Cadair Idris

  • © Alex Jane
  • © Mark Peate
  • © Ephemeron
  • © Cytoon
  • © Evans
  • © Ephemeron
  • © Simon
  • © Willis Monroe
  • © Willis Monroe
  • © Willis Monroe
  • © Willis Monroe
  • © Willis Monroe
  • © Willis Monroe

Key information: Cadair Idris

  • One of Wales' favourite walks, an at times steep climb of the highest mountain in the Dollgellau area on north-mid Welsh coast.
  • Beautiful landscape all the way, with huge views from the summit, taking in the whole sweep of Cardigan bay on a good day. Varying vegetation zones as you climb, from woods and hill farmland at the bottom to sub-Arctic at the top.
  • Come prepared for unpredictable mountain weather any time of year.

Walkopedia rating

  • Walkopedia rating89
  • Beauty31
  • Natural interest15
  • Human interest12
  • Charisma31
  • Negative points0
  • Total rating89

Vital Statistics

  • Length: 4km or more each way
  • Maximum Altitude: 893m
  • Level of Difficulty: Strenuous


Cadair Idris, often spelt and pronounced Cader Idris, looms grandly above the beautiful Mwddach Estuary in north Wales. At 893m (  ft), it would not quite count as a Munro in Scotland, but it is easy to see why it is one of Wales’ most-loved mountains.

From any direction, you will climb through a variety of ecosystems (woodland, sheep pasture, moorland and rough mountain slopes, with Alpine/Arctic ridgetop conditions and areas of tough bare rock), gaining increasingly dramatic views back over estuary and valley and receding mountain ridges, with the huge sweep of Cardigan Bay to the west, both the [Abersoch] Peninsula to the north and the extremities of the St David’s Peninsula to the South in plain view. The views across the rough lower reaches to the north, with the Mawddach Estuary below, are very special, as is the Dysynni Valley to the south-west. Sitting in a patch of grass at the lip of the cliff-line on a sunny day is magical. As the highest point for miles around, the summit commands suitably stunning 360[o] views.

The cliff-lined high ridge of this great massif is more than 11km (7 miles) long, a vast lump of hard Ordovician igneous rock which has withstood the attack of the ice ages better than the surrounding land. Viewed from the coast at Fairbourne, the thousand-foot shearing-off of the great northern face is shockingly apparent. The ice cap must have been many thousands of feet deep to manage this. The whole area is textbook glacial, and none more than Cader itself, with its lake-filled cwms (cirques), carved and striated rock faces, moraine piles and roches moutonnees (hard rocks which have been scraped smooth and are so called because their shiny surfaces can resemble sheep from a distance). The crater-like shape of the LLyn Cau cirque has generated theories that Cader is an ancient volcano.

There are various stories associated with Cader, the main one being that its grand northern cwm was the seat (Cadair means chair in Welsh) of the giant Idris, who watched the stars from it. Alternatively it may refer to an eponymous C7 prince who won a battle here. A person who sleeps here alone is said to awaken mad or a poet – or indeed not awaken at all.

There are 3 main ways up:

- the Pony Path from the north, the easiest way up, via the saddle with Craig Las to the west. Some 5km each way, should take a couple of hours up. It has suffered erosion due to its popularity, so don’t be disappointed by the stretches of laid stone and gravelled path. They are necessary.

- the Fox’s Path (also from the north), a lovely walk up to the Llyn-y-Gadair lake in the heart of the great cwm, then a tiring and dreary slog on steep scree up to near the peak. Took Walkopedia 2.5 hrs, the fit and keen should be able to do it in 2 hrs-ish. A tough descent, only for the very experienced.

- the Minffordd Path, from the South: the longest and loveliest path, it skirts the rim of the perfect Llyn Gau cwm, so encircled it has been mistaken for an extinct volcano.

