Dolgellau Tourist Guide
The name "Dolgellau"
The name of the town is of uncertain origin, although dôl is Welsh for "meadow", and (y) gelli (from celli, pl. cellïau) means "grove" or "spinney", and is common locally in names for farms in sheltered nooks. This would seem to be the most likely derivation, giving the translation "Meadow of Groves". It has also been suggested that the name could derive from the word cell, meaning "cell", translating therefore as "Meadow of [monks'] cells", but this seems less likely considering the history of the name. Furthermore, the standard plural of cell is celloedd, not cellau.
The earliest recorded spelling (from 1253, in the Survey of Merioneth) is "Dolkelew", although a spelling "Dolgethley" dates from 1285 (the thl is almost certainly an attempt to represent Welsh). From then until the 19th century, most spellings were along the lines of "Dolgelley", "Dolgelly" or "Dolgelli" (Owain Glyndŵr wrote "Dolguelli"). Thomas Pennant used the form "Dolgelleu" in his Tours of Wales, and this was the form used in the Church Registers in 1723, although it never had much currency. In 1825 the Registers had "Dolgellau", which form Robert Vaughan of Hengwrt adopted in 1836; it may derive from a false etymology. This, however, is the modern form in English and Welsh, although the town continued to be known as Dolgelley in English until extremely recently.
A debate took place in the 1950s regarding the correct Welsh spelling and Dolgelli had its advocates before Dolgellau was settled on. Shortly before the closure of the town's railway station it displayed signs reading variously Dolgelly, Dolgelley and Dolgellau.
The surrounding area is known for its wild but beautiful countryside and places of historical interest. It is popular with tourists who enjoy activities such as walking, hiking, horse riding, white-water rafting and climbing. Dolgellau is the main base for climbers of Cadair Idris (known as Cader Idris locally).
The Great Western Railway line from Ruabon to Llangollen was extended via Corwen and Llanuwchllyn to Dolgellau, where it formed an end-on connection with the Cambrian Railways line from Barmouth Junction and a shared station was opened there in 1868. The Ruabon Barmouth line was closed in the 1960s under the Beeching Axe. The railway line was converted some years ago into the Llwybr Mawddach (or "Mawddach Trail") which now runs for some eight miles from Dolgellau to Morfa Mawddach railway station, near Fairbourne on the coast. It is maintained by the Snowdonia National Park and is very popular with walkers and cyclists. It passes some estuarine areas that are important for water birds.
The site of Dolgellau railway station itself, along with approximately a mile and a half of former trackbed, was used to construct the Dolgellau bypass in the late 1970s.
Since 1992 Dolgellau has held its own annual world music festival, Sesiwn Fawr (English: Big Session). Originally free and held in the streets of the town, it has now grown too big for the centre of Dolgellau. Since 2002 it has been held on the outskirts of the town and admission is charged, which has allowed the organisers to book such acts in recent years as Bob Geldof, Genod droog, Cerys Matthews, Super Furry Animals and Goldie Looking Chain. It attracts crowds of up to 5,000 every year and claims to be one of Europe's biggest and best world music festivals. Since 1995 it has been broadcast live on BBC Radio Cymru and since 1997 on S4C.
Every summer, Dolgellau is also host to the Gŵyl Cefn Gwlad ("Festival of the Countryside"), a mix of agricultural show and fête. Entry is free, but the money raised in the various stalls is given to good causes.
In 1949 Dolgellau hosted the National Eisteddfod; in 1960 and 1994 it hosted the Urdd National Eisteddfod.
A little reminder to all visitors...
If travelling to Snowdonia or taking a short break in North Wales, good preparation will ensure your holiday is not disrupted by forgetting crucial equipment. Whether it be gearing up for your adventures in the mountains or having a baby travelling with you - good planning will ensure more time spent safely enjoying everything North Wales has to offer. Don't wait for that 'white-out' on the Carneddau before realising you've forgotten a map and compass...make a check list before you go !
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Last Updated: 28 Apr 2015