W. P. Haskett Smith.

Climbing in The British Isles, Vol. II online

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_3 vols. 16mo. Sold separately._

Member of the Alpine Club. With 23
Illustrations by Ellis Carr, Member of the
Alpine Club, and 5 Plans. 3_s._ 6_d._

M.A., and H. C. HART, Members of the Alpine
Club. With 31 Illustrations by ELLIS CARR and
others, and 9 Plans. 3_s._ 6_d._


[_In preparation._]

London and New York: LONGMANS, GREEN, & CO.




Member of the Alpine Club


Member of the Alpine Club; Fellow of the Linnean Society
Member of the Royal Irish Academy, etc.

Member of the Alpine Club
_and others_


_All rights reserved_


The present volume is intended to deal with all parts of the British
Isles except England, which was the subject of Vol. I., and Scotland, to
which Vol. III. will be devoted. Nothing is here said about the _Isle of
Man_ or the Channel Islands, because it would, no doubt, be considered
absurd to advise anyone to visit those islands whose main object was the
acquisition of mountaineering skill. Pretty as the former island is, its
hills are nothing more than hills, except where they are also railways
or tea gardens; and even on its cliffs, which are especially fine at the
southern end, comparatively little climbing will be found.

In the _Channel Islands_, on the other hand, the granite cliffs, though
very low, being usually only 100-200 ft. high, abound in instructive
scrambles. Many such will be found in Guernsey, Jersey, and especially
in Sark, but the granite is not everywhere of equally good quality.

The _Scilly Isles_, again, are by no means to be despised by climbers,
especially by such of them as can enjoy knocking about in a small boat,
which is almost the only means of getting from climb to climb. The
granite forms are somewhat wilder and more fantastic than those in the
Channel Islands. Peninnis Head is only one of many capital scrambling
grounds. An article by Dr. Treves[1] gives a very good idea of the kind
of thing which may be expected. If anyone should think of proceeding,
under the guidance of this volume, to regions with which he is so far
unacquainted, he will naturally ask how the climbing here described
compares with the climbing in other parts of Britain or of Europe. How
does Wales, for instance, stand with regard to Cumberland or the Alps?
On this point some good remarks will be found in the _Penny Magazine_,
vii., p. 161 (1838), where the writer assigns to the more northern hills
a slight superiority over Wales. An impression prevails among those who
know both that the weather of N. Wales is, if possible, more changeable
than that of the Lakes. Climbers will notice this chiefly in winter,
when the snow on the Welsh mountains less frequently settles into sound
condition. Perhaps sudden changes of temperature are partly to blame for
the greater frequency in Wales of deaths from exposure. Winter climbing
is very enjoyable, but proper precautions must be taken against the
cold. A writer on Wales some 300 years ago observes that 'the cold Aire
of these Mountainous Regions by an Antiperistasis keeps in and
strengthens the internall heat;' but a good woollen sweater, a warm cap
to turn down over the ears and neck, and three pairs of gloves, two
pairs on and one pair dry in the pocket, will be found quite as
effectual. Dangers, however, cease not with the setting sun, and many
who have defied frost-bite during the day fall an easy prey to
rheumatism in bed at night. A groundless terror of the Welsh language
keeps many away from Wales. The names are certainly of formidable
appearance, and Barham's lines are hardly an exaggeration.

[1] _Boy's Own Paper_, May 5, 1894.

For the vowels made use of in Welsh are so few
That the A and the E and the I, O, and U
Have really but little or nothing to do.
And the duty, of course, falls the heavier by far
On the L and the H, and the N and the R.
The first syllable PEN is pronounceable; then
Come two LL and two HH, two FF, and an N.

But appalling words like 'Slwch Twmp' or 'Cwmtrwsgl' lose half their
venom when it is explained that W is only a way of writing OO. In spite
of its apparent complication the language is so simple and systematic
that anyone can learn enough in a quarter of an hour to enable him to
pronounce with ease and moderate accuracy any place-name with which he
is likely to meet. Irish is less regular, but wonderfully rich in
expressions for slightly varying physical features, while the Manx names
are more interesting than the hills by which they are borne.

