October saw our first holiday during a half term so we took the opportunity to spend the week in North Wales. For one of our days out, we visited Cwm Idwal – a beautiful National Nature Reserve and geography teacher’s dream.
We have adventured here before when Rowan was a baby. At that time, Rick was carrying Rowan so the boy did no walking. This time, we were all going to walk around the lake.
Leaving the car at Ogwen Cottage car park (LL57 3LZ), we paid the £4.50 day charge and after using the toilets, we set off on our way. Walking past the visitor centre, we came to the start of our route – a pitched path climbing up and through some trees.
Before long, we came to a brilliant wooden map etched with the profiles of the landscape around us, including the dramatic ridge of Tryfan. We spent a bit of time familiarising ourselves with our surroundings, struggling a little with the Welsh pronunciations.
We continued up the path until we came to a wooden bridge. The recent rain from Storm Brian meant the waterfall it crossed thundered beneath, making it difficult to hear each other speak. But looking back over the bridge we could see the rugged cliffs and scree of Pen Yr Ole Wen.
What I love about this walk is that once you leave the road behind, you very quickly find yourself in spectacular mountain scenery. Rowan resumed his role of adventure leader, hoping along the path in the direction of Tryfan.
Coming to a fork in the path, I took the opportunity to show Rowan the map. We looked at the paths, orientating it so that it lined up with the landscape, then decided between us that we would take the right hand track to reach the lake. The pitched path climbed gently, as the cliffs surrounding Llyn Idwal came into view, clouds rolling over the ridge like there may be a dragon lurking behind.
As we strolled along we spotted a huge boulder on top on the grass alongside the path. I asked Rowan how he thought it might have got there whilst trying to remember the geological processes that may have deposited it. But before I think of anything, Rick revealed to us the secrets of troll battles. Apparently they come out of their caves at night, and have huge arguments resulting in boulders being thrown at each other. A much better reason for it being there than I was about to reel off.
After about 45 minutes, we reached the lake. According to legend, Llyn Idwal is named after a 12th Century prince, drowned by his uncle out of jealousy. Regardless of this slightly sinister story, it was a beautiful spot. The imposing walls of the corrie rose sharply up from the water making us feel like we really were in the mountains.
At this point, Rowan fancied his dinner, but as it was a busy resting place with people admiring the awesome scenery all around, we decided to press on to find a quieter place to have our picnic. We continued along the left hand side of the lake, passing through an iron gate in a really pretty dry stone wall.
Not too far along, we found the perfect location – a grassy area jutting out into the lake. The views back from where we came from were stunning and the rocks provided seats making it slightly easier to keep the butties away from greedy muttlers.
Sandwiches and crisps eaten, we made our way back to the footpath, now beginning to rise a little more steeply, which only served to make the walk all the more adventurous for Rowan. Presently, we crossed a footbridge and the impressive Idwal Slabs came into view. We could just about make out a climber making his way up the rock face.
Just after, the path forked again. The left led to a higher level route while the right descending some rocky steps to head in the direction of the top of the lake. On the grass we spied an even bigger boulder (clearly thrown by an even bigger troll) just waiting to be climbed.
We spent at bit of time at the top of the lake. We climbed on the huge boulder and admired Devils Kitchen the jagged cliffs above us. Rowan then decided he wanted to make a wall from the rocks lying around – a task he was determined to complete, with a little help from his Dad. I loved watching him carrying or rolling the rocks to ring his idea to fruition, maybe inspired by the one we passed earlier.
Eventually, we decided we’d better begin our return leg. Heading towards the path I spotted a basket of eggs landscape, geography lessons coming back to me all at once. Our course took us past these drumlins (I think that’s what they are called) and also some fallen slabs that must have tumbled from the rock faces above us.
On reaching the bottom end of the lake, we climbed the grassy slope in front of us to absorb the view of the U shaped valley of Nant Ffrancon before skipping along some stepping stones, climbing some more rocks and posing for pictures. Lots of mini adventures!
Clambering across the grass, we found our way back to the footpath and crossed the footbridge crossing Afon Ogwen, white water rushing down the stream to the valley below.
The rest of the walk was back along the path our walk began on, ending the day in shirt sleeves at the end of October.