One of the three major mountain ranges in northern Snowdonia, the Glyderau are the epitome of Welsh mountain magnificence. Shattered summits, fin-like ridges, strange and wonderful monoliths, mythical lakes and splendid views abound here. Walkers, scramblers and climbers should consider a visit to these peaks a lifetime essential; but you couldn't exhaust the potential of the range in 100 visits! Make a start with our comprehensive range guide.
Bordered by the extensive high plateau of the Carneddau to the north and the mighty sprawl of Snowdon to the south, the Glyderau may be only the third highest range in North Wales, but they easily equal their neighbours for drama. The fact that they also match (and occasionally exceed) them for visitor numbers too gives some impression of their tremendous appeal.
Within these 50-or-so grid squares you'll find tens, perhaps hundreds, of scrambling and climbing lines, the perfectly-formed mountain of Tryfan, bare and broken peaks that break the 1000m mark, wonderful natural sculptures such as Castyll y Gwynt (the "Castle of the Winds"), the improbably-balanced Cantilever Stone, the near-miraculous monoliths of Adam and Eve, and much more.
Better yet, whilst the paths surrounding the spectacular glacial scoop of Cwm Idwal may be busy with walkers and tourists throughout the year, stretch your legs towards Mynydd Perfedd on the northern arm of the range and you may find solitude on even the busiest of summer days. Come winter, as snow fills the gullies and ice decorates the ridges, a near-peerless mountaineering arena is opened up and enchained routes within and above the Ogwen Valley can satisfy even the aspiring alpinist.
There's everything to recommend in this weather-carved portion of Wales' mountainscape, and no reason to put off a visit to it for a single season longer.
"...wildly jagged, wind-battered pinnacles of rock... forged by volcanic fire and shaped by ice"
National Trust description of Cwm Idwal
The Glyderau in a nutshell
1. Enjoy a feast of scrambling at the head of the Ogwen Valley - one of the nation's premier rocky playgrounds
2. Climb the dramatic north ridge of Tryfan and leap between the 3m-high monoliths of Adam and Eve (if you dare)
3. Probe the shattered 1000m high ground between Glyders Fach and Fawr and discover the fantastical Castyll y Gwynt and Cantilever Stone
4. Marvel at the glacier-sculpted Cwm Idwal and its diversity of rare plant life, and venture into the sinister Devil's Kitchen
5. Escape the crowds among the graceful smaller peaks of the northwest arm of the range
"The shepherd's fable, that it is the haunt of Daemons; and that no bird dare fly over its damned waters"
Thomas Pennant (Welsh naturalist and writer, 1726 - 1798) on the waters of Llyn Idwal
The following three extracts are taken from the 1808 tome, "The Cambrian Traveller's Guide and Pocket Companion; containing the collected information of the most popular and authentic writers, relating to the principality of Wales, and parts of the adjoining counties". Although spellings and grammar have both changed in the past 200 years, they nevertheless still convey something of the wonder of the Glyderau, and the impression on the walker upon visiting them for the first time.
"The prospect from Glyder-fawr is very grand; Snowdon is seen to great advantage; the deep vale of Llanberis, and its lakes, Nant Frangon, etc. The plain which forms the summit is singularly covered with loose stones, like the beach of the sea; in many places one crosses the other, in all directions, and entirely naked; others lie in groups, almost erect, sharp pointed and in sheaves. The elements seem to have warred against this mountain; rains have washed, lightnings torn, the very soil has deserted it, and the winds make it the constant object of their fury. The shepherds style it Carnedd-y-gwynt, "the Eminence of Tempests." This mountain is connected with the lesser Glyder by Y-Waen-Oer: the traveller, therefore, has choice of ways to these mountains."
