Visit Dolgellau and the surrounding villages and stay in bed & breakfast accommodation:
Dolgellau, Gwynedd, is a striking, small town. It lies in the long valley-rift of the Mawddach river that runs inland from Barmouth and under the long mountain-spine of Cader Idris. Those who appreciate austere beauty find satisfaction in the grey architecture of this place, which seems to spring naturally from the geography of cliff-stone around it. Its own river is the Wnion, which meets the Ganllwyd and the Mawddach a little further West at Llanelltud; and the bridge over the stream at Dolgellau is one of its best features. Built in 1638, it has seven arches, which manage to be both graceful and strong, and something of the same combination can be found in the houses flanking the narrow streets. Only the centre of the town gives traffic any width to manoeuvre in, for Dolgellau is of ancient foundation and is proud of the fact.
The name has several interpretations, such as Meadow of Hazels and Meadow of the Slaves. Of its prehistoric past the soil has not yet yielded much evidence, but that it was a place known to the Romans seems proved by the discovery of coins bearing the name and title of the Emperor Trajan. Gold is found in the nearby mountain-sides and has been worked in modern times, though the fire disaster at the Gwynfynydd mine in 1935 checked the enterprise. Possibly the Romans worked the gold; and the attribution of the name to slaves rather than hazels springs from the belief that forced labour may have been employed.
Near Dolgellau, and facing the pleasant village of Llanelltud across the river, are the remains of Cymer Abbey. This was founded in 1199 by Gruffydd ap Cynan, Lord of Gwynedd, the whole area of North Wales including Snowdonia, and by his brother Maredudd. It was set up as an offshoot of Cwmhir Abbey, but now only the church and some few other architectural fragments of this Cistercian foundation survive. In Dolgellau Owain Glyndwr held his last parliament of free Wales; unlike his Parliament House in Machynlleth, the original building has not been allowed to remain on its original site. In 1882 it was pulled down, and in 1883 removed to Newtown and re-erected in a park belonging to Sir Pryce Jones. An incident of highly coloured interest connects Dolgellau with Glyndwr in a different way. The church, built as it stands in 1726, nevertheless contains a memorial far older than itself, the effigy of a 13th century notable named Maurice filius (son of) Ynyr Vychan. Vychan means small, and, flattering or not, the word survived for generations as the surname of his descendants, the Vaughans of the great house of Nannau, now 800 ft up against Mod Offrwm and the further backcloth of Cader Idris and Tyrau-mawr. Nothing of the house that was known to Owain Glyndwr is now standing. For it belonged to one Howel Sele, first cousin of Owain but apparently no friend of his. He invited Owain to his woodlands, but, while they were hunting, deliberately turned his shaft on him. Fortunately Owain was wearing armour under his clothes, and the attempt miscarried. His revenge took two forms: he razed Howel's house to the ground, and he removed Howel from the sight of men. Where Howel had disappeared remained a mystery until, a few years later, the skeleton of a man with Howel's build was found in the trunk of an ancient oak. There are several versions of the story, in Pennant's account of Wales in the 18th century and in writings by Walter Scott and Bulwer Lytton in the 19th. It is commemorated by a sundial on the spot where the tree once stood; it fell at last, struck by lightning, in 1813.
Moel Offrwm (possibly Hill of Sacrifice) can be reached by what is known as the Precipice Walk from Dolgellau. It has a hill-fort constructed of large boulders laid out on its summit; the narrow lake, Cynwch, lies close by.
The churchyard is distinguished by the grave of a Welsh poet, Dafydd Ionawr (David January). For a long time Welsh custom resisted the introduction of surnames, which did not begin to be used until the time of Henry VIII, and many famous poets are still known better by their “fig enw” (nom de plume) than in any other way.
Literary interest in Dolgellau did not stop with Scott and Lytton. Thomas Love Peacock, satirist and novelist, friend of Shelley and father-in-law of George Meredith, wrote in his own distinctive way on much that was Welsh; he considered Dolgellau one of the most beautiful of spots, with the most beautiful of women.
Nearby towns: Bala, Barmouth, Blaenau Ffestiniog, Machynlleth, Tywyn
Nearby villages: Aber Cywarch, Aberangell, Aberdovey, Abergynolwyn, Aberllefenni, Arthog, Bryn-crug, Capel Arthog, Cemmaes Road, Corris, Cross Foxes, Darowen, Dinas Mawddwy, Esgairgeiliog, Harlech, Llanaber, Llanbedr, Llanddwywe, Llanegryn, Llanelltyd, Llanenddwyn, Llanfachreth, Llanfair, Llanfihangel-y-Pennant, Llangelynin, Llanuwchllyn, Llanwrin, Llwyngwril, Mallwyd, Pandy, Pantperthog, Penegoes, South Beach, Tal-y-Llyn, Tonfanau
Have you decided to visit Dolgellau or the surrounding villages? Please look above for somewhere to stay in:
- a Dolgellau bed and breakfast (a Dolgellau B&B or Dolgellau b and b)
- a Dolgellau guesthouse
- a Dolgellau hotel (or motel)
- a Dolgellau self-catering establishment, or
- other Dolgellau accommodation