Margaux Smale wanders off the beaten track to discover a kingly cave
On a day where everyone else was trudging up Snowdon, we picked the path less travelled. Covering three of Snowdonia’s less frequented peaks, our day started (and finished) with award-winning ice-cream from Glaslyn Ices, took us on an adventure in search of King Owain Glyndwˆr’s cave, and rewarded us with breathtaking views over sun-baked mountains.
Having chosen one of the hottest weekends the UK has experienced in the last few years, we set out – ice-cream in hand – from the picturesque town of Beddgelert. Translated as ‘Gelert’s Grave’, Beddgelert has a story of its own. Legend has it that in the 13th century Llewelyn, Prince of North Wales, accidentally killed his faithful hound, Gelert, after mistakenly thinking it had killed his son, when in fact it had saved the child from a vicious wolf.
Taking respite from the sun, we made our way through beautiful woodland, enjoying the aroma of pine and peaceful birdsong. But it wasn’t long before we were feeling a little lost. Alas, this was not down to a lack of navigational skills. No, unbeknown to us, the routes were in the process of being altered and were no longer marked correctly on our OS map.
Unfortunately, Mother Nature did not look too kindly on us trying to make our own way through the leafy vegetation, but one wasp sting and a nasty nettle encounter later, we emerged from the forest. Feeling like true adventurers, we continued, forging our own path through heather, fern and hard rush towards the summit of Moel Lefn. Interspersed with boggy areas and rocky outcrops, this route was certainly no well-trodden highway.
We may have reached the peak sweaty, scratched, and with a large sample of local foliage in our boots, but the views and sense of achievement were reward enough. With the landscape becoming easier to traverse, we made a beeline for Moel yr Ogof,where our search for Owain’s cave would begin. Legend has it that King Owain Glyndwˆr hid from the English Army in a cave embedded in the rock. From this direction, the cave isn’t obvious, but with a bit of perseverance we found it. Dark, moist and damp, the cave made for a refreshing break from the heat. The inside is covered in wood sorrel – not enough to satisfy a grumbling stomach, but ideal for a bit of wild snacking. It was quite a scramble to get there and back, but definitely a worthy adventure.
On our way up Moel Hebog – the final and highest summit of the day at 782 metres – we took a minute to look back, as now we had a great view of the King’s cave. But nothing could have prepared us for the view from the final peak – a spectacular panorama over the Irish Sea stretching out to the east and the Snowdonian mountains to the west.
We made our way off the hill, enjoying the view over the quaint village of Beddgelert nestled in the valley and spurred on by the thought of more ice-cream on our return!
- Walk out of Beddgelert past Royal Goat Hotel. Turn R down footpath crossing over the railway until bridleway.
- Follow bridleway and footpaths NW through forest using the proposed new routes map from eryri-npa.gov.uk/__data/assets/pdf_file/0018/302616/Lon-Gwyrfai-Route-A4.pdf. Up-to-date maps will be available from Beddgelert TIC from mid-August.
- On exiting forest, pick a line through vegetation over Castell and onto summit of Moel Lefn.
- From summit of Moel Lefn, head SSE over Moel yr Ogof and onto Moel Hebog.
- Follow footpath down NE of Moel Hebog until you rejoin earlier bridleway and retrace steps to Beddgelert.