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Things to do in Dolgellau

Published on 9 Jan 2023 by Gwion Llwyd

With more than 200 listed buildings and a beautiful Snowdonia backdrop, Dolgellau is a handsome market town which has plenty going on all year round. It’s the perfect place to soak up a bit of local culture along with those soaring mountain landscapes. Sitting at the foot of Cader Idris on the beautiful Mawddach estuary, and built on a slate, wool, and (perhaps more surprising) a gold-rush heritage, it is steeped in history, big landscapes, and character. This part of southern Snowdonia is renowned for its stunning landscapes and diverse and abundant wildlife, and from cycling to hiking, there are plenty of places to explore. Dolgellau is a great destination for foodies too, and there is a thriving local music and folk scene with regular live music at a number of the town’s pubs. An excellent farmer’s market comes to town on the third Sunday of every month.

Here’s a selection of our favourite things to do in Dolgellau.


WALKS AND HIKES

Climb Cader Idris – the mountain that can make you mad

Dolgellau sits at the foot of one of Snowdonia’s most iconic peaks – Cader Idris. Its name translates as Idris’s Chair, and it is a reference to the mythical giant who once used the mountain as his throne. There are numerous stories and legends associated with the mountain and Idris: think giants, curses, warriors and supposedly impossible tasks.  Frankly, the stories can get confusing. One message is very clear though: it is said that anyone who sleeps on the slopes of Cader Idris will awaken either as a madman, a poet or, possibly, never wake again. Our advice is enjoy the mountain by day, but do your shut-eye in one of our lovely Dolgellau holiday cottages, just to be on the safe side. Be aware that some of the routes up this mountain – the highest peak in southern Snowdonia – can be treacherous. We recommend following the Pony Path, which comes with fantastic far-reaching views. 2 miles from Dolgellau.

Explore the nature reserve and ancient woodlands at Coed Garth Gell

Nestled in the spectacular Mawddach Valley, Coed Garth Gell is a woodland and heathland nature reserve which is internationally important for the rare mosses, liverworts and lichens which grow amongst the ancient oaks. Pied flycatchers, redstarts, wood warblers and lesser horseshoe bats all call this wonderful place home. 5 miles from Dolgellau.

Explore the rugged Rhinogs

Things to do in Dolgellau

The Rhinogs is a chain of low mountains which stands at the south western edge of Snowdonia, close to Dolgellau. One of the most rugged upland landscapes in Britain, it is a beautiful, tranquil place. The hills are notoriously quiet and uncrossed by any road. Most of the vegetation management is done by sheep and a population of wild goats. Yes, you might see a few remote farmsteads, and now and then you might walk along the remains of old drovers’ routes, but it’s quite possible to spend a whole day here without seeing another human soul. 5 miles from Dolgellau.

Conquer Yr Wyddfa – Snowdon

It’s a bucket list favourite for anyone visiting North Wales – do you fancy climbing Wales’s highest summit  on your next trip here? Dolgellau is a 45 minute drive from the start point of one of the best routes up Yr Wyddfa – or Snowdon, the Rhyd Ddu Path (pronounced ‘rheed-thee’). This is one of the quieter ways up the great mountain, and offers some of the best views. Plan ahead by downloading the Snowdon Walks app, which covers the six main routes up, with detailed maps and a live progress tracker. You can read more about how to prepare for a walk up Snowdon, here. 30 miles from Dolgellau.

Other local walking ideas

For some more walking inspiration, you might be interested in these websites: Mud and Routes is a great information resource for walking in the area. Simply enter where you would like to walk and it will give you some tried and tested routes. Geocaching is popular in this neck of the woods and if you love a treasure hunt, then this is a great way to while away an afternoon, especially if you’re trying to keep the kids amused too.


MOUNTAIN BIKING AND CYCLING

The Mawddach Trail

Forming part of Lôn Las Cymru (National Cycle Network Route 8) which runs from Holyhead to Cardiff, the Mawddach Trail is one of the most scenic railway paths in the country, running along the spectacular and atmospheric Mawddach Estuary below the foothills of Cader Idris, for just shy of 10 miles. Join it from the centre of Dolgellau, and follow the iconic railway bridge over the mouth of the Mawddach estuary into Barmouth. Expect stunning views across to Diffwys and the Rhinog mountains, and up the estuary to Y Garn and the Arans beyond Dolgellau. Starts in the centre of town.

Coed y Brenin

Things to do in Dolgellau

Coed y Brenin is the UK’s first and largest dedicated mountain bike trail centre. Hire bikes from the visitor centre (or bring your own) to explore miles of world-class mountain bike trails, with waymarked routes to suit all abilities. There is also a café, plenty of family walking trails, a nice play area and some gorgeous spots for a riverside picnic. 10 miles from Dolgellau.

