Llyn Idwal — a mountain lake swim and an ideal walk for a six-year-old

If Yr Wyddfa’s a gorgeous, easy walk for a teen or a ten-year-old, it’s a bit of a haul for a six-year-old, so while we were up in Eryri we tried to find activities that would be great for our youngest. In this area there are tin mines, ice-cream parlours, and the lovely little lakeside railways (the one beside Llyn Padarn was very sweet), but I wanted to find a mountain walk that would really enchant him. In the end, we stumbled on one by accident.

On the last day, I’d hoped to walk up to Llyn Bochlwyd (Australia Lake) just southwest of Tryfan, so we parked on the A5 beside Tryfan and trekked over to the start of the walk at Ogwen Cottage. Halfway, we realised that Eldest had forgotten his boots. (No boots? Really?) So anyway, there’s a bit of a scramble up to the lake and I’m strict about not walking without the proper equipment (trying to train them for more demanding hikes in the future), so we changed plans and headed over to Llyn Idwal instead.

Which is both easy and gorgeous.

OK, everyone and their auntie knows it’s easy and gorgeous so you can expect to see a stream of people walking over there, but it really is an ideal Last Day Walk — it’s easy on the calves, pretty, and fun. And I couldn’t design a better walk for a six-year-old.

From Ogwen Cottage to the lake and back is just over a mile of easy walking on a rocky path; to go around the lake and back extends it to 2.5 miles.


  • To the lake and back: just over a mile in total (half a mile each way).
  • Around the lake and back to the cottage: 2.5 miles in total.
  • Terrain: rocky path and stepping stones.
  • Incline: very little but a slight slope at the beginning.

We started at Pont Pen-y-benglog, Ogwen Cottage, where there’s a little stepping-stone path leading off to the southeast for a few hundred metres, over some pretty little bridges and tiny streams that tumble down over the rocks. As you walk, you face the west side of Tryfan and the Glyderau that reach down to the southeast. After a few hundred yards, the main path turns towards the southwest, to Llyn Idwal (while a small offshoot continues to the southeast to Llyn Bochlwyd). The path to Llyn Idwal extends for about a third of a mile and reaches the lake at the northeastern end.

Click on the pictures to enlarge.

On the approach to the lake, we passed a small herd of Welsh Black (cows) grazing at the lakeside, slowly munching and blinking with their long, black lashes. We opted to go along the eastern side of the lake first, clockwise, because to the south there were four or five beautiful, high, thin waterfalls feeding the lake and in front them, a grassy knoll (who doesn’t love a grassy knoll?!) extending into the lake, on which we sat and ate lunch.

Lunch was a hot, freshly baked sausage roll the size of a forearm (actually as long as my forearm) from Glandwr café in Beddgelert, with apples, Welsh cheese, fresh bread, and water. Eating outside is arguably one of the best things about hiking. Feeling exercised, loving the view, feeling the wind and rain and sun on your back, with a huge, hot meal sliding down into your stomach… heaven. Especially if you’re hungry.

The southern side of the lake is a cliff. Tiny, colourful specks marked more adventurous hikers clambering over to test themselves on the Glyderau but we skirted around the lakeside. It’s a nice playing place for kids but can be boggy, so the stony areas are best. Here the path turned into a stepping stone activity for Youngest, who loved it. The elder two were too tired to gallop about. (Yey! Finally tired them out!)

On the western side, there were sheep and lambs scattered about and various streams with cute little bridges and fords. As we approached the northwest corner, we met a grit and pebble beach which allowed us to take off our socks and shoes and have a paddle, and strip down to our swimmers for a swim. (Except the wind was whistling through the mountain gaps, and the clouds were gathering, and it was really quite parky even on the beach so Middlest and I kept our t-shirts on.)

The water was surprisingly warm. That’s a complete lie. It was freezing. It felt like the sea in February and I’ve been in the sea in February. It was shocking. And fabulous. That’s not a lie, it really was fabulous. It was just brilliantly, awesomely fresh and cold and made our skin burn. I enjoyed watching the kids try to get in without letting the water touch their bellies, their little faces scrunched up as their skin contracted from the cold. Mean Mum.

We swam for about ten or fifteen minutes after which the kids’ lips started to go a bit blue and we jumped out, stripped off the t-shirts, and towelled/fleeced/scuttled our way back to pink skin. We galloped back down the little stepping stone path to Ogwen Cottage and on to our car, where we huddled up to the heater to warm through, before heading back to Clwyd.

We were looking forward to seeing family, but also felt a twinge of sadness that this marked the end of our too-short trip to Eryri (Snowdonia).

I could have stayed. I could have stayed there a lot longer.

It still aches a bit, that I didn’t.

I hope to take everyone back, for longer next time. I couldn’t be happier that they’ve all said they want to do it again.


    • TU says:

      It was amazing, Cheryl, just felt really lucky to have made it up there and to have been able to show the kids something that I love. Will definitely be trying to plan a longer trip for next year.

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