Pared y Cefn Hir. Photo: Myrddyn Phillips

Pared y Cefn Hir SH 661 148. Photo: Myrddyn Phillips

Size, as they say, isn’t everything. Should we always be aiming high, heading for the loftiest peaks, or is there as much enjoyment to be gained from the exploration of the more diminutive hills?

Six hillwalking enthusiasts think so, and have compiled a list of sub-2000ft Welsh hills worthy of attention.

With a nod to Andrew Dempster’s Scottish list of similarly sized peaks, which he called the Hughs, the six men have dubbed their list the Huws, and have revealed them today, to mark St David’s Day.

The Huws – 100 great Welsh hills under 2,000ft

Contributors: Alex Cameron, John Gillham, Myrddyn Phillips, Adrian Rayner, Mark Trengove and Rob Woodall

Introduction

Few people would argue against Tryfan being included as one of the best hills in Wales. It rises above Llyn Ogwen as a great spine of rock and is crowned by the monoliths of Adam and Eve, with many considering this one of, if not the best hill in Britain.

Middletown Hill SJ 305 133. Photo: Myrddyn Phillips

Middletown Hill SJ 305 133. Photo: Myrddyn Phillips

There are many other hills in Wales that are almost as good; Yr Wyddfa the highest in the country, Crib Goch for those inclined toward knife edge ridges, the pyramidal Cnicht, the ruggedness of Rhinog Fawr, Cadair Idris which is still rightly ever popular, the wilds of Drygarn Fawr, the beauty of Picws Du and south Wales’s highest; Pen y Fan. All are justifiably popular and abound in variety of landscape and view.

However, their popularity is partly based on their height, as it is a natural inclination for many people to visit the higher before then concentrating on lower hills. And in the case of these hills, they are all over the benchmark 2,000ft (609.6m). But what about those hills under this height?

Wales is relatively small in land area, but this does not detract from it having an abundance of hills of all differing shapes and sizes, from the lowly coastal plains to the higher inland hills. It has fantastic variety in abundance and so much to offer the investigative hillwalker who wants to explore farther afield from those higher and more frequently visited 2,000ft-ers.

Gathering the team

The title of the Huws is a play on the name Hughs, which Andrew Dempster used for his guide to Scotland’s Best Wee Hills under 2,000ft. It is this book that gave the inspiration for us to set about compiling our own similar list to represent Wales.

The initial team of Alex, Mark and Myrddyn was formed in late summer 2020 and soon set about discussing the merits of many classic hills which could easily meet the parameters set for the list.

It wasn’t long before we realised that such a list of hills would vastly benefit from a wider breadth of experience and knowledge. Rob, Adrian and John were all invited to contribute, and our team was then complete.

Mynydd Twr SH 218 829. Photo: Mark Trengove

Mynydd Twr SH 218 829. Photo: Mark Trengove

Setting the parameters

Outside of each hill being less than 2,000ft in height our list is of a purely subjective nature. However, through discussion we all came upon a common goal that two other important factors should be met. Foremost that the hills should cover the whole length and breadth of Wales, and secondly that we should include the fullest variety of hills, both in height, prominence, geology, history and difficulty.

The variety of these hills is all important, as such a list could easily be filled with higher and more prominent candidates. And so this along with the spread of hills throughout the country was always a determining factor behind our selection process. Originally we were working towards a final total of 50 though it was not long before it became obviously apparent that this was far too limiting and we dispensed with this idea in favour of going for 100 instead. Without a doubt the impact of a choice of 100 compared to 50 is self-explanatory; Wales most certainly warrants having 100 great hills below 2,000ft.

Carreglefain SH 324 410. Photo: Myrddyn Phillips

Carreglefain SH 324 410. Photo: Myrddyn Phillips

The process

The restrictions imposed through Covid-19 meant that we were unable to meet up in person to discuss what hills to include. Therefore, after we each independently chose our 50 best Welsh hills below 2,000ft, these were listed on an ever more detailed spreadsheet resulting in over 170 hills in all. This now formed the basis for discussion which took place over a series of weekly Zoom meetings.

One of the first things we discussed was access, but as this list is not intended to be a guidebook and instead just a document of what we believe are a great collection of hills in Wales below 2,000ft, those wanting to visit these hills should abide by any legal restrictions and if unsure of permissible access ask permission from the respective landowner.

After the merits of each hill were discussed we gave each one of three categories: four for rejection, three for review and two for inclusion. This process resulted in 118 hills being given the category of two for inclusion. We then independently listed our 18 hills for rejection. It was from this ever decreasing list of candidates that our 18 hills to exclude were chosen. We had our final 100!

The hills

It is all too easy to forget the process that goes on behind the scenes in any compilation of hills, but ultimately it is the hills that matter. So, let’s have a little look at just some of the ones that did make the grade.

Concentrating on variety meant that we could include any hill of any height and prominence. This opened up the choice to the whole of the country including its many delightful offshore islands.

Ynysoedd y Moelrhoniaid SH 267 947. Photo: Myrddyn Phillips

Ynysoedd y Moelrhoniaid SH 267 947. Photo: Myrddyn Phillips

Islands

These are represented with the tidal islands of Penrhyn Gŵyr, otherwise known as Worm’s Head in the far south of the country, with others including Ynys Fach and Ynys Lochtyn hugging the south-west coast and giving exciting expeditions for any adventurous hillwalker.

Both Ynys Dewi (Ramsey Island) and Ynys Enlli (Bardsey Island) have representation in the list and both can be reached by regular tourist boats. The magical archipelago of Ynysoedd y Moelrhoniaid, otherwise known as The Skerries in the north-west of the country is also included and this requires a charter boat.