Antur Stiniog

Set in the stunning slate mountains of Blaenau Ffestiniog, and with far-reaching views towards the Irish Sea, Antur Stiniog offers 14 fantastic gravity fed trails for all shades of rider from novice to world cup racer. The downhill trails are graded from green to black. Antur Stiniog includes a mountain uplift service, and bikes are available to hire from the site. 23 miles from Dolgellau.

Need to hire some wheels in Dolgellau? 

Head to Dolgellau Cycles on Smithfield Street in the centre of town.


WATERSPORTS

Bala Watersports

Keen to make a splash as soon as you arrive? Bala Watersports, based on the shores of Llyn Tegid, offers adventure and excitement suitable for all the family. Highly skilled instructors will ensure you have a fantastic time, whether you’re a complete beginner, have some limited experience, or are on a more advanced course. Activities include canoeing, kayaking, climbing, abseiling, windsurfing, sailing, archery, camp craft, raft building, mountain biking, power boating, hill walking, gorge walking, and white water rafting. Bala Watersports offers equipment hire for all its activities. 18 miles from Dolgellau.

The National Whitewater Centre

Things to do in Dolgellau

Located just a couple of miles outside Bala town centre, the National White Water Centre is a half hour drive from Dolgellau. Water is regularly released from a dam into the River Tryweryn, to create a steep, rocky and fast-flowing mountain waterway. This means that there are predictable rapids all year round, perfect for exhilarating adventures in the water. Prepare to get drenched as you head down the river in your raft under instruction by one of their expert guides. You’ll be buzzing for the rest of the day! You can grab a well earned hot drink and a piece of cake at the café afterwards. The National White Water Centre runs family rafting sessions for anyone aged 10 and over, as well as other kayaking and canyoning activities. 20 miles from Dolgellau.


DAYS OUT

Head to the Corris Craft Centre

The Corris Craft Centre is home to a great collection of shops, attractions and activities for the whole family, including nine individual Craft Studios, which are perfect for finding a special something, inspired by, and handmade in Wales. Call by to meet the talented craftspeople, share their passion and enthusiasm as you discover their fabulous handmade Welsh designs. Also home to King Arthur’s Labyrinth (see below).10 miles from Dolgellau.

Explore King Arthur’s Labyrinth

Who could resist the idea of setting sail through the cascading veil of an underground waterfall to discover a magical place where tales from the mists of time are retold? Expect tales of dragons, giants, and the legendary King Arthur.  Guided by a Dark Age Boatman, you’ll travel through immense caverns and winding tunnels, to hear ancient Welsh stories brought to life through dramatic scenes, light, and sound. King Arthur’s Labyrinth is on the same site as the Corris Craft Centre (see above). 10 miles from Dolgellau.

Visit the Centre for Alternative Technology

Based just outside the lovely market town of Machynlleth, the Centre for Alternative Technology overlooks the big landscapes of the Snowdonia National Park. Established over 40 years ago, the centre is dedicated to teaching and sharing sustainable development. Expect hands-on displays on ‘green’ building, energy, along with organic gardens and a veggie café. 13 miles from Dolgellau.

Jump on board a steam train

If ever there were a place to sit back and enjoy the nostalgic pleasure of steam, Snowdonia is it. For a real taste of the romance of our region, take a ride on one of the steam heritage railways at nearby Corris, Fairbourne or Talyllyn. Enjoy comfortable plush carriages, the nostalgic aroma of coal, and gentle chuff of the engine as your train makes its way through spectacular mountain landscapes. A day out on these railways is one of life’s great pleasures. 10+ miles from Dolgellau.

Spend a day exploring Harlech

Things to do in Dolgellau

Historic Harlech is a place of guts, quirk, and rather epic, timeless beauty. The town grew up around a clifftop medieval castle, and is now recognised by UNESCO as being home to one of the best-preserved medieval fortresses in the world. Sitting proud on a hillside looking out to sea, Harlech is flanked by the majestic mountains of Snowdonia to the east, with Cardigan Bay and the Irish Sea to the west. Its hills and winding lanes provide plenty of nooks and crannies to explore, including some great independent shops, delis, cafés and a beautiful nearby beach. Read more about Harlech on our blog about the town. 20 miles from Dolgellau.

Visit the Church in the Sand near Llanbedr

Also worth exploring on this stretch of Welsh coast is the medieval ‘church in the sand’ of St Tanwg, near the village of Llanbedr, around 40 minutes’ drive from Dolgellau. Located in the sand dunes around 20 metres from the high tide mark, this ancient little chapel houses the grave of Welsh poet Sion Phillips, a contemporary of Shakespeare, who lived at nearby Shell Island. 20 miles from Dolgellau.

