A window onto North Wales & Snowdonia

Walker’s Guide: The Lakes & Woods of Tan-y-Bwlch

In Walker's Guides on July 18, 2009 at 11:58 pm

Woodlands by Llyn Mair

Our second walk is around the lakes and wooded hills of the old Plas Tan y Bwlch Estate. The main walk, without the extension to the viewpoint, takes about 1 ½ hours and is along easy tracks and paths (4 stiles to cross Ffestiniog Railway line and return) although you may want to allow time to picnic by one of the lakes.

If you want to take in the viewpoint, which involves some steep uphill and downhill sections, allow at least another 2 hours, or more if you want to enjoy the stunning views or picnic at the viewpoint.


Some of the route runs along old estate paths and tracks dating back to the 18th Century when the Maentwrog valley was landscaped by the Plas Tan y Bwlch Estate.  Some runs along new forestry tracks.

Oak was grown here in the 18th-19th Century, mainly for the ship building industry in Porthmadog and some for the slate quarries at Blaenau Ffestiniog, which were the main source of income for the Oakley family of Plas Tan y Bwlch.

Driving directions from Maentwrog

Follow the A487 towards Porthmadog for less than ¼ mile and look for the B4410 on the right next to the Oakley Arms.  The bus stops here too, if you prefer to use public transport.

Follow the B4410 up a steep hill past Llyn Mair on the left, up another steep hill and under the railway bridge for the Ffestiniog Railway.

The car park is on your left.

The walk

Take the track out of the car park to Llyn Hafod y Llyn.  This lake and Llyn Mair were made in the late 1880s.

Follow the track around the right hand side of the lake.  There are water lilies here in the summer.

Go past the end of the lake to Post no. [30].


If you want to take the route to the viewpoint, follow the track from Post [30] to Post [31] and turn right at [31] uphil to [18] .  Continue straight on uphill to [32].  The viewpoint lies a short distance off the path to the left.

CAUTION: Keep children and dogs under close control here as there is a nasty drop off the cliffs at the edge of the viewpoint area!

Laid out below you is a stunning vista of the Vale of Maentwrog all the way down to the mouth of the estuary and Cardigan Bay.

The River Dwyryd originally ran through a network of saltmarsh channels on the floor of this impressive glaciated valley.  The land was drained for agriculture in 1797 when the river was confined behind dykes.

Once you can tear yourself away from the view 🙂 retrace your steps to [32].  Turn left here to the cairn and viewpoint at Y Gysgfa, the highest point here.  The view is restricted somewhat by overgrown trees, although some clearance work has taken place recently.

From Y Gysgfa follow the path down a steep slope, which may be slippery when wet.  This area has a very remote feel and other walkers are not often seen.  Continue down to [33] and keep left [19].

Carry on down to crossroads at [18] and go straight on down to [31].  Turn left on the track to [30] where we originally left the main loop for the viewpoint part of the walk.

Main walk continues

Turn right at [30] and follow the track down to cross over the Ffestiniog Railway line (there should be a stile and dog-gap).  At [28] take the footpath to the right that leads past a pretty hollow with a bench and stream and on to [8].  Go through gate and take the left fork at [9].

Turn left at bottom of hill at [10] (here you can also take a short diversion to the right first, to take a seat under a huge pine tree with lovely views over the lake).  Follow path along the side of the lake (more water lilies in summer).  Go past an ornamental pond and seat on left and through a gap in the stone wall.  Then cross the bridge over a little stream.

Turn left at [26] and right at [27] and back up to the stile over the Ffestiniog Railway.

The Ffestiniog Railway

The railway originally carried slates from Blaenau Ffestiniog to the harbour at Porthmadog from 1836 onwards.  Today it is a tourist railway using mostly steam engines.  It’s stations at Penrhyndeudraeth, Plas Halt and Tan y Bwlch also provide access for this network of footpaths.

Turn right at [29] and right at [30] to return along the other side of Llyn Hafod y Llyn.  There is a nice view back up to the head of the lake here and two picnic tables.

It is a favourite spot for some people with dogs who enjoy a swim.  The path winds along until it rejoins the track to the car park.  Turn right to return to your car.

Plas Tan y Bwlch House and Gardens

If you have time, these are well worth a visit.  Plas Tan y Bwlch was built at the beginning of the 17th Century and stands above the River Dwyryd with great views over the Vale of Maentwrog.  It is now home to the Snowdonia National Park Authority’s Environmental Studies Centre.  Visitors can find an introduction to the history of the Plas, the families who lived here and the history of the slate industry (their main source of wealth) in the conservatory on the terrace.

There is also access to some of the rooms in the Plas.  The historical gardens have audio guide boxes and were one of the first gardens in Wales to be managed in a wildlife-friendly manner on such a wide scale.

Entrance to the Plas and Gardens is free, but donations are welcomed in the boxes provided in the gardens and conservatory.

Look out for the abundant wildlife, particularly birds, in the grounds of Plas Tan y Bwlch and on the woodland walks.  You might see the Pied Flycatcher, Wood Warbler, Blackcap, Spotted Flycatcher, Jay, Cuckoo, Great Spotted Woodpecker and many others.  Holly blue and Purple Hairstreak butterflies are also to be seen in the gardens.

The car park for Plas Tan y Bwlch Gardens is accessed by turning right off the A487 to Porthmadog less than ½ mile past the Oakley Arms.  You could also walk in via one of the footpaths.

For information on train and bus times you can call Traveline on 0870 608 2608.


Slideshow and more photos on Flickr:


http://www.plastanybwlch.com – Plas Tan Y Bwlch
http://www.eryri-npa.co.uk – Snowdonia National Park
http://www.festrail.co.uk – Ffestiniog Railway

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