In comparison with the Alps what was said in Vol. I. of Cumberland
applies equally well to Wales, and nearly as well to Kerry or Donegal.
The most striking peculiarity of Irish mountains is, next to the size of
the bogs, the large amount of car-driving which has to be done before
and after the day's work. But this is an intrusion on the province of
another. Old Thomas Fuller, on sitting down to write a detailed account
of Wales, which he had never seen, genially remarked that 'it matters
not how meanly skilled a writer is so long as he hath knowing and
communicative friends.' That precisely describes the Editor's position,
especially with regard to Ireland, to the treatment of which no other
man could have brought knowledge at once so wide and so accurate as Mr.
Hart. Unfortunately he, like his own 'carrabuncle,' was somewhat
elusive. After months of mysterious silence he would glide into sight,
great with solid mountaineering matter, gleaming with pearls of botany
and gems of geologic lore; but, alas! in another moment the waters of
bronchitis, or influenza, or inertia would close over the mysterious
monster's back, and he would glide away into unknown depths where the
harpoon of the penny post was harmless and telegrams tickled him in
vain. Now the carrabuncle is caught at last, and readers will be well
repaid for a few months' delay. They will be astonished that one pair of
eyes could take in so much, and that one pair of legs could cover so
much ground.

Among many other 'knowing and communicative friends' the Editor would
especially dwell on his indebtedness to Mr. F. H. Bowring and to Mr. O.
G. Jones. The latter has contributed the whole of the section dealing
with the Arans and Cader Idris, and his minute knowledge of that region
will be evident from the fact that the quantity which our space has
allowed us to print represents less than half of the matter originally
supplied by him.

For most of the sketches we are again indebted to Mr. Ellis Carr, for a
striking view of Tryfaen to Mr. Colin Phillips, and for the remainder
(taken under most cruel conditions of weather) to Mr. Harold Hughes of

W. P. H. S.

_August 1895._




=Aber.= - This station on the Chester and Holyhead Railway is in no sense
a centre for mountaineers, though a good deal of work _may_ be done from
it. We ourselves 'in our hot youth, when George the Third was King,' and
a dozen miles extra tramping at the end of a day was a mere trifle,
managed to do many of the mountains of North Wales from it.

Its only attraction is a pretty valley, at the head of which are some
not very striking waterfalls. The surrounding rocks have, however, been
the scene of a surprising number of accidents. Most of these have been
caused by slipping on the path which crosses the steep slope of the
eastern bank and leads to the head of the main fall. Such was the fatal
accident on April 13, 1873, to Mr. F. T. Payne, a barrister. His sight
was very defective, and this fact goes far towards accounting for the

[2] The _Times_, April 16, 1873, p. 6.

In 1876 a very similar case occurred. A young man called Empson, who was
staying at Llanfairfechan, was killed in descending, apparently at the
very same spot.[3]

[3] The _Times_, September 9, 1876, p. 8.

In April 1885 Mr. Maitland Wills, described as an expert mountaineer,
while walking with two friends from Capel Curig to Aber, fell near the
same spot, and was instantly killed.[4]

[4] _Ibid._ April 7, 1885, p. 7.

In August of the same year Mr. Paget, the Hammersmith Police Magistrate,
fell and was severely hurt.[5] And these by no means exhaust the list of
casualties, which is, perhaps, only second in length to that of Snowdon
itself. It may be mentioned that there is a climb or two on the west and
steeper side of the falls.

[5] _Ibid._ August 3, 1885, p. 10.

* * * * *

=Bala=, reached from London in about 7 hours by the Great Western line,
is a very pleasant place to stop at on entering Wales, being situated at
the foot of the finest natural sheet of water in the Principality, and
having railway facilities in three directions. By the aid of the rail
Cader Idris, the Arans, and the Rhinogs can be easily got at. For the
first mountains Dolgelly, for the second Drwsynant and Llanuwchllyn, for
the third Maentwrog would be the best stations. This is also the best
place for Arenig Fawr, which can be done on foot all the way, or better
by taking the train to Arenig station and returning by rail from
Llanuwchllyn after crossing the hill. Lord Lyttelton made Bala famous
last century. What he said of it will sufficiently appear from some
lines (long since erased by the indignant ladies of Bala) which were
once to be seen in a visitors' book here: -

Lord Lyttelton of old gave out
To all the world that Bala trout
Have all the sweetness that pervades
The laughing lips of Bala's maids.
Which did his Lordship mean to flout?
For fact it is that Bala trout
(Ask any fisherman you meet)
Are bad to catch, but worse to eat.
O Maid of Bala, ere we part,
'Tis mine to bind thy wounded heart;
And in thy favour testify -
Though seldom sweet, thou'rt never shy!

