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  • Writer's pictureAsh

When is going around Meirionnydd not what you think?

I like journeys that have a meaning. They can be personal, or not.

I'm in my third decade living in Dolgellau but I keep learning. This last long bank holiday weekend is an example of the changes geographically in the area.

Dolgellau is the old county town of Meirionnydd. Historically, Merionnydd was known as Merionethshire, I had discounted this spelling, but it turns out I missed a bit.

Meirionnydd was described in the 1974 Local Government Act - and the boundary map looks a bit like this

The main towns in this area are - Dolgellau (former county town, and administrative centre), Aberdyfi, Bala, Barmouth, Ffestiniog, Harlech and Twywn. Beautifully it was pointed out by my friend Pete Bursnall that these main towns sit pretty much round the border of the county, except Dolgellau which is in the middle (ish) of the area..

So, that was the plan visit all the towns and as much of the border as possible. This would go around the outside of the mountain ranges of Cadair Idris, Tarrens, Arrans, Arenigs and Rhinogs. There's no avoiding the fact that the routes most pleasing line goes over Bwlch y Groes which is Wales' second highest public road.

I don't have a road bike, so the Sonder Camino that I had ridden TransCambria got less knobbly tyres, and that was enough.

The other slight challenge was that it was a Bank Holiday, and the likely refuelling stops were going to be few and far between.

Also not a problem as I packed the Mountain Fuel Feel Good Bar (Double Ginger, yum) and Energy Sachets (Tropical also more yum than warm water). I was pretty confident of finding water on the route one way or another.

Leaving Dolgellau at 5am was a little damp, but crossing Bont Fawr (literally big bridge) heading towards the coast felt good, as long as I could avoid the forecasted thunderstorms later in the day. The first 75km of the route is pretty flat, but as you can see, things get a little more challenging between 80km and 145km.

Bala sits almost exactly at half way, so took the opportunity to buy some bottled water here, before heading back out again. I say "back out" because Bala is quite close to Dolgellau, and my mind definitely drifted towards the comfort of home at this five hour mark.

The section north of the Arenig is beautifully quiet, before crossing to Ysbyty Ifan and beginning the plunge back down towards the coast. Following the edge of the Dwyryd round to Harlech was impressive as an enormous Thunderstorm rattled northwards (making the BBC news later that day).

Coming back to 'my' estuary (the bestuary as I call it) of the Mawddach (check the full size this image out from Helen Iles Photography ) I had to pause to sort my feet out, a lot of discomfort caused by swollen feet, but quickly sorted and finish the journey back to Bont Fawr that I'd last seen about 10hrs previously.

I've never ridden this far before in one go; it wasn't about rounding numbers up as a few people commented, it was about the journey, and this definitely ticked those boxes.

So, when is Meirionnydd not Meirionnydd? Well, before 1974, Merionethshire also included Corwen. Feels like I might have a bit of re-plan and add in Corwen for completeness.

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