The Watkin Path (approx. 6km) is named after Sir Edward Watkin who owned a chalet near the start of the route, and built the path so his guests could reach Snowdon's summit in safety. It was officially opened in 1892 by former Prime Minister William Gladstone, who at the age of 83 walked as far as what is now known as Gladstone Rock. The path is one of the hardest of the walking routes up Snowdon as it requires the largest gain in height, starting at an altitude of less than 60m it has over 1000m of climb (the Pen-y-Pass routes have around 730m).
The Watkin Path starts at the Nant Gwynant car park (SH 627 506) near Bethenia which is on the A498 between Beddgelert (SH 590 481) and Pen-y-Gwryd (SH 660 558). The car park is on the roadside and often fills up quickly, particularly on weekends and bank holidays. The car park and Bethenia are serviced by the park and ride in Nant Perris (SH 607 582) which runs regularly all day, every day throughout the summer (including weekends and bank holidays). It is also serviced by the Snowdon Sherpa bus service which has various stops around the mountain and runs from Llanberis, Bettws y Coed, Caernarfon, Beddgelert, Bethesda, and Porthmadog. Be sure to check timetables first as you don't want to end up missing the last bus and find yourself stuck, of course in these situations hitching is always an option.
The path begins at a track leading to Hafod y Llan Farm (SH 628 512), that passes through an oak forest at the base of the mountain, but after going through an iron gate it bears left along a stony track which was originally a donkey path constructed by Sir Edward Watkin in 1890. There is also a small path on the left, created by the National Trust, that weaves its way through the woodland crossing two streams and the remains of Sir Edward Watkin’s chalet, before rejoining the main path just above Hafod y Llan Farm. From here the route is clearly signposted as 'The Watkin Path – path to waterfalls and Snowdon'.
From here the path widens and curves up above a waterfall and across the remains of an old track (SH 622 515) that was the old slate mine incline. From here the long ridge of Cnicht can be seen behind, and the pyramidal peak of Yr Aran can be seen on the left. The path then crosses another iron gate becoming slightly rockier underfoot. At this point a path goes off to the right and across a stone slab footbridge, which leads to Gallt y Wenallt and many old mine workings. The Watkin Path carries on climbing, getting a little steeper, passing the old Hafod y Llan mine workings at the side of the Afon Cwm Llan. Here the remains of the old processing shop cling to the valley side above the cobalt blue waters of the stream.
A little further on the path crosses the river via a metal footbridge and passes the ruined farmhouse of Plas Cwm Llan (SH 620 521), which is riddled with bullet holes from practice battles pitched by commandos who trained here in preparation for D-Day. A little further on is Gladstone Rock (SH 618 552), where former Prime Minister William Gladstone made a political address to the Welsh people during the opening of the path. The large rock is adorned by a slate plaque commemorating the event.
Just after Gladstone Rock the route is a tour through the long-abandoned slate workings of the South Snowdon Quarry, the ruins of which also served as target practice during World War 2. If you stray off the path in this area, beware of deep mine-workings which can be dangerous, especially in snow. From here the path narrows, steepens, and zig-zags sharply up the right for about 60m, before bearing left along the slanting western slope of Y Lliwedd. The path continues left, zig-zagging upwards until around 600m where it turns sharply upwards, still zig-zagging, for another 150m or so, until arriving at Bwlch Ciliau (SH 619 536) on the southern flank of the Lliwedd Ridge.
The path turns left and follows Bwlch Ciliau to Bwlch y Saethau and from here attacks Snowdon's summit via its south face. The south face is largely made up of loose rock and scree which has numerous paths zigzaging across it, this makes route finding in poor weather extremely difficult and the walker is best advised to take a quick bearing aiming-off onto the southern side of Bwlch Maen (SH 606 538) and then following the crest of the ridge northeast to the summit.
Just a good pair of boots, waterproofs and some lunch. If walking in winter make sure you also carry an ice axe and crampons.
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Snowdonia (Official National Park Guide) by Merfyn Williams
The Mountains of England and Wales: Volume 1 Wales (Cicerone Guide) by John and Anne Nuttall
Hillwalking in Wales Vol 1 (Cicerone Guide) by Peter Hermon
Hillwalking in Wales Vol 2 (Cicerone Guide) by Peter Hermon
Hillwalking in Snowdonia (Cicerone Guide) by Steve Ashton
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