Cwm Idwal and Llyn Ogwen

Hello humans and pooches. Joe the Cocker back again reporting on another day hiking with my human dad or ‘hudad’. Today we were going to one of our favourite areas. We were off to Snowdonia to hike a couple of our best loved low-level walks in North Wales. The weather forecast was in our favour. It was to be chilly, breezy and dry. That is until late evening so, we shouldn’t be affected by the change in the conditions, when rain was due in the area. It’s almost a two hour drive to Ogwen Cottage at the top of the Nant Ffrancon pass so, off we went at 0930, just after the busy times on the roads around where we live. Usually, my dad would listen to the radio when we were travelling while I snoozed in my bed on the back seat of the car but, today he started his singing early. Once he has a tune in his head it stays with us all day. ‘One in Ten’ by UB40 was our laugh a minute song. As usual his recall of the lyrics was limited but, he still managed to annoy me by humming, whistling and singing it all day.

We arrived at our parking spot in the layby next to Llyn Ogwen a few hundred yards before Ogwen Cottage which was built in 1815 as a toll house for travellers along the Nant Ffrancon Pass. It has been a mountain training school, an outdoor activity centre, a mountain rescue centre and is now used by the Outward Bound Trust and as a Ranger Base owned by the National Trust. There are toilet facilities and a takeaway food outlet, well a hatch in the wall. The car park is pay and display but people tend to park on the roadside and in the nearby layby’s for free. This is what we did because we would be starting our walk heading in the opposite direction along the A5 from Ogwen Cottage. Well, that was what my dad said. I think that we parked there because he is tight fisted!

The parking spot sits at the bottom of Tryfan with Pen yr Olwen opposite on the northern side of Llyn Ogwen. So, we were parked in the valley between the Glyderau and the Carneddau. One of the most beautiful parts of the Snowdonia National Park, in my dad’s opinion. For me it’s a magical playground involving lots of rocks, streams and freedom. The walk would take us around Llyn Ogwen, up to and around Cwm Idwal and back to the car. The Llyn Ogwen section would be reasonably flat with the Cwm Idwal section being more of a climb but still a relatively easy hike. The imposing mountains either side of the road were covered in a light dusting of fresh snow and were majestic in the dazzling sunlight. They were very tempting but for another day. Today was to be a low route with dramatic views.

We headed along the roadside path in the direction of Capel Curig until just after the end of the lake where we came to a farmhouse, Glan Dena, on the opposite side of the road. After passing through the farm along a farm track we climbed a couple of stiles and walked over a footbridge then followed the waymarked path uphill and along the northern side of the lake. Legend says that Excalibur, the sword owned by King Arthur, lies undiscovered in Llyn Ogwen. My dad told me to ‘fetch’ but I thought that I would give that a miss on this occasion. From this point we were gifted by awe inspiring views of the Glyders and Tryfan on our left. He said that when the summer arrives we will be climbing them. The path followed the bank of the lake for a while until we came to some large boulders close to the weir at the end of the lake. We clambered over these rocks and soon came to the point where the path meets the main road. We turned left and walked the short distance to Ogwen Cottage where my dad appeared to be disappointed as he discovered that the food hatch was closed. No hot cup of coffee or a piece of carrot cake for him today.

The second part of our hike was to be around Cwm Idwal. From the left of the Snowdonia National Park Visitor Centre the path starts using stone steps and soon reaches a footbridge over the Afon Idwal. This is a popular photo opportunity of the raging waterfall under the oak bridge. Last time that we were here I knocked my dad’s phone out of his grip and it fell, balancing and teetering over the edge of the bridge and he almost lost it. This time I know that he was gripping it tightly as he took his usual photo’s. This time I didn’t have to pose for his snaps, thankfully. We followed the stony path uphill towards the cwm. Where the path forked we took the right hand route with Y Garn towering in front of us. Tryfan looked daunting to our left and my dad said that I wasn’t allowed on that mountain. I think that this is because I have not been on a scrambling course like he has. A bit selfish I think. So, onwards and slightly upwards to the lake, Llyn Idwal. The huge bowl which was carved out of the rocks by a glacier in the last ice age now contains the clear waters of Llyn Idwal.

The clockwise direction of the path around the lake was our choice for the day. We passed the Darwin Idwal Boulders on our left before following the bank of the lake. The tiny island just off the edge of the lake looked tempting for me to paddle to but my dad kept me on a lead. The path soon splits and the right hand route follows the edge of the lake and is an easy lowland walk. We took the upper path to the left which led past the Idwal Slabs, a popular rock climbing area used in the early 1950’s by Sir Edmund Hillary and the team in training to climb Mount Everest. This was my kind of hiking. My dad says that I must be part mountain goat as I jump from boulder to boulder. It was steep with rocks placed to form stairs towards the head of the cwm. My dad told me about a stream crossing that was a scary obstacle when it had been raining heavily. He seemed disappointed when we found that it had a slate bridge built across it. I suppose that it is now more accessible but not as exciting as it once was.

The path climbed until it joined the descent from Twll Du (Black Hole) or the Devil’s Kitchen and drops to the lake. This was time for my dad to take photographs over Llyn Idwal and towards Pen yr Olwen. I was on my lead at first but, as we descended my dad let me run free because he was obviously worried that I would pull him over. I loved it as he was struggling to reverse scramble down a couple of sections and I had time to explore the rocks and the heather. The rocks were mainly dry and he managed to descend quite quickly. As the path levelled out we followed the sometimes muddy route above the lake gently dropping to a small pebble beach at the north western end of the lake. I took the opportunity to sprint into the water and to have a splash in the shallow icy waves. This is usually a place where we would stop for a break but the wind was blowing and bitterly cold. So, we plodded onwards.

The path back downhill to Ogwen Cottage was joined just over a small footbridge that crossed the outlet from the lake. On the way down the valley we passed a few Carneddau ponies grazing in the distance but too distant for a photograph. We were soon back at Ogwen Cottage and walked the short distance back to the car along the pavement below Tryfan’s north ridge. It had been a really varied walk but, as my dad said, the day wasn’t over. We were going to take our lunch break in the car while we drove to our next destination. To be continued…….


3 thoughts on “Cwm Idwal and Llyn Ogwen

  1. Wow, how far in total did you walk, climb, scramble? You two are super fit. I so love your adventures. Snowdonia is so beautiful, it’s so close on our doorstep. Have stayed a few times in different self catering accommodation. Karen

    Liked by 1 person

    1. It wasn’t too far compared with our usual hikes. We have been doing some lower and shorter hikes since we did the West Highland way in October. It was about a 6 mile walk with only a few times my dad used his hands. Fun though 🐾🐾👍


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