Llanfihangel y Pennant Path, Cader Idris
This is the easiest of the footpaths up Cader Idris, but at over five miles, it is the longest. The path approaches Cader Idris from the head of the Dysynni valley, and gently climbs up to join the Pony Path at the top of Rhiw Gwredydd.
Probably the most direct way for parishioners to get to Dolgellau, their local market town and seat of quarter sessions.
How to get there?
Follow the brown signs for Castell-y-Bere from the centre of Abergynolwyn, off the B4405. Pass the parking for Castell-y-Bere on your left and continue along the minor road until you reach the small hamlet of Llanfihangel y Pennant.
1. Follow the narrow road up the valley, passing Ty’n y Fach farmhouse on your right after about a quarter of a mile.
2. Cross the bridge over the Afon Cader and you will see, on your right, a ruined cottage containing a commemorative stone. This was the home of Mary Jones, who in 1800 walked bare-foot 25 miles over the mountains to Bala to buy a Welsh Bible from the Reverend Thomas Charles. It is said that her devotion inspired him to found the British and Foreign Bible Society.
3. Keeping Mary Jones’ cottage to your right, pass through the road gate (often left open) and along the metalled road which runs parallel with the river. Passing through another gate you will come to the old farmhouse of Gwastadfryn. On the far side of the yard is another gate. From here on the track is rougher, and begins to climb as yet another gate is reached. Passing through this gateway, you will see the slopes of Craig Ysgiog on your right, and shortly pass a larch wood planted on the steep slope beneath the track.
The fields you are walking through are part of Ty’n y Fach farm. Typically, a mountain farm such as this can be divided into three parts. The lowest consists of the better land around the house and buildings where grazing and crops of hay or silage are concentrated. This land is fairly intensively managed. The next part is the “ffridd” below the mountain wall, which is an enclosed area of rougher land under some measure of management; and finally, above the mountain wall, a large area of open mountain grazing.
4. As you pass through another gate above the larch plantation you will see the rounded hump of Mynydd Pencoed on your right. A little further on you will reach another gate close by a stone barn on your left.
5. The track you are walking on does not follow the line of the public footpath all the way, and at this point you must leave it for a while. Immediately after passing through the gate bear right as indicated by the yellow painted marker post. The path you must follow, bordered by a fence and a stream on the right, passes through a rocky area sparsely wooded with oak trees.
6. Cross the stream by a beautiful old stone footbridge and climb steeply up the path, which bends sharply to the right and presently comes to a gate and stile. Cross by the stile and zigzag upwards until you reach a stone wall. The path is grassy and obviously ancient, since it is well below the level of the surrounding ground.
7. Arriving at the stone wall, the path bears left and runs alongside it. Here there is an excellent view of Castell y Bere down in the valley behind you, and Pen y Gader (2,927ft./893m.), the summit of Cader Idris, can be seen ahead. Follow the path, keeping the wall on your right. When you reach a conspicuous “standing stone” you will also catch sight of the track ahead of you once more. The standing stone is an important landmark for your return journey, as is the wooden marker post where the path re-joins the track.
8. The road now contours around the hill then drops a little. You come to a right hand turning, but keep straight ahead as indicated by the wooden marker post. Presently, crossing a stile, you enter the old farmyard of Hafoty Gwastadfryn. In the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries, mountain farmers used to follow a practice called transhumance. They and their families would move to their mountain home or “hafod” in the summer, taking their stock with them to graze on the mountain grasses, thus letting the lowland fields grow a crop of hay. In the autumn they would all return to the winter house (“hendre”).
9. Continue along the track, bearing right just before you reach the sheep pens in the old farmyard. Soon after crossing a stream, the track begins to climb steeply. Presently you come to a fork where you take the right hand track as indicated by the waymarking post. Continue to follow the waymarking posts until the track meets the crest of the ridge and turns right at a wire fence. After a few yards you reach an intersection of fences with a gate and a stile. This point is known as “1842” (560m.) the spot height. The path on the other side of the fence to your left is the Pony Path down to Tŷ Nant, but the path you must follow is on the far side of the fence opposite you. There is a fine view of the Mawddach estuary from here.
10. This last section passes through really mountainous terrain. Good boots are essential, since the ground is rocky and often loose underfoot. Cross the stile and continue along the path, which soon starts to climb steeply. The cairns that mark it are an important guide, particularly in snow. Please do not destroy them or build new ones. The path follows a series of zigzags until you top the rise and are rewarded by a view of Pen y Gader and its strange outline of frost-chiselled boulders. To the left is the Cyfrwy Ridge and behind you Carnedd Lwyd.
11. Passing through the bleak terrain of frost-shattered rock, you are poised at the top of the cliffs overlooking Llyn y Gader. Follow the path to the right around the edge of the cliff, and take great care, especially in snow and ice conditions. Do not go too close to the edge, as cornices - overhanging masses of snow - can form here. Soon you will come to the peculiarly shaped rocks you saw on the skyline earlier. The path winds between them and you catch a glimpse of Llyn Gafr (Goat Lake) far below on your left. It is now only a few minutes scramble to the summit.
12. Close to the summit cairn is a shelter which is maintained by the Snowdonia National Park Warden Service.
13. On your return, make sure at the beginning that you aim towards the right direction, especially when it's foggy. Keep to the right when descending. In about 25m you will pass an old fire place which was part of the original cafe, and after about 25m further the path forks. Keep to the right here. The left hand path will take you down towards Bwlch Cau and the south side of the mountain. When descending, the pillow lavas should soon be on your left hand side.
Please read our Mountain Safety Advice before venturing out on the mountain.
Though you are in the Snowdonia National Park, please remember that the path passes through the privately owned farm and grazing lands of Ty’n y Fach, Gwastadfryn and Pennant, where dogs are not welcomed unless under close control or on a lead.