The largest island of Ynys Môn (Anglesey) and its adjacent Ynys Gybi (Holyhead Island) have good representation with Dinas Gynfor being one of the farthest northerly hills, the otherworldly coloured rock of Mynydd Parys and the dramatically situated coastal hill of Mynydd Twr (Holyhead Mountain) are also included.

Higher hills

Unsurprisingly there are many of these represented with some being Moel Wion in the northern Rhinogydd, also in the heartland of Eryri we included Moel Meirch in the Moelwynion and Moel Ddu in the Moel Hebog range, in the North-East is Moel Fama, one of the most popular hills in the country, with Graig Goch on the edge of the wild openness of Y Migneint, the shapely Foel Figenau in the south-western Y Berwyn, the relatively remote Drosgol above Nant y Moch Reservoir in the Pumlumon range of hills, the distinctive profile of Whimble in the central east of the country, Domen Milwyn in the wild central belt, Carreg Cadno with its limestone summit and the ever popular Mynydd Pen y Fâl (Sugar Loaf to its English friends) in the South of the country.

Clip SH 653 327. Photo: Mark Trengove

Clip SH 653 327. Photo: Mark Trengove

Lower prominence hills

Nowadays prominence, or drop as it is also known, is an all determining factor when considering criteria for a hill list. But there are many excellent hills that have relatively little prominence and we also wanted to ensure that these received good representation. Some of these include Clogwyn Bwlch y Maen; a shapely hill positioned between Moel Siabod and Moel Meirch that has excellent views into the higher peaks of Eryri, Tomen y Mur overlooking Llyn Trawsfynydd and consisting of a Roman fort complex crowned by a Norman motte, the southern peak of Clip in the Rhinogydd considered a finer viewpoint than its higher northerly counterpart, the sharply defined Y Gribin above the small community of Llangynog, Sycharth; one of the two traditional courts of Owain Glyndŵr and Crug Hywel in the South of the country with its ancient hill fort.

Tre'r Ceiri SH 653 327. Photo: Mark Trengove

Tre'r Ceiri SH 653 327. Photo: Mark Trengove

History

We were also conscious of those hills that have association with different historical eras as their inclusion can greatly enhance interest to our shared passion for the hills. Bryn Gop in the far North-East of Wales is crowned by the second largest Neolithic mound in Britain, with only Silbury Hill in Wiltshire being larger. Wales has many hills that are topped by ancient Bronze Age hill forts and some of the best in the country are represented in this list with Tre’r Ceiri in the north-west, Castell Tinboeth and Craig Rhiwarth in mid-Wales and Trichrug in the South. The Roman era is represented by Tomen in Mur, and the time of great castle building by Carreg Cennen in the South and Y Faerdre in the north. Our mining history is also represented by copper mining on Mynydd Parys and slate on Moel Tryfan and Y Ceiliog Mawr. All very good hills in their own right, but their historical interest undoubtedly also add a little something extra to their appeal.

Foel Lus SH 732 761. Photo: Myrddyn Phillips

Foel Lus SH 732 761. Photo: Myrddyn Phillips

Unique Character

Although all hills are different, there are some whose individual uniqueness stands out head and shoulders from the rest. For our list these include: the multi-coloured otherworldliness of Mynydd Parys, Y Ceiliog Mawr; a remnant outcrop in the slate mining area of north-west Wales, Ynys Gifftan; one of the rare estuary islands in the country, the summit of Carn Llidi in the South-West which has the only deposit of gabbro in Wales; Aberthaw’s (man-made) Ash Tip which is Wales’ southernmost hill and Tyle Garw which is officially the most remote mainland hill in the whole of the country.

Also represented are a scattering of wooded summits, those beside or close to lakes and one within a coastal sand dune habitat. All add interest and variety; these are The Huws – and we hope you thoroughly enjoy our list of 100 great Welsh hills under 2,000ft!

Foel Fawr SM 705 225. Photo: Mark Trengove

Foel Fawr SM 705 225. Photo: Mark Trengove

The authors

  • Alex Cameron: Alex is an enthusiastic backpacker based in the north of Wales and who goes about all his exploring of the Welsh hills completely on foot, or also occasionally by bicycle too.
  • John Gillham: John is a full-time professional writer, illustrator and photographer and the author of a number of published books concentrating on Wales and more recently Shropshire.
  • Myrddyn Phillips: Myrddyn is the webmaster of Mapping Mountains, he is an enthusiastic hill surveyor, hill list compiler and enjoys Welsh upland place-name research and lives in mid-Wales.
  • Adrian Rayner: Adrian is a keen walker and has summited more than 1,000 hills in Wales. He runs an email-based discussion forum for British hills with more than 30m of drop. When time allows, he enjoys visiting overseas mountains.
  • Mark Trengove: Mark is the webmaster of Europeaklist. He lives in the North-East of Wales and enjoys international peak-bagging and poly bagging, and has a wide experience of the Welsh hills.
  • Rob Woodall: Rob has completed numerous hill-lists in Britain and has bagged many overseas peaks. He’s also visited all the British trig pillars and is currently working on Ordnance Survey benchmarks.

The Huws – 100 great Welsh hills under 2,000ft have been published on the Haroldstreet website as an online tick list and for GPS Waypoints, and on Mapping Mountains to download as a Google Doc list. They are available here:

Haroldstreet: The Huws – 100 great Welsh hills under 2,000ft

Mapping Mountains: The Huws – 100 great Welsh hills under 2,000ft – Introduction

Mapping Mountains: The Huws – 100 great Welsh hills under 2,000ft – List

Some articles the site thinks might be related:

  1. Hill sleuth Myrddyn Phillips’s border research suggests Wales should shrink a little