Think of Snowdonia National Park and rugged mountains spring to mind, but there are also over 60 miles of beautiful coastline in the Park. Along the way, you'll discover one of the most spectacularly located Welsh castles.
The Branwen Walk takes in the Harlech Castle, Harlech town, beach and dunes and a bit of the Wales Coast Path. As well as a naturally stunning backdrop this area is incredibly rich in history and is linked to both the Mabinogion and an unofficial Welsh national anthem. It's a relatively easy 2 mile walk but there is a steep climb back up to the castle at the end. The views are worth it though.
Harlech is dominated by the Castle, perhaps the most spectacularly situated of all King Edward 1's castles. Harlech is also the scene of one of the legends of the Mabinogion, ‘Branwen, Daughter of Llyr’ which tells of the rescue of Branwen from slavery in Ireland by her brother, the giant Bendigeidfran. These Celtic tales were passed down by storytellers through the ages and were finally recorded on
manuscripts by monks in the 13th Century.
Another of Edward 1's mighty fortifications. Perched on a cliff top this would have been a superb location for defensive purposes but now leaves us with a picture perfect location. Seemingly impregnable it was taken in 1404 after a long siege by Owain Glyndwr who lived there until 1408, when it was retaken by the English. It was again used as a stronghold during the Wars of the Roses. It is said that the fierce resistance by the Lancastrians inspired the famous song "Men of Harlech". This stirring song has become an informal national anthem and is popular at rugby matches. The castle fell into disrepair until it was again besieged in the Civil wars and was surrendered in 1647 as the last Royalist stronghold in Britain.
This breathtaking stretch of coast is part of an extensive sand dune system that sweeps from the Mawddach estuary along the shore of Cardigan Bay north to Morfa Bychan. Standing at the waterline, the pale sands hug the shore before giving way to the spectacular sand dunes system. The backdrop is provided by the mountains of Snowdonia. It is a stunning yet quiet beach to visit and is particularly popular with photographers and bird watchers. Morfa Harlech is, understandably, also a National Nature Reserve.
The Resource Section below contains a straightforward map of the area. Print it out, mark up your highlights and itinery for the day and head off for an adventure!
You can stretch your legs a bit further by taking the alternative route using the Wales Coast Path. Find the alternative route map in our Resources section.
For help getting here or to hop around using public transport, Traveline Cymru's journey planner is an invaluable aid. If you have a smartphone or tablet you can download the app from: iPhone or Android. Their journey planner is also available online at Traveline Cymru. Or you can call them on 0871 200 22 33 (calls cost 10p per minute plus 6p connection fee from a BT land line, other networks may differ and mobiles may be significantly higher).
The sea and mountain air is sure to get your appetite going and there are plenty of pubs and restaurants to reward yourself after your explorations. The area’s diverse landscapes produce a great variety of local produce. Succulent lamb and beef, cheeses and seafood put Snowdonia firmly on the food map and the award winning Purple Moose brewery has ensured its place on the real ale map too.
"After a circuit around the historic castle town of Harlech, the walk to the Wales Coast Path as it crosses the popular and expansive Harlech beach is well worth the effort for lovers of the seaside and lovers of stunning sea and mountain views alike. Bucket and spade optional!"
Quentin Grimley, Coast Path Policy Officer, Natural Resources Wales.