Cwm Idwal was the first officially recognised National Nature Reserve in Wales; it was given this status by the Nature Conservancy Council in 1954. Along with Cadair Idris, Cwm Idwal was a favourite haunt of Charles Darwin.
The cwm or basin forms an amphitheatre behind a glacial lake, Llyn Idwal, and this makes the reserve one of the finest places to see how glaciation and the subsequent retreat of the glaciers affected and shaped this kind of dramatic landscape.
Over the years much damage occurred as the result of over-grazing by sheep, but CCW and the National Trust, who own the land, have taken the decision to exclude sheep grazing from the area. This action should give the rare arctic-alpine and ledge vegetation an opportunity to spread to surrounding areas. The small areas of calcareous grassland at Cwm Idwal should also recover and help the plants that grow there and the many insects and other small creatures that depend upon those plants.
Cwm Idwal is a botanist's paradise. Numerous ferns, mosses, lichens and flowering plants grow throughout the reserve, and in other parts of Snowdonia. The main botanically-rich features to look out for at Cwm Idwal are the cliffs and rocks that support the arctic-alpine plants - the so-called Hanging Garden - and the lake, Llyn Idwal, which also contains special plants. Other wet areas scattered throughout the reserve are home to many other interesting plants and numerous mosses.
Visiting Cwm Idwal
There is open access for visitors on the reserve.
There are several walking and rock scrambling (rougher access) routes which lead up to higher ridges.
Please note: all routes are uneven underfoot the terrain is difficult, even in good conditions, due to the very steep and rocky nature of the ground the conditions vary dramatically with the seasons. There are stiles and gates where the routes cross walls and fences
Cwm Idwal Visitor Centre
The visitor centre is the ideal place to start a visit to Cwm Idwal National Nature Reserve.
There are interactive touch screen displays and a small film screen that shows different views of the reserve.
There is also a refreshment kiosk that sells hot and cold snacks and toilets.
The visitor centre opened in 2014. It is owned by the Snowdonia National Park Authority and is managed by the Cwm Idwal Partnership (National Trust, Snowdonia National Park Authority and Natural Resources Wales).