Dolgellau is a small market town situated at the foot of the Cader Idris mountain range in southern Snowdonia.
It began its life as a village in the 12th century developing into a bustling market town largely due to its place in Wales’ woolen industry when wool was transported down the River Wnion, which runs through the town, before ending up in the port of Barmouth (about 10 miles away). From here it was shipped all around the world. This industry was celebrated every year in the local "Wool Race".
The Welsh gold rush of the 19th century was centered on this area. The gold and copper mines in the hills around the town employed over 500 miners towards the end of the century.
Dolgellau is an excellent base for touring Snowdonia and is host to the annual Sesiwn Fawr folk and rock festival each July. Ty Siamas, the National Centre for Welsh Folk Music, is also located in the town.
The Coed y Brenin forest is situated a few miles north of Dolgellau and there are many routes from the town to the summit of the mysterious Cader Idris. Associated with many local legends, the name Cader Idirs (or Chair of Idris) is taken to refer to the mythological giant Idris who was said to have been skilled in poetry, astronomy and philosophy, Indeed legend says that if you were sleep alone on the slopes Cader Idris, you will awaken either a madman or a poet.
The great glory of Cader Idris is the long north escarpment that extends over 7 miles from the rocky splendour of Gau Graig above Dolgellau in the east, to the sea-girt ramparts of Craig Cwm-Llwyd in the west.
North East of Dogellau lie the Rhinogs (or 'Rhinogydd' in Welsh) mountains. This is wild Wales; virtually unscarred by the works of man, and sprinkled with sparkling, lonely lakes they are a stark contrast to the more genteel, grassy Tarren Hills which lie south of Cadair Idris and north of the Dyfi valley.
The Dovey Hills are shapely green hills to the southeast of Dolgellau. There are three moorland peaks which straddle the band of high ground that stretches from Dinas Mawddwy in the east to Corris in the west. In between lies a succession of high heathery plateaux linked by narrow necks and brooding crags. The Arrans, in the southeastern corner of the Snowdonia National Park, form the northerly end of the Cambrian mountain chain of mid-Wales.
Snowdonia National Park itself is situated on the northwest coast of Wales. Covering 827 square miles of diverse landscapes, the Snowdonia National Park is a living working area. Home to over 26,000 people it boasts the highest mountain in England and Wales, as well as beautiful coastline, woodland, delightful river valleys, waterfalls and many picturesque villages. It is the largest National Park in Wales, and the 3rd largest in the UK. It was one of the first National Parks to be designated in 1951, and approximately 10.5 million people visit annually.
The Talyllyn Railway, one of the Great Little Trains of Wales was the first railway in the world to be taken over and run by volunteers. The line runs from the coast at Tywyn to the former slate quarries at Nant Gwernol. Historic locomotives and carriages, some dating back to the line's opening in 1864 add to the unique atmosphere. The nearest station is at Abergynolwyn, about 25 minutes' drive from Dolserau.
The Ffestiniog Railway, Vale of Rheidol and the Welshpool & Llanfair railways are all within reach. You may also want to experience the newly rebuilt Welsh Highland Railway which runs from Porthmadog to Caernarfon.
The nearby RSPB reserves at Arthog Bog, Coed Garth Gell and Ynis-hir offer a wide variety of habitats including oak woodland, heathland and salt-marsh that attracts an equally diverse range of birds.
The fascinating folly of Portmeirion is around 53 minutes’ drive from Dolserau. This quaint Italianate village was the brainchild of the architect Clough Williams-Ellis. It is also well-known as the setting for the cult 1960’s TV series The Prisoner and is the home of the hotel was where the future Edward VIII went to meet Wallace Simpson prior to his abdication in 1936.
Further afield (around 45 minutes’ drive) Harlech Castle is one of the most historically important and well preserved fortifications in the principality. Built by Edward I after his conquest of Wales, Harlech, along with neighbouring castles at Caernarfon, Beaumaris and Conwy now has World Heritage status.