"On the side of Ogwen Pool, famous for its trout, stands Tryffal, i.e. a triangle, a conic mountain of rugged aspect, and apparently isolated, but joining its base to the towering ridges of the Glyder, the most astonishing group of all the mountains. On the summit of the Glyder, or more properly Clydder, signifying a pile, is an enormous accumulation of stone pillars, supposed by the editors of Camden's Britannia to have been a druidic temple; but others consider them as skeletons of the mountain, either split by frost or loosened by the continual assaults of rain and tempests. The aspect of these stupendous irregularities inspires terror, nor is the mind readily reconciled to the sight: the stranger seems to mistrust his eyes and ceases to depend on his feet. At the foot of Clydder is a pool named Llyn Idwal, surrounded by a noble amphitheatre of mountains."
"Some of the stones upon the summit are equal to those of Stonehenge".
The Cwm Bochlwyd Loop
The "rock scenery and endlessly varied ground" make this lap of Cwm Bochlwyd "the best low-grade hands-on route in Wales" says' UKH's own Dan Bailey. If anything he's selling it short, and this superb circuit should be on the radar and life list of any walker or scrambler in the British Isles. The first 2km, which races up the north ridge of Tryfan and continues onto the more serious undertaking of Bristly Ridge en route to the summit of Glyder Fach is particularly life-affirming. Varied and intricate enough to be done a dozen times without fear of seeming repetitious, it takes in the finest features of the range - including the queer wonders of the naturally-balanced Cantilever Stone and the fanned scythe of Castell y Gwynt.
- See the UKH Route Card here
The Devil's Kitchen and the northern Glyderau
So-called by Merseyside sailors who saw clouds spilling from this rocky cleft on their trips to collect Bethesdan slate, the Devil's Kitchen is a steep and rocky path which climbs 300m up in about as many along. Beginning on the shores of Llyn Idwal and finishing on the high ground between Glyder Fawr and Y Garn it offers superb views and a memorable ascent into the Glyderau. From here a right-hand turn will take your northwards onto the lesser-visited northern arm of the range, exploring the shapely and attractive summits of Y Garn, Mynydd Perfedd, Carnedd y Filiast and Elidir Fawr.
Tryfan's Heather Terrace scrambles
Most walkers and scramblers don't explore beyond Tryfan's excellent North Ridge, itself a classic Grade 1 outing. However, head round to the mountain's east face on the rugged Heather Terrace path and a new world of routes opens up. A line of gullies and ridges, arranged in a line as though custom-built for your mountain pleasure, contain within them a whole range of challenges - from the more entry-level Little and North Gullies up to the more fearsome Pinnacle Scramble and Nor' Nor' Buttress... and then on to big routes in rock climbing territory proper. the range of classic hands-on routes across the grades makes this tremendous flank of the mountian well worth exploring, whatever your abilities.
Elidir Fawr and the round of Marchlyn Mawr
Quarry-scarred it may be, but Elidir Fawr is often the choice of the connoisseur when a quick 3000er is the order of the day. The round of Marchlyn Mawr visits Elidir Fawr before encircling the eponymous llyn by way of two unsung peaks on the Glyderau's unfashionable northern extremity. A short day with huge views, this walk gives a subtle twist to an old favourite.
- See the UKH Route Card by Nicholas Livesey here
Tryfan Bach scramble
A favoured spot for training groups from the nearby Plas y Brenin "National Mountain Centre" the clean, sloping slabby face of this mountain-in-miniature makes a great place to practise ropework and enjoy a bit of top-end scrambling without any great distance to walk from the road. You'll find it just to the east of Tryfan's northern toe (it's clearly marked on OS Explorer maps) and there are plenty of of ways to ascend its cracked and detailed form. One of the best is via the arete on its left-hand side (if you're facing south), though it's just one of many adventures to be had on "Little Tryfan".
OS Landranger (1:50,000) 115
OS Explorer (1:25,000) OL17
Harvey British Mountain Map (1:40,000) Snowdonia North
Despite boasting so many superb scrambling and walking routes, you'll find fewer guidebooks to Snowdonia than - for example - the Lake District. However, the following make excellent reading.
