Secret Mountains Series. Rhobell FawrPublished on 12 Apr 2021 by Gwion Llwyd
Step away from the crowds. Rhobell Fawr, the rarely visited summit between Bala and Dolgellau rewards with peace, solitude and some of the finest views in Wales.
Rhobell Fawr is not the biggest, boldest, nor is it the most beautiful peak in North Wales. But it is one of the best placed. If you climb to the top on a clear day, you will get the most magnificent 360-panoramic views of what feels like the whole of Snowdonia.
What might at first glance seem like a fairly humble rocky hill is in fact a superb day out and very much worthy of few hours up and down. The mighty peaks of Cadair Idris, Snowdon, Crib Goch and Tryfan are all visible from its summit, as are waters of Cardigan Bay and the Irish Sea beyond.
Best of all, Rhobell Fawr is totally off the beaten track, so you could well have the whole mountain to yourself for your walk. Ideal if you’re craving the freedom of wide open space and wilderness.
Introducing Rhobell Fawr
Rhobell Fawr is an ancient, extinct volcano which erupted out of the ocean more than 400 million years ago.
Part of the Arenig mountain range in North Wales, it is a dome shaped lump of rock surrounded by coniferous forest. The landscape in this part of Snowdonia is wild, beautiful and relatively remote.
Despite its modest height of 734 metres (2,408 feet), the mountain packs a real punch thanks to expansive views of the region’s loftier peaks. It is worth saving your walk for a clear day to enjoy those superb 360-degree views.
There’s gold in them thar hills
There are two distinct areas of Wales which have historically been mined for Welsh gold. In Carmarthenshire, the Dolaucothi Gold Mines are the only known Roman gold mines in Britain.
Here in North Wales, the area known as the Dolgellau gold belt stretches from Barmouth, past Dolgellau and up into Snowdonia’s Arenig mountains as far as Rhobell Fawr. The region was the focus of a Welsh gold rush more than 150 years ago.
Optimistic folk can still, occasionally, be seen panning for gold in the area – will you give it a go when you visit? Welsh gold is highly prized and traditionally used for the UK Royal family’s wedding rings.
As well as hopeful gold prospectors, the Arenig mountains have long been a place of pilgrimage for artists and painters. In the early 20th century, the mountains inspired the Arenig school of painters (James Dickson Innes, Derwent Lees and Augustus John), who pioneered a striking ‘automatic’ style of landscape painting. The Arenig school made a significant contribution to the British modernist movement.
Route up Rhobell Fawr
Our favourite route up starts in the village of Llanfachreth, about three miles north-east of Dolgellau. You’ll find a free to use public car park next to Ysgol Machreth, the village school.
The walk starts on the bridle path which is next to the school. Follow it uphill and into a woodland before exiting the trees onto the old Bwlch Goriwared track. Follow this track northwards until you crest the rise near some sheepfolds. Cross the wall on your right using a ladder stile just north of the sheepfolds.
Continue uphill along this path, keeping the stone wall to your right. The summit of Rhobell Fawr is initially obscured from your view, but stick with the path and wall for about 2 miles as it climbs its way up the mountainside. You are nearing the summit as the wall starts to kick to the left. Soon after this, you should spot the summit trig point on your left.
Make your way down Rhobell Fawr the same way you walked up, back to the track at Bwlch Goriwared. The views around are extensive with Cadair Idris to one side, Snowdon in the distance to the other. Between the two, you’ll get big views over Coed y Brenin to the Rhinog mountains, the Mawddach estuary and Cardigan Bay.
- Distance: approx. 12km
- Height: 734m
- Time required for walk: approx. 4 hours
- Start point: Llanfachreth
All the usual safety advice applies: never go into the mountains without the right gear. Our bare minimum recommendations would be waterproofs, spare layers, food, water, gloves, hat / sun hat (and sun cream if you are climbing in summer), map, compass, mobile phone and whistle. Make sure you check the weather before you depart, and if possible, tell someone at home which route you intend to take and what time you expect to finish. You should always thoroughly research your route so you have the best possible idea of what to expect.
Stay near Rhobell Fawr
Looking for somewhere to stay nearby? Check out our selection of beautiful holiday cottages near Dolgellau, which is 15 minutes’ drive from our recommended start point at Llanfachreth.