A former county town, DOLGELLAU still maintains an air of unhurried importance, never more so than when all the area's farmers pile into town for market. It's a handsome place indeed, though its dark buildings, seemingly hewn from the one rock, can appear foreboding when gleaming in the frequent downpours. In fine weather, with the lofty crags of Cadair Idris framing the grey squares and streets, Dolgellau feels as Welsh and exotic as is possible.
Dolgellau has no train station but is well served by buses, all of which pull into the central Eldon Square. Accommodation is best found at the Merionnydd, Smithfield Square (Tel:01341/422554, Web: www.themerionnydd.com ; Price: £60), a good-value hotel built in an ex-police station and gaol – the basement cells are used as a restaurant. Outside town, the eighteenth-century Tyddyn Mawr Farmhouse, Islawrdref (Tel:01341/422331, Web: www.lokalink.co.uk/dolgellau/tyddynmawr ; Price: £60), stands on the slopes of Cadair Idris at the foot of the Pony Path, while the superb seventeenth-century George III Hotel, Penmaenpool (Tel:01341/422525, Web: www.georgethethird.co.uk ; Price: £90), overlooks the Mawddach Estuary, two miles west of Dolgellau. There's a hostel, Kings YHA, at Penmaenpool, four miles west of Dolgellau (Tel:0870/770 5900, Web: www.yha.org.uk ; April– Aug), with six-bed rooms at £12 per person. The tent-only Bryn-y-Gwyncampsite, Cader Road (Tel:01341/422733), is less than a mile southeast of town. The best restaurant in town is the creative, affordable ADylanwad Da, 2 Smithfield St (Tel:01341/422870), while Y Sospan (Tel:01341/423174), on Queen Square behind the tourist office, is a smart, dependable, central bistro for good lunches and dinners. The Stag Inn on Bridge Street is a straightforward town-centre pub with good beer and a garden.