Moel Famau Country Park is one of our ‘go to’ outdoor family destinations. Located less than 15 minutes from our home in north Wales, Moel Famau boasts the highest summit in the Clwydian Range at 554m/1818ft and, thanks to the Jubilee Tower ruins at the top, it has become a landmark feature that can be spotted from miles around. Not quite big enough to be classed as a mountain, it’s still a bloody big hill, which makes it the ideal training ground for young hikers and little outdoor enthusiasts.
At 160km2, the Clwydian Range is an impressive natural playground that proudly holds AONB (Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty) status. In fact, the area is so beautiful that in 2011 the Welsh government decided to expand it by adding the adjoining 220km2 of the Dee Valley area to the south of the range to create one huge AONB. And, sitting on top of all of this natural beauty, is the remains of the once majestic Jubilee Tower. Built over 200 years ago to commemorate the golden jubilee of King George III, the tower collapsed in 1862 leaving the ruins that locals know and love today.
The heather covered moorland of Moel Famau is thought to attract approximately 200,000 visitors a year to its paths and trails, and with good reason. Not only is it a great destination for hiking clubs and the many groups of young Duke of Edinburgh explorers I’ve led across this terrain over the years, It’s a very accessible outdoor destination for families too. For families with little hikers, complete with their Lilliputian style legs, the two car parks at the base of Moel Famau offer you relatively short routes to the top. In fact, if you begin your walk from the top car park, it’s only about 5.5km with a height gain of less than 300 metres. Our two critters are too small to even class as Lilliputians yet, so we always take the carriers. Our eldest, however, at 2 and a half, will walk almost all of the way up, just waving the white flag on a couple of the steeper sections. He simply loves spotting the ‘castle’ at the top and the variety of wildlife that surrounds the environment and that seems to keep him distracted enough to plough on one step at a time.
Whereas the walk from the top car park offers little in the way of trail choice, if you park further down the road you are rewarded with a wider variety of waymarked trails, which also offer an assortment of difficulties for those families up for more of a challenge. In my opinion, the more strenuous route that takes you through the lower forest slopes is by far the most scenic, just be sure that your kids are equipped and physically able to deal with the gradient. Again, I have taken Jesse up this route on numerous occasions, and while he will spend more of his time in the carrier, there are still ample opportunities for him to hike a little himself. As you pass through the forest too, you can always use it as an opportunity to have a rest stop and build a den amongst the trees.
If you still want more of a family hiking challenge, consider starting at one of the numerous points in the local area that have paths and trails that connect and intersect the country park. Loggerheads, for instance, which we have reviewed as a mini adventure destination previously, offers an alternative start or finish point for hikes of a medium distance and with the river that flows through it, it offers a nice contrast to the open moorland of Moel Famau itself. If time is not a consideration and you have both the energy and kids to manage it, then the hike from Nannerch to Llanarmon yn Ial, summiting Moel Famau and passing Loggerheads along the way, is a great one. There really are so many family hiking possibilities with such a vast area of countryside.
In terms of gear, as most of the trails are easy to moderate in terms of their difficulty, trail shoes can be worn. However, if you are taking on one of the longer routes, using one of the interconnecting pathways in the area, then you may well consider boots for added support. Similarly, if you choose to park in one of the designated car parks at the foot of Moel Famau, then a map isn’t necessary as the routes are waymarked. For longer routes, which begin outside of the country park, however, you’ll need a map to get you from A to B (and obviously the skills to read it). Child carriers with weather protection features are great for babies and toddlers as I’ve experienced strong winds and hail storms as late as May on my walks up to the top, so don’t rely on the weather at the bottom to be an indication of wind speed and the like at the top. It can often vary significantly.
So, if you’re in the vicinity of north Wales this weekend, and fancy getting outdoors with your critters on some very beautiful but accessible trails, give Moel Famau your consideration.