Cwm Idwal Walk, a lakeside walk from Ogwen Cottage in Nant Ffrancon
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Where is it ? The walk starts at the car park at Ogwen Cottage, located next to the A5 between Bethesda and Capel Curig in Snowdonia North Wales.
How long will it take ? Allow 2 hours. Approximate length of walk: 2.5 miles, 4km.
What's the attraction ? It is an easy walk that enables the beginner to get a taste of the wild places but at little or no risk. Nice views of mountains including Pen yr Ole Wen, Tryfan, Ogwen Pass and Nant Ffrancon.
Rating : Easy. The path ascends to Llyn Idwal from where it is fairly level ground until the descent.. There are some tricky stone steps along the way.
Essentials : Walking boots and appropriate wet weather clothes required. As long as you stick to the lakeside path you can't get lost.

DIRECTIONS > [ Map of Cwm Idwal Walk location Map opens in a new window

From the North exit the A55 at Junction 11 head south through Bethesda to Pont Pen y Benglog (Ogwen Cottage). Car Park side of road.
From South (Betws-y-Coed) follow the A5 North West through Capel Curig to Pont Pen y Benglog (Ogwen Cottage). Car Park side of road.

Lets Go! - The Cwm Idwal Walk
The only equipment needed for most of the walks on the www.walesdirectory.co.uk are a pair of half decent walking boots or indeed in many cases a pair of trainers. Sandwiches would be optional and compasses superfluous! The same could be said for the Cwm Idwal walk and I would have said that there was no danger of calling out the Mountain Rescue Services on this short walk. However although I set out with three completely inexperienced walkers on this trip I have to say we were all taught a valuable lesson about the dangers involved in walking the hills and mountains of North Wales.

Read on..
Cwm Idwal

The trail starts from the car park next to Ogwen Cottage and we took the path that leads uphill from behind the Kiosk and Information Centre. It was an ordinary day nothing exceptional, a bit grey but no rain forecast and as it was such a short walk we were not overburdened with wet weather clothing. After a few minutes Tryfan came into view and with the rise in elevation the landscape became more bleak and the vegetation decreased.. a typical moorland setting. As we climbed higher up the path we broke the brow of the hill and that's when we first felt the strength of the wind coming off the mountains. Indeed after a few hundred yards Irene, the smallest of our party, was nearly blown off her feet. Jim, Irene's husband, put some heavy stones in her pockets and a boulder in her knapsack which solved the problem, ..well, that was Jim's suggestion! My own take on it was that we would be OK to carry on as the further we walked the more shelter we would receive from the towering cliffs of the Cwm itself. And most importantly we had no intention of gaining any height and being close to any cliff edges.

Looking toward Ogwen Valley from Cwm Idwal
We continued on our way and on reaching the lake we chose the left hand route that took us to the east-side of the lake. To our left was the massive rock face popular with rock climbers and known as the Idwal Slabs. Ahead the infamous Devil's Kitchen (Black Hole or Twll Du in Welsh). A trail snaked up the mountain towards the Devil's Kitchen but that would be for another day, as although we had found more shelter the clouds above the cwm were still moving at an ominous rate. Fortunately they were also dispersing and the sun broke through making for a much more enjoyable walk.

Across the lake a crocodile appeared. Well a crocodile of students appeared high on the hill below the Devil's Kitchen as if from nowhere. We had been looking up at the empty mountain and were amazed to suddenly see a group of walkers seemingly come out of a hole in the ground, a secret cave, the black hole maybe. But then another crocodile appeared and we were still no wiser as from where they had come. Legend has it that Llyn Idwal is an enchanted lake but this was ridiculous. On reflection I realised that the cwm was bigger than we thought and the hillside that appeared quite close was in fact a considerable distance away and thus we could not see the fold in the landscape that was hiding the walkers...an optical illusion.

Pen yr Ole Wen and Llyn Idwal from Cwm Idwal
We continued along the trail passing the lower slopes of Glyder Fawr and the Idwal Slabs, we passed the group of students but decided on an easier route than that which they had taken. This involved a sharp right at the head of the lake cutting across closer to the water's edge, rejoining the path at the far side of the lake but having cut out the steep section and the tricky steps.

