Dolgellau is a quaint old market town in Southern Snowdonia, in what were once the Celtic tribal lands of the Ordovices. It’s the perfect base for exploring Snowdonia, so here are ten things you could see and do when you visit.
The pretty market town of Dolgellau in Southern Snowdonia is situated at the foot of Cader Idris, one of Snowdonia’s best-loved mountains, and is an excellent base for exploring Snowdonia at any time of year.
Dolgellau’s history is long and extremely interesting (download the ‘sense of place’ PDF for more information), and this is one of the reasons that Dolgellau is such a popular place to visit today. But there’s a lot more to the town and surrounding countryside than ancient history, so here are ten things worth doing and seeing next time you visit Dolgellau.
1. Cader Idris
There’s an old saying about Cader Idris: if you spend a night on the mountain, when you come down you’ll either be a poet or a madman. The fantastic scenery on the walk up the mountain includes a wonderful lake – Llyn Cau – near the summit, which according to legend is bottomless and home to a monster. Don’t forget your camera; you’ll kick yourself if the monster surfaces and you miss a great photo opportunity!
2. Quaker Heritage Centre
The establishment of the Quaker community in Dolgellau in the 17th century is an important part of Dolgellau’s history. The Quakers, like many minority religious groups at that time, suffered extreme persecution and this led to the emigration of many Quakers to Pennsylvania. You can find out all about the Quakers, their persecution and their escape to America at Dolgellau’s Quaker Heritage Centre.
3. Coed y Brenin
Dolgellau is a popular base for cyclists, because there are many excellent cycling routes nearby. One of the most popular is Coed y Brenin, which boasts a number of excellent mountain biking routes for all abilities. Even if you’re not a keen cyclist, there’s plenty else to do at Coed y Brenin; excellent walking, a high ropes course, a cafe with wonderful views, and a fantastic adventure playground for kids to tire themselves out on.
4. Ty Siamas
Ty Siamas is the National Centre for Welsh Folk Music, and it’s what we like to think of as a museum with a difference. That’s because it’s all so hands-on: you can try out a number of musical instruments, see a real recording studio, shop for all things musical, and even catch a performance or two.
5. King Arthur’s Labyrinth
King Arthur’s Labyrinth is a fun family attraction in Corris, which is close to Dolgellau. This is another of those ‘attractions with a difference’; here, you’ll hear a number of stories about King Arthur, who according to legend had many connections with the Snowdonia region, but you’ll hear them while you take an underground boat ride. This is a very popular attraction, along with Corris Craft Centre which is on the same site but back above ground; it’s worth combining the two attractions for a really fun day out.
6. Centre for Alternative Technology
The Centre for Alternative Technology, or CAT, is at nearby Machynlleth. This is a really fascinating attraction for all the family, where you’ll learn all about sustainable living and clean technology, organic gardening and building an eco-house. Perhaps the most popular thing to do at CAT, though, is riding the water-balanced cliff railway – one of the steepest in the world.
There’s plenty of good fishing in the Dolgellau area, with several fisheries managed by the Dolgellau Angling Association. There’s all sorts of fishing available in season; you may be lucky enough to catch sea trout, salmon, brown trout or rainbow trout – but even if you don’t, you’ll still catch a nice day out!
8. Steam railways
See the countryside in comfort, without having to keep your eyes on the road, with a fantastic day out on a steam train. The two closest steam railways to Dolgellau are the Fairbourne Steam Railway and the Talyllyn Railway, both of which are within easy reach of Dolgellau and will take you on breathtaking tours of some of Snowdonia’s best scenery.
Dolgellau Golf Club, set among the spectacular scenery that surrounds Dolgellau, is considered by many players to be one of the most beautiful golf courses in Wales. Certainly, positioned as it is beneath Cader Idris, the course is a pretty dramatic one by anyone’s standards; and the views of the Mawddach Estuary from the top six holes are especially breathtaking.
One of the wonderful things about Dolgellau is the variety of shops. Dolgellau’s shops are mostly small and independent, selling a great selection of outdoor gear, gifts, local produce, textiles and craft supplies. And of course, Dolgellau is still a market town, so look out for the farmers’ market on the third Sunday of each month, and the furniture and household goods auction on the third Thursday of every month. You’re sure to bag a bargain or two!