Winter walks: discover Snowdon’s second horseshoe

Any walker will tell you that the Snowdon horseshoe is one of the finest walks in the UK – if not Europe. They’ll be talking about the mountain’s East Ridge (Y Lliwedd), the summit, Crib y Drsygol and the infamous knife-edge ridge of Crib Goch.

But like you, they may not be aware that Snowdon has a second horseshoe walk. And the good news, for those of us who don’t have scrambling ability or a head for heights, is that the second horseshoe is far more accessible for the less hardcore ramblers among us.

But where is this horseshoe walk, and how do you do it?

Head for the ‘bare’ hills

Moel in Welsh means bald or bare, and Snowdon’s second horseshoe features two “bare” peaks, Moel Eilio and Moel Cynghorion (try saying kin-hor-yon).

Starting in Llanberis village, you can complete a circuit of about 10 miles and a total climb of 2,800ft and take in these and two other minor peaks as part of a fine ridge.

While it lacks the scale and spectacle of the other horseshoe, fine views and enjoyable easier walking more than compensate. Plus, it’s often cloud-free when Snowdon summit is obscured. The other great feature is that there are no boot-sucking bogs to negotiate.

So what are you waiting for?

Head for the centre of Llanberis village and follow the side-street signposted for the youth hostel. Before you reach the youth hostel turn right onto Fron Gron.

Follow this road until it becomes a track and stay on it even as it veers away from the first peak of the walk, Moel Eilio. Head through a gate into a disused quarry and then take the path on the left, up a grassy hill and an easy but long trek to Moel Eilio’s 2,382ft summit and impressive stone shelter.

From here the ridge stretches ahead, leading to the higher cliffs of Clogwyn. Ignore the stile and stay this side of the fence, heading downhill again.

Stately Moel Eilio isn’t quite as ambitious as Snowdon but it’s equally beautiful.

Moel Eilio to Moel Cynghorion

The route passes over Foel Gron and Foel Goch (one of five mountains of the same name in Snowdonia). The changing views will take your attention as the walking remains easy.

The slope becomes steeper as it reaches a bwlch (a pass) where a very good path leads down the valley to the left, back towards Llanberis. At this point you can bail out and head back, but 2,211ft Moel Cynghorion beckons.

A path leads up the spine of the last peak on the walk before levelling out and following the long, broad and grassy top. A small pile of stones marks the summit, though this could be guesswork on the part of other walkers! It doesn’t really matter because it’s the view of Snowdon and back along the walk you’ve just completed that makes it a fitting stopping place.

Moel Cynghorion translates to the Bare Hill of the Leaders. It is thought a group of Welsh chieftains surrendered to Edward I’s army here during his conquest of Wales.

Llwelyn ap Gruffydd, had styled himself as the Prince of Wales and Lord of Snowdonia so it would have been an appropriate place to hold a last stand, especially as his stronghold was Dolbadarn Castle, situated just below Moel Cynghorion and in our own hotel grounds.

Moel Cynghorion was once a meeting place for ancient clan chieftans.

Back to Llanberis

From Moel Cynghorion it’s possible to carry on, join the Snowdon Ranger Path and head for the summit of Snowdon.

Otherwise, retrace your steps back to the bwlch and then follow the excellent path back to Llanberis, passing the youth hostel to end up back where you started.

Halfway back, hidden by the hill, you pass a lake, Llyn Dwythwch, where local legend claims the Tylwyth Teg (fairies) could often be seen dancing. You’ll also watch the Snowdon Railway running in parallel to the busy Llanberis Path. You can feel quite smug that you’ve had quite an adventure off the beaten track!

© Copyright Terry Hughes and licensed for reuse under this Creative Commons Licence