Aberdovey (in Welsh, Aberdyfi) became famous in 1785 when Charles Dibden wrote the song The Bells of Aberdovey for the opera Liberty Hall. The words refer to the church bells of the legendary Cantre`r Gwaelod in Cardigan Bay. This is a legendary city, said to have been drowned by the sea when the drunken Seithennin neglected the valley’s dykes. It is said that the chimes of the bells can still be heard on still, windless nights.
From Aberdovey car park turn right and, after the Literary Institute on your right, go left on a path and cross a road to continue uphill beside a wall. After the path bears right, go left on a narrower path to a stile. Follow the waymarks to a stile and go ahead to a path above a small valley. After two small gates and two stiles, walk through fields following the arrows to a gate on the left side of a farm. Bear left along the track to a lane.
Turn right and at a footpath signpost, go left to a gate. Follow the track to a fence then bear right and, after gates, cross a footbridge. Go ahead to a lane in Happy Valley.
Turn right and at a small car park bear right on a track. After a farm, climb stiles at gates and take the track uphill to the next stile. Continue ahead and walk downhill, noting a right-hand path, to Llyn Barfog, the Bearded Lake. The lake is said to be the home of Gwyn ap Nudd, the king of the fairies. Long ago a farmer captured a fairy cow and she gave birth to fine calves and yielded lots of milk. When she became old and was about to be slaughtered, a fairy appeared and called the cow and all her progeny into the lake.
Take the path away from the lake and bear right on another track at a fence. Before a left-hand wall, look for a right-hand stone marked Carn March Arthur. Below it is a rock with the impression of a horse’s hoof said to have been made by King Arthur’s horse as it leapt across the estuary to escape enemies.
Enjoy the magnificent views over the Dyfi Estuary, and at a house take the left-hand gate to a lane. Walk ahead with views of Happy Valley and 100m after passing the path on your right that you took earlier, bear left across open land.
Cross a track and climb a stile to descend the steep hill beside a fence and trees to a stile. You’ll now emerge near a house and join a lane.
Continue to a left bend, then climb a right-hand stile and go uphill to a gate. Walk ahead and over a track to pass a small building. After a gate, bear right then left and take a right-hand path beside a fence to the road. Turn right, carry on for approximately 80 metres, then go left over a footbridge to Picnic Island.
Walk beside the railway line then continue along the rock path beside the estuary. Travellers, including perhaps the Romans, used this route as the road above was not built until the 19th century. After emerging on the road, turn left to finish where you started.
Field and moorland tracks and lanes. The rock path known as the Roman Road may be impassable at high tide. In this case, or if unsure, take the A493 instead.
How to get there
By car: Aberdovey is on the A493, west of Machynlleth
By public transport: Aberdovey is on the Cambrian Coast Machynlleth-Pwllheli line. Buses from Dolgellau, Machynlleth and Aberstwyth.
Penhelig Arms, Aberdovey, Gwynedd LL35 0LT
Ordnance Survey Explorer Map OL23
Grid Ref: SN 614 959
Talyllyn Railway, Wharf Station, Tywyn LL36 9EY
Trains daily during October. Adult day return £12.50, accompanied children £3
The Wharf Gardens, Aberdovey, LL35 0ED