Portmeirion

Portmeirion Village was designed by Welsh Architect Clough Williams-Ellis in the early 20th century. The architectural equivalent of Willy Wonka’s chocolate factory, it is an eccentric collection of Riviera-inspired houses, ornamental gardens and colour washed villas. It is also home to the spectacular Gwyllt woodland – ten hectares of trees and ornamental shrubs, with big views over the Dwyryd Estuary towards Harlech. There are plenty of cafés and shops to browse, and fabulous Italian Gelati at Caffi’r Angel. Lunch on the lawn outside the beautiful Art Deco Hotel Portmeirion is the perfect holiday treat. Read more about a day out at Portmeirion here. 23 miles from Dolgellau.


LOCAL ACTIVITIES AND ADVENTURES

Go sheep walking in Snowdonia

No, that is not a typo, yes, this is a thing. Take mindfulness to another level by taking an award-winning Zwartbles sheep (mega friendly black sheep breed) for a guided walk on a peaceful hill farm in the Rhinogs. Sheep Walking Snowdonia. Kids will love this. Adults will love this too. 13 miles from Dolgellau.

Snowdonia Adventure Activities

This outdoor specialist is based in the nearby village of Llanbedr, a half hour drive form Dolgellau. Snowdonia Adventure Activities offers gorge walking, SUPing, canyoning, kayaking, climbing, mountain biking and rock climbing, and we reckon they’re one of the best all-round outdoor activity providers in the area. 17 miles from Dolgellau.

Zip World Caverns

This underground adventure allows you to speed through the caverns of the abandoned Llechwedd slate mine on zip lines, navigating part of the course with a via ferrata, monkey bars, and a whole variety of challenging obstacles. It’s a thrilling experience! Zip World Caverns is part of the Zip World portfolio, which also boasts Europe’s largest zip zone at Blaenau, as well as the fastest zip line in the world at Penrhyn Quarry – a site that was once home to the world’s largest slate quarry. Zip World Caverns is at the same site as Bounce Below and Llechwedd Slate Caverns (see below). 22 miles from Dolgellau.

Bounce Below

Things to do in Dolgellau

Zip World Caverns (see above) is where you’ll also find Bounce Below – a series of giant underground trampolines, strung across enormous underground chambers, with climbs, slides and various levels to navigate. Bounce Below is another thrilling and completely unique North Wales adventure. From age 7+. It’s the same site as Zip World Caverns and Llechwedd Slate Caverns (see above and below). 22 miles from Dolgellau.

Discover the story of slate at Llechwedd Slate Caverns

The deep mine tour at Llechwedd Slate Caverns tells the story of the men who built an industry which roofed the world – the Welsh slate industry.  Experienced from the point of view of the mine workers, the tour takes you deep underground – around 500ft. – to tell the story of the slate miners’ blood and guts, determination and resilience. It’s a fascinating insight into the culture and heritage of North Wales. It’s the same site as Bounce Below and Zip World Caverns (see above). 22 miles from Dolgellau.
Other stand out North Wales adventure attractions include Zip World Titan,Zip World Velocity, Surf Snowdonia & Adventure Parc Snowdonia, Greenwood Forest Park, Rib Ride, and Go Below.


BEACHES

Barmouth beach

Barmouth’s sandy Blue Flag beach stretches for two miles and is perfect for picnics, swimming, paddling and surfing. There is traditional seaside fun along the promenade, and plenty of shops, cafés, restaurants, pubs and ice cream parlours. Dog owners should be aware that Blue Flag does mean seasonal dog restrictions. 10 miles from Dolgellau.

Fairbourne beach

Fairbourne’s beautiful golden sands are backed by a steep bank of pebbles. They fringe a narrow finger of land that extends most of the way across the mouth of the Mawddach Estuary, with stunning views of mountains, woodlands and the sea. The west-facing side of the beach can receive strong winds, making it ideal for watersports, especially windsurfing, surfing and sailing. 10 miles from Dolgellau.


FOOD AND DRINK

There are so many great places to enjoy good food and drink in and near Dolgellau, we couldn’t possibly list them all here. Instead, here are some of our personal favourites. Enjoy!

Pubs

The George the III just on the outskirts of Dolgellau offers amazing views as well as delicious seasonal pub food. The perfect stop for a Sunday roast.

The Royal Ship Inn is an old coaching inn based in the centre of town. It offers good seasonal pub food and a setting that is packed with character.

The Stag Inn is nestled in the back streets of the town. Friendly and atmospheric, a great place for lunch.

Cafés

Gwin Dylanwad Wine serves up two of life’s essentials – great coffee, and delicious wines. Enjoy your wine in the in-store library or have it delivered to the door of your holiday cottage!

