Cadair Idris may not be the tallest mountain in the area, though it is often falsely thought to be, it is certainly the most popular mountain in Southern Snowdonia.
This route finds a quiet ascent from Dolgellau, ideally suited to a 2 day trip, before returning along the pleasant and easy Penmaenpool to Mawddach walk.
This article was originally produced on Mud & Routes – August 2011
Content & Images are copyright of Mud & Routes
The Route The walk starts in the Square in Dolgellau (from wherever you arrive!) and you need to walk in an Easterly direction, out of the town centre. You will pass a fire station on the left, and cross over a river before you arrive at a road junction indicating “Tabor”. Follow this road, ignoring the first junction to the left and keep right. To the left is a forest with a river flowing through it.
Continue up the hill, and you will need to turn to the left past a phone to stay on the right track, which eventually takes you up to the track. Follow the right of way ahead, and take the clear path initially across fields, and then follow towards the skyline in the second field.
The path here is clear, but will lead you over the ridge and down into thenext valley. There is an obvious path leading right across the moorland, crossing some boggy sections. Follow this as far as the stile at SH 745 152, where you shouldnow follow the wall up. There is a faintpath along the path, but this often disappears. You may find you need to walk away from the wall to avoid obstacles too. The summit tothe right that dominates the skyline is Mynydd Moel, and Pen y Gadair (the name for Cadair Idris’ summit) is visible to the right.
By the top of Gau Graig, the path is much more obvious, and you can cross to this summit by a stile that lies past the summit to your left. The path now carries onalong the broad and boggy ridge towards Mynydd Moel. Some bits have boards to help crossing, and you defintely need them! The path follows the fence to the right, but there is also a path to the opposite side. By the time you reach the end of the plateau, you will need to be on the right (north) side of the fence.
Follow the path over a wide, grassy ridge, before the slope steepens and the path becomes scree and difficult going. It is only a short difficult section, before it levels out and you are on top of Mynydd Moel. The summit feels quite airy as you are close to the sheer northern cliffs, and there is a platform stretching out into the void that brave or foolhardy summiteers can wander over.
Pen y Gadair is now easily reached across the wide plateau area. There is a trig point on top, and there are steps for the milder walker to reach this on the right as you approach. Failing that, clamber over. Views from here are extensive, with Snowdon and the Mid Wales hills being visible. To the north, you can see the summit shelter. This is an insalubrious stone building, rather damp inside, but i’d imagine a godsend in an emergency. Just past this you can peer over the cliffs to Llyn y Gader below, or across to the serated arete of Cyfrwy. Tonight we were to camp by this lake, and it turned out to be an excellent wild camp location. Continue now past the shelter, and past an other ruined building (you can see a fireplace), and keep initially to the right to take the Pony Path down. It is a rocky and eroded. but easy, path.
Follow the cairns, and you can ascend the peak of Cyfrwy if you want. We didn’t and wanted to get down to our wild camp as soon as possible. The path leads quickly to the col, where you cross a stile to the right to start the descent. If you wish to wild camp, then continue right off the path, finding a faint path that leads to Llyn y Gadair. There are only a few suitable pitches here, but it is surely one of the most impressive amphitheatres to spend the night.
Follow the pony path now, which is initially steep, but eases to become an easy descent to the car park and toilets at SH 697 152. If you want to shorten the walk, then follow the minor road to the East, and it returns you to Dolgellau in less than an hour. To extend the day, follow the bridleway that starts behind the toilets. Keep an eye out for the blue arrows that indicate the bridleway, or stones painted with “Path”. The bridleway takes you past the farm of Tyddyn Evan, and through some enjoyable partly-wooded countryside.Our target today was the Youth Hostel at Kings.
You will, if you follow the signs, pass a ruined cottage, cross a stream, past a sign that points down to Kings. Follow the track down to Kings, and then the minor road as far as the main road. The road follows the river, and you will be follwing this to the sea now. Once at the main road, turn left, and directly across the road there is a narrow road leading along the river. Follow this past some redwoods, and to the wall before the caravan site.
Turn left, and you find yourself on a wide track along the river. The navigation should be easy now. This takes you through some wetlands and to the estuary, where you find the Penmaenpool to Mawddach walk. It’s the route of an old railway, and takes you directly to the centre of Dolgellau. Make sure you stop in the George III for a pint on the way though!