A little about the path...
Many people believe that Snowdonia is a National Park of mountains, but there are over 20 miles of beautiful coastline in the Park, and some very fine beaches too. This is a circular walk, which takes in the Castle, Harlech town, the dunes and the seaside. It will take about 2 hours but could be extended into an all day walk if you want to visit the Castle and spend some time on the beach as well. Some parts of the walk follow steep lanes but it is suitable for all ages, weathers and seasons.
Once the county town of Meirionnydd, Harlech is dominated by the Castle, perhaps the most spectacularly situated of all King Edward 1's castles. Completed in 1289, it was built in such a way that it need be defended by only a constable "together with 30 fencible men of whom 10 shall be crossbowmen". Besides the huge gatehouse, the Castle's other main feature is the defended "way from the sea" walled stairway which plunges 200 ft (60m) down to the base of the Castle rock where a lower gate gave access to shipping.
The Castle was taken in 1404, after a long siege by Owain Glyndŵr and he himself lived there until 1408, when it was retaken by the English. It was again used as a stronghold during the Wars of the Roses and it is said that it was the fierce resistance by the Lancastrians which inspired the famous song "men of Harlech". It fell into disrepair until it was again besieged in the Civil wars. It surrendered in 1647, the last Royalist stronghold in Britain. Further historical and archaeological details are available at the Castle entrance.
Harlech is the scene of one of the legends of the Mabinogion, namely "Branwen, Daughter of Llŷr". These Celtic tales of magical events were passed down by storytellers through the ages until they were finally recorded on manuscripts by monks in the 13th Century. This legend tells of the rescue of Branwen from slavery in Ireland by her brother, the giant Bendigeidfran. This walk is named after her.
1. Leave the car park with the Castle on your right. Go down the steep road and shortly, turn sharp left up a lane with small terraced houses typical of Old Harlech. Soon, the lane bends to the right and then reaches the main High Street.
2. Turn right and follow the pavement until you reach a footpath on your right. Here there is a prominent rock with a dramatic view of the Castle and of the mountains of Snowdonia beyond. Continue on the footpath down through the woods until you reach the main road.
3. On the other side of the road is Coleg Harlech, a residential centre for adult education. The modern extension is the theatre. Cross the road carefully, go down a few steps and turn left along a flat lane behind the college.
4. After passing the College's distinctive hall of residence on your left, you will soon reach a white gate by the railway track. Cross the railway carefully and keep an eye open for golfers playing on the Royal St. David's championship course. Continue through the dunes until you come to a fork.
5. At the fork take the right and follow the winding path through the dunes. In summer, these dunes are full of wild flowers and butterflies. Please keep to the path to avoid damage to this sensitive area.
6. You can spend all day on the beach if you want but our walk now doubles back on itself until the main road is reached. Turn left along the pavement and then fork right just below the Castle.
7. This is the Castle Watergate. When the Castle was built in the 13th Century, ships were able to reach the Castle at this point, allowing supplies to be got through to the garrison during times of siege. The sea has since receded about half a mile (0.8km.) leaving the Castle isolated on its rock. Continuing past the station, shortly turn right along a narrow road marked "Unsuitable for Motor Vehicles".
8. This hill is very steep and winds between small houses until the playground is reached. Here is a welcome bench and a fine view of the 3-storey Castle gatehouse which was the main private accommodation. The car park and the end of the walk is just around the corner.
Respect the Environment!
If you're going out for a walk,
please take all your rubbish
home with you