Steeped in culture, history, and heritage, Eryri National Park (formerly called Snowdonia) offers dog walkers a chance to climb to new heights, as Elizabeth Denholm discovers.
Eryri was founded in October 1951 in North Wales and is the largest of the three national parks in Wales. The towering peaks of its nine mountain ranges cover over half of the park’s area and include Yr Wyddfa (Snowdon) the highest mountain in Wales at 1,085 metres (3,560 feet).
Eryri National Park covers over 800 square miles, with 74 miles of coastline and 11,000 hectares of woodland.
The park is steeped in history with castles and Roman forts in abundance. The area is also rich in minerals, and littered with mines and quarries for copper, lead, zinc, iron, gold, and manganese.
The completion of the A5 road by Thomas Telford in the 1800s made the remote areas of Eryri more accessible to tourists, and today nearly four million people visit the area each year.
Architect Clive Moore was born and lives in nearby Pwllheli on the Llyn Peninsula. He is an ardent walker, often trekking for miles through the mountains of Eryri with his son’s two-year-old Cockapoo, Oli, and recommends the following four walks for dog lovers:
Despite its quite alarming name, the three-mile Precipice Walk is ideal for people of every ability.
“Precipice Walk gives someone who doesn’t normally have the opportunity to go climbing a mountain, the experience of being at 1,000ft,” said Clive. “It’s unique.”
The walk is located north of Dollgellau, near the village of Llanfachreth, with parking and toilets available. The path starts from the car park and leads up a slight incline through a beautiful wooded area and into a small fi eld before reaching Llyn Cynwch.
“Though you can go either way, I recommend walking clockwise along the northern shore of the lake fi rst then along the path cut into the mountain’s side. The benefit of that direction is that you get the most impactful views,” Clive explained.
As the path rounds the edge of the mountain a spectacular vista opens up, offering stunning views of mountain ranges and the Mawddach Estuary.
“There are views of every mountain range including Cader Idris, the Rhinogs, Yr Wyddfa (Snowdon) and the Arenig Hills,” enthused Clive. “You are very high up and the hill does slope quite steeply away from the path, which is fairly narrow, so keep your dog on a lead. The path is flat all the way around and well defi ned so you can’t get lost. Plus, there are lots of bilberries to pick on your walk,” he continued.
The path offers a couple of detours, including one down to a copper mine which even super-fi t Clive described as “very steep”.
A leisurely mile-long stroll around the lake offers an alternative if you don’t like heights and is also an option in poor or misty weather when it wouldn’t be advisable to do the full walk.
There is no swimming in the lake, which is a reservoir, and is stocked with fish for anglers.
“This walk is suitable for any ability though the path is rough with lots of stones, and uneven in places, so wear sturdy footwear,” advised Clive.
The village of Beddgelert lies towards the west of Eryri. The name comes from the legend of Gelert, faithful hound of Prince Llewelyn, who was left to guard his baby. On returning home, the prince found the dog covered in blood and the cradle upturned. Believing the dog had murdered his child, the prince slayed him only to find the baby safe under the cradle along with the body of a wolf, which Gelert had killed to protect the boy. Beddgelert is Welsh for Gelert’s grave.
“This strenuous walk is a challenging three-and-a-half-mile walk with a very steep section and some very uneven paths, so is suitable for fi tter dog walkers,” Clive explained.
Leave the car park at Nantmor and turn left. Go through the kissing gate and turn left along a short section of road. Look out for a National Trust sign for Coed Aberglaslyn to the right, then follow the path and climb through the woods.
“This is a hard climb but it’s the only steep part of the walk and through amazing ancient woodland with roots that act as steps to help.
Persevere as it’s definitely worth the eff ort for the spectacular views from the top,” urged Clive.
There is a stile at the top of the climb and once on the other side the panoramic view is guaranteed to impress. Follow the path down the hill, across the railway, and through the gate opposite, then to a wooden gate on the left. Here you can detour a short distance to Gelert’s grave.