There is, however, one objection to this epigram, for the poet talks of
trout and the peer of Gwyniad; let us, therefore, hope that in regard to
the fair as well as the fish the poet's harsh judgment was equally

* * * * *

=Barmouth=, a capital place from which to visit the Rhinog range and
Cader Idris; and the Cambrian Railway extends the range of operations in
three directions, so that even Snowdon is within the possibilities of a
single day's excursion. There is excellent climbing practice to be had,
not only just outside the town, but actually within it.

* * * * *

=Beddgelert= (i.e. 'Gelert's Grave') is one of the gates of Snowdonia,
and it is the gate by which the judicious will enter. It is, moreover,
perhaps the prettiest mountain resort in Wales. Penygwrhyd is more
central for climbers pure - and simple - but has no pretensions to beauty
of situation; Llanberis has its railway facilities, its quarries, and
its trippers; Bettws y Coed is delicious, but it is right away from the
mountains. For combination of the beauties of mountain, water, and
wooded plain Dolgelly is the only rival of Beddgelert. Snowdon on the
north, Moel Hebog on the west, and Cynicht and Moelwyn on the east are
enough to make the fortune of any place as a mountaineer's abode, even
if there were no Pass of Aberglaslyn close by.

The nearest station is Rhyd-ddu, on the Snowdon Ranger line, nearly 4
miles off, and it is uphill nearly all the way. To Portmadoc, on the
other hand, the distance is greater, 6 or 7 miles, but the road is
fairly level, and nearly every step of it is beautiful, both in winter
and in summer. Indeed, there was a time when winter in this romantic
village was more enjoyable than summer, for in warm weather the eye was
much obstructed by the hand which held the nose; but that was many years
ago. The ascent of Snowdon from this side used to be the most
frequented, but in the race for popularity it has long been distanced by
Llanberis. It is a good path, and easily found. The start is made along
the Carnarvon road for some three miles to the Pitt's Head; then up the
hill to the right to Llechog, and across the once dreaded Bwlch y Maen.
A more direct and very fine route leads straight up and over the ridge
of Yr Aran, joining the regular path just short of Bwlch-y-Maen. By
going up the Capel Curig some 3½ miles, and taking the turn to the
left more than half a mile beyond Llyn y Ddinas, Sir Edward Watkin's
path up Cwmyllan may be utilised; but at the cost of 3½ miles' extra
walking along the same road the far finer ascent by Cwm Dyli may be
made. This is the same as that from Penygwrhyd, but with the advantage
of including the lowest portion and waterfalls of Cwm Dyli, which are
extremely fine. The classical climbs of Snowdonia are within reach for
good walkers, but others will find abundance of opportunities for
practice within a mile or two, and for the Garnedd Goch range (which has
in it some choice bits) there is no better base. The road to Portmadoc
on the south and to Penygwrhyd on the north are not only among the most
beautiful in the kingdom, but present the most alluring of problems to
the rock climber within a stone's throw. There is a corner of the road
about 6 miles from Beddgelert where Crib Goch shows over a foot-hill of
Lliwedd, and a rocky ridge runs down from the east almost on to the
road. This ridge, though broken, bears some very choice bits, including
a certain wide, short chimney facing south.

A separate guide-book to this place (by J. H. Bransby) appeared in 1840,
and there have been several since, among the best being one published at
the modest price of one penny by Abel Heywood.

The place plays a great part in Charles Kingsley's _Two Years Ago_, and
it was at the 'Goat' Inn here that George Borrow was so furious at the
want of deference with which his utterances were received by the

* * * * *

=Benglog=, at the foot of Llyn Ogwen and the head of Nant Ffrancon, is
only second to Penygwrhyd as a climbing centre, but, unfortunately, the
accommodation is so very scanty - Ogwen Cottage, the only house, having
no more than two bedrooms - that the place is little used. For Tryfaen,
the Glyders, the Carnedds, Twll Du, and the Elider range it is
preferable to any other place, and beautiful problems are to be found by
the climber literally within a stone's throw of the door. It is about 5
miles from Bethesda station on the north and the same distance from
Capel Curig on the east, all three places being on the great Holyhead
Road. Penygwrhyd is 2 hours away, whether by road (9 miles) or over the
hill. In the latter case the shortest route is by the col which
separates Tryfaen and Glyder Fach, and then over the shoulder east of
the latter mountain. To Llanberis the way lies by Twll Du and Cwm
Patric, and though much longer than the last could probably be done in
nearly as short a time.

