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Cadair Idris National Nature Reserve and Visitor Centre, near Dolgellau

For grandeur and rugged beauty, few locations can equal the National Nature Reserve at Cadair Idris, a spectacular mountain in the south of Snowdonia National Park

View of Cadair Idris National Nature Reserve

What's here

Accessible facilities
Baby changing
Café
Parking (accessible)
Parking (charge)
Picnic
Toilets
Visitor Centre
Walking trail

What’s here

  • Walking trails
  • Wildlife
  • Accessible trail
  • Visitor centre
  • Café
  • Toilets (including accessible toilets)

Visiting Cadair Idris

Cadair Idris is a National Nature Reserve, where you can find some of the finest examples of wildlife habitats and geological features. 

A network of paths lead up and around Cadair Idris National Nature Reserve, meeting on the summit at Penygadair.

In clear conditions, the summit of this magnificent mountain will give unrivalled views out over the sea and across most of Wales, from the Llŷn peninsula in the north-west to the Brecon Beacons in the south-east.

The legend of Cadair Idris

Local folklore describes Idris as a giant who lived on this magnificent mountain; Cadair Idris is Welsh for “Idris's chair”.

The large boulders on the lower slopes are supposed to be the debris from stone throwing battles between Idris and the other giants. 

It is said that if you are lucky enough to survive a night on the summit, the ordeal will either drive you mad or turn you into a poet.

Watch our film about the legend of Cadair Idris.

The film is bi-lingual. The Welsh version plays first and the English version follows after seven minutes.

Walking trails

There are four waymarked walking trails.

Two of these follow flat paths in the parkland, once part of the Idris family estate and now managed by the Snowdonia National Park Authority. These two short trails can be combined to make a longer walk.

The other two waymarked trails are short but steep climbs from the visitor centre on to the National Nature Reserve.

Dôl Idris Lake Walk

(⅓ mile/0.6km, accessible)

This route starts from the car park and goes all the way around the lake. Look out for birds such as the dipper and grey wagtail, which breed on the lakeshore, and the fish ladder near the footbridge that helps salmon to reach the streams. Picnic benches around the path.

Parkland Circuit

(½ mile/0.8km, accessible)

This slightly longer circular route passes through the parkland to the visitor centre. Look out for the ruined building where Idris table water and ginger beer were first made.

Gorge Climb

(460ft/140m one way, moderate)

The Gorge Climb starts just past the visitor centre and follows part of the steep Minffordd Path into the Celtic Rainforest with views across the gorge.

Nant Cadair Bridge Walk

(⅓ mile/0.6km one way, strenuous)

The Nant Cadair Bridge Walk follows the same route as the Gorge Climb. It then continues onto the lower slopes of the open mountain.

Walking up Cadair Idris

A network of paths lead up and around Cadair Idris National Nature Reserve, meeting on the summit at Penygadair.

Footpaths are mainly well defined and easy to follow but visibility can change quickly and it is advisable to carry a map and compass at all times.

There is a shelter at the top of Cadair Idris for use during inclement weather.

Even in summer the temperature at the top can be several degrees lower than in the car park. Low cloud often covers the summit, so it can be damp as well as cold.

Please note:

  • all routes include steep and often slippery sections, with loose stone and shale surfaces
  • there are gates and stiles on all routes
  • take care on the wet and boggy areas 
  • wear good walking shoes
  • take suitable clothing with you 
  • carry water and food with you

Minffordd Path (6 miles to the summit and back)

The shortest route up Cadair Idris is also the steepest. This very strenuous climb is not waymarked and starts just past the visitor centre. It should only be attempted by experienced walkers with appropriate clothing and footwear, and a map.

Closures and diversions

Please note:

  • Sometimes we need to close or divert trails for your safety whilst we undertake maintenance work or forest operations
  • Occasionally we may have to close a site in extreme weather, such as high winds or snow and ice due to the risk of injury to visitors or staff
  • Please always follow any instructions onsite and make sure you follow any temporary diversion signs in place

Seasonal wildlife highlights

Spring

bud on a tree

If you’re lucky, you may spot peregrine falcons hunting above the high crags, or a shy ring ouzel in the steep rocky ravines.

Wheaters return to the mountain too, whilst chiffchaffs and willow warblers can be heard singing all around the visitor centre at the foot of the reserve. Many woodland plants such as primrose and wood anemone come into flower, and the oaks show signs of bursting into life again.

