Cym Idwal - a little piece of Welsh heaven
Updated: Apr 11, 2020
Usually I finish a hike and I am planning the next one pretty much as soon as I get home. This weekends walk however was a last minute affair. A busy working week meant that I hadn't had the time to sit down and plan one properly, but I wanted to get my boots on and get some fresh air. Friday evening I finally got the opportunity to sit down and find somewhere new to explore.
I fancied visiting somewhere fairly accessible, and I wanted a slow paced short walk that included a few great spots for some photography. This suited my girlfriend Emma who joined me for this one as she was not feeling 100% but wanted to get out with me with our dog Phoebe as well.
I felt we should venture into Wales as I want to explore here much more and this was a perfect opportunity. After looking online and finding some incredible hiking routes in the area (which are now already on my list of hikes to do!), I settled on Cym Idwal as it appeared to tick all the boxes - picturesque, a short circular walk and plenty of great opportunities for getting the camera out of my bag.
Cym Idwal lies within the Glyderau mountains of Northern Snowdonia, and its rocky formations have created a rugged and craggy edged bowl that surrounds the serene lake that is Llyn Idwal. There was previously a huge glacier here which is evident as you look towards it and it really is a jaw dropping sight - one that will really come into its own in the depths of winter with some snow and some dark moody clouds. I will return.
It's ice age formations are clearly visible and it is mightily impressive. As you walk its routes, "Devils Kitchen" (Twll Du in Welsh) comes into view. It is said that it got its name because when there was a lot of cloud on the mountains it looked like a chimney and as it looks so ominous it looked like the Devil was cooking.
As it was a shorter walk (3 miles), we arrived at the car park and the visitor centre next to Ogwen Cottage at around 11:30am. There are toilets and a small cafe at the visitor centre so this is handy.
The car park is quite small, and at the time of our visit was £5 for all day parking so bring change. During peak season you may struggle to find a space in this car park but there is another small car park a little further down the A5 and there are other lay-bys to park in as you approach the visitor centre.
When we finally parked up we chuckled as we were greeted by Scooby Doo's van "the mystery machine". Unfortunately though, Scooby and Shaggy were nowhere to be seen!
The walk starts from the left of the visitor centre where you will see a clearly defined boulder path. Within a short distance you see a sign with an arrow directing you left towards Cym Idwal and further up towards the boulder path which is where we headed.
We followed the sign and the boulder path which led us up to a small metal gate. Once through the gate you then cross a wooden bridge where the land opens up and Tryfan comes into view - absolutely spectacular. Within minutes of the car park you suddenly feel like you are in the middle of nowhere.
This was the first spot where I decided to get my camera out. The clouds over the magnificent beast that is Tryfan in the distance, and the rugged landscape around us looked incredible.
If that was not enough to feast our eyes on, we were also treated to a stunning waterfall which the bridge takes you past. This was thundering with water and the huge boulders, fast flowing water, and the cloudy rock formations in the background were too good to pass without capturing it first.
This time the tripod also made an appearance for some longer exposures. It was quite busy and so this was tricky with the bridge being narrow and plenty of walkers passing to and from Cym Idwal. This would therefore be far more ideal to photograph early morning or late evening but I was patient and got my shots in the end. Emma waited kindly for me to get the shots I wanted which was appreciated.
We continued past the waterfall, over the bridge and past the National Trust sign that tells you that you are now in the Glyderau range.
- This was not before I took the opportunity for a photo of me next to the waterfall.
After a quick photo by the waterfall, we followed the clearly defined path with Tryfan ahead of us in the distance. We then took the path right towards Cym Idwal and Llyn Idwal and away from Tryfan. A short walk then brought us into view of the rock formations and the lake where the easy circular aspect of the walk begun. We stopped and took in the views and continued to walk enjoying our surroundings as I stopped every now and again to take photographs before heading back to the car once the walk was complete.
The views on this walk are amazing and it is unbelievably accessible - I couldn't believe how close from the car park this was and how quickly you were there. This however came with a small pitfall as it was very busy with walkers. This is to be expected due to the combination of its accessibility and how beautiful it is, but the sense of being in the middle of nowhere that the view gives you is contradicted by the amount of human traffic in peak season. Although stunning and definitely worth the visit, it felt quite "touristy" (if that is a word!). This is not really a problem at all and the walk was still very enjoyable - I just prefer quieter more remote hikes where I feel like I am the only one there. I will therefore keep this one in the bag for winter or use it as an access point to longer hikes out into the ranges. Personal preference I guess!
All in all it was a great short walk that provided a good stretch of the legs in a beautiful location with several opportunities for amazing landscape photography. This is especially so given that Tryfan, Pen Yr Ole Wen, and Y Garn mountains surround you. This also means that it is a fantastic access point for climbing these which I plan to do and now have on my "list".
If you get the chance to do this short circular walk then I thoroughly recommend it. It is accessible for people of all abilities, but as you would on any outdoor hike/walk, suitable footwear and outdoor clothing is recommended. The other routes and longer hikes up into the ranges require more planning, experience and skill so plenty of preparation and research beforehand is needed before attempting these.
I will be returning in winter for more landscape photos when there is hopefully some snow as it will look epic!
Location: Cym Idwal/Llyn Idwal - North Wales
Car Park: LL57 3LZ
Date visited: September 1st 2018
All photographs copyright of Mathew Kendall 2018.