 

[IMPORTANT NOTE: IT HAS COME TO MY ATTENTION THAT AFTER HEAVY RAIN THE DETOUR AT THE HEAD OF THE LAKE MAY NOT BE AVAILABLE AS THERE IS NO BRIDGE TO FORD A RIVER. I WOULD SUGGEST INEXPERIENCED HILL WALKERS RETRACE THEIR STEPS FROM THIS POINT.]

The fine views of Pen yr Ole Wen, Glyder Fawr, the Ogwen Valley and Tryfan can be best appreciated on the return journey via the west bank of the lake. Reaching the north end of the lake we soon crossed the Afon Idwal as it tumbles down to Nant Ffrancon and we retraced our steps back to Ogwen Cottage.

The walk finishes all too soon but you could extend the fun by seeking out the "Devil's Hoof print", a realistic impression set into the paving stones on the footpath.

There was a sad post script to this walk as on arriving home we were shocked to hear on the news that a woman from Llanfairfechan, an experienced hill walker, had died in a 700ft fall in Cwm Idwal.

[September 2009] Chris Lloyd, from the Ogwen Valley Mountain Rescue Team said: “We understand she was coming down from the summit of Glyder Fawr and she may have become disorientated in the cloud because she should not have been where she was. The strong winds may then have knocked her off her feet and led to this tragedy. Two young climbers (on the Idwal Slabs) saw the body fall. They raised the alarm and were left very shaken by this."

We understand that the accident happened within an hour or so of our walk in the cwm. In describing the accident it is not my intention to frighten anyone or to put anyone off from enjoying the pleasures of walking in the wild places. On the contrary I believe the more of us who venture into the countryside the more will appreciate it and protect it, but nor do I feel I should hide the dangers.

Although the unfortunate young lady was on a completely different trail than I have described it is still worth bearing in mind the vagaries of the weather when planning a walk in the hills.


Buy the Ordnance Survey Map:
Outdoor Leisure OL17 (1:25,000) or the Landranger Sheet 115 (1:50,000)

------------------CLICK TO ENLARGE THE PICTURES---------------------

Ogwen cottage with Tryfan as backdrop
The path to Cwm Idwal
1.Ogwen cottage on the A5 with Tryfan as backdrop 2.We take the stone path that leads to Cwm Idwal
Cwm Idwal comes into view.
Looking north to the Nant Ffrancon Valley
3.Cwm Idwal comes into view. 4.Looking north to the Nant Ffrancon Valley
Llyn Idwal
Devil's Kitchen or Twll Du, the Black Hole
5.The path leads alongside Llyn Idwal 6.Devil's Kitchen or Twll Du, the Black Hole
Pen yr Ole Wen from Cwm Idwal
Looking across the lake to Devil's Kitchen and the lower slopes of Glyder Fawr
7.View of Pen yr Ole Wen from Cwm Idwal 8.Looking across the lake to Devil's Kitchen and the lower slopes of Glyder Fawr
Looking toward the Ogwen Valley from the Cwm
Looking across the lake toward Glyder Fawr
9.Looking toward the Ogwen Valley from the Cwm 10.View across the lake toward the mountain Glyder Fawr
Pen yr Ole Wen
Tryfan
11.Pen yr Ole Wen 12.Tryfan
Afon Idwal River
Descending the pathway to Ogwen
13.Afon Idwal River 14.Descending the pathway to Ogwen
Nant Ffrancon Pass
The Devil's hoofprint ?
15.Looking toward the Nant Ffrancon Pass 16.The Devil's hoofprint / footprint in the stone ?
Afon Ogwen
Waterfall close to Ogwen cottage
17.Back down to the Afon Ogwen River 18.Waterfall close to Ogwen cottage
Llyn Ogwen Lake
Cwm Idwal National Nature Reserve
19.View over Llyn Ogwen Lake toward Creigiau Gleision 20.Graphic representation of Cwm Idwal National Nature Reserve
All pictures Copyright © 2009 Bernard Wellings
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