Travel: August 11, 2018: A Trail Less Traveled


After breakfast of toast and beans with a view of Maenllwyd Guest House’s garden, we set off early to make the bus back north a little ways to the trailhead for the Minffordd Path up Cader Idris.

We left before any of the attractions of Machynlleth were open.


Rain was predicted for later in the afternoon, but I was determined to make it up one of the mountains that I’d come to this country intending to climb. Since Snowdon had defeated me, I wasn’t going to let rain keep me from Cader Idris’ slopes. I am glad my sister loves me.

We had a welcome—a very welcome—surprise climbing onto the bus. We happened to hit a day when all travel with the TrawsCymru buses was free. I don’t know why it was free. A holiday weekend, I think. But we were blessed; this happened to be the day that we needed to travel the farthest by bus. But this first leg was just a short hop, 18 minutes north.

There’s little at this bus stop. There is the Gwesty Minffordd Hotel. There’s a car park at bit off the road, where there are toilets. There is a welcome center with a café a little ways past the car park. There’s no town.

The driver—I wish I’d gotten his name; I think I recognized from our travel on TrawsCymru the day before—kept the doors opened when we disembarked to make sure that we knew where we were going, kindly ensuring that we had proper directions to the trail.

Waving goodbye, we set off.

I was maybe a bit distracted by anticipation. I don’t remember seeing the trail map. I remember seeing the stairs.


The first twenty minutes or so of the trail was a steep climb, mostly up stairs, to get above the treeline. A stream, Nant Cadair, cascades down the mountain beside the trail, sometimes quite close.


I stepped just off of the path to get this shot onto a rock shelf.

Once above the treeline, the path evens out, the going gets easier, and the views get better. Above the trees, you get tantalizing views of the valley below.



At one point, the path dissects, one route going left and the other right. The sign was in Welsh, and we weren’t sure which route led most swiftly to the top. We lingered a moment for the group behind us to catch up and asked if they knew. They didn’t either. We decided to part ways with that group, so one of us would be right.


We went right. We were wrong.

Ours was the longer route to the peak of Cader Idris, climbing first to the peak of Mynydd Moel.

The way up Mynydd Moel continued to be fairly easy, and though it became clear not too far along our route that we had chosen the way that would not lead us to the mountain lake, where I thought we might stop and enjoy lunch, we continued. We had Mynydd Moel all morning almost to ourselves. We maybe met another five hikers, all coming down from the peak; they must truly have gotten an early start.



We stopped and ate our lunch on a stone wall that the trail dissected. My sister decided to sit and enjoy the peace while I saw a style not far up the trail that looked a very attainable goal, and I thought from our vantage point then could have been the peak. It was not.



Over the style, a short way along a sheep track through the heather and bracken, a second valley opened up on the other side of this crest of Mynydd Moel’s.





The main trail continued along the mountain’s spine, and had the rain not been forthcoming, and my sister not waiting patiently, I might have continued along it, because without a week’s worth of clothes and necessities on my back, the climb was much easier. And I wanted to reach a peak.

But I turned around.

I was satisfied.

I’d explored.

And I’d explored alone.

Retrospectively, being on the less-walked trail let us set the pace. It was a serene experience to stand on that mountaintop and hear nothing but the wind and the insects and the peace.

If I go again, I’d like to see the lake. I’d like to see the peak of one or both mountains.

But I would not trade the experience that I had.

The climb down from Mynydd Moel was far easier than the climb up.

All in all, we were up and down the mountain in about two hours—though we didn’t reach the peak—either peak.


That dark blue line tracking to the right shows our route. I climbed just over that hatched black line, which is the fence, then along that dotted black path a ways before turning around. I think we came in from that white spine off of the yellow road.   Looking at this map, I climbed 420 meters or 1377 ft above sea level, which is still only half of either mountains’ heights.  Topographical map found via Walking Englishman via GPSVisualizer. His own journey upwards was much more complete, and the pictures are excellent. Click the map for the link.


Looking at his route, I can see we really only did a short section of the full loop of the two mountain peaks.

We stopped to catch our breath and drink water and chat with a couple with their dog at the café.

We trekked back to the road.

Then we realized that there didn’t appear to be any bus stop on the south-going side of the road.

And we panicked a little.

The people at the café were tremendously kind, using their cells to help us determine the bus schedule.

There is a road sign across from the Gwesty Minffordd Hotel. That is the bus stop. It is unmarked, but the bus drivers must know to look for weary hikers.

We sat in the grass while the rain began and waited for the bus for what seemed a very long time and was probably forty minutes or so (buses only come by every 90 minutes, for any future adventurers).

Once on the bus, our route took us south. We switched from the TrawsCymru T2 to the T1 in Aberystwyth, taking the layover time to wander the streets, mostly Terrace Road, near the bus stands and find some dinner.

Mostly, this was a dinner quest, since we’d had trail snacks for lunch, and we didn’t end up being particularly adventurous, opting for KFC to eat as daintily as possible on the bus, an easy and quick takeaway meal and filling after a morning’s hike.  I’m only discovering now that we were only two or three blocks from stumbling upon the ocean!  I’ve said it before in these blogs, and I’ll say it again; research every stop and look at maps beforehand.

The second bus took us to Carmarthen, and from there switched onto a train, which took us to Swansea.

We arrived at Swansea in the dark and the rain, but we had been sitting all day, and from here, my sister knew her way. We walked either 15 minutes to the main city bus station or the 45 minutes to her dorm room.  Honestly, I was tired; I don’t remember much of this leg of the trip.

For all that, this was probably one of my favorite experiences on this trip.

And in just about three days, we crossed all of Wales North-to-South (it can be done in less time than we did of course), starting from Holyhead, down through Snowdonia National Park, and then down along the west coast to Swansea Bay.  Google Maps doesn’t allow me to input more than one route on public transport at a time, so I can’t give you the several days’ complete picture (or not without—and perhaps I may—tracing it myself onto a map that I print).


Made with Google Maps.  We followed the blue and green lines, roughly a 4 hour journey (once we got on the bus) from Dôl Idris Car Park to Swansea, probably more with our layover in Aberystwyth.

All photos are mine.  Most can be viewed almost full screen if you click on them.  The maps are otherwise attributed in their captions.

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