I am totally at home when I am surrounded by nature, no matter what the weather. Luckily my two young children seem to be following in my footsteps, physically and metaphorically and at four and six years old they are already very comfortable hiking, wild swimming and exploring the world around us.
We have recently made the big move to North Wales to enable us to fully commit to the ‘outdoor lifestyle’ and I wanted to share some adventures that are suitable for the whole family, so that you can all enjoy them together.
So to kick off this series of ‘family friendly adventures’ I wanted to start with an absolute bang. Somewhere magical that, come rain or shine, never fails to astound and astonish.
Nestled in northern Snowdonia, is a cirque or ‘basin’ in the Glyderau mountain range. A short hike up the steep slope unveils a mystical lake surrounded by towering mountains.
Cwm Idwal is home to a rather dark story which gives it its name. The story tells of a 12th century Welsh prince called Owain who entrusted a man called Nefydd Hardd with the care of his son, Idwal.
Nefydd’s own son, Danwd, pushed Idwal into the lake where he unfortunately drowned. Prince Owain named the lake, Llyn Idwal, after his son. Legend still says that no birds fly over the lake and that Idwal’s voice can be heard during a storm.
Visiting Cwm Idwal
This adventure begins at the National Trust run, Ogwen Cottage. There is a small car park here but during the summer months, this can fill up quickly. Alternative parking is available along the roadside but do be aware of the ‘Dim Parcio/No Parking’ signed areas, local police do monitor the area and the last thing you want as you end your day is a parking ticket!
At the Ogwen Cottage you can have a pitstop at the toilets and stock up on water and snacks at the kiosk and then head up the white stairs to start the hike.
The path is easy to follow and is breathtaking from the word ‘go’. As you get to the top of the stairs, turn right and go across the bridge. We love to take a moment here to stand on the bridge and look at the waterfalls which quite often has a heard of mountain goats grazing and paddling in the pools.
If the goats aren’t there, it’s always a fun game to try and spot them as they are usually lurking close by.
Keep following this clearly marked white stone path which ascends and curves round to the right. But before you curve round, nip up the grass banks on the left to take in the spectacular view of Llyn Ogwan which lies along the roadside where you will have parked.
From this point here, you can bask in the glory of Tryfan, one of the most recognisable peaks in Snowdonia. We think it looks a bit like a stegosaurus so would love to know what you and your family think it looks like!
Back to the white path, keep going up and you will eventually, after about 20 minutes, see a slate bridge where you can cross and you cannot miss the 800 meter long lake.
Once you reach this point you have several options. Depending on the ability of each person in the group, you can continue on the circular route around the lake. This route is relatively simple with the right boots and my four year old completed it easily.
There is a little bit of scrambling involved but nothing too rigorous and there are plenty of stop off points where you can have a picnic and take in the surrounding giants, Glyder Fach and Gylder Fawr.
For those who just want a more leisurely afternoon, there is of course the option to stop on the shingle shores of the lake where you can brave a paddle or maybe even a swim?
Please do be aware that this is a glacial lake and like all of nature must be respected. The shores are perfect paddling zones for little legs, but there is a sharp drop off where the lake becomes very cold and very deep, very quickly.
And that’s it! Once you are ready, though I could spend the whole day up there and have been known to, make your way back down the white path and back to the Ogwen Cottage.
Cwm Idwal is listed as a moderate walk, and is around 3 miles if you take in the circular route around the lake. This walk is an absolute favourite for us, it offers so much opportunity to just sit back and enjoy the incredible Snowdonia scenery. It is an obviously popular place but despite this, it never feels packed.
There is always an overwhelmingly peaceful silence that descends as soon as you head up the 460 ft ascent, something magical that will always be the perfect adventure for the whole family.
My pictures give you a glimpse of what Cwm Idwal has to offer, but the only way to see it properly and experience that magical feeling is to visit. Stay tuned for another ‘family friendly adventure’ post to hear more about incredible destinations to share with the next generation of hikers and adventure seekers.
Just to note
Snowdonia is a very popular tourist destination, especially in the age of ‘staycations’. If you do visit, please respect the natural environment, keep your dogs on leads to avoid disturbing the wildlife, take your rubbish home with you and look out for your fellow walkers and hikers.
Take care when wild swimming, especially in these remote glacial lakes. Always tell someone where you are going as phone signal is hit and miss once you’re in the valleys.
We are a community who need to work together to preserve these beautiful landscapes, only then we can keep enjoying them for years to come.