* * * * *

=Bethesda= is 5 miles from Benglog, and that much further from all the
best climbing. See, however, p. 18.

* * * * *

=Capel Curig= (600 ft. above sea level) is 5½ miles from Bettws y
Coed railway station, 4 miles from Penygwrhyd, and 5 from Benglog, is a
very good centre for strong walkers. Most of the best climbs are within
reach, but none very near. For Snowdon Penygwrhyd is much nearer;
Benglog is better for the Glyders and the Carnedds; so that, while being
pretty good for nearly all, Capel Curig is not the best starting-place
for any. It has no exclusive rights, except over Moel Siabod on the
south and the wild unfrequented district in the opposite direction,
which lies at the back of Carnedd Llewelyn.

Hutton, who visited it at the beginning of the century, calls it 'an
excellent inn in a desert.'

The Alpine Club had a meeting here in 1879.

* * * * *

=Dinas Mawddwy=, reached by rail from Machynlleth, is a pleasant,
secluded spot amid mountainous surroundings, but not conveniently
situated for climbing anything but Aran Mawddwy. All the advantages of
the place may be equally well enjoyed from Machynlleth. Old Pennant
records how in his rash youth he used to toboggan down the peat paths of
Craig y Dinas, 'which,' says he, 'I now survey with horror.' A Welsh
bard, whose poems must have been neglected in the place, declares that
it was notable for three things - blue earth, constant rain, and hateful

* * * * *

=Dolgelly=, which ends in _-eu_ in many old books, in _-ey_ on the one
side and in _-y_ on the other of the modern railway station, and is
commonly pronounced by the residents as if it ended in _-a_, is said to
mean 'hazel dale,' a name which the place can hardly be said to live up
to. There is, however, no doubt that it is one of the prettiest places
in Wales and one of the pleasantest to stop at. In the first place the
communications are very good, for by the Great Western Railway there is
a capital service to Shrewsbury and London, while on the seaward side
the Cambrian Railway puts Barmouth and Portmadoc on the one side, and
Machynlleth and Aberystwith on the other, within easy reach. There is
good scenery on all sides of it, while for Cader Idris, the Aran
Mountains, and the Rhinog range there is no better centre. Many people
have an objection to going up and down a mountain by the same route, and
have an equal horror of the long grind round the foot of it, which is
the result of going down a different side of the mountain if you want
to return to your starting-point. At Dolgelly you enjoy the advantage of
being able to take a train to the far side of your mountain, so as to
come back over the top and straight on down to your sleeping-place. For
instance, a very fine way of doing Aran Benllyn and Aran Mawddwy is to
go by the Great Western to Llanuwchllyn and then come back along the
ridge of both mountains. In the same way one can begin a day on the
Rhinogs by rail, walking from Llanbedr or Harlech to Cwm Bychan, and so
over the Rhinogs and Llethr, and down to Dolgelly again. Even Cader
Idris is rendered more enjoyable if the train be taken to Towyn and
Abergynolwyn, whence the walk by Talyllyn and up to the summit by way of
Llyn y Cae is in turn pretty and impressive. As a rule it is far better
to go out by train and come back on foot than to reverse the process,
and for two reasons - first, by taking the train at once you make sure of
your ride, and have the remainder of the day freed from anxiety and the
fear of just missing the last train a dozen miles from home, with less
than an hour of daylight remaining; secondly, if you don't miss the
train it is because you have come along at racing pace. You are in
consequence very hot, and have to stand about in a draughty station till
the train (which is twenty minutes late) arrives and then follows half
an hour's journey with wet feet, for wet feet and walking on Welsh hills
are very close friends indeed.

