Cwm Idwal & Llyn Bochllwyd, Ogwen Valley


Best at / for: snow and ice.

Best avoided: public holidays

Parking: parking with close access to the location.

Access: some hill walking required for best vantage points.

Notes: good hiking / wild camping opportunities nearby.


I’ve deliberately lumped these two locations together because the path up to both of them starts out on the same track from Ogwen Cottage.

Cwm Idwal is well known among landscape photographers as a stunning mountain lake with a myriad of compositions with which to show-case it. The back-drop of the Glyderau ridges is a compositional dream. However, it’s a sad fact that the light conditions are a real issue in this valley because the ridges run 180 degrees from east to west through south. So any sort of decent light is at a premium. The ridge tops will light up in high summer in golden hour, but that’s about it.

So the real drama at Cwm Idwal is reserved for wintry conditions, when the snow and ice can compensate for light. And in any case, this valley is always heaving with trippers in spring, summer and autumn because of its accessibility. It’s an easy short walk (1.5km) up from the carpark, but at the lake you’ll feel like you’re miles from anywhere!

Landscape photographers would be much better served making the hike up to Llyn Bochllwyd or Australia Lake as is also known (it resembles the map of Australia when seen from the high ridges). The path branches up from the Idwal path a few hundred yards from the carpark. And the climb is more rugged and steeper. But for these reasons it’s also much quieter, and being more elevated, gets better light more often. Tryfan is it’s main backdrop, which in my opinion equals the backdrop of the Glyderau at Idwal. Also if you face away from Tryfan for evening light you can get good sunsets down Nant Francon.

If you visit Snowdonia with Cwm Idwal as one of your main location plans, because you’ve seen amazing images from there, make sure you have some alternative plans in mind. It is a fabulous place to visit, but a difficult subject for photography.