Hiking up Mt Snowdon | Wales
Whilst there are several ways of getting up the highest peak of Wales (and England), each with differentiating levels of difficulty that can range from just catching the train to a hike of several hours, we set ourselves up for a real challenge and that’s what we got.
Our route of choice was the Watkin Path - the highest ascending and probably most challenging, but also arguably the best one in terms of scenery.
Here are some tips if you decide to go the same way and here’s a map as a rough guide.
The starting (and finishing) point is Pont Bethania, just off the A498. There’s a bus stop and a car park right next to where the path begins. Bring exact change for parking, as the card payment option was faulty and judging from the permanent informational sticker it seems it’s been like that for a while.
With no coins and no coffee shop in sight, we ended up not paying and got away with it. Try it at your own risk, but we wouldn’t really recommend it. Supporting national parks is cool.
The hike takes between 5 to 7 hours, the distance is 8 miles or 13km there and back, elevation - 1,085m. It’s pretty much continuous ascension.
For the first part you will be walking through Hafod y Llan woodlands, past the Cwm Llan waterfalls. Personally, the best thing about choosing this route was the waterfalls, as seeing them on our way up gave us that extra bit of motivation. You can’t help but to imagine the rewarding feeling of skinny dipping your sweaty trashed body in the nice cool mountain water on your way back. And the scenery is stunning all throughout the route.
As the landscape gives away, the trails are quite rocky and the footing can be tricky in parts. There are some loose rocks and rubble - especially in the last part of the route, definitely the steepest and most dangerous - so you really need to watch your step and in parts use your hands too (experienced hikers call this “scrambling”).
We were lucky with the weather and the unusual heatwave that was taking over the UK during our time there, but rain and worse weather are common and in those conditions this path might be best avoided if you aren’t 100% confident about your skills, mainly due to the last ascending bit.
Once passed the fun ascent test, you get to step on nice, fairly flat ground overseeing the other side of the hill with the beautiful lakes underneath, the peak just a few more metres away.
Just as we were engaging with these particular views, a cheerful guy greeted us on his way down telling us they have beer, cider and pies up there. We, of course, dismissed it with laughter, thinking he was just giving use to the good old British sarcasm.
Turns out he was not joking! We got rewarded with a refreshing sample of the local beer, made with Snowdonian water. There is actually a sizeable cafe, a gift shop, toilets and, while we were wondering how do people get to work here every day, we realised this place also doubles as the train station for those who chose to just rail it up the hills.
This is, of course, where all of the other paths meet so it was quite loud and packed up there. We started our descent shortly after our celebratory beer and obligatory photos, same trail.
As easy as it might sound, it was not that pleasant for the knees and the famous steep part is even trickier going down. But we made it down safely and indeed went for the most rewarding swim in the waterfalls that caught our eyes hours earlier, all together with sore legs, grumpy knees, great memories and a priceless sense of accomplishment.
Wild swimming in Snowdonia
There are plenty of wild swimming spots in Snowdonia that you can hit, even if you’re not blessed with a heatwave. The locations are always stunning, such as Fairy Glen Gorge.
Go for a short walk along the narrow gorge and have a picnic on the rocks or dip in the water. It’s a beautiful and peaceful location, and even considering the heat on the day we visited, there were not that many people around, us being the only ones swimming.
Important note: There is a small private car park which costs £1 per vehicle, and an additional fee of £0.50 per person to access the gorge, full amount needs to be thrown in an ‘honesty box’ at the gate.
We were a pound short and didn’t think much of it as we thought it was on the basis of donation, until we heard shouting and turned around to an elderly man chasing us. He was adamant about us having to pay the full amount, and that we had to turn back and find a cashpoint. It slightly dampened the excitement but luckily we met some lovely people in the car park who offered us the missing pound together with the kind words “happy holidays”.