At 8,024 square miles, Wales is smaller than the US state of New Jersey, but packs in more than its fair share of mountains. Indeed, there are 188 Welsh mountains with an elevation over 2,000 feet, the benchmark for the term in the UK. Formed during the last ice age, these are spread throughout much of the country.
In the south, there are the Brecon Beacons and the Black Mountains, while the Cambrian Mountains are central. However, for those looking for the very highest mountains in Wales, the only way is north. And there is but one destination: Snowdonia National Park or “Eryri”.
Located in the northwestern county of Gwynedd, Snowdonia is home to all of Wales’ tallest mountains and particularly to the Welsh 3000s; those mountains that reach 3000 feet. These are divided across three main mountain ranges, specifically those of Glyderau and Carneddau and the Snowdon Massif. Read on to discover the identity of the highest Welsh mountains, starting with the highest point in Wales.
Height: 3,560 feet | Range: Snowdonia
With an elevation of 3,560 feet above sea level, Mount Snowdon or “Yr Wyddfa” is the highest mountain in Wales. In fact, only in Scotland would one find a higher peak within the British Isles. The highest of Snowdon’s three peaks is called Snowdon proper.
Every year, some 350,000 people visit it at Snowdonia National Park. In fact, it’s said to be the busiest mountain in the United Kingdom and is popular with hikers and climbers. There are six main climbing routes, with an average walking time of between four and five hours. And there’s even a train. Established in 1896, the Snowdon Mountain Railway transports visitors from Llanberis to Snowdon’s summit.
Mount Snowdon is also part of the Welsh Three Peaks Challenge, in which participants climb Snowdon, Cader Idris and Pen y Fan within 24 hours.
2. Garnedd Ugain
Height: 3,494 feet | Range: Snowdonia
The pyramidal mountain of Garnedd Ugain is the second highest peak in Wales, rising to an elevation of 3,494 feet. The origins of its name are unclear, although it has been posited that it was originally Carnedd Ugain. This translates as Cairn of the Twenty, which some suggest is a reference to the Twentieth Roman Legion. In any case, the mountain is often called Crib y Ddysgl. This is actually the name of the ridge that connects Garnedd Ugain to Crib Goch, but it often appears as the mountain’s name in maps.
3. Carnedd Llewelyn
Height: 3,490 feet | Range: Carneddau
Located on the border between the counties of Gwynedd and Conwy, Carnedd Llewelyn is the highest point in Wales outside the Snowdonia massif, although it is within the national park. It forms part of the Carneddau range, which is characterised by its wild heather and grasses. Carnedd Llewelyn is thought to be named after a Welsh prince, although there is some debate as to which one out of Llywelyn ap Gruffydd or his grandfather, Llywelyn the Great.
4. Carnedd Dafydd
Height: 3,425 feet | Range: Carneddau
Found beside Carnedd Llewelyn, the 3,425 foot Carnedd Dafydd or ‘David’s Cairn’ is the second highest mountain in the Carneddau range and the fourth tallest mountain in Wales. Its summit is a plateau, sometimes described as dome-shaped.
5. Glyder Fawr
Height: 3,283 feet | Range: Glyderau
In 2010 amateur surveyors reassessed the height of Glyder Fawr, taking it from 3,278 to 3,283 feet. Crucially, this 5 feet 11 inches meant that the mountain was now 1000m above sea level. It is also the fifth tallest mountain in Wales and the first on this list in the Glyderau range.
Biggest Welsh Mountains: The 3000s
As we’ve seen, Snowdon is the highest peak in Wales and the top of the list of 15 highest mountains in Wales, also known as the Welsh 3000s. The full list of all 15 peaks in reverse height order is as follows:
- Tryfan: 3,011
- Crib Goch: 3,028
- Elidir Fawr: 3,031
- Carnedd Gwenllian: 3,038
- Foel-fras: 3,090
- Y Garn: 3,106
- Yr Elen: 3,156
- Castell y Gwynt: 3,188
- Foel Grach: 3,202
- Pen yr Ole Wen: 3,208
- Glyder Fach: 3,261
- Glyder Fawr: 3,284
- Carnedd Dafydd: 3,425
- Carnedd Llewelyn: 3,490
- Garnedd Ugain: 3,494
- Snowdon/Yr Wyddfa: 3,560
And thus ends our tour of the biggest Welsh mountains. As the Welsh would say, we’ve gone Dros ben llestri or, in other words, over the top.