Summer

Cadair IdrisSummer sees the welcome return of the classic trio of Welsh oakwood birds: pied flycatcher, wood warbler, and redstart, as well as the swallows and housemartins that often nest under the visitor centre eaves.

On the cliffs in early summer, arctic-alpine plants are at their best, some of which are seen nowhere further south in Wales.

In flower at the same time is the locally rare hairy greenweed that grows here at it's northernmost location! Later the dry slopes are clothed in a carpet of purple heather, punctuated here and there by the yellow flowers of western gorse. The bogs glisten with the sticky sundews, accompanied by bog ashopodel and heath spotted orchids, whilst dragonflies patrol their patches.

In the visitor centre, the rare lesser horseshoe bats have returned to their breeding roost, and relayed images show the females nursing their young during July.

Autumn

coden fwg Lycoperdon puffballThe dense canopy of the Celtic rainforest takes on its rich seasonal tapestry of colours, and a wealth of fungi produce their fruiting bodies on the woodland floor.

The increased rain swells Nant Cadair, raising the humidity in the gorge under the shade of the trees, making conditions ideal for a variety of very rare mosses and liverworts.

With fewer visitors on the mountain it is a good time to explore the NNR. Look for the dainty flowers of ivy-leaved bellflowers and wild thyme. Choughs occasionally visit the grassy slopes to forage for insects and grubs with their stunning red curved beaks.

The hardier butterflies such as peacocks still emerge to feed on fine days, along with the odd bilberry bumblebee, an uncommon upland species with its seemingly bright red rump!

Winter

Cerrig Clustog Cadair pillow lavaWinter is a good time to appreciate the stunning geology of Cadair Idris. 

Cwm Cau is a classic result of the last ice age, with sheer cliffs, a thousand feet tall at one point, almost encircling Llyn Cau, one of Wales' deepest natural lakes.

It is said to be bottomless, with a monster lurking within! You may not ever see this mysterious creature, but if you are very lucky, you could possibly see a stoat in its white winter coat, hunting its prey amongst the screes.

Elsewhere on the nature reserve, you can see other clues to the sites' geological past such as pillow lavas and smooth rock faces, scoured by the slow moving iceflow.

Visitor Centre and tea room

Cadair Idris Visitor Centre and Cadair Tea Room are 250 metres from the car park and the Minffordd path to the summit passes by them. 

The visitor centre houses an exhibition showcasing the wildlife, geology and legends of Cadair Idris National Nature Reserve. 

The exhibition includes:

  • interactive games
  • short film about the making of the mountain
  • film about work that Natural Resources Wales does for nature conservation here
  • animated films telling the legends of Idris the Giant
  • live infrared footage of rare lesser horseshoe bats in the roofspace

The centre is owned by Natural Resources Wales, and managed in partnership with the staff of Tŷ Te Cadair Tea Room.

Both the visitor centre and tea room are open seasonally - see Cadair Tea Room for opening times.  

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Quality Assured Visitor AttractionQuality assured

The Visitor Centre has been accredited as a Quality Assured Visitor Attraction by Visit Wales. The Visit Wales Quality Marque is awarded to attractions that have been independently assessed against the national standards of the Visitor Attraction Quality Assurance Scheme.

Accessibility information

Facilities include:

  • disabled parking (managed by Snowdonia National Park Authority)
  • wheelchair access to the visitor centre and café
  • lift to exhibition in visitor centre
  • accessible toilets

Find out more

Opening times 

Both the visitor centre and tea room are open seasonally - see Cadair Tea Room for opening times.

The toilets in the visitor centre are open when the centre is open.

The toilets in the car park are managed by the Snowdonia National Park Authority and are open each day (not 24 hours).

The visitor centre can also be opened by prior arrangement for education groups, clubs and societies. Please contact the reserve manager using the contact details below. 

How to get here

The main access to Cadair Idris is via the Dôl Idris car park which is between Dolgellau and Machynlleth off the A487. 

The OS grid reference is SH 732 115.

Directions

Dôl Idris car park is situated near the junction of the B4405 and the A487.

The car park is managed by Snowdonia National Park and there is a parking charge.

Public transport

The nearest train station is in Tywyn.

The bus services 30, 32 and 34 [Dolgellau-Tywyn-Machynlleth] run on the A487 and stop at the junction with the B4405. For details of public transport visit www.traveline-cymru.info

Related document downloads

Cadair Idris location map PDF [873.2 KB]
Cadair Idris National Nature Reserve Discover this mountain reserve and Dôl Idris parkland PDF [2.7 MB]

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