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Snowdonia, and in particular, southern Snowdonia has a network of walks for people of all abilities, whether you want the challenge of ascending Cadair Idris or prefer one of the leisurely walks in an around Dolgellau where you are guaranteed breath taking scenery and diverse landscapes.
Nestling in the foothills of Cadair Idris and on the bank of the river Wnion, the small historic market town of Dolgellau lies. It was established at the end of the eleventh century, probably by the prince Cadwgan ap Bleddyn and over the centuries, it has witnessed many significant changes.
It used to be an important urban centre on one of Wales’ foremost routes and was a medieval unfree town. The town’s St Mary’s church dates from the thirteenth century but was rebuilt in the eighteenth century and during the seventeenth century, many of its residents turned to Quakerism before emigrating to Pennsylvania following continuous persecution.
During the eighteenth century, it had a thriving wool industry - and as a result the estuary of the river Mawddach, which flows out to sea to the west of Dolgellau, was busy with ships exporting woollen produce as well as livestock and slate. By the nineteenth century, the town was at the centre of a minor gold rush when gold was discovered in the hills - at one point the industry employed 500 miners.
A prominent characteristic of Dolgellau today is its tall buildings of grey stone and slate, and its web of narrow streets. Over 200 listed buildings are located in Dolgellau and many have recently been improved and restored following a grant from the Heritage Lottery Fund.
Dolgellau is also home to Wales’ oldest cricket club, a fishing centre of the highest calibre and home also to the popular Sesiwn Fawr folk music festival held every July.
Today, tourism is the area's main economy - and that's no wonder as the area has endless recreational opportunities...
Cadair Idris is one of Snowdonia's most notable mountains, standing 893 metres above sea level to the south west of Dolgellau. No one is certain where the name Cadair Idris (Idris’ chair) originates. Some maintain that Idris was a national hero, killed in battle against the Saxons round about 630 A.D. Some insist that he was a giant, and yet others link Idris with the legend of Arthur.
Three main paths lead to the summit - each varying in length, gradient and terrain. The Minffordd Path, probably the shortest footpath up Cadair Idris, is approximately 3 miles (one way, but involves the greatest ascent of 2,850ft, 869m). This hard mountain walk should take you around 5 hours to complete and will take you through a National Nature Reserve.
The Llanfihangel y Pennant Path is the easiest of the footpaths up Cadair Idris, but at over five miles, it is the longest. The path approaches Cadair Idris from the head of the Dysynni valley, and gently climbs up to join the Pony Path at the top of Rhiw Gwredydd. On this path you will pass the home of Mary Jones, who in 1800 walked bare-foot 25 miles over the mountains to Bala to buy a Welsh Bible from the Reverend Thomas Charles. It is said that her devotion inspired him to found the British and Foreign Bible Society.
A less challenging walk in the area is the more moderate Torrent Walk. This 2 ½ mile circular path is one of the most popular paths in the Dolgellau area and follows the river Clywedog through its striking gorge, which is now a Site of Special Scientific Interest (SSSI) and has a wealth of wildlife and special plants - otters, dormice and lesser horseshoe bats not to mention an important collection of lichen, ferns, mushrooms and liverwort.
Dolgellau is also the starting point of the delightful , considered to be one of the best trails in Britain, for cyclists, walkers, families with pushchairs and wheelchair users.It follows the beautiful Mawddach estuary, giving visitors the chance to experience some of Snowdonia’s splendour, striking scenery and beautiful wildlife. The nine mile trail stretches Dolgellau and Barmouth and follows the track bed of an old railway line and the river Mawddach which has been designated a Site of Special Scientific Interest and a Special Area of Conservation because of the salt marsh and lowland peat habitats.