Distance: about 2½ miles (4 km)
Time: about 2 hours
Grade: Moderate Leisure Walk
Start / Finish: At Dolgellau town centre (there are ample car parks)
Relevant map: Ordnance Survey Explorer OL 23 (Cadair Idris and Llyn Tegid)
What is special about this walk?
This is a circular walk from the historic market town of Dolgellau, which allows the walker to enjoy panoramic views of the town and of the northern slopes of the Cader Idris range. It first follows a fairly steep track before joining a country road and then descending across fields back into town.
Although never far from the town, this walk gives the true feeling of the Welsh countryside – and in particular of the Snowdonia National Park – with its stone walls, hill farms, small fields, distant mountains, richness of wild flowers, woodlands and bird-life. Glyn Aran walk is enjoyable at any time of the year.
Why Glyn Aran?
The walk takes its name from the wooded glen of the river Aran – now tumbling freely, but once punctuated by the fulling mills of the important woollen industry, which once thrived here. From the sixteenth century, the woollen industry was as important as farming in these hills, when a large number of the inhabitants were engaged in spinning and weaving, not in factories but in their own homes. A woman might be expected to card and spin up to 18lbs (8 kilos) of wool in a day. After being treated in one of the many fulling mills (‘pandy’- of which there were 16 on the river Aran alone) the rough homespun cloth was sold to the slave trade across the Atlantic and to the military.
Visible from the path, but not on it, is the farmhouse of Bryn Mawr. Here in the seventeenth century lived Rowland Ellis, a Quaker, who, to avoid severe local persecution, led a group of his fellow believers in 1686 to Pennsylvania in the footsteps of William Penn. There, he built a replica of Bryn Mawr. It gave its name to a town and later to a celebrated college for young ladies established “so that they might have an equal opportunity with men” – and get away from the eternal spinning wheel!