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Cader Idris – The Best Walks Up

By Dave Roberts   

Published – December 3, 2017

  5/5 (3)

Cader Idris – The Best Walks Up

Cader Idris (welsh for the Chair of Idris) is Snowdon’s twin in South Snowdonia. Cader Idris is comprised of the same rocks, and with a definite family resemblance from some angles. It also courts controversy every time that we post or mention it, usually something to do with the name! It’s Cadair Idris on the OS maps, with cadair being welsh for chair. However, Cader is not an anglicisation of the welsh as is prevalent in these hills, but a local vairant. We respect the local naming of hills and places, so CADER Idris it is! Adding to this minefield, yo cannot just call the summit Cader Idris. It’s correctly called Penygadair – though this should probably Pen y Gader considering we’re fully camped in pedant’s corner.

We won’t mention the Fox’s Path for now!

Why is it called Cader Idris? Myths surrounding the mountain include it being the chair of Idris the giant (spot another commonality with Snowdon?) – Idris Gawr who was a mix of a real King and legend.  He gave rise to the myth that anyone spending the night on the mountain will wake up the next morning as either a poet or a madman. We think a good mix of both is needed for any artistic genius!

What pubs are good for Cader Idris? You’ll no doubt want to quench your thirst, and we highly recommend the Gwernan Lake Hotel if you’re ascending the Fox’s or Pony routes, or the Gwesty Minffordd Hotel if you’re ascending the Minffordd Path. There’s also the Cross Foxes on the junction between the A470 and A487 which is an excellent gastropub, but we’d recommend you’ve got some clean kit to change into!

Cader Idris Weather Forecast: Met Office Snowdonia Mountain Weather

Recommended Cader Idris Maps:  ORDNANCE SURVEY Explorer OL23 Cadair Idris & Llyn Tegid ORDNANCE SURVEY Landranger 124 Porthmadog & DolgellauSnowdonia South (British Mountain Map)

Here’s our run down of the best walking routes up Cader Idris. Complete with full free walking routes with the final two courtesy of our partnership with – Mud and Routes. Just click on the walk title to open the full route up in a new page. For the complete rundown of all the walks on Cader Idris and nearby you can follow this link – Cader Idris Area Guide on Mud and Routes.

Map Showing Best Walking Routes up Cader Idris

Click on the individual lines on the map below to see the labels.

The Best Walks up Cader Idris

1 – The Minffordd Path – and the Mynydd Moel Route

Height Gained – 930 metres,  Distance – 10km up and down, Time – Around 5 hours.

The Minffordd Path (Llwybyr Minffordd yn Gymraeg) more spectacular route up Cader Idris in our view. It’s not a straightforward slog to the summit and is continually varying along it’s entire length. Setting off up a wooded gorge before arriving at Llyn Cau. You’ve then got a climb to the ridge and Craig Cwm Amarch to ascend before the final pull to Penygadair. We think that this is the best ascent – but that’s just our opinion! We did a straw poll on Twitter via our @mudandroutes account and it was a clear winner – with the Pony Path a close second! You can also divert via Mynydd Moel on a faint path in order to complete a circular route from Minffordd.

Cader Idris Minffordd Path

2 – The Pony Path – Llwybr Pilin Pwn up Cader Idris

Height Gained – 750m, Distance – 9km, Time – Allow five to six hours both ways, but can be completed in three hours by strong walkers.

The Pony Path, or Llwybr Pilin Pwn in Welsh, is the more straightforward slog to the summit from the north. It starts of from the Ty Nant Car park (there are toilets here and an over-spill car park) and is a steady, workmanlike walk to the summit. It’s probably the quickest route up Cader Idris owing to the good path, but slightly longer than the Fox’s Path if you ascend the latter from Llyn Gwernan. It lacks the interest of a corrie lake on the ascent like the Minffordd and Fox’s Path routes, but still boasts expansive views on a clear day.

Please note that some people have been ending up on the wrong side of Cader Idris near Dolgellau on private land by following the post code that Google had for the Pony Path. We think this has been resolved, but ensure you use the one provided above – LL40 1TN – and ensuring you end up in the car park and not actually on the lane at the start of the path. Use this link –  Ty Nant  – in order to get directions EXACTLY to the car park.

Top of the Pony Path up Cader Idris - Best Walking Routes up Cader Idris

3 – The Fox’s Path – Llwybr Madyn up Cader Idris

Height Gained -710 m, Distance – just over 9km, Time -5 hours

The Fox’s Path, or Lwybyr Madyn in Welsh. This path is popularly believed to be named after the Quaker  – George Fox who visited Dolgellau in 1689, but the Welsh name contradicts this as madyn is a rarely used word for Fox. This article from 1820 mentions no source for the name – Ascent of Cader Idris in 1820 and calls the path Llwybr Madyn or later in the article as the “Fox’s Path” – with the emphasis given by the author suggestive of a translation from the Welsh.  We’re not sure which is truly the correct and we’ll be conducting some further research to determine who or what the ‘Fox’ is!

Llwybyr Madyn or The Fox’s Path starts either from the Gwernen Lake Hotel, or you can start from the Ty Nant National Park Car park and walk along the valley for a couple of extra kilometres. You could then descend by the Pony Path to provide a worthwhile circular walk. The Fox’s path is the most direct route, and so is the shortest route up Cader Idris if you ascend from Llyn Gwernan. The distance is around the same as the Pony Path if you start from Ty’n Nant car park and owing to the more difficult path will probably take longer.

It’s telling that this path isn’t even listed on the Snowdonia National Park website as a recommended route (the other three are). Probably as a good section of the route is on steep scree. It’s still a good day out – for those confident on steep ground and their ability to pick out the easier route and not the direct scree chute.

Fox's Path up Cader Idris - this is the easy bit of the Scree.

4 Llanfihangel Path up Cader Idris

Height Gained – 870 m, Distance – 16km, Time – allow 7-8 hours

The route from Llanfihangel-y-pennant is is the longer way around. It starts from the quiet valley of Llanfihangel-y-pennant which boasts the castle of  Castell y Bere as well as the home of Mary Jones who walked barefoot to Y Bala to buy a bible .

A more remote route, but one that’s very steady. It joins the Pony Path for the main ascent to the summit and makes a satisfying alternative if you want a longer day in the hills. You’ll be unlikely to see many other people on this route, until you join the Pony Path that is!


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Dave Roberts

Dave Roberts founded Walk Eryri in 2004, with the aim of providing routes that are off the beaten track. Walk Eryri is now part of Mud and Routes which continues to provide more off beat routes and walks in Snowdonia and beyond. Dave has been exploring the hills of Eryri for over thirty years, and is a qualified Mountain Leader. Dave also established Walk up Snowdon, Walk up Scafell Pike and Walk up Ben Nevis just to mention a few.

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