Carneddau Plateau, Snowdonia

Margaux Doey conquers Wales' highest plateau

Illustration photo of Carneddau Plateau, Snowdonia

Route description

  • From the bothy, head NW around the reservoir.
  • Turn N and find the fence. Follow it until you see the top of Foel-fras, then make a beeline for the summit.
  • Turn around 180° degrees and follow the path SW to the summit of Carnedd Gwenllian.
  • Head S to your third peak, Foel Grach and then SW again towards Carnedd Llewelyn.
  • Pick the path heading E down towards Craig yr Ysfa ridge and start your descent.
  • Follow the ridge and just before the ascent starts up towards Pen yr Helgi Du, take the narrow path heading S on the side of the mountain.
  • Continue on the path for just over 2km, then follow it as it bends SW towards the A5, where your car is.
  • Having overnighted in a bothy at the edge of Craig y Dulyn, our day was off to a good start. Emerging from our shelter, we were greeted with brilliant sunshine. And it remained with us most of the day, giving us a merry spring to our step as we started up towards Foel-fras.

    Our ascent was not exactly a well trodden path, but was easy enough to navigate. After scrambling over some boulders, we located a fence that we followed in a North-Westerly direction. There are a few boggy patches, which our friend Dave sadly was not lucky enough to escape. As soon as we could see the summit, we made a beeline for it, sharing stories of adventurous travels to distract us from the steep incline and our increasingly heavy legs.

    From the top, the remainder of the walk is pretty much simply following a path until you reach the car. But we were not to be fooled into thinking it would be a quick job getting there, as there was still another 10km to go. If you’re into peak-bagging, this is a great walk, as you’ll cover four (or five if you’re energetic) in one walk, including the aforementioned Foel-fras, Carnedd Gwenllian, Foel Grach and Carnedd Llewelyn. Pen yr Helgi Du would be your fifth summit. The Carneddau Plateau and is the highest plateau in Wales.

    With a muscle-pumping, heart-racing ascent behind us, we were able to really enjoy stretching our legs and gaining some ground. Of course the views from the plateau are stunning, especially on a sunny day. Views stretch as far as Conwy Bay, with Carnedd Dafydd to the West.

    On passing Carnedd Llewelyn – our highest peak of the day at 1,064m – we made our descent to the ridge of Craig yr Ysfa. This was the fun bit – using our hands, we clambered down the rocks to the ridge. And although not nearly as scary as a lot of ridges, it is pretty exposed, which makes it a great introductory ridge for walkers who still have a small fear of heights. It certainly offers some awesome views to the East and the West.

    At the end of the ridge, there’s a choice of three descents – the first, looking the easiest of the three, descends straight down to Ffynnon Llugwy Reservoir and then to the road. Another route involves some slightly scarier scrambling to the top of Pen yr Helgi Du and then a gentle walk down. But we picked the middle route, as we wanted a bit of a challenge, but were a little too tired to climb all that way up again. The middle trail is narrow, so you have to keep your eyes on the path, but if you’re lucky like we were, you might spot one of the Carneddau ponies – thought to be one of the rarest breeds in the world.

    The walk does require a shuttle run, so remember you have a half hour drive to fetch the other car from the start of the walk. Or an hour drive if you plan on coming back to Capel Curig for a pint and a warming meal like we did.

    Walk details

  • Distance: 13km/8 miles
  • Time: 6-7 hours
  • Ascent: 1420m/4658ft
  • Maps: OS 1:25,000 Explorer Sheet OL17 (Snowdonia); Harvey's 1:40,000 British Mountain Map (Snowdonia)
  • Transport: Snowdon Sherpa buses run regularly to and from Capel Curig (check gwynedd.gov.uk). Dolgarrog and Llanwrst are the closest railway stations (see nationalrail.co.uk)
  • Tourist information: Ogwen Information Centre, 01248 605535
  • Carneddau Plateau, Snowdonia