Aber is Not Boring - Episode 2: Cadair Idris

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Photograph by Ella Gibbs

‘Aber is so boring.’ ‘There’s nothing to do here.’ If I had a pound for every time that I heard a student utter those words, I would be able to swap my packet pasta dinners for a Michelin star meal every night. 

I have decided to search for the best things to do in and around Aberystwyth and share my experiences in an article once a month. I call this series Aber is Not Boring. 

In addition to the experience itself, I will consider accessibility and money, as many students do not have a car or a disposable income. This series will be perfect for solo trips as well as days with friends, partners and visiting family. Ultimately, my aim is to debunk the misconception that Aberystwyth has nothing to do! 


Cadair Idris  

Dôl Idris Car Park, Tywyn LL36 9AJ 

Photograph taken by Ella Gibbs

A mere 50-minute drive from the coastal hive of Aberystwyth, a glorious display of mountainous green expanse sits South of Yr Wyddfa (Snowdon).  

The mountain is infamous among most people who try to climb it. The area boasts many peaks and summits – including Cadair Idris. As ex-Cadets who like to toot our horns when it comes to expeditions, Ruth and I decided to dust off our walking boots. Equipped with solid blocks of Hartley’s Raspberry Jelly and soft apricots, we challenged ourselves to reach the summit of Cadair Idris. 

After researching the routes, Ruth and I decided on the Minffordd Path - a 10km walk which takes 6 hours to complete. This is to the summit and back. The path is described as ‘hard/strenuous’ by Snowdonia National Park, and  a ‘good level of fitness is required.’  As we are no strangers to demanding terrain, Ruth and I ignored the above advice and focused on walking the route which most encapsulated the scenic views of the lake.  

 Snowdonia National Park’s website has a downloadable map with step-by-step pictures of the route; however, you still need good navigation skills to decipher them.  

Photograph taken by Ella Gibbs

The emergence of the route began with a long span of steep steps, technical rocky sections and big tree roots.  

At this point, Ruth and I re-evaluated our opinion on the route description.  It was, in fact, difficult and strenuous.  We were already sweating, ripping off coats and base layers - and we were only five minutes from the car park. 

After an elevation gain of around 600m, the land began to open out, and it unravelled an unrivalled view of vast rocky peaks and marshland.  

The climb was still difficult and technical, but the breathtaking views - even in the cloudy December weather - made it worth it. We perched for a moment upon a large boulder and ate dried fruit whilst listening to Shania Twain. She provided some well-needed moral support. 

Around point 6 on the map, the lake came into view. A beautifully turquoise swathe of clear water invited us in despite the below-freezing temperatures. The gruelling journey melted away from us. We had been hypnotised by the still ripples of the lake.  

Photograph taken by Ella Gibbs

We perched upon another rain-wettened boulder and tucked into our Tesco meal deal sandwiches. We gazed upon the lake.  Although the route was quiet, we were far from lonely, as plenty of mountain sheep were dotted around. They kept us company. 

Photograph taken by Ella Gibbs

Cadair Idris translates to the ‘Chair of Idris’. In Welsh Mythology, this refers to a giant named Idris who used the mountains as his throne. It is said that spending the night on the mountain means you’ll wake as either a ‘madman or a poet.’ 

Safe to say, Ruth and I did not stay on the mountain long enough to become either poets or madmen. We ventured back down the same path shortly after our sandwiches, making our departure from the mountain.  

Descending the torturous steps was no easier than ascending them. If you suffer from any knee injuries, as Ruth and I do, you must be cautious when making the descent.  

Photograph taken by Ruth Briggs-Waites 

After a three-hour trip, Ruth and I returned safely to the car park. Although the route was difficult at points, it was well worth the scenery. It has inspired us to embark on more walking trips, as soon as our walking boots dry out.  

If you would like to see Cadair Idris but are put off by the sound of our gruelling route, we recommend the pony route. This is considered the easiest of the Cadair Idris routes.  

Cadair Idris is considered the hardest climb in Wales after Yr Wyddfa (Snowdon). A smaller hike may be more enjoyable and just as scenic to try first, such as the Pen Dinas walk or Constitution Hill in Aberystwyth! 

If you would like to visit Cadair Idris but do not own a car, you can get the bus from Great Darkgate Street and take the T2 TrawsCymru towards Dolgellau. Get off at the Minffordd Hotel and take a three-minute walk to the Dol Idris car park. The routes for Cadair Idris start here, and this is where the Visitors’ Centre is located.  

Alternatively, you can get the train to Machynlleth from Aberystwyth. From Machynlleth, take the T2 TrawsCymru bus towards Bangor, stop off at the Minffordd Hotel and take the three-minute walk to the Cadair Idris car park.  

This experience was a 10/10, and the walk was free. There was a small charge for the car park, which was open until midnight. Of course, don’t forget petrol charges – but these will be cheaper if you split them between friends. 


Top Tips for Student Walkers 

If you’re planning on tackling a hike, you will need to pack many things: 

  • Plenty of water and a drink with electrolytes. 

  • Food - make sure you eat a slow energy-releasing breakfast like porridge. 

  • Plenty of snacks to keep you going - solid jelly, dried fruit, flapjacks, boiled sweets etc. 

  • Daysack - water resistant or get a rain cover for it.  

  • Layers - warm thermal base layers, comfortable walking trousers and a jumper. Wind and waterproof coat and waterproof over trousers. Hats and Gloves etc. 

  • A sturdy, good pair of walking boots.  

  • First Aid kit, Including blister plasters.  

  • Torch  

  • Map of the route  

  • Change for car parking machines. 

Make sure you’ve downloaded the ‘What three words’ on your phone. Monitor the weather before you go. Optionally, you may want to take a pen knife and a speaker, extra pairs of socks, a change of clothes and a towel for after the walk, and a hot thermos of squash/tea/coffee.  

Make sure you plan your route before you arrive, researching online and printing it if possible. Also plan your route to get there, if opting for public transport or driving as you may need to find car parks.