Barmouth to Penmaenpool

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  • Location: Barmouth to Penmaenpool.
  • Distance: 9.5 miles
  • Description of this walk:A walk through Barmouth and up into to the hillsides above the Mawddach Estuary.
  • BBC Disclaimer: The Weatherman Walking maps are intended as a guide to the TV programme only. Routes and conditions may have changed since the programme was made. The BBC takes no responsibility for any accident or injury that may occur while following the route. Always wear appropriate clothing and footwear and check weather conditions before heading out.
  • Download the map of this walk: Print off and follow in Derek's footsteps (PDF 1.6MB)

Try and do this walk on a good day as the views are amazing. The walk passes through Barmouth, the bucket and spade capital of Cardigan Bay, but takes you up through the back lanes to the hillsides above the Mawddach Estuary.

There are stunning views as you follow ancient roads and track ways into the heart of Welsh gold country.

The route descends through an RSPB reserve past old goldmines before crossing back over the river at Penmaenpool. It's then a nine mile hike or bike ride back to Barmouth.

The Mawddach Way

The walk we did covers part of a longer footpath, The Mawddach Way, which is a three day circular walk around the estuary, but can be broken down into shorter walks as there is good public transport in the area.

Beware, The Mawddach Way, is not always easy to follow as there aren't lots of signposts along the route but you can get plenty of information at www.mawddachway.co.uk and there is a guide book available.

It is possible to do a circular walk from Barmouth heading for the 'Sword Stone' and turning back there taking in the Panorama walk on the way back which would give you a walk of about 9.5 miles.

Morfa Mawddach station

We started at Morfa Mawddach station on the south side of the estuary so we had the thrill of walking over the railway bridge into Barmouth.

A great way to arrive in town - but you could start in Barmouth itself. The bridge opened back in 1867.

If you time your walk to coincide with a train crossing it's quite fun as you really are just a few feet away from the track.

Barmouth

Take some time out to explore the town. At the harbour, don't miss the Carrera marble sculpture.

This was made from a 2 tonne block of marble recovered from the shipwreck known as the Bronze Bell.

There's another 41 blocks still lying at the bottom of the sea where they've been for over 300 years.

No one knows where this fine Italian marble was bound for but there's a small local museum where some of the artefacts from the wreck are kept such as the bronze bell.

There's also an unusual old circular jail house which was divided into two cells - one for men and one for women as apparently Barmouth which was a major port, had a problem with loose women...

But the big surprise is climbing up the hill through town. Wind your way up the steps and suddenly you'll arrive in what could pass for a Tuscan hill village.

The houses seem to be built almost on top of each other in a jumble of terraces and winding paths.

Dinas Oleu

When you finally emerge from the houses, you're in an area known as Dinas Oleu which was the very first piece of land to be given to the National Trust back in 1895.

There's a signposted diversion off to the Frenchman's grave - Auguste Guyard lived in one of the cottages that clings to the side of the hill and apparently performed miracles with the poor soil there, growing medicinal plants and herbs for the poor.

From Dinas Oleu the views are fantastic. You can look down over town and across Cardigan Bay and on a clear day see the mountains of Snowdonia and the Llyn Peninsula stretching out across the horizon.

Panorama Walk

The whole area of Dinas Oleu is criss-crossed with paths. Choose your own way - we headed across to the 'Panorama Walk'.

In Victorian times this was opened up as a pleasure garden with teas for sale. Don't expect to find any refreshments there now, but the views are just as stunning as they were back then.

Now, the whole of the Mawddach estuary lies below you with Cader Idris forming the backdrop. Across the estuary you might spot a curious row of terraced houses which look completely out of place.

These are the remains of a failed attempt to build a tourist resort back in the early 1900s.

Barmouth Slabs

Climb up to the Barmouth slabs an area really popular with local climbers. and follow the track on to Gellfawr farm.

Watch out for a strange looking long trenches, stretching out to the left of the track - the remains of old Manganese mine workings.

Now head off the track and over Bwlch y Llan and down to Cerrig Arthur stone circle. You'll probably need to do some map reading here simply because there are so many paths and tracks.

Cerrig Arthur

An ancient stone circle but be warned, its not exactly Stonehenge, so keep your eyes peeled for three stones together and then you'll spot the circle surrounding them.

As you walk on there's a couple of other things to look out for. On the left, tucked away against a stone wall is an ancient wishing well said to be able to guarantee you the man, or woman, of your dreams.

Sword Stone

Even more difficult to find but worth the effort is the Sword Stone. It's located in a clearing in woods to your right but you'll need a map, grid reference (643 199 - *off the public footpath) and a bit of luck to find it.

Follow a pathway through the forest and eventually you'll come across a large, split stone with a sword shape on both sides.

Local legend states that King Arthur, wounded after the battle of Camlan threw his sword at the rock with such force that it left a sword impression in it.

Milestone

Work your way up towards the milestone (marked on the OS map). The wording is proof that you are on the old carriageway to Harlech and marks the crossroads between the summer and winter routes.

The Mawddach Way route now descends into the valley to pass through the Vigra gold mine but you can cut across the valley higher up, heading for the old Clogau gold workings.

Look out for strange fenced enclosures around you which mark old mine shafts. As you climb up the other side of the valley, the path is a good one as it follows the old mine track ways.

The gold mine

At the top of the hill you'll find the quartz strewn spoil heap of one of the mines and on the right, an incline still heads into the hillside.

The gold rush first hit this area in the 1850s - at its peak in the 1890s over 500 people were employed and although the mines are closed, people do still find gold by panning in the local streams.

Valley of the monks

Now we drop down into Cwm Mynach - the valley of the monks.

There are many stories about religious communities burying treasure in times of persecution but here is seems to be true.

In 1890, two gold prospectors discovered a hoard of religious silverware dating from the 13th century which is now in the National Museum in Cardiff.

As you descend down the valley through the RSPB reserve, you'll pass more remains where the gold was processed.

These include the old stamping house where the quartz was crushed and peculiar circles in the wood which were part of the process used in separating out the gold.

Penmaenpool

You reach the main road at Taicynhaeaf, where if you time it right, you can jump on a bus back to Barmouth.

We finished the walk by heading across the private toll bridge (opened in 1879) to Penmaenpool, where again there is public transport back to Morfa Mawddach - although don't rely on the trains.

You might spot a signal box and railway signals, but the line itself was closed back in 1965.

Julian Carey - Producer on Weatherman Walking

Pictures

Barmouth estuary

Barmouth photos

Take a look at the photo gallery which accompanies this walk.

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