The Mawdach Trail

This old railway track between Dolgellau and Barmouth is an easy 9 mile cycle and walking route, and offers beautiful views of the river estuary, and the excitement of crossing the old bridge to Barmouth, its wooden boards clattering underneath one’s bicycle wheels.
The first time we attempted this was one of the few dry days of a very wet summer. We had cycled for 5 minutes, when the police phoned. Our burglar alarm had been ringing for hours and the neighbours were complaining. We weren’t due home for 3 days, but, cursing, we loaded the bikes up again and drove home to switch the thing off.
This time as we set off, we had one of those deja vu feelings – and wondered if we should switch our phones off – but thankfully no-one rang. The weather was just as good, early morning mist gave way to a bright still day, the water in the estuary held a perfect mirror image of the hills, and the glossy hide of cattle coming to drink in the river shone in the sunshine.

Barmouth was bustling in a cheerful seaside way, and we had lunch in a cafe on the promenade and bought a stick of pineapple flavoured rock from the Rock Shop.

Afterwards, we took the scenic route home rather than the A5/M54, and at one point I asked my husband ‘How far are we from Bishop’s Castle?’ He said we were about 3 miles away, and I turned right instead of left. It would have been rude not to.

The Three Tuns pub in Bishop’s Castle is a rare treat, its ancient brewery is still going strong and produces a wide range of delicious ales. As I was driving, I contented myself with a half of XXX, my husband had the stronger ‘Cleric’s Cure’. We hadn’t been there for years and the pub seems to have been tastefully extended during this time. They are no longer doing B&B unfortunately.

The countryside around there is wonderful, and feels incredibly remote despite its proximity to the Midlands. I always wonder if the area helped to inspire Tolkien – we used to refer to the Three Tuns as ‘The Prancing Pony at Bree’ – it is harder to visualise now the extension has been built, but in the old days one would not have been too surprised to see a lean, cloaked figure of a Ranger sitting quietly in the corner.

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