If you ask most people about a mountain they want to walk in Wales, they will say Snowdon, or Yr Wyddfa as it is officially known. It’s the highest (1,085m), and it’s got a cafe on top and a railway to take you up and down. If you don’t fancy the walk! However, because it’s so popular, most days in summer more people will be walking up it than on your high street! So why not try Cadair Idris (893m)? In the south of Snowdonia, it has a similar beautiful horseshoe shape so can be walked in a circular loop. It has stunning views and no railway or cafe so there won’t be quite as many people following you up.
Cadair Idris means Giant’s Chair and legend has that the giant used the mountain as an armchair from which he sits to watch the stars. You can see from the shape of the mountain where the legend came from, however, the giant would clearly get a wet bum from the lake at the bottom!
When did you go
We walked Cadair in late January, so you won’t be surprised to hear it was cold, wet, and windy! If you’re not an experienced walker, I would leave this mountain until later in the year. You’ll have much better views and will have a much more pleasant (dryer) experience!
Description of trip
The gentler route approaches the mountain from the north starting from Ty-nant and follows the Pony Path onto the ridge looking down onto the lakes of Llyn y Gadair and Llyn Cau on either side. There is a little hut at the top to shelter from the weather, however, it’s cold and damp inside, so is best enjoyed if it’s blowing a hooley on the top.
For the more adventurous, you can climb the mountain from the south side up the Minffordd path. There is a pay and display car park in Minffordd at the foot of the path, however, the climb is steep almost from leaving the car park. There is a well-made path with stone steps all the way up to the lake, then it becomes more of a gentle scramble along the ridge until you reach the top.
How to get there
We drove over to Wales on a busy Friday evening, so the traffic along the M1 & M6 was a little slow. Thankfully by the time we had reached the M54 and A5, most people had made their way home. So we bumbled along at a steady 60/70mph until we reached the A458 to Mallwyd. We then took the A470 to Dolgellau and the road started to get twisty, the mountains started to increase in height and the views were stunning.
Places to stay on the way
There are several campsites on either side of Cadair Idris in Snowdonia, however, they are a little basic. This is great for the summer, but a little cold for our January excursion! We chose to stay at Tan-Y-Fron campsite in Dolgellau, which is the closest town to the mountain. You could drive a little further towards the coast along the A496 to Barmouth. There are campsites just outside the town and the long sandy beach is the perfect place to take a stroll along the Welsh coastline with rolling cliffs as far as the eye can see.
The Penmaenpool bridge over the river is a lovely little wooden bridge and charges a toll of £1/campervans! Just be careful not to get the man in the booth talking, or you will be there for some time!
Where we stayed
The facilities at Tan-Y-Fron Campsite in Dolgellau are a little too structured for my taste, however, there are nice views of the hills, hard standing to park on, electric hook-ups, and clean showers in a heated toilet block, which was just what we needed after a wet day in the hills!
Recommendation of what to see/do when you are there
The walk into town only takes 5 minutes. Dolgellau has several lovely pubs and a couple of nice restaurants. But probably worth booking ahead if you want to be guaranteed a place to eat!