North Wales Chronicle Walk And General Advertiser.
Thursday April 10th, 1828.
WELSH SCENERY - WALK FROM DOLGELLAU TO BARMOUTH.
Dolgellau “the modern capital of the wild country of Merioneth,” as one of our Welsh tourists has yclept it, is distant from London some 215 miles, and contains a population of more than 2000 souls. Situated nearly in the centre of Merionethshire, it is much frequented, during the summer months, by those happy persons, whose avocutions permit them to migrate from the dusky atmosphere of crowded towns, and populous cities, to inhale the salutary balm of the uncontaminated summer gale. What a number of different faces, different characters, and strange people, must pass through such place as Dolgellau in the course of a summer! And what a favourable opportunity would their migration afford for scrutinizing the various gleams and shadows in the mind of man.
Dolgellau is situated in a delightful valley about six miles from the base of Cader Idris, watered by the united streams of the rivers Wnion and Aran, and surrounded by beautiful and well cultivated hills. The principle street runs about half the length of the town, and to the stranger certainly presents no very imposing appearance. But, however uncouth the houses in the town may be, and it must be confessed that there is nothing “passing fair” in them, there are some very respectable and commodious residences in the suburbs, and scattered on the declivities of the hills around, so that, notwithstanding the general carping of travellers on the bad structure and irregularity of the houses, and on the mean appearance of the town generally, the improvements, which have been effected within these few years, have removed at least this imputation from the inhabitants, and rendered Dolgellau on of the most decent towns in North Wales. Much, however, remains yet to be accomplished; among the most necessary undertakings is, in the first place the erection of a new town hall, and, secondly, the removal of the low roofed dwellings, which line the principal street on either side, the places of which might be supplied by higher and better houses. Many of your readers have seen Welsh Pool, and most probably admired the regulatory and neat appearance of its buildings. Might not Dolgellau be rendered nearly, if not actually, as neat and respectable, with a little expense and industry. A transformation of this sort would certainly reflect great credit upon the inhabitants, who ought not to leave unfinished the good and commendable work they have already begun.
When and by whom this town was built, I cannot tell; certainly not by the Romans, as Bala was. The provoking irregularity of the streets prevents this suspicion. It probably originated, as most of the Welsh towns and hamlets did, having, in the first instance, been composed of a few huts, erected in a wooded valley, the mountain barriers of which screened it from the sharp winter winds. It cannot boast of much interest in the historical point of view. Owain Glyndŵr, indeed has conferred some honour upon it by assembling his parliament there in 1404, when he entered into an alliance with Charles of France, and during the civil wars of Cromwell, a body of the king’s troops attempted to raise a fortification about the town. Mr. Edward Vaughan, however, at the head of a party of the parliament’s soldiers, attacked and routed them, taking several prisoners. But, what is infinitely of more importance at the present time, Dolgellau is the mart, to which a great portion of the produce of the adjacent country is brought for sale, and there are several woollen manufacturers in the neighbourhood.
If we set out from Plas-isa, we proceed down the little street opposite, and, turning to the left, find ourselves on Pont Fawr, with a most delicious prospect in every direction. We tarry a minute or two to look around us. With our faces towards the east, then, we see the river Wnion coming gently down the valley, with rich and verdant meadows on each side of it. As far as the eye can reach in this direction rises many a blue and lofty mountain, their summits often covered with white mist, or tipped with the golden tints of the summer sun. To the right is a rather steep hill thickly clothed with wood, through which the mountain river Aran impetuously rushes to mingle waters with the Wnion. To the left are the green woods and hills of Llwyn, which the lonely mansion of that name, shrouded in fir trees and close to the river side, but now deserted and desolate. Towards the west the eye is again arrested by ridge beyond ridge of dark and gloomy mountains, and immediately below the bridge is the Green, by the side of which the river follows its course, either rippling over the stones, or swelling into wide, deep and black pools.
On the left is the town; a confused mass of irregular buildings, with the square tower of the church, presenting itself just beyond the Green, in a gloomy sort of grandeur, to the spectator. The prospect is bounden in this direction by the green hills, which form a southern boundary to the town, their declivities adorned with collages, and waving in autumn with ripe and yellow corn. A little to the west, and on a eminence, nearly opposite the southern extremity of the bridge, is the county jail, a circular building and having a picturesque appearance when seen at a distance. But one of the most interesting and gentle features in this beautiful landscape, is the row of little gardens, sloping down the water’s edge, on the right side of the Green, with the bleaching fields beyond them. It is a lovely sight to see the sun shining brightly upon the sweet flowers in the gardens, and on the white linen in the fields above,–to see the gentle river glittering in the sun-beams and gliding swiftly over the Green towards the mighty Mawddach, the monarch to whom it pays hourly tribute, and to behold the surrounding hills, either frowning in gloom or illuminate by the radiance of the midday sun. Often I have drunk in the joy of such a scene as this; and many are the years which must elapse, ere I forget the magnificence of the prospect, which is seen from the Pont Vawr at Dolgellau.
