm Cyneiniog and Craig y Pistyll | pic07
  3. The trees end at a wire fence which is easy to climb over, and the path continues beyond with great open views of the surrounding hills all round.

    RachelSeabrook.net | Wild Walking | Cwm Cyneiniog and Craig y Pistyll | pic08 RachelSeabrook.net | Wild Walking | Cwm Cyneiniog and Craig y Pistyll | pic09

    Look out for the point where the alternative lower path joins from the left, and a wide path diverges uphill to the right. The ‘straight ahead’ option seems to be petering out...

    RachelSeabrook.net | Wild Walking | Cwm Cyneiniog and Craig y Pistyll | pic10
  4. Ascend on this right hand path uphill, making sure you look back at the view down the cwm, admire the glowering crags of Craig yr Allt-ddu to your right, and the remains of an inclined plane and mining levels on the face of Carn Owen (482m) to your left.

    RachelSeabrook.net | Wild Walking | Cwm Cyneiniog and Craig y Pistyll | pic11 RachelSeabrook.net | Wild Walking | Cwm Cyneiniog and Craig y Pistyll | pic12 RachelSeabrook.net | Wild Walking | Cwm Cyneiniog and Craig y Pistyll | pic13 RachelSeabrook.net | Wild Walking | Cwm Cyneiniog and Craig y Pistyll | pic14

    RachelSeabrook.net | Wild Walking | Cwm Cyneiniog and Craig y Pistyll | pic15
  5. You will find that the path zig-zags as it ascends the side of the hill…keep to it, even if it diverges from the map route to some extent, and gradually you will feel the gradient easing, and the view ahead changing radically...

    RachelSeabrook.net | Wild Walking | Cwm Cyneiniog and Craig y Pistyll | pic16
  6. Now the easy-to-follow track continues across the plateau of grassland, with the prominent ‘unnamed peak’ at 444m over to the right... you will have a chance to visit this landmark later.

    RachelSeabrook.net | Wild Walking | Cwm Cyneiniog and Craig y Pistyll | pic17
  7. The track curves round towards a lone tree and runs alongside an adjacent area of fenced-in grazing, until you arrive at a t-junction of tracks.

    RachelSeabrook.net | Wild Walking | Cwm Cyneiniog and Craig y Pistyll | pic18 RachelSeabrook.net | Wild Walking | Cwm Cyneiniog and Craig y Pistyll | pic19
  8. Here turn left for a short distance, then turn right, and choose the right-hand fork, keeping on the wider track, rather than taking the smaller path rising more uphill.

    RachelSeabrook.net | Wild Walking | Cwm Cyneiniog and Craig y Pistyll | pic20 RachelSeabrook.net | Wild Walking | Cwm Cyneiniog and Craig y Pistyll | pic21
  9. The track twists and turns for a while, with distant views of the Pumlumon range over to the east, before arriving at an obvious ‘meeting of the ways’ where there is a sturdy metal gate and a ford across the stream called Nant Melyn.

    RachelSeabrook.net | Wild Walking | Cwm Cyneiniog and Craig y Pistyll | pic22 RachelSeabrook.net | Wild Walking | Cwm Cyneiniog and Craig y Pistyll | pic23
  10. Here, turn right without passing through the gate, and walk along the path that heads towards the unmistakable rounded profile of Esgair Goch, and the lake, called Llyn Craig y Pistyll. This isolated lake is a reservoir with a dam at the far end, and is (or was) the Aberystwyth town water supply. At an inlet of the lake, arrive at a stile and flat footbridge.

    RachelSeabrook.net | Wild Walking | Cwm Cyneiniog and Craig y Pistyll | pic24 RachelSeabrook.net | Wild Walking | Cwm Cyneiniog and Craig y Pistyll | pic25 RachelSeabrook.net | Wild Walking | Cwm Cyneiniog and Craig y Pistyll | pic26
  11. At this point, you make the decision about whether to go in for a short stretch of somewhat exposed and loose scrambling ahead, or get to the top of Esgair Goch by simply following the obvious fence line on your right that leads straight to the summit. (See notes at Point 13). The highest point is very obvious, and it is fine for a party to split up here, and meet at the summit. This option is somewhat hard work through low gorse and heather, and gets increasingly steep, but there is something of a path higher up next to the fence.

    The scrambling alternative carries on along the lakeside until the dam is almost reached, and a metal post is seen over to the right.

    RachelSeabrook.net | Wild Walking | Cwm Cyneiniog and Craig y Pistyll | pic27
  12. There is a very faint path leading up to the metal post, and then beyond…carry straight on, following the sheep path as best you can, it seems to veer slightly left, and try to spot a boulder that serves as a marker for the beginning of the ‘hard section’.

    RachelSeabrook.net | Wild Walking | Cwm Cyneiniog and Craig y Pistyll | pic28 RachelSeabrook.net | Wild Walking | Cwm Cyneiniog and Craig y Pistyll | pic29
  13. The tiny path now seems to bend round to the left even more, and you can see its line ahead ascending on the side of the steep slope.

