Llyn Idwal in winter


High peaks and a beautiful lake

If you are looking for drama without having to take an arduous hike, the walk to and around Llyn Idwal would be an excellent choice. Just a 20 minute stroll from the A5 and yet feeling a million miles away, this striking lake boasts a stunning backdrop. Craggy peaks rise up sharply behind the lake to create a memorable vista. The rugged terrain feels other-worldly but the walk itself isn’t taxing and can be tackled in two hours including a break for a picnic.

We tried this walk in the winter as you can see from the photographs. The snow on the mountains enhanced the beauty of the scenery and the footpaths were passable but icy in places. The only drawback to this fabulous walk is it’s huge popularity. Walkers are attracted to Llyn Idwal in large numbers due to its proximity to the main road. Unfortunately, the car park isn’t anywhere near large enough to cope with the number of visitors looking for a space, even in winter. It is advisable to arrive very early!

The walk begins at the National Trust’s Ogwen Cottage Ranger Base which is located on the A5 opposite LLyn Ogwen. This is roughly 35 minutes from The Woollen Mill and there’s spectacular scenery to enjoy along the way. You can walk with your dogs at Llyn Idwal. There are signs telling you to keep dogs on their leads but in winter there is no livestock around and it would be difficult to walk on the icy paths with a dog pulling you along. We let our dogs run free and the other dog owners we encountered were doing the same.

Duration: 2 hours including a picnic

Terrain: Rocky paths which can be icy in winter.

Bodie at Llyn Idwal

Starting Out

Your adventure begins immediately to the left of the Ogwen Cottage Ranger Base where you will see a stone path leading upwards past a waterfall. Follow the path until you reach the lake. It’s roughly 900 metres from the Ranger Base to Llyn Idwal and the change of elevation is modest. On the way up, it is worth walking a few yards to the left of the trail to admire the views of Llyn Ogwen below.

Once you have reached the lake, pass through the gate and you can tackle the circular route around it in either direction.  After the gate and to your left, a path leads up to Cwm Bochlwyd if you fancy a more challenging day. Whatever you decide to do, there are amazing views all the way with the mountains rising up steeply behind the Llyn Idwal.

The trail to Llyn Idwal
Llyn Idwal

Around the lake

The circular trail around the lake is easy going as there are no inclines of note to tackle. Just about anywhere makes for a good place to picnic if you want to stop for a while. The only disappointment will be the number of people on the trail. This is one of the few places in North Wales which is usually busy and is best avoided at weekends or during school holidays.

When you reach the far side of the lake, there is a path up to the Devil’s Kitchen if you fancy getting a great view of Llyn Idwal from a higher elevation. However, the trail is rough in places and you have to to scramble up rocks here and there. When there’s snow on the ground, it is quite easy to wander off the circular route and onto this path by mistake. You will soon realise that you have headed off piste and it is easy to retrace your steps.

Back to where you started

When you have completed a circuit of the lake, you can linger for while, head up to Cwm Bochlwyd or descend the same way you came up from the Ranger Base. If  you are itching for more, Lake Ogwen is close by. This is the lake into which Bedwyr Bedrynant, a knight of King Arthur, is supposed to have thrown Excalibur. The circular trail isn’t challenging and it will take you between one and two hours to complete the 4.6 kilometres. The picture below is of Llyn Ogwen and was taken from a viewpoint just above the Ranger Base.

Alternatively, you could grab a cuppa at the Ogwen Cottage Ranger Base where there are also toilets.

Llyn Idwal is simply wonderful all year round but you will have to share it with many other walkers unless you start out early and visit on a weekday in autumn or winter. You might even get a parking space if you arrive at the crack of dawn!

Llyn Idwal in winter
Llyn Ogwen


From the Woollen Mill, take the A487 towards Caernarfon. Turn right at Bontnewydd and follow the signs to Bethel and then Bethesda (A5). Drive through Bethesda and continue on the A5 until just before Llyn Ogwen when you will see the Ogwen Cottage Ranger Station on your right. The journey takes roughly 35 minutes.