Snowdonia National Park: The Mawddach

The Mawddach Estuary is a beautiful and largely unspoilt gem hidden away at the southern end of the Snowdonia National Park. At each end of the Mawddach you’ll find two towns that are as different as can be. Barmouth, or Abermaw or even Y Bermo as it is known in Welsh at the seaward end is a popular seaside resort with an excellent beach and suitably good fish and chips. Dolgellau at the other end is a compact and historic town with narrow streets and full of history.

We love walking in this unspoilt part of the world and were lucky enough to steel a couple of day trips away in our campervan Nell this last winter. The Panorama Walk and the Precipice Walk, located at opposite ends of the estuary don’t disappoint with stunning views of the Mawddach and surrounding countryside.

Day 1: Panorama Walk, near Barmouth

The Panorama Walk is Barmouth’s most famous walk and the view from the summit is one of the most spectacular in Wales, taking in the mighty bulk of Cader Idris to the south and the epic sweep of the Mawddach Estuary.

Visitors have been enjoying the views of the dramatic coastal scenery from Panorama viewpoint since Victorian times. Such was its popularity in the early 1900’s that the original walk to the viewpoint incorporated a tea room and the so-called ‘pleasure grounds’ (Panorama Gardens). Both have now long gone, and the lower slopes are slowly being reclaimed by native woodlands.

The Panorama Gardens part of the walk is a short loop, and can be accessed from a nearby car-park which eliminates much of the climbing. Even children who “don’t do walking” have enjoyed this one!

You can cut the route short at this point, or continue upwards to Bwlch y Llan at just over 300m and exchange the views of the Mawddach for those up the Ardudwy coast and onwards to the Llŷn Peninsula.

We left our trusted camper, Nell in the National Park roadside car park and took our excitable Jack Russel terrier, Archie on our walk. Unfortunately Tess our collie couldn’t join us as she’d hurt her paw 😞.

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The Route

  • Distance: Approx. 4 miles
  • Difficulty: The viewpoint – Easy / The circular – Challenging
  • Start: Car park 1 mile from Barmouth

Approach from Barmouth to Dolgellau: follow A496 through Barmouth, after you have passed Barmouth Bridge on your right take the first left at the end of a terrace of tall town houses (Pocklington Terrace) and follow the signs for Bae Abermaw Hotel.

Approach from Dolgellau to Barmouth: follow the A496 to Barmouth, before you reach the Barmouth Bridge on your left take a sharp right just before the end of Pocklington Terrace, following the signs for Bae Abermaw Hotel.

The road climbs steeply passing the Bae Abermaw Hotel on your left. Follow this narrow road for about a mile and park in the National Park roadside car park on your right.

  • Postcode for Sat Nav: LL42 1DX (approx.)
  • Grid Ref: SH 625 166
  • Map: OS Explorer OL23: Cader Idris  & Llyn Tegid
  • Print: Panorama Walk Guide

1. From the car park, head down the hill a short distance to a gate on the LEFT marked ‘Panorama Walk’. Follow the track, dipping down behind the back of a barn, before climbing up the opposite bank. The track, following the line of an old road sweeps left and becomes walled.

2. Pass through the gate across the old road, just after where it enters the trees. To walk up to the view point, turn RIGHT through a second gate in the side wall marked ‘Panorama Walk’ and follow the trail, keeping LEFT as it ascends through the trees onto a rocky headland. Upon your return to the old road you can cut the route short at this point and return to the Car Park or turn RIGHT to continue your walk.

3. Follow the old road as it drops down through the woodland. What remains of the Panorama Gardens can be seen on your left. At the tarmaced road turn LEFT, entering the scattered village of Cutiau. Head straight on towards the old chapel.

4. Beyond the chapel, and at the junction under electrical service lines, turn LEFT onto the path marked by yellow posts climbing the hillside. The path becomes tarmaced as it passes a farm, Llwyn onn Isaf.

5. At the T-junction with the road, turn LEFT, walking along the road for around 100m to a public footpath on your RIGHT. Continue onto the footpath between walls which starts next to a concrete service road. Follow the path bearing right towards the radio mast.

