Surrounded by steep mountains and Celtic rainforest and steeped in myth and legend, the village of Beddgelert, situated right at the foot of Yr Wyddfa (Snowdon), has been drawing outdoor enthusiasts for centuries.
Main image: the descent of Cnicht with Moelwyn Mawr poking out from behind the clouds. | Credit: Francesca Donovan
Follow the southbound river past the little shops and cafes and out of the village and you’ll soon find a sombre monument in the middle of a meadow. It marks the final resting place of Gelert, a wolfhound whose demise came about at the hands of his owner Llewelyn ap Iorwerth, King of Gwynedd, who slew the dog after mistakenly believing he had killed the king’s newborn baby. Fortunately, this tragic tale is in fact just a myth. The story of Gelert was, in reality, cooked up by the landlord at the nearby Royal Goat Hotel; a cunning eighteenth century marketing ploy to draw more visitors to the village.
These days, the reputation of this village goes far beyond folklore. Many would argue that it’s the most picturesque village in all of Eryri (Snowdonia). On one side, looms the dorsal fin of Yr Aran, its top silhouetted by Wales highest mountain, Yr Wyddfa, while the bouldery face of Moel Hebog guards its western side. Two rivers meet in the village, the Afon Glaslyn and the Afon Colwyn. These can be foaming torrents throughout most of the year, though in summer they tend to slow down to offer irresistible pools to cool down in. With these two rivers and the roads leading north, south and east from its centre, the village has played a central role in the history of this area and the local architecture exhibits that heritage. There’s the seventeenth century bridge, for instance, and the hotch-potch stone cottages and inns that many a weary traveller would have stopped in over the centuries.
While there might be plenty of reasons to stay within Beddgelert and its immediate environs, one of its greatest assets is its location right at the heart of the national park. This makes all corners of it, along with the coastline of Pen-Llyn, within relatively easy reach – whether that’s by car, bus or via the steam train linking Porthmadog to the south and Caernarfon to the north.
Your weekend in Beddgelert, sorted
- Your itinerary
- More great walks in Eryri
- Food and drink
- Guides and activity providers
- Getting there
Climb to the top of Beddgelert’s bouldery giant or take an easier wander that gives a bit of everything…
Moel Hebog and the ridgeline that leads to its summit is an inescapable and irresistible sight from just about anywhere in Beddgelert. The route from the village up to the 783m mountain top involves some light scrambling and a short and sharp climb and this, on a good day, leads you to a panorama of all of Eryri and the North Wales coast and Cardigan Bay. The descent then follows down below the cave that, folklore has it, hid the last Welsh-born Prince of Wales, Owain Glyndwr, from the English in the fifteenth century.
For a walk that packs a punch without involving quite so much climbing, follow the Afon Glaslyn out of Beddgelert and into the narrow tree-climbed gorge. Keep to the path that rollercoasters alongside the river until reaching Nantmor. There head uphill along the Cwm Bychan Path then descend to Llyn Dinas and let the valley lead you back to Beddgelert. (9km / 5.7 miles, 304m / 1000ft ascent, 3 to 4 hours).
Climb ‘the Matterhorn of Wales’ or keep low and slow in the woods…
Viewed from the west, the 689m peak of Cnicht has that perfect mountain form; a pyramidal zenith that’s earned it the nickname the ‘Matterhorn of Wales’. The ascent to its summit from the village of Croesor is steep and involves one very short section where your hands will need to reach for the rhyolite (the predominant stone here). It’s a scramble but it’s about as easy as scrambling gets. Once at the top, you’ll realise that the mountain isn’t pointed but in fact a long cat’s back that directs you into a high moorland plateau. Here, head for the slate tips of the long abandoned Croesor works and take the Snowdonia Slate Trail back to the village below.
If you put the miles in the day before, then the Llyn Llewelyn walk will aid your recovery. This walk can be as short as 4.4km / 2.8 miles if started at Beddgelert Forest or you could make it a longer journey by starting and finishing in Beddgelert village. This longer route follows alongside the West Highland Railway through the bouldery and fern-filled forest seeking out the sheltered waters of Llyn Llewelyn. Here, your reward on a sunny enough day will be a view of the surrounding mountains reflected in the lake. The trail then circles back to Beddgelert and your post-walk reward in one of the pubs or cafes. (10.4km / 6.5 miles, 3 to 4 hours).
