The Peaks of Yr Eifl

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Travelling onto the Llyn Peninsula is visiting another country in every sense. The commercial bustle of the North Wales coast and the crowded Snowdonia National Park are left behind and you enter a much quieter realm. It's also very Welsh – you will hear the language spoken everywhere, in the shops, the pubs and outside the schools. This isn't an affectation; Welsh language and culture are very much alive here, making a visit a magical experience.

The three peaks of Yr Eifl dominate the north coast of Llyn; in fact Garn Ganol, the centre peak, is the highest point in Llyn at 564 metres (1,850ft). Not very high, you might think, but these quiet hills can provide more challenging walking than you might imagine. The name Yr Eifl comes from the Welsh word for fork and travelling on the A499 from Caernarfon towards Pwllheli, the three prongs of Yr Eifl are obvious and well-named.

These hills are interesting in more than just a visual sense. The north peak, Garn Fôr, has been extensively quarried, producing granite for the curling stones used at the 2006 Winter Olympics. Its north cliff plunges straight down into the Irish Sea. The middle peak of Garn Ganol is not only the highest peak in Llyn, it also has an ancient cairn on the summit and dramatic views down to Tre'r Ceiri and beyond. The third peak, Tre'r Ceiri, has one of the best examples of a prehistoric hill-fort in Europe.

Historical connections go back centuries. The walk starts from the car park at the top of Nant Gwrtheyrn, named after the British chieftain Vortigern who lived and died in the valley, Gwrtheyrn being the Welsh version of his name. The once thriving quarry village at the bottom of the valley was abandoned for economic reasons, but now has a new lease of life as the home of the National Language Centre of Wales. The fort of Tre'r Ceiri was almost certainly in use before and during the Roman occupation and the cairn at the highest point is even older, possibly Bronze Age.

This is a short walk by some standards, up a hill of modest height, but you will need more time than you might imagine. Garn Ganol has magnificent views stretching from Pembroke to the Wicklow Mountains of Ireland and to the Isle of Man and in season there are bilberries to search for. The hill-fort of Tre'r Ceiri could equally delay you, so allow plenty of time for exploration. Add a visit to the National Language Centre and a simple half-day walk has suddenly become a full day.

As you walk, try saying the name Yr Eifl as the locals would – it sounds something like “Ur Eye-vl”. You should definitely avoid the clumsy anglicised version, 'The Rivals', which has no place in these very Welsh hills - and that's from an Englishman (or Sais if you prefer)!

Wales - North Wales - Gwynedd - Llyn Peninsula

Features

Ancient Monument, Birds, Great Views, Hills or Fells, Industrial Archaeology, Pub, Public Transport, Restaurant, Sea, Toilets
01/05/2011 - Richard Hardy

Fantastic walk, we took our collie and there were no problems (though it's sheep country so normal precautions apply). We left him at the bottom of the first summit which we scrambled up, though by using the repeater station steps and a fairly well consolidated path which exists at the rear of the station the summit could have been reached easily.

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