Precipice Walk, Dolgellau
This circular walk does not follow a public footpath but a private walk over a particularly beautiful part of the Nannau estate, which dates back to the twelfth century.
The public have been invited to use this walk by the estate since 1890 on the understanding that they observe the country code, follow the route indicated and use the proper access. Please keep dogs on a lead.
The Precipice Walk is one of the famous attractions of Dolgellau. It passes through an interesting variety of habitats which include deciduous woodland, a conifer plantation, meadows, lakeside and sheep-walk. But the main attraction of the walk is the incomparable views down the Mawddach Estuary and of the principal mountain ranges of Snowdonia.
To the north are Snowdon and the Moelwynion, to the west is the Rhinog, immediately south is the long scarp of Cader Idris, while to the east lies the Aran and Arenig.
It is a contour walk in that the path roughly follows the level of the 800ft contour line, so there is not much climbing or descending involved and it is an ideal walk for the whole family. The precipice, along part of the western side, is by no means as terrifying as it sounds but walkers who suffer from vertigo may need some assistance along this section.
How to get there?
From the centre of Dolgellau, go over the big bridge and turn right towards Bala. After about 500m turn left across the road to the Library up a hill towards Llanfachreth. After about 2 miles, at the top of the hill, you will arrive at Saith Groesffordd car park on your left at the junction. There are toilets here and ample parking.
Distance: 3 miles - 5 km
Time: Around 2 hours
Grade: Moderate Walk
Terrain: Some rough, wet terrain. Wear appropriate footwear
Start/Finish: National Park car park at Saith Groesffordd, Llanfachreth (SH 746 212)
Parking: SNPA car park (free parking, toilets).
Post Code: LL40 2NG
Relevant Map: OS Ordnans Exp OL18 (Harlech, Porthmadog and Bala)
1. Start by leaving the car park at the Dolgellau end, where there is a path which turns right through Coed Cefndiwiog.
2. After 250m follow the lane to the left.
3. Continue for a further 300m following the path left passed Gwern Offeiriaid house.
4. Follow the path up and right through the woods. After 100m go through a gate into an open field.
5. Follow the path towards Llyn (‘lake’) Cynwch turning right up the hill following the stone wall.
6. Continue to follow the the path along the stone wall. There are a number of ancient oak trees with important populations of lichens and mosses growing on them in the parkland on the right.
7. After 350m, go through a gap in a stone wall where you will soon have fine views looking North over the Natural Resources Wales Coed y Brenin (‘King's Forest’).
8. Follow the path left at the signpost directed towards the old copper mine of Glasdir and the Forestry Commission’s Tree Garden. (The land below the path has been cleared of conifers and is part of a scheme to restore native woodlands and trees.)
9. Follow the path enjoying views of the Afon (‘river’) Mawddach in the valley below for 1 km until you reach a wooden gate.
10. Go through the gate and continue along the path for another 500m until you reach the head of the valley with spectacular views of the Mawddach estuary.
11. Continue along the path through a gate in the stone wall.
12. After 500m go through a gate in a stone wall and continue down towards Llyn Cynwch.
13. When you reach Llyn Cynwch, turn left and follow the path around the northern edge of the lake.
14. At the end of the lake, you will re-join the path you started on. Retrace the path back to the car park.
Imagine the river valley below a mere 15,000 years ago. It would have been filled by a slow-moving glacier, scraping its steady way towards the coast. The Afon (‘river’) Mawddach that winds its way below has since deposited silt in the flattened valley bottom making it a great deal more fertile than the rugged valley sides.
Near the confluence of the Mawddach and Wnion rivers are the ruins of Cymer Abbey where the Cistercian monks settled. The abbey was granted a charter by Llywelyn ap Iorwerth (Llywelyn the Great) in 1209 but it was dismissed during Henry VIII’s Dissolution. During this Dissolution the abbey’s silver chalice and paten were hidden on a secluded rock in Cwm Mynach beyond the mountain of Garn which is to your west. This is one of the best views of Cader Idris and its neighbouring peaks Mynydd Moel, y Cyfrwy and Tyrrau Mawr. This mountain range has a volcanic root, and the hard rocks were able to resist the force of the glaciers.
Thousands of years ago, much of this area used to be covered with woodland spreading high up into the mountains. As a result of climate change and the influence of people, the old woodland shrank substantially. The trees were used for the old Mawddach shipping industry, for the coal mines in the South, the bark was also collected to be sold to the Irish tanneries and charcoal was made for the iron industry which existed here. Indeed, the name on the land above the village of Llanelltyd – Bryniau Glo (‘coal hills’) – refers to the old trade of making charcoal.
On the opposite side of Llyn Cynwch is the ancient mansion of Nannau estate, on whose land this walk crosses. It is a site of ancient origins. There is a record of a house being built here in the eleventh century. The original house was probably destroyed by Owain Glyndŵr during his revolt. The present house, which is over 230m (almost 750ft) above sea level, was built in 1796 and was the house of Vaughan family who owned most of the land in the area. It is at least the fifth house to be known as Nannau. It is a three-storey, late-eighteenth-century stone house, square in plan, built of dressed blocks of local dark grey stone, with a shallow-pitched slate roof. This was the last mansion to practice the old tradition of sponsoring poets and harpists.
Though you are in the Snowdonia National Park, please remember that the path passes through the privately owned farm and grazing lands, where dogs are not welcomed unless under close control or on a lead.