|OS Route Map →||GPX Route file →|
Date: 25 Feb 2019
Start: Barmouth / Finish: Dolgellau.
Maps: Explorer O23 Cadair Idris & Llyn Tegid.
Mawddach Way: Website
|Day 1||Barmouth to Clogau Mine||7.8miles / 2269 feet (12.6km / 691m)|
|Day 2||Clogau Mine to Dolgellau||8.4miles / 1776 feet (13.5km / 541m)|
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).
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.