    RachelSeabrook.net | Wild Walking | Cwm Cyneiniog and Craig y Pistyll | pic31 RachelSeabrook.net | Wild Walking | Cwm Cyneiniog and Craig y Pistyll | pic30

    Don’t forget to stop and look at the view, dominated by Disgwylfa Fawr across the lake below. Looking back down the way you have come, Pumlumon Fawr and Y Garn form the skyline.

    RachelSeabrook.net | Wild Walking | Cwm Cyneiniog and Craig y Pistyll | pic32

    You will see that the line of your tiny path heads towards a somewhat craggy skyline, and care is needed where the path is falling away a little…the heather holds it all together! As you arrive at the rocky bit, veer right somewhat, and scramble up on the very steep and loose shale and tussocks, trying not to think about the very steep slope into the gorge behind you!

    RachelSeabrook.net | Wild Walking | Cwm Cyneiniog and Craig y Pistyll | pic33 RachelSeabrook.net | Wild Walking | Cwm Cyneiniog and Craig y Pistyll | pic34

    It doesn’t last long, or get any more difficult, and suddenly you emerge onto the grassy skyline, with all the difficulties overcome!

    RachelSeabrook.net | Wild Walking | Cwm Cyneiniog and Craig y Pistyll | pic35 RachelSeabrook.net | Wild Walking | Cwm Cyneiniog and Craig y Pistyll | pic36
  14. From here to the summit, go right and keep as close to the edge on your right as you can, as this is grassy and not hard going…you will see a faint path, and very quickly the drop to the right becomes less steep and worrisome, too. The top of Esgair Goch (455m/ 1,493ft) is eventually reached without much further struggle.

    RachelSeabrook.net | Wild Walking | Cwm Cyneiniog and Craig y Pistyll | pic38 RachelSeabrook.net | Wild Walking | Cwm Cyneiniog and Craig y Pistyll | pic37
  15. There used to be a stile at the summit, but the fence is easy to climb over, and the way ahead towards the next summit is obvious and easy on a clear track. This is now leisurely walking, dropping down a little, then ascending to the far end of the broad Pen Craig y Pistyll ridge. Despite being a few metres lower than Esgair Goch, there is a proper summit cairn here (Waun Llechwedd Llyfn) at 452m.

    RachelSeabrook.net | Wild Walking | Cwm Cyneiniog and Craig y Pistyll | pic39 RachelSeabrook.net | Wild Walking | Cwm Cyneiniog and Craig y Pistyll | pic40
  16. Now follow the broad ridge down to the right somewhat, on a path which heads straight for the unmistakable ‘unnamed peak’.

    RachelSeabrook.net | Wild Walking | Cwm Cyneiniog and Craig y Pistyll | pic41
  17. There is a path right to the top of the ‘unnamed peak’, at 444m; it is steep, but short, and you probably won’t be able to resist giving it a go. It is not required if you want a more relaxing time this far into the walk, and once again the party can divide at this point. The ‘bwlch’ here (Bwlch Yr Adwy) is a ‘meeting of the ways’, and it is important to take the right hand fork to descend on the very good track down the cwm of Nant Bwlch-glas.

    RachelSeabrook.net | Wild Walking | Cwm Cyneiniog and Craig y Pistyll | pic42 RachelSeabrook.net | Wild Walking | Cwm Cyneiniog and Craig y Pistyll | pic43
  18. Take a moment to look back at where you have come from as you descend the cwm, then continue on the track which bends round right under the crags of Cripiau Bwlch-glas, arriving at a metal gate.

    RachelSeabrook.net | Wild Walking | Cwm Cyneiniog and Craig y Pistyll | pic44 RachelSeabrook.net | Wild Walking | Cwm Cyneiniog and Craig y Pistyll | pic45
  19. There are a few ups and downs in the track to go before it descends towards another meeting of the ways. You will see the (initially) rather muddy track leading to the right and down into Cwm Cyneiniog well before you arrive at the junction.

    RachelSeabrook.net | Wild Walking | Cwm Cyneiniog and Craig y Pistyll | pic46
  20. It would seem admissible to cut this corner off a bit, and descend quickly on an increasingly dry and comfortable track towards our starting point.

    RachelSeabrook.net | Wild Walking | Cwm Cyneiniog and Craig y Pistyll | pic47 RachelSeabrook.net | Wild Walking | Cwm Cyneiniog and Craig y Pistyll | pic48
  21. Half way down, it might be worth stopping for a breather and a last view of this lovely valley, with its old lead mining works which are being increasingly taken over by encroaching nature!

    RachelSeabrook.net | Wild Walking | Cwm Cyneiniog and Craig y Pistyll | pic49 RachelSeabrook.net | Wild Walking | Cwm Cyneiniog and Craig y Pistyll | pic50

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