TH Roberts is a great café to visit if in the area – set in the old ironmongery, the setting is fabulous, as are the cakes. It also has a good lunch menu.

Y Sospan offers a traditional cafe menu; and in the evening it turns into a bistro.

Restaurants

Head to Bwyty Mawddach in nearby Llanelltyd for the best woodfired pizza in town and fantastic views over the estuary for afters. Usually serving Weds – Sat, take away also available.

Y Meirionnydd is based in the old county jail in Dolgellau. A lovely atmosphere, and great for local food. Book in advance.

Tafarn y Gader Tapas Bistro & Bar is a great place for tapas and very popular with locals.

The Gatehouse Steakhouse is the place to go for great burgers and steak.

Take Aways

The Chinese Cottage on Smithfield Street is the local Chinese takeaway.

The Cosy Takeaway on Meyrick Street is the local fish and chip shop. 


THE PRACTICAL STUFF

For medical help

Dial 999 to call for an ambulance if you require urgent medical attention.

You can find your nearest urgent care health services provider by searching the NHS online directory at https://www.nhs.uk/service-search/other-services/

For non-urgent medical advice dial ‘111’ to speak to an operator at the NHS telephone advice service, or visit www.111.nhs.uk



WELSH LANGUAGE

The welsh alphabet is phonetic so once you know how to say the letters, the theory is that reading the words is straightforward; you say what you see. A little time spent familiarising yourself with the alphabet will help no end when you’re trying to navigate your way around the area…

a short, as in ‘hat’, never as in ‘ball’
b as in ‘bag’. Although is there really any other way?
c always hard as in ‘cat’, never an s as in ‘precise’
ch like the ch in the Scottish word ‘loch’, but with more phlegm
d as in ‘dog’, never as in ‘djinn’
dd a buzzy ‘th’ sound, as in ‘this’. Think angry bees with a lisp
e short, as in pen
f v. This is very, very simple, and when you get really used to it, f will play hafock with your spelling
ff f. Equally, you can ffind yourselff getting too used to ff as well
g always hard as in ‘get’, never a ‘j’ sound as in the last g in garage
ng as in ‘song’, where the g isn’t hard, like in ‘gig’, but a soft glottal stop made in your throat
h as in hat, always sounded and never silent
as in ‘pin’
j accepted now because of the loan words from English that use it, like ‘garej’
l a ‘luh’ as in ‘lava’, but never an ‘ul’ sound as in ‘milk’
ll not as hard a sound to make as some would have you think. Raise your tongue to the top of your mouth as if you were going to say ‘el’, then make the ‘ell’ sound by blowing air round the sides of your raised tongue, instead of by using your voice. You should sound like an annoyed cat
m as in ‘mithridatize’. Or as in ‘mum’, if you want to be boring
n as in ‘nanobot’
o short as in ‘hot’, not round as in ‘hotel’
p can I have a p please Bob?
ph an English f, or Welsh ff sound, as in ‘phase’
r rolled. Some people just can’t get a rolled ‘r’ – their tongues are unable to vibrate in the right way. It’s a genetic thing, apparently,
similar to being able to roll your tongue into a tube, or turn the end upside down. Honestly, some people can, but my tongue’s not that prehensile. Roll if you can, don’t if you can’t
rh hr. Make a huffy, breathy sound before your rolled ‘r’
s always soft as in ‘sit’, never a ‘z’ sound as in ‘juxtapose’
t as in ‘top’. Can it get any simpler?
th as in ‘think’, softer and less buzzy than dd
u If you had stepped in something disgusting and made a kind of ‘eugh’ noise, the vowel ‘eu’ sound would about approximate
w oooooo
y ok, y breaks the rule that Welsh is phonetic. As a single syllable word, y is like ‘uh’, on the last syllable of a multisyllabic word it’ an‘u’ or ‘ee’, and anywhere else it’s like the unstressed, indeterminate noise of the final e in ‘garden’ or ‘letter’. Ysbyty (hospital) is the perfect example.

USEFUL PHRASES

Welcome: Croeso
How are you? Sut mae / Ti’n iawn
Good morning: Bore da
Good Afternoon: P.nawn da, prynhawn da
Good evening: Noswaith dda
Good night: Nos da
Cheers / Good Health! Iechyd da!
Do you speak welsh? Ydych chi’n siarad Cymraeg?
How do you say…. in welsh? Beth ydy….yn Cymraeg?
Thank you: Diolch
I love you: Dw i’n dy garu di
Happy Birthday: Penblwdd Hapus

and a couple of funny ones….
Microwave: popty ping
‘Might as well’: Man a man a mwnci



Check out our holiday cottages in Dolgellau

 
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