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Cwm Idwal National Nature Reserve, near Betws-y-Coed

Cwm Idwal lies at the northern end of the Snowdonia National Park

lake at Cwm Idwal

What's here

Dogs
Parking (charge)
Toilets
Visitor Centre
Walking trail

Overview

In 1954, Cwm Idwal became the first National Nature Reserve in Wales and today it is a popular place for visitors interested in walking, climbing, fishing and geology.

The National Trust, the Snowdonia National Park Authority and Natural Resources Wales work together to manage Cwm Idwal.

Geology of Cwm Idwal

Visitors can see the most graphic evidence of how this landscape was created at Cwm Idwal.

The folds and faults are the direct result of the tumultuous forces which pushed up these mountains 450 million years ago.

The much more recent Ice Age sculpted and gouged their cliffs and ridges, as well as the great amphitheatre of Cwm Idwal itself. 

On all sides you can see the legacy of the huge glacier that once filled this space - the hanging valleys of Cwm Cneifion and Cwm Clyd, the massive, polished boulders, the moraine at the lip of Llyn Idwal, the huge scree slopes and, most remarkably of all, the jagged rock formations on the summit plateau of the Glyderau.

Wildlife at Cwm Idwal

Even the plants here are survivors from the age when ice was king. 

On the ledges, beyond the reach of the feral goats, there are a host of rare arctic alpine plants, including the moss campion, Snowdon lily, alpine lady’s mantle and purple saxifrage.

Visiting Cwm Idwal

There is open access for visitors on the reserve.

There is a circular route following public footpaths around Cwm Idwal lake. This is accessed from the car park, to the left of the visitor centre, via a steep and rocky path. The walk is not signposted and is about 3.5 miles long.

There are several other walking and rock scrambling (rougher access) routes which lead up to higher ridges.

Cwm Idwal is a popular location for mountaineering and other outdoor pursuits.  It is an access point for the Carneddau and Glyderau mountain ranges. 

Please note: 

  • all routes are uneven underfoot
  • the terrain is difficult, even in good conditions, due to the very steep and rocky nature of the ground
  • the conditions vary dramatically with the seasons 
  • there are stiles and gates where the routes cross walls and fences

Cwm Idwal Visitor Centre 

The visitor centre is the ideal place to start a visit to Cwm Idwal National Nature Reserve.

There are interactive touch screen displays and a film screen that shows different views of the reserve.

There are toilets and a limited amount of seating.

Please note that the visitor centre is unstaffed but there is a warden’s office onsite and an external electronic screen showing the weather forecast.

There is a refreshment kiosk that sells hot and cold snacks which is normally open at the same time as the visitor centre.

The visitor centre is owned by the Snowdonia National Park Authority and is managed by the Cwm Idwal Partnership (National Trust, Snowdonia National Park Authority and Natural Resources Wales).

National Nature Reserve

Cwm Idwal is a National Nature Reserve.

National Nature Reserves are places with some of the very finest examples of wildlife habitats and geological features. 

There are over 70 National Nature Reserves in Wales.

Find out more about National Nature Reserves.

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 highlights

During the year, the landscape changes at Cwm Idwal National Nature Reserve.

Depending on when you visit, you are likely to see different wildlife, too.

Read on to find out what you could see here during the different seasons.

Spring

In the spring, the rare Snowdon lily and other montane plants come into flower.

Summer

Migrant birds such as the ring ouzel and wheatear make Cwm Idwal their home during the summer.

Autumn

Autumn brings shorter days and a range of heathland colours.

Winter

In the colder months of late winter through to early spring, flowering purple saxifrage brightens up the winter landscape.

Opening times 

The visitor centre is open from 8.30am to 5pm.

The toilets are open 24 hours a day. 

How to get here

Download the location map.

Cwm Idwal is 12 miles north of Betws-y-Coed on the A5. 

Sustrans cycle route 85 runs from Bangor to the Cwm Idwal car park.

The OS grid reference is SH 649 604.

Directions

The main car park for Cwm Idwal is the Llyn Ogwen car park which is managed by Snowdonia National Park. Turn off the A5 at the sign post for the youth hostel.

There is a charge for parking in this car park.

There is also informal parking in lay-bys along the A5 south of this car park.

Public transport

The nearest train station is in Betws-y-Coed or Bangor.

The S6 bus runs along the A470 between Bangor and Betws-y-Coed.  For details of public transport visit www.traveline.cymru

Find out more

Contact details

Tel: 0300 065 3000

Email: enquiries@naturalresourceswales.gov.uk

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