Distance: 14.6 km
Climbing and Descending: 30 m up and 35 m down
Technical Grade: Easy
Section Description: From the footbridge
over the Afon Wnion, the Greenway joins the Mawddach
Trail, following the old railway line between Dolgellau and Morfa Mawddach
at the mouth of the estuary.
This popular and flat section starts amid the reed beds of the upper marshes, but by Penmaenpool, the views start to open out over this spectacular glacial valley, much of which is designated a site of special scientific interest.
On either side of the valley, set amongst the trees, are the country estates of rich Victorian industrialists, along with the remains of slate and gold mining which would have given the area a very different feel a hundred and fifty years ago.
The toll-bridge at Penmaenpool, built to connect the north shore of the estuary to the railway station has been privately owned since it was built in 1885, and a restored signal box and station masters house are a reminder of those earlier functions.
A set of Second World War anti-tank defences straddle the trail near Arthog and tell of more recent concerns. There are plenty of picnic tables along this stretch, and public toilets can be found at Dolgellau, Penmaenpool, Morfa Mawddach and Barmouth.
At the mouth of the estuary, at Morfa Mawddach Station, the trail swings north to cross the iconic railway viaduct to Barmouth. Take a pause in the middle to view low lying Fairbourne to the seaward side, and the Mawddach estuary to the landward.
The exit ramp from the bridge is steep, and ends on a busy narrow road with no pavement. Take extreme care on this junction, and follow the road down into town, turning left to follow the line of the harbour. Just beyond the lifeboat station, a turn inland leads over the railway line to the Tourist Information Centre, and the end of the Greenway.
Things to See and Do:
A busy pub sits next to the trail at Penmaenpool. Barmouth also has a wealth of options to refresh the weary traveller.
There are RSPB reserves at Coed Garth Gell (opposite Penmaenpool) and Arthog Bog, and unusual and interesting wildlife can be spotted all along the estuary marshlands.
- Military Mawddach:
Along with the tank traps that straddle the old railway line, there are over 50 other relics of 20th Century military activity in the area, most of which which can be explored by bike, on foot or by car.
- Fairbourne Railway:
Just a little further on along the coast from Morfa Mawddach can be found the Fairbourne narrow gauge railway. Built in 1895, initially to transport building materials from the harbour to the developing town of Fairbourne, its potential as a tourist attraction was soon recognised.
Barmouth, once a small quiet fishing village, was transformed by the arrival of the railway into a bustling Victorian seaside resort. The Old Town, clinging to the face of Dinas Oleu, can still be found behind the Victorian high-street frontage. Dinas Oleu was the first piece of land owned by the National Trust. The Panorama Walk, a Victorian classic, takes visitors from the town up to a high point overlooking the whole estuary.