On a holiday to Wales a few years ago we went for a day trip to Barmouth and during that day I knew I had to return. As I took in the beautiful wide sandy beaches surrounded by hills I had a feeling that the place was very special. At that point I hadn’t considered the implication that the town was west facing; the sunset benefits soon became obvious during my recent week there.
Barmouth is a holiday destination for everyone. If you want the classic seaside experience with a focus on the beach and the sea then you are catered for. If you’re a walker or cyclist there’s plenty to do. If you enjoy steam trains or castles you will find these needs met too. Whatever type of day you choose, they all have one thing in common; they’ll all end with the chance to see the sun set over the sea.
We would rather spend the day walking through natural landscapes, away from the hurly burly of consumerism, so my experiences will be biased towards what’s available for walkers. Hopefully my experiences will either entertain you for a while or give you a starting point from which to plan a holiday suited to your needs.
The first experience that called to us on our first day in the Barmouth area was to climb up Dinas Oleu, the hill right behind Barmouth. Imagine the views, we thought! It was easy to find the way up from the town centre as the path left the town near the imposing church. On the way up we found out that the area of the hill was, in 1895, the first area of land to be gifted to the National Trust and that the donor was Mrs Fanny Talbot. Thanks to her generosity and the work of the National Trust we get to enjoy this wonderful place.
The above photo shows the view from almost the top of the hill. From this point you can see the sea, the estuary and Cader Idris, the highest mountain in the area. I loved it up on the hill surrounded by that view because of the feeling of solitude, the chance to relax and breathe more deeply, and because I find the huge scale of a natural view like this puts your own existence and problems into perspective. It’s a very steep hill to walk up but well worth the effort in my opinion.
Back in Barmouth we had the chance to see a RNLI lifeboat close up and to talk to one of the rescue team. Their work is always very humbling to hear about, as many precious lives are directly saved because of the organisation.
Another must-do experience for us was to walk along the Mawddach trail, which runs from Dolgellau to Barmouth and follows an old railway line. It’s a beautiful straight and flat path offering beautiful views of the estuary.
If you start from Dolgellau, the walk finishes at Barmouth Bridge, over which you can pass on a footpath which is right next to the current train line. The above photo was taken from the bridge and shows the estuary. The Mawddach trail runs down the right hand side. The bridge also offers views towards the sea, and has aesthetic value itself.
There is a train station in Bamouth, so, without the hassle of a car, by rail you can get to more southern places like Borth and more northern places like Harlech, which has a beautiful sandy beach and a castle which has been featured by Paul Steele in another article on this website. There is also a little ferry from Barmouth to Fairbourne which is a delightful trip and a brilliant way to avoid the relatively long drive between the two places as to do that you have to go up and down both sides of the estuary.
From the ferry pictured above you get the chance to see Barmouth, its bridge and the estuary from a new viewpoint.
There is a very good reason to go to Fairbourne in my opinion and that is to go to a fantastic hidden lake called the Blue Lake (pictured below). This lake is a short walk from Fairbourne and is found by passing through a hidden tunnel which leads to an old slate quarry. This old quarry has now partially filled up with water, forming the small lake and making this place very unique. People swim in the Blue Lake but I heard many reports of how cold the water was, so I saved my swimming for the sea.
Another nice day out which is easily reached from Barmouth/Fairbourne is a trip to the Talyllyn railway. If you find your way to Tywyn, then you have the opportunity to catch a steam train which travels along the Fathew valley in Snowdonia national park, and takes you to Nant Gwernol. At Nant Gwernol there is beautiful woodland and a waterfall to enjoy before you catch the train back again.
Anyone who has read a previous article of mine and is familiar with my love of climbing up hills might well be asking why I haven’t featured Cadir Idris, other than a quick mention. Good question and a sore point. The weather scuppered our plans to walk up Cadir Idris during the time that we were in the area, so that particular avenue of mountain climbing pleasure remains something to look forward to on a future visit. Barmouth area is definitely a place that I would love to go to again…and again. That’s when I’ll climb up Cadir Idris.