The Watkin path, from the quarry to the summit of Mt Snowdon, is thought to be one of the most hard going paths up Snowdon. The path starts off wide and even, but becomes rocky and requires some scrambling up loose scree towards the end. There are easier ways to get up to the summit, such as the train, but don’t be put off as it’s worth the extra bit of effort for getting a true feeling for the Welsh mountain’s history and landscape.
5-6 hours (8mi / 13kms) will get you there and back. There is a cafe on the top that is open 8:30am - 4:00pm, but it was crowded, with big queues for the food and bathrooms - so if possible take a packed lunch.
The Watkin path is the most scenic of the routes and starts off in woodlands before passing waterfalls, ruins of miner’s huts, and the old slate quarry. The first half half of the path is an easy walk, built to accommodate horse drawn carriages. After the quarry, it snakes its way up to the ridge line, before the final ascent to the summit. Some parts of the path are built with pieces of slate, so be sure to wear footwear with proper grip as this can be pretty slippery when wet.
The path was opened in 1892 by then then Prime Minister, William Gladstone. As you walk up the path, you pass the Gladstone Rock, commemorating the opening. The path was created by Sir Edward Watkin to allow walkers to climb to the summit of Snowdon from the existing quarry path. It has since been used as a training ground for soldiers and mountaineers, including those who took part in the WWII D-day landings and for the 1935 Everest expedition (the first successful ascent to the world's highest peak, with none other than our own Sir Edmund Hillary).
Start/Finish: Pont Bethania Car Park, Nant Gwyant, off the A498 (SH 627 507). Parking is pay and display (loose change required) but there are a few spots along the main road back toward Beddgelert that you could park up on.
Eat: aside from the cafe at the top, there is a cafe only about 100m back toward Beddgelert Caffi Gwynant, open on weekends (Fri-Sun) 9am-5pm in the winter, and open all days except Tuesday during the summer. Or if that’s closed, a bit further in the opposite direction is the Pen-Y-Gwryd Hotel, famous for being the training base for the 1953 Everest expedition.
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Writing and Research: Jan McIntyre
Film and Photos: Ben Kepka