Area: Clwydian Range, North Wales (OS Explorer 265)
Starting point: Moel Arthur car park (SJ147657)
Distance: 7.2 miles/11.6km
If you’re anything like me, you’ll enjoy the lesser trodden paths and trails of this world. Don’t get me wrong, I love hiking with friends and family. However, on occasion, I want to escape to places where I might not see another human face for miles; where my family and I feel like we have the trail to ourselves (apart from the sheep, of course). The Clwydian Range, located in North Wales, is fortunate enough to have a few of these quieter tracks and trails. One of them is the circular (of sorts) route from Moel Arthur to Penycloddiau.
This moderately difficult route doesn’t take you straight from one hill to the other. Instead, this will take you the long way round, ensuring quieter, more peaceful trails. You begin at Moel Arthur car park by heading north away from Penycloddiau, to a point slightly east of Brynffynnon. From there you hike north-west on a much quieter trail that, to begin with, parallels the Offa’s Dyke. This parallel trail will then narrow gradually towards the Offa Dyke path, before eventually joining this famous trail. Once at the Offa’s Dyke, you hang a sharp left to follow it south-east; first to Penycloddiau, where you can take in some great views. Once done, you’ll arrive back at the car park after a short, sharp up and down across Moel Arthur. If you’ve got a child in a carrier this can be a tough little ascent, so take you’re time!
It has plenty of appeal too, this route. The views from the summits of Penycloddiau and Moel Arthur are brilliant on a clear day. They definitely rival that of their slightly bigger brother Moel Famau, which is located about 3 miles from Moel Arthur, and offer beautiful views of as far away as Snowdonia. However, neither of these two attract anywhere like the same quantity of walkers. As such, you often have them all to yourself. Perfect.
We’ve classed this route as moderately difficult for families. This is because you’re covering quite a few miles and there are some short, steep ascents. However, there is nothing technical about the ground. Both Penycloddiau and Moel Arthur ascents are primarily grass and well-maintained trail, so there is nothing to test your foot placement, as such. If you’re carrying young children, as many members of our recent group hike did along this route, you will find the hills very tiring but extremely doable if you have a good level of fitness.
At this time of year the section from Brynffynnon to the Offa’s Dyke path can be a little soft underfoot, due to the mainly grass and mud composition. However, this all adds to the charm of not feeling like you’re hiking along well-groomed paths. You definitely achieve that ‘get away from it all’ feel here. The other thing to bear in mind, particularly on this section, is that a few of the stiles are quite old and in need of some TLC. You have to understand that this is a much quieter section of the Clwydian Range. Consequently, I don’t suppose it’s given the same maintenance priority as the Offa’s Dyke. Therefore, expect some of the gates and stiles to be a tad wobbly; so do take care crossing them, particularly with kids.
Overall, this is a lovely hike through some lesser known sections of the Clwydian Range. It has some great views but the terrain makes it accessible to those with children in carriers, and those with older children who can get a few miles under their belts.
Just ensure you’re equipped with an OS map and compass. Although this is a fairly straightforward route, as always, there are opportunities to get lost if the weather or visibility is poor. We had thick fog on our last group hike during the entire first section of this walk. As a result, navigation was a challenge, even for me. Trying to find the right gate or stile when visibility is down to just a few metres if fun if you know what you’re doing. Unfortunately, if you don’t, it’s just dangerous. Furthermore, a couple of the boundary fences that show on a map no longer exist, so keep your wits about you.
You can also check out this handy guide by Denbighshire Countryside Services (just be aware the distance on this sheet is a little shorter than I have recorded twice using gps):