Keep on the path, cross the bridge, then turn right to follow the walk along the river, which leads back to Nantmor and the car park.
“The path starts flat near Beddgelert but further along the river it becomes very uneven and rocky so keep dogs under control,” Clive suggested.
An alternative walk, though still requiring a moderate level of fitness, is to start at Nantmor and follow the river path up to Beddgelert then return the same way. There are lots of cafes in the village and places to sit and picnic.
Just off the A470, near Maentwrog, is Llyn Mair, an artificially created lake, developed in the late 1800s by an estate owner as a gift for his daughter. Around Llyn Mair there are nearly 20 miles of footpaths of varying degrees of difficulty, all well signposted.
“There are many different routes to choose from but I took in both lakes, Llyn Mair and Llyn Hafod-y-llyn,” explained Clive. “The area has lots of routes which are well marked for different abilities.
“I started at the car park and followed the path signposted to Tan Y Bwlch station on the Welsh Highland Railway,” explained Clive.
“There’s a cafe there and benches to sit and watch the steam trains.” Cross the railway and follow the footpath, then turn left on reaching a lane and follow it back to the main road. Turn right on the road for a short distance before crossing over and taking the fi rst left lane.
This leads to the upper lake, Llyn Hafod-y-llyn, where a footpath on the left takes you back into the grounds of Llyn Mair.
“I followed the paths around the outer edge of Llyn Mair but there are other paths that cut across, making the route shorter,” said Clive. “The woodland is like a rainforest it’s so lush.”
The lakes are suitable for both dogs and humans to swim or paddle in. “There were people swimming in the lake when we visited, which is warm because it’s quite shallow,” commented Clive. “There are plenty of places to sit and picnic too.”
Because Llyn Mair’s north shore lies along the road it is walled off so it’s not possible to circumnavigate the lake.
Llyn Idwal, which lies to the north of Snowdonia in the Nant Ffrancon valley, is famous for its hanging valley, carved by glaciers thousands of years ago.
Charles Darwin visited Llyn Idwal in the mid-1800s and was one of the first people to conclude that the features had been formed by glaciers. Llyn Idwal is located off the A5 opposite Llyn Ogwen. There is a car park, refreshments, and a visitor centre, but it is an extremely popular destination so arrive early or visit out of season.
“This walk has a moderately steep section at the beginning so dog walkers need to be fairly fi t,” advised Clive, “but when you reach the lake the path is fairly fl at if very rocky and uneven in places so wear suitable footwear.”
Start at the left of the visitor centre and climb up steps, through a gate and over a bridge. After about 500m take the right fork at the junction, reaching the lake after another 500m.
“You can go clockwise or anti-clockwise around the lake,” said Clive, “as the views of the mountains are amazing both ways. The path is clearly marked so you can’t get lost.”
Near the far end are the famous Idwal Slabs, which were used by Sir Edmund Hillary and his Welsh teammate, Charles Evans, for training before he conquered Everest. Just before the Idwal Slabs, the path turns right along a level patch of ground and stepping stones, which cross streams.
At the back of Llyn Idwal is The Devil’s Kitchen, sheer cliff s often shrouded in mist, which is said to be steam rising from the Devil’s cooking.
Further around, on the north-west shore of the lake, is a shingle beach, ideal for dogs to paddle.
The path carries on around the lake, through a gate in a wall and across a slate bridge, crossing Afon Idwal, which drains out of the lake. It then rejoins the original path back to the car park.
Dog-friendly accommodation in Snowdonia
Plas Weunydd Hotel & Glamping
Plas Weunydd Hotel & Glamping is the perfect destination for your next Snowdonia adventure. We're located in a UNESCO World Heritage Site and just a stone's throw from Zip World Llechwedd.
Book your stay in one of our stylish and comfortable dog-friendly rooms or glamping tents by visiting plasweunydd.co.uk or calling 01766 610 006.