Cookies on our website

The Natural Resources Wales website uses cookies. By continuing to browse or by clicking “Continue,” you agree to the storing of first- and third-party cookies on your device to enhance site navigation, analyse site usage, and assist in our marketing efforts. Cookie policy.

Cadair Idris National Nature Reserve and Visitor Centre, near Dolgellau

One of the most beautiful and dramatic spots in Wales

View of Cadair Idris National Nature Reserve

What's here

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

Welcome

For grandeur and rugged beauty, few locations equal Cadair Idris, a spectacular chain of peaks in the south of Snowdonia National Park.

The highest peak, and one of Wales’s highest mountains, is Penygadair and the views from the summit overlook most of Wales, from the Llŷn peninsula in the north-west to the Brecon Beacons in the south-east.

Llyn CauThe rocky peaks of Cadair Idris were formed by volcanic processes and later sculpted over many Ice Ages by glaciers as they thawed and shattered the rocks. 

The remarkable geology supports a wealth of wildlife and special plants, and a large part of the mountain has been designated as a National Nature Reserve.

Dôl Idris parkland lies at the foothills of Cader Idris and is the gateway to the reserve.

This parkland was once part of the Idris family estate and it has a peaceful lake and exotic specimen trees.

Visiting Cadair Idris

The Minffordd path to the summit of Cadair Idris starts just past the visitor centre.

There are also four short walking trails.

If you’re feeling energetic and have suitable footwear, why not try one of our two steep climbs up part of the Minffordd path for views of waterfalls and woodlands.

If you prefer a gentle stroll on flatter ground or a peaceful picnic by the lake, try our two accessible paths through the parkland.

Walking trails

Dôl Idris Lake and the Parkland Circuit walking trails are waymarked from the car park and follow flat paths in the parkland. These two trails can be combined to make a longer walk.

The Gorge Climb and the Nant Cadair Bridge Walk follow part of the Minffordd Path and climb steeply from the visitor centre on to the National Nature Reserve.

Dôl Idris Lake

⅓ mile/0.6 kilometre, accessible

Woman looking at lakeThis circular route starts from the car park and goes all the way around the lake in the parkland.

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.

There are picnic benches around the path.

Parkland Circuit

½ mile/0.8 kilometre, accessible

Woman on pathThis 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.

There are picnic benches around the path.

Gorge Climb

460 feet/140 metres (one way), moderate

Woman on Gorge ClimbThe Gorge Climb starts just past the visitor centre.

It follows part of the Minffordd Path which has many steep, rocky steps into the Celtic Rainforest with views across the gorge.

It returns down the same path.

Nant Cadair Bridge

⅓ mile/0.6 kilometre (one way), strenuous

Woman on bridgeThe Nant Cadair Bridge Walk follows the same route as the Gorge Climb on part of the Minffordd path.

It then continues onto the lower slopes of the open mountain to the Nant Cadair slate bridge. 

It returns down the same path.

Walking to the summit

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.

Minffordd Path

Woman walking down Minffordd PathThis route is 6 miles to the summit and back.

It is the shortest route up Cadair Idris but also the steepest.

This very strenuous climb is not waymarked and starts just past the visitor centre on a long flight of very steep rocky steps. 

It should only be attempted by experienced walkers with appropriate clothing and footwear, and a map.

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

Visitor centre and tea room

Cadair Idris visitor centre and Cadair Tea Room are 250 metres from the car park on a wide level path.

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.

The visitor centre and tea room are open seasonally - see opening times.

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.

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.

Our film about the legend of Cadair Idris is bi-lingual. The Welsh version plays first and the English version follows after seven minutes.

What to see on the National Nature Reserve

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

A walk through Cadair Idris National Nature Reserve is like climbing a ladder from habitat to habitat, from a fertile valley to the rocky peak of one of Wales’s highest mountains.

You will ascend from the classic U-shaped Tal-y-llyn valley through a steep gorge, to a hanging valley and glacial Cwm Cau.

Above lie the cliffs of Craig Cau and the Penygadair summit, with their bare jagged rocks.

What to see in 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.

Wheatears 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.

What to see in 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.

What to see in 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 reserve. 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!

What to see in 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 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.

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

Opening times 

Visitor centre and tea room

The visitor centre and tea room are open daily between 10am and 5pm during school holidays and at the weekend from Easter to September.

For the current opening hours, see the information locally.

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. 

Toilets

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).

Closures and diversions

Please note:

  • Sometimes we need to close or divert trails for your safety whilst we undertake maintenance work or 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

How to get here

Cadair Idris is 10 miles south of Dolgellau.

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

Download the location map.

Directions

Take the A487 from Dolgellau towards Machynlleth and turn right onto the B4405. The entrance to the Dôl Idris car park is immediately on the right.  

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

Ordnance Survey map

Cadair Idris National Nature Reserve and Visitor Centre is on Ordnance Survey (OS) map OL 23.

The OS grid reference is SH 732 115.

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 the Traveline Cymru website.

Contact details

Tel: 0300 065 3000

Email: enquiries@naturalresourceswales.gov.uk

Downloads

Related document downloads

Cadair Idris location map PDF [899.1 KB]
Cadair Idris leaflet PDF [2.7 MB]

Explore more

Is there anything wrong with this page? Give us your feedback.