#87 – Cwm Idwal … The morning after!!

The view over Llyn Idwal towards the cliffs of Twll Du (The Devil’s Kitchen)

The A5 London to Holyhead road is one of Britain’s busiest arterial highways.  Starting near Marble Arch in London, it follows what was once a vital transport link from the capital to Holyhead and the sea crossing to Dublin.  The section that passes through Snowdonia must rank as one of the most scenic road routes in the UK.  Less well known to many is a haven of tranquillity that is less than one kilometre from the road.

In Cwm Idwal – Looking northeast to Pen yr Ole Wen

Clogwyn y Geifr – “Cliff of the Goats”

Cwm Idwal is a hanging valley, which is just about the most boring thing that could be said about one of the most beautiful places in Wales.  The cwm has a dark history, as the place where it is said that Prince Idwal, son of Owain of Gwynedd, was murdered, drowned in the Llyn (lake) that now bears his name.  It is said that because of the foul deed, no bird will fly over the lake.

Walkers below Clogwyn y Geifr with Twll Du (The Devil’s Kitchen) behind

The cwm is a Site of Special Scientific Interest (SSSI), and was designated as the first nature Reserve in Wales in 1954. The geology, flora and fauna have attracted naturalists for decades, including the nineteenth century naturalist, Charles Darwin.  This the most southerly place in Britain where you may find arctic plants such as Moss Campion and alpine saxifrages. It is also a home of the Snowdon Lily, and the even rarer Snowdonia hawkweed, which grows only in Cwm Idwal.

The nearby peak of Tryfan, seen from Cwm Idwal

I had picked Cwm Idwal as the second walking day for Clare and Sarah.  A walk up the highest peak in Wales (Yr Wyddfa AKA Snowdon) is a tall order if you have never set foot on a mountain before, yet that’s exactly what they had done the previous day.  They had booked a couple of days walking in the hills of Snowdonia in preparation for their Everest base-camp trek in October, and after Day 1 had discovered aches in places that they didn’t even know they had places!

Looking towards Idwal Slabs

The same view in winter

Our view of Idwal Slabs on a drizzly, misty day!

After a hard physical day, it’s a good idea to do some form of low-intensity exercise, otherwise known as ‘Active Recovery’.  This has physical and psychological benefits and is used by athletes in many different sports, and a steady walk round Cwm Idwal to the rock climbers crag of Idwal Slabs was just what the doctor ordered.  Fortunately for us, ‘Active Recovery’ also works when it’s raining!

On the way to Cwm Idwal on a drizzly, misty day

The path rising to Idwal Slabs

Idwal Slabs on a dry day

Our view of the Slabs

Rock climbers on Idwal Slabs

Close up view

Looking back down the Idwal Slabs approach path

I had promised Clare and Sarah some fantastic views, and even in the drizzly, misty weather there was some spectacular scenery.  We took the direct path to Idwal Slabs, where a couple of rock climbers were taking advantage of a quiet day on what can be a very busy climbing crag.  We followed that up by completing a circuit of the lake before heading back down to the road at Ogwen.

Continuing round the lake with Idwal Slabs behind us

The same view in winter

On the return path above Llyn Idwal ….

…. and a damp return to Ogwen

Cwm Idwal is a great place to be, sunny or wet, hot or cold.  In the circumstances it had been an ideal choice, and we all enjoyed a gentle walk in great scenery – even Border Collie ‘Mist’ had a grin at the end of the walk.

“Come back when the weather’s better!” – the author enjoying a winter day in Cwm Idwal

Text and images © Paul Shorrock

About Paul Shorrock

I've been mucking about in the mountains for longer than I care to mention. I started out by walking my local hills, then went on to rock climbing, mountaineering and skiing. Still doing it, and still getting a buzz. I'm now sharing the fun, through my guided walking business (Hillcraft Guided Walking) and by writing routes for other publishers, mainly Walking World and Discovery Walking Guides. Just to make sure I keep really busy, I am also currently a member of my local mountain rescue team.
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12 Responses to #87 – Cwm Idwal … The morning after!!

  1. Excellent article and the photos are superb, especially the winter ones… I really must get up the mountains next time I am in North Wales (I usually have some small grandchildren with me – difficult to shake off and too young to walk far)…

  2. Thanks for that SP. The walk up to Cwm Idwal might be short enough for little legs, and lots of families head for the gravel beach across the footbridge as you reach Llyn Idwal – a pleasant place for a family picnic 🙂

    • My abiding memory of Cwm Idwal from about 15 years ago, is being so totally humiliated and embarassed as the previous Boxer – Cleo – decided to chase a load of sheep around the shoreline and not come back until everyone in the area had seen…….

  3. Connie says:

    Beautiful spot Paul very enticing. I love the way the Welsh landscape echoes with the voices of past heroes!

  4. Pete Buckley says:

    Another great post Paul. Idwal is one of those special places I think.

  5. Mark Kelly says:

    Another part of the world I haven’t been to!
    Really nice contrast with the Winter photos Paul. Hope your two guys have a great trip to Everest!

  6. Pingback: #156 – Y Garn and Foel Goch in the Glyderau | Paul Shorrock – One Man's Mountains AKA One Pillock's Hillocks

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