Section 3 - Barmouth to Llwyngwril
Around 8 miles (13km). 4 miles Easy grade walking around the estuary to Fairbourne, then 4 miles Strenuous grade inland through forest, old quarries and then upland sheep pastures - What these grades mean
It’s an iconic start to the walk today, crossing the 700 metre long Barmouth Bridge on a wooden walkway, with stupendous views up the Mawddach valley and into the Cadair Idris Range, while the waters surge in and out of the estuary beneath your feet.
If you do cross when a train is passing, hold tight and really get a feel for how unique this structure is! On the other side, you take a well-made path along the flood embankment to re-join the coast.
This is a very pleasant and easy mile or two with views across the marshes and lakes of Barmouth Estuary before reaching the dunes at Fairbourne, and from here you follow the tiny miniature railway into the town. In the summer you can catch a ferry to link up with the train and miss this section altogether, but to do so you lose an hour of the most wonderful estuary AND mountain views…so why rush? You can stay in Fairbourne instead of Barmouth if you prefer - click here to read more about this option
At Fairbourne, you track along the seafront promenade with high shingle banks and the peculiar ‘Dragons Teeth’ – WW2 tank traps which line the route – as you walk right to the foot of the huge bracken-covered sides of the mountain Pen Y Garn that looms over you. This natural barrier leaves no room between its sheer sides and the ocean below other than the width of the main road, so head inland up a pretty, wooded valley, peppered with tiny cottages, to find the old quarryman’s path.
It’s a steep climb, through broad leafed woodland on a zigzag track which quickly reveals its history as piles of huge rock slabs appear beside the trail. Everyone should divert to explore the ghostly old quarry workings – here at Friog Quarry everything you can see was all dug by hand – and see Welsh industrial history in the raw…without the fancy costumes, signs and guidebooks.
Pick your way under huge rock arches into the quarry, past ruins of houses and offices, before climbing to an upper level in tall pine forest where the adventurous can stoop to navigate along a narrow tunnel, with old wagon rails in place, to the old quarry face. Inside this hidden amphitheatre are flooded workings and an azure blue lagoon with crystal clear water lies beneath the towering rock faces. It is said to be 75 metres deep, and somehow manages to support fish, which are easily spotted in the clear water. Re-join the coast path via more mountainous rock piles and old mine cart wheels – relics of the past, left untouched since work stopped here.
The route continues to climb, ancient woodland giving way to bracken, gorse, rocks and then dense plantations. Open moorland beckons as you emerge onto a forest access road to continue thankfully on a less steep finish to the ridge – here, for once, the sea feels far away. At Bryn Seward, two lonely ancient standing stones act as markers, high above the estuary below. The forest road tracks over open wild peat moor with great views of the coast far below.
Moving onto an old green drover’s track, you feel like you are on the edge of the mountain range now, with the ocean far below. This is an impressive area of random stones, said to be left after a fight between the Giants of Gwril and Cadair, who flung them at each other from their respective mountain tops. A steepish descent through fields lined by huge sturdy stone walls brings you to the pleasant village of Llwyngwril, a sheltered and leafy staging post with a single welcoming pub, surrounded on three sides by the hills and the fourth by the ocean.
CLICK HERE for information on your overnight in Llwyngwril on The Snowdonia and Meirionnydd Coast Path.