Walkopedia climbed the Fox’s Path then descended the Pony Path. It would be wonderful to walk across the mountain, although you would need to sort transport. With a variety of walking options once on top, don’t just think of an up-and-down climb. A long yomp along the flat, generally grassy ridge, west to Craig Las or eastward, would be a superb add-on, although there are few descent options nearby, so you may well need to make a return walk of it back to the top of you Pony or Minffordd Paths.

From the carpark at the base of the Pony Path, it is some 2,400ft to the top.


On Cader Idris. by Margaret Kennedy  


Parson Kilvert climbed this mountain

A hundred years ago;

Paused and sipped this very fountain,

Saw Dysinni shine below,

Felt the same breeze blow.


Here he watched the mist descending

On the hills I see.

Beauty’s hour is never-ending.

Here, though long departed, he

Shares that hour with me.


So may I with lasting treasure

One brief joy endow;

Share today some stranger’s pleasure

Stand with him on Cader brow

A hundred years from now.

© Estate of Margaret Kennedy

Other accounts: share your experiences

Your comments on this walk, your experiences and suggestions, and your photos are very welcome. Where appropriate, you will be credited for your contribution.


See also expedition planning, including our universal expedition checklist. Walkopedia encourages responsible travel.

See also expedition planning, including our universal expedition checklist.

Books/maps/background reading

Suggest books and maps


Hillwalking in Snowdonia: British Hills and Techniques – Steve Ashton/ Cicerone Press: a beautifully illustrated, detailed guide to nearly 70 routes throughout Carneddau, Glyders, Snowdon and the Outlying Areas, from an author whose passion for the area is palpable throughout.

Ridges of Snowdonia – Cicerone


OS Explorer map.<span lang="EN-US" style="font-size:10.0pt;font-family:" italic"=""> Can be bought locally.

Stanfords:  An excellent (and user-friendly) online specialist source of worldwide maps (it is also good for guidebooks).

Best times to walk/weather

Best times to walk: Spring/ Summer/ early Autumn – the changing seasons in Wales each have their own distinct charm, but in Winter the mountain can be covered in snow and dangerous in places, requiring caution and adequate experience.


Weather: Welsh. One of the wetter and fickler climates in Great Britain, so come prepared for all eventualities with both water flask and waterproofs; can be blighted by high winds, sleet, fog and snow in Winter.

 Obtain a reliable local weather forecast before setting off, and plan the route accordingly. For detailed weather information, have a look at: or

Getting there/transport/permits/fees

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No permits are required.

Possible problems, health, other warnings

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{C}{C}{C} ·         {C}{C}Mountain weather: variable temperatures; don’t rely on the weather forecast. Rain, cold and wind are always possible.  Come prepared.

{C}{C}{C} ·         {C}{C}Heat and strong sun can be experienced in summer. Carry enough water and protect yourself.

{C}{C}{C} ·         {C}{C}Heights: dangerous; some routes are not for those who have difficulties with heights.

See also the websites in our useful links page for more detailed, and up-to-date, information.

Safety and problems: All walks have inherent risks and problems can arise on any walk. Many of the walks featured on this website involve significant risks and possible problems. This website cannot, and does not purport to, identify all actual or potential risks, dangers and problems that may relate to a walk or a country. Any person who is considering undertaking this walk should do careful research and make their own assessment of the risks, dangers and possible problems involved. They should also go to “Important information” for further important information.

Make sure you have appropriate insurance.

Guided or independent?

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Almost everyone climbs Cader independently. You can hire guides locally. ANY RECOMMENDATIONS?

Useful websites and information

There are many websites with relevant information.

·         {C}{C}, search Cadair Idris. As often, a good starting place.

{C}{C}{C}·         {C}{C}Try for pictures of this walk.




share your experiences

Add your experiences, suggestions and photos. We would be delighted to receive your writing and ideas (which will be attributed appropriately where published).

Anyone planning an expedition to this place should see further important information about this walk.

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