Wales: A forest trail

Coed y BreninMountain Biking CentreMid - North WalesActivities & SportsThe smiley lady at the Coed-y-Brenin forest centre took our £2.50 and gave us a pack of trail and mountain bike route maps. The car park was full of school kids all booted up and ready for a long walk and so we drove off to another car park much deeper in the forest called Tyddyn Gwladys (which translates as Gladys smallholding which we rather liked – we made up a story of Gladys working in a small isolated telephone exchange on the edge of the forest and returning to her cottage each night to tend her chickens and cow – but I digress).

Our first walk at Coed-y-Brenin took us alongside a stream chattering over stones, past the remains of an old gunpowder works, a mine where Welsh gold was extracted to make royal wedding rings and then to a beautiful waterfall. The trail was just 3 miles and it whetted our appetite for a further exploration of the forest.WaterfallCoed-y-BreninTheBigForest

OldGunpowderWorksBridge Coed-yBrenin TheBigForestThe next day we decided to walk a forest route called the Volcano Trail, only some 7 miles but it was marked as strenuous. We decided to give it a go.

The path wound up by a stream and then higher in to the forest. We hiked past some isolated cottages with mountain views and finally almost vertically up through trees clinging to the hillside. The photos level out the terrain but it was much steeper than it looks! Some of the trail paths had been over tree roots which was uncomfortable walking (even in our hiking boots) but this forest path, and other steep climbs on the route, were the reason for its ‘strenuous’ rating.ForestPathCoed-y-BreninTheBigForest

We stopped deep in the forest. Not a sound. No birds, no cars, no people. Sun dappling thorough the trees to the moss forest floor. Perfect.GrassyTrackCoed-y-BreninTheBigForestGrassyTrackViewCoed-y-BreninTheBigForestTheVolcanoTrailCoed-y-BreninTheBigForestView1Coed-y-BreninTheBigForest

Finally we made the top of the hill – some 960ft- not as spectacular as the surrounding mountains but so very beautiful. We looked over to the Rhinogs. My parents were long distance walkers. My Mum had told me of her walk beginning at the Roman Steps and up Rhinog Fawr Mountain. Apparently the steps name is misleading and they are the remains of a medieval packhorse trail from Chester to Harlech. The sun was hot but the breeze cooled us so walking was pleasant. Occasionally we saw the markings for cycle trails – one was named after the Adams Family another was called the Dragons Back.

We had packed sandwiches but just when we thought there was nowhere to eat them we found a fallen tree made in to a makeshift bench. Homemade bread, beetroot and cheese tasted very good.

Tolkien was influenced in his descriptions of landscape by the Welsh mountains and also by the Welsh language and we felt like a couple of Hobbits trekking along the silent forest. We didn’t see another person all day although we did get our literary references muddled and Benjamin thought he saw Mr Tumnus by a shadowy lamp standard.ForestFloraCoed-y-BreninTheBigForest

ForestFloorCoed-y-BreninTheBigForestWe were now walking on wide forest tracks and were in to our stride. Then, turning a corner, we heard the stream in the distance and realised we were nearly back to the campervan.

After our walk we made tea, put up the pop-top roof and slept for a little while blurryly looking  over the forest from our high perch.PopTopViewTheBigForest

The whole walk took just over four hours with plenty of time to enjoy views and take photos and we are planning a return trip to trek off and discover more of the secrets of Coed-y-Brenin forest.

Later in the week we popped in to the forest centre for a cup of tea. It’s a great place with a buzzy atmosphere full of walker and bike type people and very friendly so anyone and everyone would be welcome. And the cakes looked might good too.

Coed-y-Brenin forest centre is near Dolgellau in North Wales.

Walk and bike route maps and a video about the forest are available by clicking here.

All photos copyright TheBigForest except the forest centre which is copyright VisitWales (2012)

About TheBigForest

TheBigForest. A silly artist maker creating in felt and paper construction. Like us on Facebook: TheBigForest. Find us at Twitter : twitter/TheBigForestuk


  1. I love these photos, it’s so beautiful. What a treat for £2.50, Wales has some of the most underrated countryside in the world.

    And now I’m homesick again… You always do this to me!

    • We had been to Pembrokeshire in the campervan before and loved it but Snowdonia was even better. I think it gets forgotten as it is difficult to get to (no motorways) but of course the isolation is a considerable part of its charm.
      Sorry about the homesickness 😦

  2. I’d like to join you for such adventure, guys! Looks like you had fun and came back refreshed – all that oxygen you inhaled. Beautiful photos and a nicely told story. Looking forward to seeing more, especially want to find out something about the mysterious found-photo album. K.

  3. lundygirl

    your photos remind me of Whinlatter forest in the lakes – it’s one of my favourite places and the homemade soup in the cafe is wonderful!

    • Another place to add to the ‘must go’ list. Thank you. Of course the draw is the forest not the home made soup 🙂

      • lundygirl

        A word of warning though – you have to go through the Go Ape area and walk to feel that you have the place almost to yourself.

  4. This looks like such a splendid walk! And I like that Big Forest went to the big forest. 😉

    • It is no fluke that when the going gets tough, and even when life is sweet, TheBigForest is to be found in a big forest. I must do a post about how we ‘found’ our name.
      Getting away from people and amongst the trees on this crowded island can be a real challenge.

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