After our wonderful hiking holiday in the Pyrenees of Spain, we planned a second outdoor holiday with our children in Wales. My son really wanted to see Snowdonia which looked indeed gorgeous from the pictures boasting walking routes for all levels. One downside: even in summer it rains a lot in Wales … But with climate change causing heat waves with temperatures in the high 40 degrees Celsius and numerous forest fires in the South of Europe, going North in summer seems the smarter option.
First task: looking for a place to stay. There are numerous campsites, but the weather can be a real spoiler here so I looked for a holiday cottage for four.
Snowdonia is a huge area, from Conwy on the Northern coast to Aberdyfi on the South in Cardigan bay. It not only has Snowdon mountain as a peak, but The Rinoghs and Cadair Idris are just as impressive. On the West it includes the Cambrian coast, making for a diverse ecosystem with mountains, forests, glacial lakes, waterfalls and coastal dune systems. Animals are mainly cows and sheep that support the farmers living in the park.
The Northern part around Snowdon is popular and busy in summer, so we started looking for quieter spots. The Cambrian coast combines sea and mountains and attracts less crowds, so we booked a self catering cottage through the Dioni website that groups several cottage owners in Snowdonia. It was still winter but most weeks were already booked for the months of July and August. So if you want to visit the area, best start planning well in advance. But that seems to go for most beautiful tourist spots now, there are just more and more tourists these days.Wild camping is allowed in the park so you can always come with a tent last minute.
We booked Beudy-Rowen cottage in the small town of Talybont, some 7 km North of Barmouth. The cottage lies some 200 m from the sea, in the dunes with views of the sea, the mountains behind and the top of Snowdon when the weather is clear. A short 5 minute walk, partly over a boardwalk brings you to a beautiful pebble beach. Some 500 m to the North is a naturist sandy beach. You collect the keys from the owner who lives on Rowen farm, which you find when turning left on the road from Barmouth, some 500 m before the road to the left (at a little church) that brings you to the Bennar camping grounds, where you take a little road that gives access to the cottage. You have to pass three gates which you have to open and close every time. But you get a secluded spot with great views in return. The owner is super friendly, the cottage small but really beautiful and spic and span clean! And you have this beautiful terrace facing the dunes and the sea, with sounds of the rolling sea and a clear starry sky at night. Perfect to unwind.
After sitting in the car all day, and the weather looking great we decided to make a pre-dinner walk on the beach. We were pleasantly surprised with the beautiful clean beach. After a short walk we jumped in the car (opened and closed three gates) and headed to Barmouth. We tried all the pubs and restaurants, but they all stop serving at 9 PM….. We drove to the Coop supermarket to buy us a simple dinner. (The supermarket stays open until 10 PM from Monday to Saturday, and is open from 10 AM to 4 PM on Sundays.) If you want to eat out aim for 7 PM, and maybe make reservations to avoid disappointments…. The cottage has everything to make dinner, just the corkscrew was broke.
We wanted to make our first walk the next day. I had printed out directions for some walks in the area but we did not have a decent map yet. The cottage owner said the tourism office in Barmouth has been closed down so he offered the lend us his OS map of the area. We told him we would pick it up if needed.
The route details for our first walk seemed quite straightforward but most importantly the walk was said to be well way-marked. We should be able to do it without a map. This first walk was the Egryn walk, on the road between Barmouth and Talybont.
The walk is 8 km long, of moderate difficulty and would take between 2 and 5 hours (that are large margins!) It took us about 4 hours including the climb up to the top of Bwlch Rhiwgyr. Start at Egryn on the road from Barmouth and Talybont. (on the right side coming from Barmouth) It is difficult to find a parking spot for your car!
We chose this as a first walk because it was close to our cottage, was a circular walk, well sign posted, not too hard with the promise of breath taking views! The only difficulty is parking your car nearby. There is no parking lot at the start, but there is an inlet near a chapel 300 m North of the Egryn start. We eventually parked our car a bit further at the entrance of the caravanning park, and walked the 300 m to the entrance gate of Egryn path. Egryn is the name of the medieval hall house that is part of the farm and holiday cottage you pass. Go through the gates of the farm and follow the little stream on your right, cross the stream with the bridge, follow the stream further on the right, cross again with another bridge, climb over the stile and cross the stream again, and a bit further cross another little stream and crawl under a fallen tree. Climb a bit following a dry wall, climb another stile, and keep climbing up the hill.
You will go through several gates, climb several stiles, walk next to streams and dry walls and will eventually reach the top of the hill where you can see remnants of Pen Dinas, an ancient Iron Age hill fort.
You walk around the fort, go through another gate, follow the dry wall and go through the wooden gate at the end. You then reach two gates, one in front of you and the second one on the left side of it, go through both. When walking up you pass these big grassy mounds which used to be part of mining operations here. When you reach the metal gate next to a larger stream, go through the gate, and cross the fields in front. This will bring you halfway, where you turn right and start to descend back down.
Here you can make a small detour by taking the route going up the top of the hill (Bwlch Rhiwgyr) where you will be surprised with great views of the Mawddach estuary near Barmouth.
Return to the Egryn path downhill. Some of the fields can be quite marshy, so water resistant shoes are no luxury here! Past the wooden gateway where you see ancient hut circles dating back to the Bronze Age! (Point 4)
From here the descent goes mainly through fields, with little streams running through. We passed more carcasses of dead sheep…. You have great views of the Cambrian coast and the many stone walls meandering through the landscape.
This is a great walk, diverse, not too long, not too short, not too hard, with great views, and no people! We did not meet any other walker. This walk is advertised on the website of the National Trust but not on the Snowdonia website. Since 75 % of the Park is owned by the National Trust and the Forestry Commission information gets scattered. This makes it a bit of a search for tourists trying to gather information about walking routes. On the Snowdonia website you mainly find the walks up mount Snowdon. On the website of the National Trust you find walks that can be made on their parts of Snowdonia Park. Another good source is the Mud and Routes website, offering a great database of walks in Snowdonia. And for walks on the Llyn peninsula you can turn to the Walk the Wales coast path or download an app with a few well described circular walks on Llyn.