Snowdonia is blessed with spectacular scenery but to appreciate it fully you need to get out there with your walking boots on. With nearly 1,500 miles of public footpaths there is something to suit all abilities – you have no excuses.
Being neither fit nor agile we were on the look-out for a walk that wasn’t too demanding but still offered plenty to see and admire. Googling we came across something called the Precipice Walk which appeared to fit the bill.
It promised magnificent views of the Mawddach Estuary and peaks of Cader Idris. It is only 3-miles’ long and, crucially, it doesn’t involve any steep climbs or scrambling (not sure what this is but it sounds energetic).
How to get there
The walk starts at Saith Groesffordd car park which is inconveniently not postal coded. The nearest post code is LL40 2NG which belongs to a farm. This is not your stop. The walk car park is around 300-metres further north and will be on your left if you are travelling from Dolgellau just before a left turn. There is ample parking and toilets.
Exit the car park at the Dolgellau-end and make a short-climb which veers to the right through the Coed Cefndiwiog conifer plantation. If you are visiting in April/May, you will be presented with a display of blue bells. Follow the path as it curves to the right and you will see the Gwern Offeiriaid house in the distance. A field, usually filled with sheep, will be on your left. Follow the path in front of the house to the first gate which informs you that the path is permissive rather than a public right-of-way. The path is closed for one day on the 1st February each year to protect its status. Follow the path as it climbs steadily to the left. Pass through the gate labelled ‘Llyn Cynwch’ which will be on your right. Once through the gate you will be able to see the lake in the distance.
As is common with most lonely bodies of water in Wales, Llyn Cynwch had its own monster. Whilst Llyn Barfog had an Afanc, Llyn Cynwch was haunted by a Nwyvre (a water dragon). This massive serpent would paralyse animals and people alike with its gaze before dragging them down into the depths to be devoured. Unfortunately for us, a shepherd happened upon the Nwyvre whilst it was sleeping and deprived the beast of its head. The dragon is buried in the hillside and there is a cairn called Carnedd-y-Wiber (the Cairn of the Woman’s-milk-fed Serpent) which marks the spot.
Once you are through the gate you have a choice: you can decide to walk anticlockwise or clockwise. Because we missed the signpost for the anticlockwise route we were spared this dilemma and ‘chose’ the alternative. I am not sure how we missed the sign as I have seen photos where it virtually obstructs the path but in my opinion this is where we got lucky as the views going clockwise are better.
If you want to front-load your walk with stunning vistas, then clockwise it is. It all kicks-off with views of Cadiar Idris across the waters of Llyn Cynwch as you approach the lake and skirt its northern edge until you come to a signpost at the end of the lake. Turn right here and follow the path as it climbs to the left through a meadow until you reach a gate.
This gate is special: it is a doorway between one landscape and the next. If you have ever wondered what it would feel like to tumble out of the wardrobe into Narnia, then this gate is probably as close as you will ever get. The transition is almost jarring. You move from a tree-fringed meadow scattered with sheep on to the side of a steeply sloped mountain that falls dramatically to the valley below – the precipice.
Once you are on the precipice it is difficult to get lost as you do not have much room for manoeuvre. Take your time and enjoy the views as you circle the mountain with the path returning you to Llyn Cynwch.
One word of advice, towards the end of the walk you will encounter a signpost directing you towards the old copper mine of Glasdir. If you feel tempted to explore further, don’t. I have no idea where this copper mine is but it is nowhere near you. We foolishly decided to scramble down the hill in a vain attempt to search out this mine hoping it would be at the bottom. It wasn’t. Having gone this far we couldn’t just give up could we and so we followed a path for a quarter of a mile at which point we’d had enough. The climb back up the hill is far more taxing than the scramble down and things can get said and the atmosphere can turn fractious.
The Precipice Walk is an easy circular walk (providing you avoid the Glasdir diversion!) around Foel Cynwch with hardly any uphill climbing (ditto!). The path is narrow and uneven in places and if you are frit of heights, then you may want to give it a miss. You can rush the walk in an hour. We didn’t, we took ages, stopping frequently just to gaze and wander what it would have been like 15,000 years’ ago when the glacier that carved these valleys was making its slow steady progress to the sea. If you only do one walk in Snowdonia, make it this one.