North Wales Scrambles by Garry Smith (Northern Edge Books)
The Ridges of England, Wales and Ireland by Dan Bailey (Cicerone)
Hillwalking in Snowdonia Vol 2 by Steve Ashton (Cicerone)
Scrambles in Snowdonia by Steve Ashton (Cicerone)
Ridges of Snowdonia by Steve Ashton (Cicerone)
Snowdonia forecast from MWIS
Mountain Weather forecast Snowdonia from the Met Office
Glyder Fawr-specific forecast from YR.NO
It's possible to base yourself right in the heart of the Ogwen Valley, thanks to the presence of both a YHA hostel and a pair of pleasingly bare-bones campsite/bunkhouses. If you'd like to begin your Glyderau walks, climbs and scrambles straight out the door (or tent flap) then this would be the prime choice. Otherwise the village of Capel Curig, 8.5km to the east, makes for a relaxed and surprisingly well-supplied experience. If you're looking for a more urban base replete with glamorous modern conveniences such as reliable phone signal and a supermarket then the town of Bethesda 7km to the north is where you'll want to be.
*NB You could feasibly stay in either Nant Peris or Llanberis to the south-west of the Glyderau too, but this would make your access to the peaks fairly lengthy and limit your entry points to either the quarries around Elidir Fawr or the slog-like approaches up the backs of Glyder Fawr and Foel-Goch. Possible... but not so pleasant.
YHA Idwal Cottage is the Association's second oldest hostel, having opened in April 1931. It's a real gem of a place (the long-term staff are great) and offers camping, dorm beds, private rooms and a private hut for groups.
Gwern Gof Uchaf campsite and bunkhouse is a cheap, basic, friendly and appealing site right at the base of Tryfan. Ideal for climbers and outdoor people (like us).
Gwern Gof Isaf campsite and bunkhouse is just a few hundred metres further down the road from the similarly-named Uchaf above. It's identical in (extremely cheap) price but subtly different in character, being slightly larger, a fraction better set up in terms of facilities and also catering to motorhomes too.
Bethesda offers a small handful of self-catering cottages and a B&B (and more) in the form of the comprehensive Joys of Life Country Park.
As with so many mountain areas, life without a car is difficult when accessing the Glyderau - and motorists will be thrilled to know that free car parks (marked on OS maps) dot the length of the A5 in the Ogwen Valley, even running alongside the base of Tryfan. Coaches and trains do, however, stop in Bangor - which is roughly 17km to the north. From there local bus services run towards Bethesda and beyond. You can find full details via the Gwynedd Council website.
Pubs and food
Here comes the really bad news, as there's not really anything to be found within the immediate vicinity of the Glyderau when accessed from the Ogwen Valley - part of the price of it being a pleasantly undeveloped place. With that in mind, the best choices for any kinds of supplies are:
Ogwen snack bar which is run from the visitor centre and car park at the end of Llyn Ogwen. It's open from roughly 09:00-17:30 and doesn't service anything more glamorous than your average petrol station would.
YHA Idwal Cottage sells beer and packaged snacks in the evening (technically you're not allowed to bring outside alcohol onto the premises).
Capel Curig is probably the best bet for walkers. It offers a small but high quality selection of pubs and cafes… although you'll almost certainly be driving here and back, so not so much fun for the designated driver amongst you. Daytime cafes include Pinnacle Cafe - with the attached Pinnacle Stores for essential camping supplies and Pinnacle Pursuits for outdoor gear - and the excellent Moel Siabod Cafe which offers a hearty range of home-made foods. There are two good pubs, both of which offer accommodation too: the welcoming Tyn y Coed and the pricier Bryn Tyrch.
There's a good spread of options in nearby Bethesda too, with at least five pubs (The George, The Douglas Arms, The Bull, The Kings Head and the Llangollen Vaults) and the highly-rated Fitzpatrick Cafe to choose from, as well as a small Tesco in the High Street.
- For more Mini Guides check out the rest of our series:
About Dan Aspel
Dan Aspel is a freelance journalist who specialises in mountaineering, motorcycling and the outdoors. He spends most of his hill time in Snowdonia, where he regularly works as a Mountain Leader.
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