The Art of Avoiding People: Penycloddiau & Moel Arthur

Don’t get me wrong: I like people. I’m just not a huge fan of going for a walk and being one person in a line of many people hauling themselves up a hill. You either end up stuck behind someone walking slowly, or overtaking someone slower than you, and then feeling pressured to sprint up the next hill (burning lungs or not) so that you don’t end up being overtaken by the same hiker you’ve just passed! On our drive down to Snowdonia a few weeks ago, we had planned to stop off in the Clwydian Range for a short-ish hike to break the journey, and I had put an appeal on my Instagram page for a good route up Moel Famau. I did get a few suggestions from others who had visited the area previously, but every single person local to the area suggested that we walk up neighbouring Penycloddiau instead, for a fantastic walk with a fraction of the crowds who are drawn to Moel Famau (which is the highest hill in the Clwydian Range and consequently much busier). Well, you’d have to be a fool to ignore the locals, and listening to them certainly paid off…

The Clywdian Range and Dee Valley is, in my opinion, Wales’s best kept secret. This Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty straddles the counties of Denbighshire, Flintshire and Wrexham, making it easily accessible from all over the UK. And yet, it was utterly unspoilt and peaceful, and it had the feel of a place that is visited mostly by locals. Perhaps this is because more ‘popular’ destinations are only a stone’s throw away – for the majority of our walk we could see the peaks of northern Snowdonia beckoning in the distance.

Whatever the reason, this part of the world is chronically underrated. I’d never even heard of the AONB until I started googling Penycloddiau and Moel Arthur and saw that they were part of the Clwydian Range. Safe to say it is now most definitely on my radar and on my list of places to explore properly at some point in the future.

The walk we did was a circular walk that I found on AllTrails, just shy of 8 miles in total, starting from the free car park at Coed Llangwyfan. From the car park it is an easy and steady climb up to the summit of Penycloddiau, along paths which are mostly level and well surfaced, although it is grassy in parts so I’m not sure what it would be like when it’s wet. The paths are generally good throughout this walk, and while there are some steep sections, they aren’t long enough to make you truly miserable.

There is a rambling detour through beautiful countryside which eventually deposits you in the small car park at the foot of Moel Arthur. If your route tells you to climb up the vertical side of Moel Arthur (like ours did) ignore it and continue along the bridleway – there is a much more gradual approach to the summit, sign posted, on the other side of the hill.

Penycloddiau and Moel Arthur are both Iron Age hillforts, part of a chain which runs along the Clwydian Range, and the area is rich with history – you can find a great list of historical sites on the AONB website if you’re interested. Anyone who’s read my blog about the Breamish Hillfort Trail will know I am a huge Iron Age geek and therefore I wasn’t going miss an opportunity to visit two in one afternoon!

We were very lucky with the weather and we could see for miles in all directions – there’s always a special feeling when you can see the sea as you’re walking along the top of a hill. It was the first time I’d been out without my coat on since last summer and it really felt like everything was starting to come back to life: trees were budding, flowers were springing up even in the most unlikely places, and newborn lambs were taking their tottering first steps in many of the fields we walked through.

Dog friendly rating – 4/5. This walk passes through a variety of landscapes, including woodland, fields and enclosed lanes. There is only a tiny fraction of this walk which follows a quiet country lane, which is fantastic, and we were able to let the dogs off their leads in the woods at the start of the walk. There is livestock in many of the fields you pass through so make sure that dogs are on a lead in these areas. And if you’re not sure, it’s always better to be safe than sorry! There is no water on this walk, so make sure you carry some extra for your dog.

The absolute best thing about this walk for the dogs was that all of the stiles had dog gates, so we didn’t have to lift the dogs over once!! If only all stiles were like that it would make life much easier!

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