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Best Walks From Barmouth, Dolgellau and the Mawddach Estuary

By Dave Roberts   

on April 15, 2018    4.8/5 (5)

Best Walks From Barmouth, Dolgellau and the Mawddach Estuary

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Location Map

There are few estuaries as beautiful as the Mawddach Estuary in South Snowdonia, which thankfully hasn’t been reclaimed from the sea like the Glaslyn further north. At each end of the Mawddach you’ll find two towns that are as different as can be. Abermaw, Bermo or even Barmouth at the seaward end is a popular seaside resort with an excellent beach and suitably good fish and chips. Dolgellau at the other end is a compact and historic town with narrow streets and full of history.

As you’d expect from Snowdonia, there’s plenty of excellent walking in the area, with walks from the Wales Coast Path to mountain walks like Cader Idris to suit all abilities and tastes.

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The Mawddach Trail

Height Gained – not many metres ,  Distance – 15 km, Time –3 hours

The Mawddach Trail is a mixed use track that makes for easy walking or cycling between the towns of Barmouth and Dolgellau. It’s quite flat for most of the distance and unlike many similar trails in the area, has plenty of interest and views to keep walkers interested.

Barmouth to Penmaenpool Walk

Height Gained – 700 metres ,  Distance – 17 km, Time – 5 hours

This is the Mawddach Trail’s bigger and badder sister. What the Mawddach Trail lacks in ascent, this one has in bags. Unlike it’s sedate sibling, the walk from Barmouth to Penamenpool seeks out height and views. Best enjoyed as a full loop with the Mawddach Ttail as a return route.

The Mawddach Trail Walk and Cycle Track

The Wales Coast Path – Barmouth – Llwyngwril

Height Gained – 370 metres ,  Distance –14 km, Time –4 hours

Similar to most of the Wales Coast Path between Barmouth and Machynlleth, this section to Llwyngwril takes a detour both inland and upwards to avoid the narrow coastal road. This isn’t a bad thing in this instance as it provides you with a high viewpoint back over the Mawddach and to Cardigan Bay. You can also travel back to the start using the Cambrian Line railway.

The Mawddach Trail Walk and Cycle Track

The Precipice Walk – Llwybr Cynwch – Near Dolgellau

Height Gained – 240 metres ,  Distance –5.5 km, Time –2 hours

The Precipice Walk is a classic walk from just outside Dolgellau. It incluides a walk past the scenic Llyn Cynwch and a contouring path high on the minor peak of Moel Cynwch – hence the “precipice”. It’s hardly a walk along Crib Goch, so don’t let the name put you off too much!

The Panorama Walk – Barmouth

Height Gained – 500 metres ,  Distance – 10 km, Time –4 hours

This is another classic named walk that this area is known for,this time high over Barmouth. This is the full 10km version, but it can also be cut down to a shorter walk if necessary, but still with plenty of views.

The Torrent Walk

Height Gained – 120 metres ,  Distance – 3 km, Time –1 hour

The Torrent Walk is a short riverside walk near Dolgellau that follows the Afon Clywedog both down and upstream.  It is a very short walk, so you may well pair it with something like the Precipice Walk or Sunday Lunch at one of the nearby pubs!

Mynydd Clogau Walk from Bontddu

Height Gained – 300 metres ,  Distance – 6.6 km, Time –2 hours

The Mawddach is one of the rivers known for its gold, and here’s a walk to one of it’s very own gold mines at Clogau from Bontddu. These are the foothills of the Rhinogydd Mountains and this makes for a rough walk in places.

Arthog and Llynnoedd Cregennen Walk

Height Gained – 475 metres ,  Distance – 13.7 km, Time –4 hours

Llynnoedd Cregennen are one of the most picturesque spots in Snowdonia. Were they further north, near the honeypots of  North Snowdonia, they would be even busier than they are. This walk takes in sections of the Mawddach Trail as well as the Llynnoedd Cregennen.

