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Places to Visit

Southern Snowdonia | Cadair Idris


Southern Snowdonia
LL39 1AX

Contact Details

Tel: 0300 065 3000
Cadair Idris, which means 'Chair of Idris' from the giant warrior poet of Welsh legend, is a spectacular mountain reserve in Southern Snowdonia of over 450 hectares of breathtaking landscape, rugged summits, glacial lakes and a mossy wooded gorge.

The Cadair Idris National Nature Reserve lies within Snowdonia National Park and is part of the Cadair Idris Special Site of Scientific Interest (SSSI) and Special Area of Conservation (SAC).

The distinctive shape of the mountain's peaks can be seen for miles around, from the coastlines at Tywyn and Barmouth and high over the market town of Dolgellau. The summit of Penygadair is a sharp contrast to the gentler hills below - when the clouds lift from the peak, that is!

There are three recommended routes to conquer Cader Idris. It’s not an easy walk by any means, whichever route you take. They are all designated ‘hard/strenuous’ routes, and you should allow between five to six hours to get there and back. You’ll need to take plenty of food and drink as there isn’t a café (or toilet) on the summit.

Cader Idris is a very popular day out for school parties, sponsored walks, or group challenges, especially as it is one of the Welsh Three Peaks.

Local folklore describes Idris as a giant who lived on this magnificent mountain. The large boulders on the lower slopes are said to be the debris of stone throwing battles between Idris and other giants. Idris is more likely to have been an important leader in this area, a giant in personality and authority rather than in stature.

The Cadair Idris Visitor Centre and Cadair Tea Room are 250 metres from the car park and the Minffordd path to the summit passes by them. The visitor centre houses an exhibition showcasing the wildlife, geology and legends of Cadair Idris National Nature Reserve.

The site encompasses the mountain and lower slopes, with a variety of habitats of European importance. These include dry heath, wet heath, blanket bog, woodland and the species-rich marshy grasslands of Tir Stent common, as well as a number of low nutrient or clear-water lakes. The cliffs support tall herbs growing on the ledges, and a range of plants growing on rock crevices. These habitats support a wide range of species, including slender green feather-moss and marsh fritillary Butterfly.

While the romantically inclined attribute its features to the work of giants, geologists come up with more prosaic but nonetheless interesting explanations that span hundreds of millions of years. The origin of the rock is volcanic, some of the lavas being poured out under the sea and shaped into bulbous "pillows" that give it the name pillow lava. These are interspersed with layers of ash and other sediments that settled out on the sea bed of the time.

The glaciers of the last ice age scoured and scraped at this hard upfolded rock leaving visible scratches on some of the surfaces and hollowing out basins now filled with small lakes such as those at Cregennan on the first 'step' up the mountain, or the supposedly bottomless Llyn Cau on the south side.

Amongst this craggy country on the mountain tops there survive rare arctic/alpine flowers, a legacy of the last Ice Age such as purple saxifrage and least willow (a 'tree' that never gets to more than a scrambling shrub).

At the lower level around Cregennan, the National Trust owns two small hill farms where the rough grazing can be managed in the traditional way. A sign of summer here is the arrival of that dainty visitor, the wheatear, often difficult to spot until it displays its white rump in flight. For further information visit:


Public Transport:
Bus services 30,32,34 [Dolgellau-Tywyn-Machynlleth] run on the A487, stopping at the junction with the B4405 close to the entrance of the car park. The T2 Trawscymru service stops at Minfordd and Dolgellau

The nearest main line railway stations are Machynlleth, Tywyn and Barmouth.

www.Traveline.Cymru is a useful journey planner for public transport in the region.

By Car: Cadair Idris Visitor Centre Car park is signposted off the A487. The Minffordd path to the summit of Cadair Idris also starts from this location.

Prices and opening

Free entry
Open all the time.