Coed-y-Brenin is known far and wide as one of the premier mountain biking venues in Wales, and for very good reason – the graded mountain bike trails and skills area are second to none and that’s not to mention the excellent complex that comprises cafe, bike shop & hire, car parking, showers and bike wash facilities.
On this particular occasion however we hadn’t come to bike, we’d come for a walking adventure with family.
We were camping not far away near Bron Aber, Trawsfynydd and this day was to be the only good one weather-wise, so off we headed in the direction of Coed Y Brenin. We parked at Tyddyn Gwladys, a little car park in the forestry away from the main biking centre and set off along ‘Yr afon’, a trail for walkers and bikers and takes in the waterfalls Pistyll Cain and Rhaeadr Mawddach.
This area was once home to Welsh gold exploration and a friend who lives in Dolgellau told me not to be surprised if we came across illicit prospectors panning for gold in the area. No sooner had I recounted this to the family than we saw gold paners on the banks of yr afon Mawddach as we set off along the trail.
Even before you get to the waterfalls the scenery is seriously picturesque, recent rain meant the river was high and ferocious and we really enjoyed taking it all in.
The first waterfall you see in the distance is the Rhaeadr Mawddach though the trail leads around to a pretty stone bridge where you first get a really good view of Pistyll Cain the moving on slightly you get a view of Rhaeadr Mawddach. In the whole of the walk, it was only here that we bumped into other walkers and bikers.
A little way beyond the waterfalls ‘yr afon’ trail crosses a bridge and loops back along the other bank of the river and back to the car. We decided to explore further and continue on the gravel forestry road rather than head home just yet.
Continuing up this way we soon came to the abandoned Gwynfynydd mine, here there are old buildings that look like they’ve come straight from the wild west. There is a footpath that leads behind the old mine buildings and up through the woods, it’s quite a steep uphill talk and there was much complaining from the junior members of the team.
The walk up was pretty special, we saw the biggest ant hill any of us had ever seen and much to my son’s delight there were lots and lots of blue legged beetles.
When we emerged up out of the tree line the views were breathtaking, I always love that feeling of the veil being lifted in that moment when you emerge from the woods.
The footpath continued up to a single track road near a farm called Fferm Bedd y Coedwr, having not really prepared a route or bought a picnic we spent some time raiding our bags for snacks and consulting the map for the best way back to the car.
We opted to take a left turn and follow a single track road for about quarter of a mile before turning left onto another single track road until it petered out into a right-of-way called ‘the county road’. Road is quite a generous description, the route is a steep descent, rough and stoney; the perfect combination for a busted ankle, so we took it nice and slow and got down in one piece.
The county road returned us the ‘afon trail’ close to where the bridge crossed the river, so rather the retrace our steps directly to Tyddyn Gwladys we crossed the river so we could complete the whole trail in a kind of figure of eight.
Alone the afon trail is a beautiful walk and if you don’t have all day it would be a lovely few hours out in itself – if you extend the route as we did and continue up through the woodland and above the tree line the views are stunning, distant Cadair Idris dominates the skyline.
For more information about Coed-y-Brenin centre: https://naturalresources.wales/days-out/places-to-visit/north-west-wales/coed-y-brenin-visitor-centre/?lang=en