Other great walks in north-west Snowdonia
The Nantlle Ridge
Distance: 11km / 7 miles | Ascent: 888m / 2900 ft | Duration: 5-6 hours
If you really want to escape the crowds, head from Beddgelert to Rhyd-Ddu and, instead of joining the walkers heading up Yr Wyddfa, turn your back on them and cross to the other side of the road where the main route up to Y Garn begins. This mountain forms the start of the Nantlle Ridge, a breathtaking scrambly walk that is non-technical but full of exposure. It’s easiest to walk this as a there-and-back, but a popular circular route involves walking to Mynydd Tal y Mignedd and then dropping down to return via the tracks through Beddgelert forest.
Yr Wyddfa via the Rhyd-Ddu Path
Distance: 12km / 7.5 miles | Ascent: 984m / 3228 ft | Duration: 4-5 hours
If you have your eye on climbing Wales’ highest mountain then Beddgelert makes for the perfect basecamp. The village is only a short car or bus journey from the heads of the Rhyd-Ddu and Watkin trails that lead up to the top of Yr Wyddfa and these routes will offer far quieter journeys than can be expected on the heavily-trodden routes from Llanberis and Pen y Pass.
Distance: 9.7km / 6 miles | Ascent: 563m / 1850 feet | Duration: 4 to 5 hours
Further down the valley from Rhyd-Ddu there’s ‘Yr Eliffant’, or Mynydd Mawr, a mountain that from some angles, resembles a resting elephant. The short but steep climb to its 698-metre summit provides an excellent viewing platform for Yr Wyddfa and also Anglesey and the Menai Strait. This is mainly walked as a there-and-back.
Accommodation in Beddgelert
With its centuries-old association with tourism and proximity to Yr Wyddfa, Beddgelert isn’t short on places to stay. Guesthouses and bed and breakfasts are in abundance, as are traditional inns, including the Prince Llewelyn, the Saracens Head and the Tanronnen. At Nant Gwynant, which is a short drive west of Beddgelert, there’s a beautiful riverside campsite (Llyn Gwynant Camping) or for some real luxury head to Portmeirion, Clough William-Ellis’s italianate village which is 25 minutes drive south of Beddgelert. The closest YHAs are YHA Snowdon Bryn Gwynant and YHA Snowdon Ranger.
Food and drink
If you’re after some post-walk pub fare, there’s plenty of choice within Beddgelert and, just up the road at Rhyd-Ddu, the Clewelyn Arms is a good spot if you like hefty portions. Y Bistro yn yr Hebog, which has a scenic riverside terrace, offers more of a restaurant experience within Beddgelert. Just bear in mind that many of the kitchens within the village tend to close early in the off-season. For coffee, light bites and breakfast, Caffi Colwyn, which is on the riverside, is a safe bet, or head out of Beddgelert to Caffi Gwynant where, in the converted chapel, you can enjoy food made from fresh, locally-sourced ingredients.
Guides and activity providers
- 1088 Adventures: local guides offering walking tours and bike rides ranging from a couple of hours to multi-day
- Walk Snowdonia: guided walks and navigation courses
- Snowdonia Walking and Climbing: guiding with an emphasis on more ambitious walking, scrambling, and climbing
- Yr Ardd Fadarch: mushroom foraging tour led by local expert, Cynan Jones
- Llyn Gwynant Campsite: canoe and kayak hire on Llyn Gwynant and Afon Glaslyn
- Mountain Walking Snowdonia by Terry Fletcher (Cicerone)
- Day Walks in Snowdonia: 20 Circular Walks in North Wales by Tom Hutton (Vertebrate)
Getting to Beddgelert
The nearest mainline train stations are Porthmadog (9 miles) and Bangor (25 miles). The 5C bus links Bangor with Caernarfon and the S3 links Caernarfon with Beddgelert. The S4 bus links Porthmadog train station with Beddgelert. Steam trains on Welsh Highland Railway link Beddgelert to Porthmadog and Caernarfon.
Discover more day walks in Eryri as mapped by our expert contributors or one of the UK towns and villages that make great weekend adventure bases.