At Dolgellau you get the best of both worlds: outdoor activities on tap, and a beautiful historic town to explore. Here are ten things worth knowing about Dolgellau.
At just a stone’s throw from some of Southern Snowdonia’s most popular open spaces – the mighty mountain Cadair Idris, the stunning woodlands of Coed y Brenin, and the beautiful beaches of Tywyn and Barmouth – unsurprisingly, Dolgellau is a popular ‘base camp’ for visitors to the area.
From Dolgellau you’re within easy reach of many of Snowdonia‘s fascinating historic sites, cultural attractions and exhilarating activities, so it’s the perfect place to stay if you’re looking for character, friendliness and easy access to all that Snowdonia has to offer. But before you pack your bags, you’ll probably want to know a few facts about Dolgellau – so here’s ten to get you started.
1. Top of the list
At the top of our list are Dolgellau’s listed buildings. There are over 200 listed buildings in Dolgellau – said to be the highest concentration of listed buildings in all of Wales. These listed buildings include farmhouses, barns, the County Hall and even the local hospital.
2. Countryside festival
Every summer, Dolgellau hosts its Gwyl Cefn Gwlad – Festival of the Countryside – a fundraising event which is a cross between an agricultural show and a village fête. Entry to the Festival of the Countryside is free, with the money raised at the variety of stalls (which include raffles and tombolas) being donated to good causes.
3. Wheelie good fun
Dolgellau is a designated “cycle breaks centre”, boasting a range of dedicated cycle routes all around the area. And for off-roaders, Coed y Brenin is just a stone’s throw away; Coed y Brenin being, of course, Britain’s first purpose-built mountain bike centre, so you know you’ll be well looked after there!
4. History mystery
There are three hillforts around Dolgellau, of uncertain origin. And while Roman coins from the reigns of Hadrian and Trajan have been found near Dolgellau, there’s no evidence of a Roman fortress at the site of today’s town (possibly because that area would have been marshy in Roman times).
5. Serf’s up
It’s likely that Dolgellau’s story – as a town, that is – begins somewhere in the late eleventh or early twelfth century, when a settlement existed there as a ‘serf village’ or ‘maerdref’. Dolgellau was a ‘maerdref’ until at least the reign of Henry Tudor (1485-1509).
6. Prince of Wales
The great Welsh hero Owain Glyndwr, the last Welsh Prince of Wales, led a council of chiefs at Dolgellau during the national uprising in 1404. While the building that Glyndwr reputedly used for meetings has long since been demolished, there’s still a street named after him, so his presence is very much felt in the town, all these centuries later.
7. Bandits and brigands
A number of place names and buildings in the Dolgellau area are connected in some way with the infamous Red Bandits of Mawddwy, who were active in the area in the 16th century. These include Llety’r Gwylliaid (bandits’ lodging) and Llety’r Lladron (thieves’ lodging) near Bwlch Oerddrws. The pub in Mallwyd is also named ‘Brigands Inn’.
8. Arthur’s last battle
Near Dinas Mawddwy, just south of Dolgellau, is a field known as Camlan. In this field, according to legend, King Arthur fought his final battle. There are dozens of Arthurian legends that originate from Snowdonia, including at least two ‘sites of the final battle’, so we’ll let you make your own minds up as to which stories are true and which aren’t!
9. Mass exodus
Persecution of minority religions was widespread and fierce in the 17th century. So fierce, in fact, that the majority of Dolgellau’s Quakers emigrated to Pennsylvania in 1689 under the leadership of Rowland Ellis, a gentleman farmer who lived just outside Dolgellau. Even today there are very strong ties between Dolgellau and Pennsylvania.
10. There’s gold in them there hills!
Well, there used to be. There’s not much left nowadays – if any at all. In the 19th century gold fever hit Dolgellau and the mines were at their most productive. As Welsh gold is so incredibly rare, it’s pretty expensive compared to ‘normal’ gold. Royal brides – including the Queen, the Queen Mother, Princess Diana and Kate Middleton – all wore or wear wedding rings of Welsh gold.