Visiting Snowdonia


Watkin Path, Snowdon

This path was named after Sir Edward Watkin, Liberal Member of Parliament and railway entrepreneur who retired to a chalet in Cwm Llan on the foothills of Snowdon.

A track to the South Snowdon Slate Quarry through Cwm Llan already existed, so to enable visitors to walk all the way up Snowdon, Edward Watkin created a path from the quarry to the summit. This was the first designated footpath in Britain, and the first step towards opening the countryside to walkers. The path was officially opened in 1892 by the Prime Minister William Gladstone, who was 83 years old at the time. He addressed a crowd of over 2000 people from a rock on the side of the path, which is known today as the Gladstone Rock.

This is thought to be one of the most hard going paths up Snowdon, as it starts only a little above sea level. The path starts off wide and quite even, but becomes rocky towards the second half, and then crosses loose scree.

Distance: 8 miles - 13Km (there & back)

Ascent: 3,330 feet - 1,015 metres

Time: About 6 hours (there & back)

Grade: Hard Mountain Walk

Start/Finish: Pont Bethania Car park, Nant Gwynant, off the A498 (SH 627 507)

Postcode: LL55 4NL

Parking: Pay & Display car park - loose change required

Relevant Map: OS Explorer OL17 (Snowdon & Conwy Valley)

This map is intended as a rough guide only. You should use the most recent version of the relevant Ordnance Survey map (see above) when walking the route.

Route Details

1. To reach the start of the path, follow the main road to the left from the car park, over the bridge and cross the road. To the left of the entrance to the National Trusts’ farm, Hafod y Llan, you will see a ‘Llwybr Watkin Path’ sign and stone steps leading into the woods. Follow the path through the woods and in a short while, you will go through two large gates.

2. Shortly, you will come out into open countryside, and when you reach a bend in the path you will see Cwm Llan stretching out in front of you.

This location was used as the Khyber Pass in the well known film Carry on up the Khyber.

The crevice you can see through Clogwyn Brith is the old tramway that was used to take wagons full of slate from the South Snowdon Slate Quarry down to Pont Bethania, where they were then transported by cart to Porthmadog.

Before you cross the tramroad for the second time, keep an eye out for the ruin of Hafod y Llan Uchaf on your right, this was the original Hafod y Llan farmhouse.

3. After going through the mountain gate, you will pass the beautiful gushing waterfalls on your right.

As you come in to Cwm Llan, the ruin you can see on the far side of the river on your right is the old crushing mill of the Hafod-y-Llan copper mine. The copper mines themselves are up above on the slopes of Y Lliwedd on your right.

4. After passing the crushing mill the path forks. Keep to the right – the path to the left leads over Bwlch Cwm Llan towards the Aran.

You will pass sheep pens made of traditional slate fencing on your right, and then the ruins of Plas Cwm Llan – which used to be the home of the South Snowdon Slate Quarry manager. Later on, during the Second World War, soldiers used this building as a target when training for “D Day”. The holes that you can see in the walls of the house are bullet holes.

5. You will shortly walk passed Gladstone Rock and its stone plaque commemorating the opening of the path to the summit.

As you skirt around Craig Ddu, the path will lead through the old works of the South Snowdon Slate Quarry. The long building you can see on your left is the ruins of the quarrymen’s barracks.

6. After passing the barracks, the path veers steeply to the right with Cwm Tregalan on the left. Follow the path that climbs very steeply to Bwlch Ciliau.

As you climb you will be rewarded with amazing views down towards Ardudwy and the Glaslyn estuary.

7. At Bwlch Ciliau, follow the path to the left. The path to the right follows the Snowdon Horseshoe and leads towards Y Lliwedd.

From the ridge, you can see down to the right into the basin of the Snowdon Horseshoe. At the bottom of the basin you will see Llyn Glaslyn lake, and on the horizon you can see Carnedd Ugain on the left, and Crib Goch on the right. Below Carnedd Ugain you can see the intersection of the Miners and Pyg Tracks above Llyn Glaslyn.

8. Before the next steep section, you will be at Bwlch y Saethau.

According to the legend it was here that King Arthur was struck by an arrow in battle. Bedwyr (Bedivere) carried his King down to Llyn Llydaw lake, and as he passed Llyn Glaslyn he threw Arthur’s sword, Caledfwlch (Excalibur) into the lake. From Llyn Llydaw, three maidens sailed Arthur away through the mist to Afallon (Avalon).

9. After passing Bwlch y Saethau you will reach the most difficult part of the path. It is extremely steep, and care must be taken as it is very loose underfoot. You will shortly reach a standing stone that marks the spot where the Watkin Path joins the Rhyd Ddu Path. (Remember to turn off the Rhyd Ddu Path by this stone on your way down from the summit.)

10. From the standing stone at the top end of Bwlch Main, which marks the junction with the Rhyd Ddu Path, follow the path to the right and the visitor centre, Hafod Eryri, will come into sight. You are now on the last leg of your journey up Snowdon, and only a few minutes from the summit.

From the summit on a clear day you will be rewarded with fantastic views - 18 lakes and 14 peaks over 914 metres (3000ft) can be seen. Sometimes, you can even see as far as Ireland, the Isle of Man and the Lake District.

11. On the way down, it is important to remember that the Watkin Path does not descend directly from the summit – it starts from the standing stone which is approximately 200 metres down the Rhyd Ddu Path.

360 Panoramic view from Snowdon Summit

Snowdon Summit

  • Watkin Path, Snowdon

    Watkin Path, Snowdon (© SNPA)

  • Watkin Path, Snowdon

    Watkin Path, Snowdon (© Steve Peak)

  • Watkin Path, Snowdon

    Watkin Path, Snowdon (© Steve Peak)

Safety Note

Please read our Mountain Safety Advice before venturing out on the mountain.

The upper part of the Watkin Path is extremely steep and crosses a loose scree slope – take care on your way up.

Please Remember

Though you are in the Snowdonia National Park, please remember that the path crosses the privately owned farm and grazing lands of Hafod y Llan, where dogs are not welcomed unless under close control or on a lead.

On your way to the summit you will see evidence of essential footpath restoration work carried out by the National Park Authority. Please keep to the footpath to prevent further erosion.