Llynnoedd Cregennen Waymarked Trail

Height Gained – 130 metres ,  Distance – 5.5 km, Time –2 hours

For those looking for a shorter walk to the lakes at Cregennen, this waymarked trail might be a more suitable option.

Cwm Mynach From Penmaenpool

Height Gained – 380 metres ,  Distance – 14 km, Time –4 hours

If you like the forestry, then this is a worthy excursion into the heart of the mountains while still being a straightforward walk. As it’s mainly on forestry tracks and lanes, the going is easy for most of the walk.

The Ardudwy Way – South

Height Gained – 580 metres ,  Distance – 12 km, Time –4 hours

The Ardudwy Way is a trail from Barmouth to Llandecwyn along the coastal foothills of the Rhinogydd hills. This initial section ascends over the grasier southern end of the Rhinogydd along an old coach road, across Pont Scethin and down to Tal-y-bont. You can return to Barmouth via the Wales Coast Path or the Cambrian Line railway.

Not the Cambrian Way – Machynlleth to Abermaw

Height Gained – 1770 metres ,  Distance – 41 km, Time –2 days

The Wales Coast Path and Ardudwy Way aren’t the only long trails passing through the area. The Cambrian Way, the ultimate welsh Long Distance Footpath, passes through Barmouth. The link is to a short leg we took from Machynlleth to Barmouth, following one of the alternative routes for the Cambrian Way as it’s unofficial. The semi-official rotue passes further east, and we decided this was a more interesting proposition suggested in what was written as the official guide to the path, when it was believed it would be official, but turned out not to be. Confused yet?

Walk up Cader Idris via the Pony Path

Height Gained – 740 metres ,  Distance – 9.2 km, Time –4 hours

The area doesn’t just boast easy and low level walks, and has it’s very own mountain in the form of Cader Idris that rivals Snowdon in many ways. The Pony Path is the most straightforward walk up Cader Idris, and one of the most popular.

Cadair Idris Fox’s Path Walking Route

Height Gained – 710 metres ,  Distance – 9 km, Time –5 hours

While the Pony Path lacks any real grandeur, the Fox’s Path from just up the road makes up for that in spades. The cwm of Llyn y Gadair makes for a worthy approach, only spoiled by the steep scree ascent up the final section. The scree makes this unsuitable for anyone not comfortable on steep ground (an steep, moving ground at that!)

Cader Idris from Dolgellau

Height Gained – 1200 metres ,  Distance – 24.5 km, Time –10 hours+

Cader Idris isn’t often walked directly from Dolgellau, but there is a wild approach that can be taken along Gau Graig that is the only walk that takes in the entire length of the Cader Idris ridge. For that reason alone, it’s worth doing. Beware that this is a long route, and you should either organise transport back to the start from the end of the Pony Path, walk over two days (campsite and YHA half way, or wild camp like we did) or be very fit!

Rhinogydd – Y Diffwys from Ganllwyd – Bontddu

Height Gained – 890 metres ,  Distance – 19 km, Time –6 hours

To the north of the Mawddach Estuary lies the roughest and toughest mountains in Wales – The Rhinogydd. This walk is a linear walk from Ganllwyd to the north of Dolgellau over Y Diffwys to Bontddu. It requires some navigation on the ascent, with a faint path, but does provide an introduction to the Rhinogydd Hills – and one of the few Rhinogydd walks that seems like a normal mountain.

Rhinogydd Traverse

Height Gained – 1650 metres ,  Distance – 31 km, Time –15 hours

Finally, the beast of all Snowdonia’s walks, the Rhinog Traverse. The walk can be completed in one day, but don’t underestimate these mountains. They sap energy and time, and can be exceptionally hard going. They are also very rewarding, and for anyone looking for a long weekend in the mountains, a three day traverse of the range is the best way to enjoy it. You may scoff at walking a 31km route over 3 days, and you can walk it much quicker, but it’s a matter of enjoyment. We walked it camping two nights, with a shorter day to start with we were in Barmouth in time for a lunch of Fish and Chips on the third day!


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Dave Roberts

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