Watkin path snowdon Footpaths
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Distance: 8 miles (13km) (there and back)
Ascent: 3330 feet (1015 metres)
Time: About 6 hours (there and back)
Grade: Mountain Walk
Meeting Location Click Here
Start / Finish: Pont Bethania Car Park, Nant Gwynant, off the A498 (SH 627 507)
Relevant Map: Ordnance Survey Explorer OL 17 (Snowdon & Conwy Valley)
Pay and display car park – make sure that you have enough loose change. In the high season, you may descend by another of the Snowdon paths and catch the Sherpa bus back to your vehicle.
Public toilets open during the day. Café nearby.
Watkin Path Snowdon Footpath a little about the path…
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 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 hardest 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.
The upper part of the Watkin Path is extremely steep and crosses a loose scree slope – take care on your way up.
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 the 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.
3. After going through the mountain gate, you will pass the beautiful gushing waterfalls on your right.
As you come into 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.
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.
A Suggested Equipment Check List
Travelling in the hills will always involve a compromise in equipment if the walker is to avoid moving like a snail – admirably well equipped but too slow to go anywhere. The choice can be quite bewildering and with an increasingly large fashion element, it can be very difficult for hill walkers to make an informed decision.
Torch plus spare battery and bulb
Hat + Gloves
Sunglasses and sun cream
Snowdon Mountain Hillwalking Footpaths
Available throughout the summer and winter for groups, families and explorers.
NGB Qualified ML & SPA Holder
Mountain First Aid
Mountain leader, single pitch award