Tuesday, December 8, 2009

#1 Cadair Idris: One Day to Becoming a Great Poet, or a Madman

There are great romantic adventures in this world, and among them is a mountain climb, and wild camping experience in the southern edge of the Snowdonia mountain range of Northwest Wales.

This is not an amazing adventure because of the great height of the mountain or the danger factor, though steep cliffs don the north side Cadair Idris. Rather, ancient legend says that the mountain was the armchair of a giant: Idris, who was a master of poetry, astronomy, and philosophy. It is said that today those who sleep on Pen y Gadair, the summit of the three mountains which comprise Cadair Idris, will descend the following day insane or as poets - if they live through the night.

The climbs range from easy to difficult. A steep scramble up the Fox Path moves among loose cliff scree, and can become dangerous in difficult weather. The Pony Path is the easiest, but longest climb beginning in nearby Ty Nant. The mountain affords some of the best rock climbing in Wales. When the days are clear you will be able see the Cambrian coast perhaps all the way to Ireland on one side, and on the other side down the sheer cliffs to the dark waters of Llyn Cau, which legend calls a bottomless lake. Of course, it is Wales, and this mountain near the Irish Sea is noted for radical and quickly changing weather, so dress appropriately and be prepared for anything.

There is a hut at the top of Pen y Gadair, which can be used to get away from the cold winds of the mountain top, and a cairn marking the summit. Camping on the mountain is allowed, but one should be considerate in the spring when lambing season is occurring. No permits are required to sleep on the mountain.

Although this is only the 18th highest peak in Wales, it has become the second most trekked mountain in the country. Perhaps this is why the Welsh are noted for their complex and beautiful poetry. It is believed that ancient bards stayed upon the mountain in search of inspiration. Today bards young and old scramble the sides of Cadair Idris in search of their own inspiration.

With four main paths ranging from expert to beginner levels, beautiful views, and most of all for the romance of the mythology Cadair Idris makes the top of my list of 1,000 things to do before I die.

Other information on Cadair Idris:

A great blog post with fabulous photography.
A list of the main Cadair Idris walks
Trekking Cadair Idris from Dolgellau

Where to stay in Dolgellau

Please note: There is a variant spelling to Cadair Idris --> Cader Idris


  1. Have you heard Bruce Cockburn's song Cadair Idris? It's available for download on Itunes. Such a beautiful instrumental. It always makes me picture someone wandering the paths there taking in the beauty. Good to see your new blog.

  2. No I haven't heard it, and I do like Bruce's stuff. Going to download it now! Thanks Linda.

  3. Oh and I see that Bruce Cockburn used the variant spelling of Cader Idris.

  4. Hey Phil!
    Well my vote is for a poet...lol. I must say that hike we went on that year was amazing! I felt so accomplished and at a level of peace umnlike no other. It made me grateful to have God to celebrate and thank that day for creating such beauty. I didn't make it as far as you and Kevin but I will always remember it fondly as "one of my favorite days". Thanks for taking us there. I hope to go again someday.

  5. Hi Zumi,

    Well that climb was the highest mountain in Wales. We were on Yr Wyddfa (Mount Snowdon). That was a great hike, wasn't it? The last part of the climb was pretty gnarly though.