Cadair Idris

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Cadair Idris dominates the southern part of Snowdonia near Dolgellau. It’s a magestic mountain, 2,930 ft high, and climbing it was our main motivation for our short break at Dolfannog Fawr. The weather forecast was good so on the Thursday morning we set off to climb the mountain via the Minffordd path, the beginning of which was about a mile down the road from our B&B.

Cadair Idris means ‘Idris’s chair’ which is a good description as it’s comprised of a series of peaks surrounding a glacial lake Llyn Cau. Nobody really knows who Idris was. Some say he was a legendary giant and so the mountain was literally a chair. Another view is that it refers to a 7th-century prince of Meirionnydd who won a battle against the Irish on the mountain and that “cadair”  should be interpreted as “stronghold” or “fortress”.

We decided to follow the MInffordd path up to the highest peak, Penygadair via Craig Cwm Amarch and Craig Cau and then to walk along the ridge to Mynydd Moel before descending to complete a circular route.


The path down from Mynydd Moel isn’t marked on the OS map for some reason which is strange as it’s a very popular route up and down and described in most walking guides to the mountain.

The start of the climb is via a steep wooded valley alongside a river which tumbles down from Llyn Cau via a series of waterfalls. DSC09394

This meant ascending a very log flight of steps – reputably 700 (although we didn’t try counting them!)


Eventually the path levelled off somewhat and the slopes of Mynydd Moel came into view


Continuing onwards we could now see the dramatic rock face of Craig Cau


and after climbing a little higher a view of Llyn Cau opened up below us


with Penygadair looming above it

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Gaining more height, we could see the summits of the Tarren hills which we’d climbed the day before.

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and then Talyllyn Lake


and our B&B way down below us. We’d come quite a long way up but still had quite a bit of climbing ahead of us

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and looking the other way there was Penygadair

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We carried on up the steep slope to the summit of Craig Cau. It felt like we should have been at the summit, but we now had to lose some of the height we’d gained before making our final assault on the main peak of Penygadair.


and just as we reached the bottom of the col (or hawse, as these are referred to in the Lake District) before making our ascent, the cloud blew in. This definitely wasn’t forecast!!!


so when we reached the summit this what we could see.


The cloud was patchy so we managed to get some momentary views of the dramatic scenery below us




We carried on along the grassy ridge. It was relatively flat and quite firm underfoot so made for easier walking than the initial ascent and the cloud was beginning to disperse


We could clearly see the summit of Mynydd Moel ahead of us


Cloud was still rolling in and out, but we could see down towards Dolgellau

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and make out the dramatic rocky cliffs on the north side of the ridge

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The path now was hard to make out, but we took our bearing and after a while a faint path became more distinct. Great views now opened up of the glacial bowl, the Talyllyn valley and the Tarren hills.



After a while the path started to descend very steeply. It was heavily eroded, rock strewn and in bad condition underfoot, making for a slow, tricky descent. This was the least peasant part of the walk


Further down it was in better condition, with stone steps and flags laid down.

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Eventually, after crossing a slate bridge over the river, we were back on the path we’d ascended during the morning with just (!) the 700 steps to walk down to take us back to the road.


Another 20minutes and we were back at our Dolfannog Fawr. A quick shower and a change of clothes and I was able to relax in the garden on a pleasantly warm afternoon, enjoying the view of the mountain we’d just “conquered”.



9 thoughts on “Cadair Idris

    • We weren’t too disappointed by the cloud. It did mean we didn’t get a view from the summit but it wasn’t so bad to impede navigation and it was quite atmospheric (in mood as well as literally!). And we got plenty of good views going up and down. This was unlike when I went up Great Gable as a teenager (a long time ago) and the Brecon Beacons some years ago, when it was foggy all the way up and down and I didn’t see a thing !

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