There used to be a saying about Dolgelly that the town walls there are
six miles high. Of course this refers mainly to the long mural
precipice which forms the north point of Cader Idris. Abundant climbing
is to be found on this 'wall,' which, with a small part of Aran Mawddwy
and a few short, steep bits along the course of the river Mawddach,
constitutes the best rock-work in the immediate vicinity of Dolgelly.

* * * * *

=Ffestiniog=, a very pleasant place to stay at, with good communications
by rail with Bala, Bettws y Coed, and Portmadoc. There are climbs
near - e.g. on the Manods and on Moelwyn - but on a small scale, the good
ones being mostly destroyed by the colossal slate quarries.

_Blaenau Ffestiniog_ is the more central and less beautiful; the old
village (3 miles away) is far pleasanter. The Cynfael Falls, about a
mile off, include the well-known 'Hugh Lloyd's Pulpit,' and are very
pretty, but have been almost as fatal as those at Aber. Readers will
probably remember the death of Miss Marzials at this spot.[6]

[6] The _Times_, August 25, 1885, p. 6, and August 27, p. 8. See
also the _Times_, October 2, 1837, p. 3.

* * * * *

=Llanberis= (i.e. 'Church of Peris'), being a station on a railway which
has a good service from England, is the most accessible of all the
mountain resorts in Wales. As a consequence of these facilities the
place is often intolerably overrun, especially during the late summer
and autumn. The true lover of the mountains flees the spot, for the
day-tripper is a burden and desire fails. Whether the railway will have
the power to make things worse in this respect we cannot yet decide, but
it seems unlikely. It is only of late years that Llanberis has possessed
the most popular road up Snowdon. The opening of the road over the pass
in 1818 did a great deal, and the visit of H.M. the Queen in 1832 did
still more to make the place popular, and the pony path up Snowdon and
the railway settled the matter. The other mountains which may readily be
ascended from here are those in the Elider and Glyder ranges, while
climbing is nearly confined to the rocks on both sides of the pass,
which includes some work of great excellence.

As early as 1845 a separate guide-book for this place was published by
J. H. Bransby. Now there are several.

* * * * *

=Machynlleth= (pronounced roughly like 'Mahuntly,' and by the rustics
very like 'Monkley') lies midway between Plynlimon and Cader Idris, and
within reach of both, yet can hardly claim to be a centre for
mountaineers. Of submontane walks and scenery it commands a surprising
variety, having railway facilities in half a dozen directions. This
makes it a capital place for a long stay, varied by an occasional night
or two at places like Rhayader, Dolgelly, Barmouth, or Beddgelert. The
best way of doing Aran Mawddwy is by way of Dinas Mawddwy, and the
ascent of Cader Idris from Corris railway station, returning by way of
Abergynolwyn, makes a most enjoyable day.

* * * * *

=Nantlle=, once a very pretty place, is now little more than an
intricate system of slate quarries. A low pass (Drws y Coed) separates
it from Snowdon, of which Wilson took a celebrated picture from this
side. There are some nice little climbs on both sides of the pass and on
Garnedd Goch, which runs away to the southward of it.

Nantlle has a station, but Penygroes, the junction, is so near as to
make it a more convenient stopping-place. Anyone staying at Criccieth
can make a good day by taking the train to Nantlle, and returning along
Garnedd Goch or over Moel Hebog. Snowdon too is within easy reach.

* * * * *

=Penygwrhyd.= - In Beddgelert Church is a monument 'to the memory of
Harry Owen, for forty-four years landlord of the inn at Penygwrhyd and
guide to Snowdon: born April 2, 1822; died May 5, 1891.'

Harry Owen it was who did for Penygwrhyd what Will Ritson did for
Wastdale Head and Seiler for Zermatt. Intellectually, perhaps, he was
not the equal of either of the other two, but there was a
straightforward cordiality about him which made all lovers of the
mountains feel at once that in his house they had a home to which they
could return again and again with ever renewed pleasure.

The house stands at the foot of the east side of the Llanberis Pass, at
the junction of the roads from Capel Curig (4 miles), Beddgelert (8
miles), and Llanberis (6 miles), and at the central point of three
mountain groups - Snowdon (the finest and boldest side), the Glyders, and
Moel Siabod. The last is of small account, but the other two groups
contain some - one may almost say most - of the best climbing and finest
scenery in Wales. Most people come to the inn by way of Bettws y Coed
and many from Llanberis; but by far the finest approach is that from

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