About a mile and a half from the town we reach Hengwrt, a mansion belonging to Colonel Vaughan, brother to the hospitable proprietor of Nannau. Here there was formerly a very rare collection of documents, both in print and manuscript, relating to the history, antiquities, and literature of the Principality: the greatest portion have been removed to Rug, another estate belonging to the colonel, and that on which he now resides. The house is situated on an acclivity just about the Barmouth road on the right, and overlooks the beautiful village and fair vale of Llanelltyd. The woods around it contain some capital timber; and the estate, although not very extensive is, on this account, of considerable value. Many years have not elapsed since the halls of Hengwrt, silent and unfrequented as they are now are, echoed loudly to the hot of mirth and good cheer. Famous were the dinners given there,–excellent was the wine, and potent the cwrw consumer there,–and merry were the catches carolled there, but tempora mutantur, we cannot, however, continue the verse,–nos et metantur in illis; for the gallant and generous owner of Hengwrt is too true a Welshman to restrain his liberality, and Rug is now the scene of Cambro-British festivity. The reader must bear in recollection that Hengwrt was the residence of our learned and indefatigable antiquary, Robert Vaughan; and, if I mistake not, the noble collection of Welsh literature was chiefly amassed by the industry of our erudite countryman.
Just beyond the gate which leads to Hengwrt is a path reaching the decayed ruins of Vanner; and newly contiguous is Llanelltyd bridge, a neat structure, over the Mawddach, here not more than thirty yards in breadth. The prospect from this spot is by no means so grand and extensive as that from the Pont Fawr at Dolgellau. Still, however, is is not without beauty; and ten minutes spent viewing it, would be passed pleasantly enough by the genuine admirers of nature. Passing over the bridge, we turn to the left, and enter a region so wild and romantic, so exuberant in all the fantastic varieties of nature, that any thing like adequate description were impossible. At one moment the traveller is shut in between high banks, with merely the narrow and winding road before him,–at another, he is elevated far above the calm surface of the Mawddach, which he sees beneath him, rolling his “Monarchy of waters” towards the sea. There are not too many tracts in Wales of equal distance with the road from Dolgellau to Barmouth, where so much beautiful scenery is to be seen. The approach to the latter too is in unison with the rich sublime landscape. The road, just before the entrance to the town, is cut on the declivity of a hill, and only separated from the river below by a tottering stone-work. The opposite shore presents a fine view of the hills of Celynin and Arthog, while the river itself, here about two miles broad, is enlivened by numerous little skiffs, containing, for the most part, parties of pleasure. But, after this, lovely and inspiriting view, let not the stranger picture to himself and equal portion of loveliness in Barmouth itself if he does, most grievously will he be mistaken. It has few good houses and only one inn; the streets are woefully dirty and disagreeable, and crowded, withal, with fine, fat, unwieldy porkers, on the breed and rearing of which the Barmounthians pride themselves not a little.
But the magnificent scenery in the vicinity is some compensation for these dèsagrèmens; and a person may very well continue to spend a week or two there, at the risk of a little ennui and heaviness. When a stranger visits Barmouth, let him by no means neglect to return to Dolgellau by water. The full beauty of the prospect along the banks of the Mawddach, on either side, can never be imagined or described. It is one wide picture of all that is grand, and majestic, and lovely in nature.
DOLGELLY - from The Itinerant (Published 1794)
The town of Dolgelly, in Merionethshire, North Wales, is situated in a fertile and beautiful valley of the same name, encircled by lofty mountains, the most conspicuous of which is the famous Cader Idris. The mountain rises immediately from the town, to a pointed summit; and is nearly half a mile in perpendicular height, from the level of the river.
In the neighbourhood of Dolgelly there are three remarkable falls of water, all of which are well worth visiting: they are called Dol y Myllyn, the Spout of Cayne, and the Fall of the River Mothvaye. The first is about five miles from the town, the other two are within five hundred yards of each other, and about two miles beyond the former.
The surrounding country is bold and terrific, and delightfully variegated with wood, rocks, and innumerable cascades. It it a most desirable spot for a painter, as is boasts of every species of scenery necessary to mark the subliment subjects in nature.
Dolgelly, which is two hundred and five miles distant from London, carries on a great trade with Shrewsbury, in webs; and has a famous manufactory for kid-gloves. The inhabitants are well supplied with provisions by a good market on Tuesdays.
On the mountains around Dolgelly there is an abundance of red and black game and the vallies abound with vast numbers of partridges and hares. Nature has certainly been more bountiful to this spot, than is generally the case in North Wales. The combination of plenty and grandeur forms a popular and just characteristic of Dolgelly.