6. At the radio mast continue straight on and up the faint path climbing the steep hillside onto Bwlch y Llan and down the otherside.

7. At the far side of the pass of Bwlch y Llan, turn LEFT at the T-junction, and follow the broad path as it meanders down to a small farm, Gellfawr. Turn RIGHT onto a footpath running below the barn.

8. With the farm buildings of Gellfawr farm on your LEFT, passing the front of the house, follow the road down to the car park for a well earned cuppa in your campervan.

Once back at the Car Park we drove Nell down to the car park on the seafront in Barmouth where Archie had a well earned drink of water and we enjoyed the view with a cuppa.

Visit Panorama View Point whilst on holiday in your VW campervan hire
We had a bit of fun filming on our walk take a look on YouTube

We don’t often get a chance to spend time in our campers as they’re usually busy having fun with our guests so on this occasion we weren’t able to have an overnight stay and it was a few weekends before we were able to steel a second day trip in Nell for our next Mawddach walk, the Precipice Walk.

If you were staying in the area then we would recommend:

Graig Wen enjoys one of the best campsite locations in the whole of Wales. Set among it’s wild woodlands and meadows there are amazing views over the Mawddach Estuary and surrounding mountains. There is direct access down a steep track through the site’s meadows and woodland to the Mawddach Trail.

The proprietors are Sarah Heyworth and John McKenzie-Murdoch, enquiries:
Tel: 01341 250482
Open: March to December

Day 2: Precipice Walk, near Dolgellau

After a lazy breakfast head inland towards Dolgellau and then on towards the small village of Llanfachreth and the National Park car park, Saith Groesffordd.

Precipice Walk is in my top 10 of favourite walks, its a relatively short circular walk of just 3 miles but has stunning views all the way that include the Mawddach Estuary and the mountain ranges of Snowdonia. To the north Snowdon and the Moelwynion, to the west the Rhinog, immediately south is the long scarp of Cader Idris, while to the east lies the Aran and Arenig.

The walk does not follow a public footpath but a private walk over a particularly beautiful part of the Nannau Estate, which dates back to the twelfth century.  Nannau has been home to two of the most powerful and influential families in the county for hundreds of years, the Nanneys and then the Vaughans. Since being sold by the family in 1975 the estate was split and the house privately owned and has not been lived in for over twenty years.

The walk is ideal for the whole family as it roughly follows the level of the 800ft contour line, so there is not much climbing involved. The precipice along the western side, is by no means as terrifying as it sounds but walkers who suffer from vertigo may need some assistance along this section.

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The Route

  • Distance: Approx. 3 miles
  • Difficulty: Easy
  • Start: National Park car park at Saith Groesffordd, Llanfachreth
  • Postcode for Sat Nav: LL40 2NG (approx. nearest farm)
  • Grid Ref: SH 746 212
  • Map: OS Explorer OL18: Harlech, Porthmadog and Bala
  • Print: Precipice Walk Guide

1. At the far end of the car park, opposite the entrance from the road, there is a path which turns RIGHT through the wood, Coed Cefndiwiog.

2. After 250m the woodland path joins a track.Turn LEFT and follow the waymarkers past Gwern-offeiriaid farmhouse on your right, through a couple of gates to the start of the circular walk.

3. At the start of the circular walk, bear RIGHT up the hill and following the stone wall. Continue along the path following the waymarkers.

4. Follow the path left at the signpost directed towards the old copper mine of Glasdir and the Natural Resources Wales Tree Garden.

5. Continue along the path through a gate in the stone wall, following the path through another gate and down to the lake, Llyn Cynwch.

6. When you reach the lake turn LEFT and follow the path around the northern edge of the lake.

7. At the end of the lake, you will re-join the path you started on. Retrace the path back to the car park..On the opposite side of Llyn Cynwch is the ancient mansion of Nannau estate, on whose land this walk crosses.

We returned to Nell, and enjoyed a last panad (Welsh for a cuppa) before returning home. If you are fortunate to be able to stay more than 1 night then there are some lovely campsites in this area.