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Visiting Snowdonia

Cader Idris from Foel Caerynwch


Glyn Aran Walk, Dolgellau

This is a circular walk from the historic market town of Dolgellau, which allows the walker to enjoy panoramic views of the town and of the northern slopes of the Cader Idris range. It first follows a fairly steep track before joining a country road and then descending across fields back into town.

Although never far from the town, this walk gives the true feeling of the Welsh countryside - and in particular of the Snowdonia National Park - with its stone walls, hill farms, small fields, distant mountains, richness of wild flowers, woodlands and bird-life. Glyn Aran walk is enjoyable at any time of the year.

Why Glyn Aran?

The walk takes its name from the wooded glen of the river Aran - now tumbling freely, but once punctuated by the fulling mills of the important woollen industry, which once thrived here. From the sixteenth century, the woollen industry was as important as farming in these hills, when a large number of the inhabitants were engaged in spinning and weaving, not in factories but in their own homes. A woman might be expected to card and spin up to 18lbs (8 kilos) of wool in a day. After being treated in one of the many fulling mills ('pandy'- of which there were 16 on the river Aran alone) the rough homespun cloth was sold to the slave trade across the Atlantic and to the military.

Visible from the path, but not on it, is the farmhouse of Bryn Mawr. Here in the seventeenth century lived Rowland Ellis, a Quaker, who, to avoid severe local persecution, led a group of his fellow believers in 1686 to Pennsylvania in the footsteps of William Penn. There, he built a replica of Bryn Mawr. It gave its name to a town and later to a celebrated college for young ladies established "so that they might have an equal opportunity with men" - and get away from the eternal spinning wheel!


Distance: about 2½ miles (4 km)
Time: about 2 hours
Grade: Moderate Leisure Walk
Start / Finish: At Dolgellau town centre (there are ample car parks)
Postcode: LL40 1UU
Relevant map: Ordnance Survey Explorer OL 23 (Cadair Idris and Llyn Tegid)

This map is intended as a rough guide only. You should use the most recent version of the relevant Ordnance Survey map (see above) when walking the route.

The Route

1. From Dolgellau centre, cross Aran Bridge and turn right to follow the stream. At the tannery, take the right hand fork and follow the track rather steeply uphill.

2. The track levels out, bordered on one side by a typical "clawdd" - a stone and earth bank topped by a hedge of hazel, thorn and ash. From here enjoy your first view of a peak of the Cader Idris range (2,927' / 893m).

3. At Plas y Brithdir - note the typical Meirionnydd 18th century tall chimney construction - join the metalled road which climbs steeply through the wooded Aran gorge. Watch out for occasional traffic.

4. At the top of the hill, follow the road to the right over the cattle grid. No more climbing! The next ¾ mile (1km) is an easy stroll along an unfenced country road with views of Cader's slopes. There may be sheep all around you, so please keep your dogs under control.

5. At the second house (Esgeiriau) a track to the left leads to Bryn Mawr, the solid 16th century farmhouse nestling in the foothills of Cader Idris. This was the home of a pioneer Quaker family who led emigrants to the U.S.A. to escape persecution.

6. Continue on the metalled road to the stone bridge. Turn immediately right into a field and follow the path. Reaching an open aspect, you will admire the panorama of mountains ahead, from left to right, Y Diffwys, Y Garn and Rhobell Fawr and the two Aran to the east. Turn about and you will see the five peaks of Cader Idris.

7. Descend across the field, bearing left to pass through an iron gate in a stone wall and follow the path. You will have an excellent view of the compact little market town with its slated roofs and buildings of local igneous rock as you descend sharply along narrow streets to the town centre.

Glyn Aran, Dolgellau

Glyn Aran, Dolgellau (© SNPA)

Header image - Morfa Harlech (© Crown copyright (2014) Visit Wales)