Snowdonia has obvious main attractions in a way that The Lake District and The Scottish Highalnds do not. Scotland has so many incredible mountains to choose from that it is dizzying. The Lake District has perhaps a dozen iconic peaks that take their fair share of the footfall, whilst fells of lesser height are also frequently visited by pilgrims following in Alfred Wainwright's footsteps. However, in Snowdonia, it seems first everyone heads for the mountain in its name. Rightly so. Snowdon offers the sort of excitement that has few challengers south of the Highland Fault. After this, Tryfan and the Glyderau are immensely popular with adventurous hikers, scramblers and rock climbers, whilst Cadair Idris offers more hiking in the Snowdon mould. These are the main attractions.
But for the connoisseur there are other arenas to explore where solitude can be sought, where the sublime can be found and where the heart can soar. The wild Carneddau is one such place and its superb Llech Ddu Spur. Just 31 feet short of the magical 3000 feet contour is the brooding Aran Fawddwy in the south east of the national park. Closer to the main drag stands Cnicht: The Welsh Matterhorn. That's plenty enough hype for me to add to it here. And then, west of Snowdon sprawls the Nantlle Ridge, a superb ridge walk with a great low-grade scramble and enough character to win an Oscar.
The Nantlle Ridge is not made up of big mountains. It is not made up of famous peaks (I am not even sure how to pronounce all but two of them). But what it lacks in muscle and notoriety it makes up for with graceful curving lines, wonderful views, glorious serenity and a deeply satisfying traverse. It is a steep pull up from Rhyd-Ddu to gain the summit of Y Garn but from that point onwards it is pure ridge walking delight. The highlight is almost immediate, an aesthetic scramble up the shapely, leaning prospect of Mynydd Drws-y-coed. It is a wonderful introduction to scrambling, which was why I chose it to give my friend Jamie his first taste of exposure and hands-on-rock action. The ridge then just keeps giving as summit after summit is claimed over continously interesting terrain. The full ridge consists of three more summits than we did and creating a circular route is difficult. We decided to turn back after Mynydd Tal-y-mignedd and descend into Beddgelert Forest, a choice I can heartily recommend, with glorious views to pointed Yr Aran and Snowdon.
So like Catbells in the Lake District and Stac Pollaidh in The Highlands, The Nantlle Ridge proves that small can be mighty when it comes to the United Kingdoms mountains and hills. No, it is not obviously thrilling as Tryfan's ridges or as majestic as Snowdon, but there is a quiet satisfaction to being in this peaceful, graceful place. One for the true devotee to the high places of Britain.