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Northern Mawddach Way 2 days / 16 miles (26km)

OS Route Map → Map GPX Route file →

Mawddach Way LogoDate: 25 Feb 2019
Start: Barmouth / Finish: Dolgellau.
Maps: Explorer O23 Cadair Idris & Llyn Tegid.
Mawddach Way: Website

Day 1Barmouth to Clogau Mine7.8miles / 2269 feet (12.6km / 691m)
Day 2Clogau Mine to Dolgellau8.4miles / 1776 feet (13.5km / 541m)
Dawn at pitch near Clogau Mine

A continuation trip to our Southern Mawddach Way (MW) backpack of September 2018 to complete the trail.

The weather was far superior to the cautious forecast, clear skies and unbroken sunshine throughout, surpassing even the very warm and highly unusual conditions on our Langdale Fells backpack of February 2008. On this trip it was decidely hot in the middle of the day and we were occasionally praying for a breeze to kick in. Our previous record of 29th. February 2004 for the earliest butterfly was also broken, we saw several peacocks and other unidentified specimens.

As mentioned on the first trip, the MW is not specifically signed. Much more than the southern section, this northern part requires very careful mapwork and, even then, difficulties are very likely. Although the public footpaths it follows are generally waymarked, some of them don't exist on the ground and the MW often passes through an intersection of two or more of them. Add to this the complexity of a maze of stout stone walls, barbed fences, hummocky topology and stunted trees that obscure the view and we have a recipe for navigational chaos. A significant time should be allowed for route finding.

The GPX file above shows the MW route as we obtained it online. Our actual route differs significantly in a couple of locations, the section from Llechfraith (SH 668195) to the Garth-gell footpath (SH 684204) and the section from Foel-Ispri-uchaf (SH 698201) through to the northern flank of Foel Ispri (SH 702203).

Day 1 - Barmouth to Clogau Mine

The ascent from the A496 in Barmouth is via the narrow Dinas Olau Road signed as 'Unsuitable for motor vehicles'. It's not particularly suitable for backpackers either after a long coach ride, climbing very steeply onto Gloddfa Road at a merciless angle to an information board near Dinas Oleu with a grand view over Barmouth and the bay.

View north-west over Barmouth to Lleyn
View north-west over Barmouth to Lleyn (25 Feb 2019__12:07:17)
View south over Barmouth Bay
View south over Barmouth Bay (25 Feb 2019__12:12:49)

The route onwards as far as the Afon Cwm-llechen gives easy walking with good views northwards towards Lleyn, across the estuary to the Cadair Idris range and north-eastwards towards the Arans and southern Arenigs. Diffwys in the southern Rhinogydd makes a bold backdrop to the northern arc of this section.

Cadair Idris range across the estuary
Cadair Idris range across the estuary (25 Feb 2019__12:40:05)
Estuary and Barmouth Bridge
Estuary and Barmouth Bridge (25 Feb 2019__12:50:00)
Stone walls on the western slopes
Stone walls on the western slopes (25 Feb 2019__13:29:36)
West coast and Lleyn
West coast and Lleyn (25 Feb 2019__13:33:50)
View north-east from the MW
View north-east from the MW (25 Feb 2019__14:02:59)
Cadair Idris range across the estuary
Cadair Idris range across the estuary (25 Feb 2019__14:13:09)

At the house of Llechfraith where two footpaths diverge, I can only assume that despite great care we took the wrong one and fought a frustrating battle with walls and trees to get back on track at a ladder stile. Continuing north-eastwards we again encountered a stout wall with no sign of any way through and were forced to climb it, the light fading rapidly. We reached a high point and spotted a nearby ruin and made a pitch there, we believe it was the one shown on the map at SH 677203. We completed the pitch with the aid of head torches and it was an excellent one with a good sunset as compensation.

Low sun on the estuary from ascent to Clogau Mine
Low sun on the estuary from ascent to Clogau Mine (25 Feb 2019__17:12:46)
Sunset sky from the pitch
Sunset sky from the pitch (25 Feb 2019__17:44:17)

Day 2 - Clogau Mine to Dolgellau

A superb clear sky overnight and a clear dawn brought a chance for a pitch photo, quite striking with the ruined building and its host tree growing in the middle of it.

Resuming the navigational battle we made our way across some boggy tussocky terrain and found a thin path, clearly more than a sheep path and perhaps made by others in a similar predicament. As it slanted down northwards we spotted the extensive ruins of Garth-gell and a thin path beside the little stream flowing down to it from the west. Heading down from the ruins south-eastwards through the fields we eventually spotted a kissing gate below that at last brought us back on track.

An easy and very fine woodland path follows above the Afon Cwm-mynach down to the A496. This is part of the RSPB Mawddach Valley nature reserve of sessile oak and birch, an internationally important site.

Dawn sky and moon from the pitch
Dawn sky and moon from the pitch (26 Feb 2019__06:58:08)
Ruined buildings at Garth-gell
Ruined buildings at Garth-gell (26 Feb 2019__07:42:12)

The footpath ascending through the wood on the east side is well waymarked and gives attractive walking with no problems until it meets the track adjacent to Foel-Ispri-isaf. On this section Diffwys dominates the view and is later joined by Crib-y-rhiw and Y Llethr.

View towards estuary from slopes east of the Afon Cwm-mynach
View towards estuary from slopes east of the Afon Cwm-mynach (26 Feb 2019__09:24:02)
View from approach to Foel Ispri
View from approach to Foel Ispri (26 Feb 2019__10:21:46)
View from approach to Foel Ispri
View from approach to Foel Ispri (26 Feb 2019__10:21:55)

Failing to find the mapped line, we found a route around the western flank of Foel Ispri to a gate in the perimeter wall and rejoined the MW near the small pool to its north. This was the last of the difficulties and the line becomes a good track past the pools of Mynydd Foel-uchaf.

The route gives more attractive walking around to the northern face of Bryniau Glo and onto the head of an excellent descent path high on the steep western flank of the Afon Mawddach valley.

Pools of Mynydd Foel-uchaf
Pools of Mynydd Foel-uchaf (26 Feb 2019__10:50:06)
Upper pool of Mynydd Foel-uchaf with Rhobell fawr
Upper pool of Mynydd Foel-uchaf with Rhobell fawr (26 Feb 2019__10:53:06)
Rhobell Fawr and the Arans
Rhobell Fawr and the Arans (26 Feb 2019__12:02:37)
Path high above the Afon Mawddach
Path high above the Afon Mawddach (26 Feb 2019__13:02:43)

The woodland path reaches the A496 at Llanelltyd via steps and crosses the river for a modest ascent to the golf course and final descent to Dolgellau bridge.

We mustn't let the difficulties detract from the walk which was scenically enjoyable and interesting, but the MW is in dire need of specific waymarking before promotion as a named recommended route.

Llanelltyd bridge over the Afon Mawddach
Llanelltyd bridge over the Afon Mawddach (26 Feb 2019__13:41:25)