Area: Snowdonia (OS Explorer Snowdon)
Starting point: Pont Bethania
Distance: 6.3 miles
Grade: easy – moderate
If you want a hike in Snowdonia, away from the crowds that Snowdon’s famous tracks and trails attract but still offering gorgeous scenery, then this one might just be for you. Actually starting on Snowdon’s famous Watkin Path, this walk delivers dramatic waterfalls, isolated mountain valleys and a picturesque lake. It really has got a bit of everything.
Classed as an easy to moderate route, this hike is just over 6 miles in length. The first third of the walk is where you’ll put in the hard (moderate) work, ascending slowly up to the high point beyond Bylchau Terfyn, before embarking on a descent that is a little rocky in places. However, between these points there are ample opportunities for even young kids to walk, as the rest of the trail is well maintained. The stepping stone sections simply add to the fun. So, after testing your fitness on the initial uphill section, and then testing your thigh muscles and foot placement on the descent, the rest of the walk is relatively easy.
Starting from Pont Bethania car park, you’ll cross the road and enter the Watkin Path. Yes, this is one of the more challenging routes up to the summit of Snowdon but don’t be alarmed, you won’t be on it for too long. This first section of the Watkin Path contains a combination of stone steps and woodland trail as you make your way through the trees. After crossing a short wooden bridge that traverses one of the many mountain streams which you’ll encounter, the gravel path will bring you out in sight of Cwm Llan Waterfall to your right.
This section of the path is particularly easy (despite being uphill) so it’s an ideal opportunity to get toddlers out of the carrier. As you sweep round to the right in the direction of the waterfall, you’ll soon be looking for the waymark on your left to direct you to Craflwyn. Follow this path. If, however, you fancy a short detour up to the top of the waterfall to see the imposing summit of Snowdon, continue ahead up to Cwm Llan before returning back down to take the Craflwyn path. This will probably add no more than about 20 minutes to your overall walk time, and it’s worth it for the dramatic views.
This, for me, is the best part of this walk. I didn’t meet a single soul between the waterfall and Craflywn Hall and the scenery is just stunning. It’s also the most interesting section of the hike underfoot too, as the path regains some of its natural ruggedness and rocky demeanour. This, along with how quiet this path is, really adds to the sense of isolation. It’s beautiful. Just make sure your footwear is up the job as there are some boggy sections along here and some streams to pass through. You’ll head over two separate stone walls via the adjacent stiles along this section which will bring you to the highest point of the hike. Pause for a moment here to take in the view; it’s worth it, believe me.
Descending down the valley towards Craflwyn, the first section near the disused mine is pretty rocky, so take care with your kids! Although I had a stunningly beautiful November day, with bright sunshine, there was also a fair bit of water about which adds a slippy film to some of the more polished rocks, so younger kids may need a bit of assistance at this point.
Once you’ve descended the short, rocky section the trail becomes much easier. You’ll pick up an old cart track (again very wet!) which will guide you right down to a small wooden bridge on your right. Cross this bridge and follow the waymarks towards Craflwyn Hall. If you leave the trail to the left hand side along this section and walk towards the edge (take care with kids!), you’ll catch your first glimpse of Llyn Dinas.
Before you begin your final descent of the day, down to the Hall owned by the National Trust, look out for the legendary giant’s chair. We sat and devoured egg sandwiches here, all the time thinking we were on some sort of Lord of the Rings type film set. It’s a little bizarre but thoroughly welcome. The final walk down to Craflwyn Hall takes you back in amongst the trees and involves a series of stone steps, so just exercise caution with very young walkers. In all fairness to Jesse, he loved this bit and, holding my hand, was trying to jump his way down.
Arriving at the Hall you’ll need to cross over the road and walk north-east (left) along the verge for just a hundred metres or so until you reach a gate that takes you alongside the river. This entire section, right to the very end, is flat with good quality paths and trails so, if you’ve been carrying toddlers, now is a great chance to get them down and walking. Once you reach and cross over the large stone bridge that crosses the river, you’ll be greeted by a freshly maintained path to your left that leads you around Llyn Dinas. In fact, workmen were still finishing off this first section during my recent visit, so it really is freshly maintained!
The walk around Llyn Dinas is extremely pleasant. It’s a pretty little lake and the wide, flat paths are perfect for letting kids exhaust themselves before the journey home. Once you’re on the path, if you look up to the hills on your left you should be able to spot your earlier position where you caught a glimpse of Llyn Dinas for the first time. Early on there are a couple of routes off to the right that will lead you back uphill if you’re feeling energetic. These will reward you with a great photo opportunity looking back down over the full length of the lake. Back on the lakeside trail you’ll see a plethora of wild rhododendron bushes that will look spectacular one they bloom. Despite its small size it packs a veritable punch in terms of its aspect and surroundings, so take your time and enjoy it.
Once you’re back on the main road you’ll be happy in the knowledge that the cafe, large paned (tea) and enourmous slice of cake you’ll inevitably consume are only a short distance away. Conveniently, your well-earned refreshments are located just yards from your finish point back at Pont Bethania car park, where you’ll have completed this lovely circular walk. Do let me know what you think of it.