A three day circular footpath walk around the Mawddach Estuary
Total Distance 49.8 km | Highest Point 346m | Total Height Climbed 2226m | Est Time 15-18 hours
The Mawddach Estuary is a beautiful and largely unspoilt gem hidden away at the southern end of the Snowdonia National Park. The Mawddach Way is a 50km walk which uses existing footpaths and permissive paths to make a circuit of the hills either side of the estuary, passing through woodland, pasture and open country. The ideal location for a walking holiday in Wales!
Although the tranquil setting and spectacular views may seem to be in keeping with the scattered remains of prehistoric settlement, they belie an altogether noisier and dirtier history of industrial exploitation and military use, and each remnant of the past provides plenty of interest to keep the walker entertained along the way.
The route of the Mawddach Way conceptually starts at the popular seaside resort of Barmouth (though it can be joined at any point), and takes in the ancient settlements of Llanelltyd and Dolgellau. The small villages of Taicynhaeaf and Penmaenpool, being either side of the first bridging point of the estuary beyond Barmouth and lying on key bus routes, make obvious staging points in the journey.
We wanted to create a journey where it really was possible to leave the car at home, and this was a big influence in choosing Barmouth, with its rail connections, as the suggested starting point. There is a regular bus service on both sides of the estuary, so it is feasible to walk the circuit from a single base, although you may choose to stay somewhere different each night. (Click here for a public transport journey planner). For the very energetic, the Mawddach Trail cycleway, which cuts right across the circuit, provides further permutations for getting to and from the trailheads.
The route was laid out with a three-day trip in mind and the guide book reflects those three stages. Of course there will be those who wish to do it in two, and it is not beyond the realms of possibility to walk it in a single day. Arguably this walk is more about the journey than the speed, and we would encourage you to take as much time as you can to savour it.
The Mawddach Way, a rewarding and beautiful undertaking for all walkers, offers an accessible challenge to those who are new to long distance routes. By opting for walking the route from a single base, a small day-pack may be all that is required to be carried. Additionally, although offering at times a sense of real remoteness, the route is never more than a couple of kilometres from road access, so meeting up with your support crew is easy, and days can be cut shorter as required.
SECTION A: Barmouth To Taicynhaeaf
Distance: 15.8 km
Max Height: 346 m
Total Height Climbed: 744m
Estimated time: 5-6 hours
The Mawddach Way leaves the busy seaside town of Barmouth, climbing up through its best kept secret, the Old Town. The climbing continues, and the highest point in the whole route, 346 m, is reached in around 3.5 km at Bwlch y llan. The route tracks along the Mawddach Gold Belt, and a number of mine workings are encountered along the way, along with much earlier markers of human habitation
Section B: Taicynhaeaf to Penmaenpool
Distance: 14.3 km
Max Height: 317 m
Total Height Climbed: 606 m
Estimated time: 4-5 hours
Starting from the small scattered village of Taicynhaeaf, the route climbs swiftly up the slopes of Foel Ispri, and onto the wild open spaces beyond. Civilisation is rejoined via the Monk’s road, sweeping down in spectacular fashion to Llanelltyd and on to Dolgellau. Llanelltyd church, Cymer Abbey and the Dolgellau town trail are all worth visiting if time permits.
SECTION C: Penmaenpool to Barmouth
Distance: 18.2 km
Max Height: 268 m
Total Height Climbed: 765 m
Estimated time: 6-7 hours
This is the longest section of the route, with the most climbing, but arguably with the biggest rewards. Starting from Penmaenpool, the route climbs swiftly up the valley wall and traverses the long plateau at the foot of Cadair Idris. Beware, this can be bleak and windswept terrain in poor weather and the steep descent off the plateau can be slippery in the wet. Taking in various features left by man and ice, the route finishes off by crossing the iconic Barmouth Bridge.
EXPLORE THE MAWDDACH WAY
A detailed guide to accompany walkers on the three day circular footpath walk around the Mawddach Estuary
Spoke ‘n’ History’s detailed guide to the Mawddach Way is available as a colour booklet or as a PDF download. It contains more than 50 pages of route description, photographs, historical detail and background information to enhance your experience of this circular walk around the scenic Mawddach Estuary.
A bound, colour, A5 booklet version of the route guide will be dispatched to you by first class post.
inc UK P&P
An electronic (adobe pdf) route guide to the Mawddach Way will be e-mailed to you within 48 hours.
Ordnance Survey Maps
The Landranger Porthmadog & Dolgellau (1:50,000) map 124 covers the entire area of the Mawddach Way route, but the Explorer series (1:25,000) include details such as field boundaries which can be invaluable on the ground. Unfortunately, the route falls between Explorer sheets OL18 and OL23, with about three quarters of the route appearing on both.
Click Here to buy the Porthmadog & Dolgellau Landranger (1:50,000) map 124
Click Here to buy the Harlech, Porthmadog & Bala OS Explorer (1:25,000) map OL18
Click Here to buy the Cadair Idris & Llyn Tegid OS Explorer (1:25,000) map OL23