Yr Aran via the Watkin Path

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The Watkin Path is one of the classic ascent routes to the summit of Snowdon (Yr Wyddfa) and is named after Sir Edward Watkin who had it built. Sir Edward was a railway entrepreneur and politician, whose grandiose schemes included an early proposal for a Channel Tunnel. Less grandiose, but ultimately more successful, was the path from his summer chalet in Nantgwynant to the summit of Yr Wyddfa.

If you are rich and well-connected and intend to have a path built and then named after you, it might be a good idea to get a famous mate to declare it open. Sir Edward did just that, his famous mate in this case being the Prime Minister, William Gladstone. Sir Edward didn't muck about when he had a grandiose scheme in mind.

However, despite all Sir Edward's fine efforts, the Watkin Path is probably the least popular ascent route for Yr Wyddfa, due to having the greatest height gain of the various routes to the summit. It's also a bit of a slog in the higher part of the path.

Not far from the least popular way up Yr Wyddfa is the forgotten mountain of the Snowdon group, Yr Aran. Although a fine, shapely mountain, especially when viewed from the road next to Llyn Gwynant (lay-by at GR 649520), the mountain isn't on any of the popular routes to Yr Wyddfa.

Although the least popular path and a forgotten mountain might not seem to be the recipe for a good walk, this is far from the case. This walk sets out to make good use of the best of the Watkin Path before heading for the attractive (and deserted) Yr Aran.

The route starts on the Watkin Path, giving pleasant walking amongst great scenery. If it looks slightly familiar on your first visit, this may be because the path was used in the filming of 'Carry On up the Khyber', due to its similarity to the rugged landscape of Afghanistan. The route rises above an attractive set of pools and waterfalls before taking a sudden turn-off onto rougher ground and steeper slopes.

The walking isn't too demanding though and the reward is an easy path to join the East Ridge of Yr Aran. On the approach it looks like one of those ridges you just have to walk and when you get there, it doesn't disappoint. The route to the summit is interesting all the way and the top gives great views of the neighbouring peaks.

The way back is simple enough and as well as giving the opportunity to go for Yr Wyddfa after all (see the Additional Information section), it also includes a bit more of the Watkin Path, including the famous Gladstone Rock, from which William Gladstone addressed the crowd when the path was opened. This route has the best of the Watkin, plus the ascent of an attractive and quiet mountain, something of a rarity in Snowdonia; a mountain for connoisseurs.

Wales - North Wales - Gwynedd - Snowdonia

8/20/2013 - Paul Shorrock

Thank you Jonathan for the super feedback on the route, and more importantly for pointing out that the height gain was missing from the stats (now amended). Without the height gain component, the route timing came out at a highly unlikely 2hrs 13mins! - with height gain added it should come out around 3½ hours, but why rush? 4 hours should allow time for photos on the summit, and even a picnic (but pick a good day!)"


19.09.2013. Did this lovely walk yesterday. Well worth the effort, and the directions were excellent. The metal sided bridge noted in waymark 2 is currently being rebuilt as part of a hydro electric scheme and may not continue with metal sides, but the path junction itself is unaffected and is as the photo. For those who may choose a walk from the brief descriptions, we thought that due to some steepish scrambles on both the ascent and descent, it was at the top end of a 'moderate' grading, and the height gain is about 700 metres, not zero as the introduction states. Don't know if Paul Shorrock is superhuman or if we oldies are slower than we think we are, but we thought that mere mortals should allow at least 3 hours for this walk.

9/21/2012 - John Blundell

HI Paul We did this walk on Sunday 9th Sept in what was supposed to be a dry clear day but as usual it was raining and cloudy with neither summit in view at the start. However by the time we had summited Y Aran and walked accross to Snowdon the sun had come out and apart from the summit itself it was a beautiful day. The walk up to Y Aran is superb and a welcome change from the noisy neighbour!! I did it with my dog with no problems at all and would definitely recommend it to anyone. Thanks for a super walk.

3/28/2012 - Paul Shorrock

Thanks Ian for a great comment on the walk. For those who haven't seen the video I can highly recommend it - I laughed out loud several times. The video also gives a good idea what to expect - perhaps we contributors should start filming as well!

3/26/2012 - Ian Adams

Awesome walk with lots to see on a great day. Watch a short, easy to watch video of the walk here: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=nRelVarpT2c&list=UU-wqXVQT8PzQqHJuMQJIa-g&index=1&feature=plcp