Cadair Idris is Wales’ second most popular mountain (after Snowdon) and is just a few miles north-east of Tywyn in the south-west corner of Snowdonia. The mountain is a collection of three peaks which are said to form the “chair of Idris”. The peaks are Pen y Gadair, which forms the head of the chair; Cyfrwy, the saddle; and Mynydd Moel, the bare mountain. Welsh mythology has it that this “chair” was used by Idris the giant when contemplating the heavens. Alternatively, the mountain may have been named after Idris ap Gwyddno, a 7th-century Meirionnydd prince, who defeated the Irish in battle on the mountain. This feat may have been sufficiently noteworthy to elevate Idris’ status to that of a ‘giant’ amongst men leading to his immortalisation as the giant of Cadair Idris. As an aside, Idris was the son of Gwyddno who many have linked with Gwyddno Granhir, ruler of the submerged hundred.
If are planning to conquer Cadair (893 metres or just shy of 3,000 feet in old money), there are four main routes to the summit: Llanfihangel y Pennant Path (Distance: 10 miles (there and back), Time: About 7 hours); Minffordd Path (Distance: 6 miles (there and back), Time: About 5 hours); Pony Path, Ty Nant (Distance: 6 miles (there and back), Time: About 5 hours); and the Foxes Path (Distance: 2.5 miles (there and back), Time: About 4 hours). However, unless you are a very experienced climber, you can disregard the Foxes Path as the loose scree on route to the summit is harzardous especially when descending. The remaining three paths are still classed as hard mountains walks where the terrain is challenging even for the fittest. As with any mountain walk, please make sure you are equipped with the right kit before you set off.
If you don’t fancy the climb, but would still like to to gaze on Cadair from its base, then I recommend a visit to Dôl Idris which is a beautiful parkland in the foothills of Cadair. Car parking is plentiful, providing you don’t happen to visit the mountain on a day when it is being used as one of the stages in the Three Peaks Challenge in aid of Prostate Cancer, as we did. Once you have successfuly parked-up, there is a picturesque circular walk of around 3/4 mile suitable for people of all physical abilities. Take a picnic and make yourself comfortable on one of the four picnic tables scattered along the route. Alternatively, visit the Ty Te Cadair tea room and Visitor Centre which is signposted from the car park. The tea room plays host to an interactive exhibit and has its own bat cave in the loft. It also serves delicious home-made cake … as well as tea.
Dôl Idris also acts as the gateway to the Minffordd path for those who are up to the challenge. To the untrained eye, e.g. mine, this route looks like a nightmarish unending set of stairs which disppears into the distance. Fortunately, the near vertical climb (I exaggerate – but only slightly) did not put-off those walkers passing us on route to the summit who were busy raising money for a worthwhile cause. We managed the first three hundred feet of the climb before deciding to rest-up and gaze at the views and a rather spectacular waterfall.
One note of warning: if, during your visit, you happen to hear howling in the distance, my advice is to scarper. Cadair Idris happens to be the hunting ground of Gwyn ap Nudd, lord of the Celtic Underworld ‘Annwn’, who is escorted by a pack of supernatural red-eared hounds that herd a person’s soul into the underworld.
As the Post Office neglect to assign postal codes to mountains, the nearest you can get with your SatNav is LL36 9AJ. This post code actually belongs to the Dôl Einion camp site; however, the entrance to the Dôl Idris carpark is just a few hundred yards futher along the B4405 on your left when travelling from Tywyn. A £2.50 (May 2014) parking charge applies.
To download a brochure, visit the Dôl Idris guide.
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