The square is at the heart of today's town, the star around which everything revolves. Scattered around the smaller satellite open spaces. They are also called squares but that is really too grand a name to describe the irregular unbuilt spaces that result where several crooked streets meet. Dolgellau began as a collection of serf dwellings and evolved organically over many centuries without a masterplan. Although Dolgellau town has long considered itself the county town and prime market of Meirionnydd, its success and development has been largely due to the woollen industry of which it was the regional centre. The industry, which was largely hand-worked, reached its peak around 1800 and gradually declined in the following century, unable to compete with the output of highly mechanised mills. In the latter part of the 18thC, it became fashionable for those of means to come and experience the wild romantic scenery. The town soon developed as a touring centre providing the services of several harpists, and guides for mule trips up Cader Idris. The railway and later the motor car brought many more visitors and tourism continues to be a major influence today. Much of the town was rebuilt in the relatively prosperous years of the wool trade, and the centre, at least, has changed little in the last hundred years. In the earlier buildings the stones are rough and irregular. As the 19th C progressed, more regular, dressed blocks were used. If you look carefully you can often see patches of earlier stonework that have survived rebuilding. The architecture tends to be bold and strong and relies more on proportions than ornament for its effect. Local stone, the hard grey dolerite, the slate were chosen as the building materials. Over two hundred buildings have been listed as being of historic or architectural interest. No other town in Wales has such a concentration. The character of the town with its irregular streets, its solid buildings and hard grey stones is special. It is the unique product of local geology and local craftsmen. It has a sense of belonging to the magnificent landscape around it.
Look out for the following buildings -
1. A late Victorian IRONMONGER'S shop (T H Robers) with its original fittings.
2. Retort house of the old gas works.
3. The County Hall (1825), the former administrative centre for Meirionnydd
4. Bont Fawr was built in 1638 but has been much repaired and altered since
5. The former Golden Lion was once a Coaching Inn and the premier hotel of the town.
6. A rare instance of a brick building, this, the oldest, dates from the early 19th C.
7. The Old Town Hall (1606) - it has a courtroom upstairs and lock-up below
8. St Mary's Church was rebuilt in 1716 in a classical style.
9. Tan y Fynwent, a late 17th C town house
10. Pyramid-shaped monument to local bard Dafydd Ionawr.
11. The Marian, Dolgellau's green space for recreation. The stone circle dates from 1948 AD.
12. The Lawnt is the oldest part of the town and its former commercial centre
13. The former police station built in the mid 19th C.
14 Tollhouse for the turnpike road to Tywyn.
15. The town's chapels were built in the 19th C, some have since been converted for other uses.
16. The projecting stones alongside the wall protected it from cartwheels.
17. Grand entrances: cast iron gates at Bryn Ffynnon and dressed stone pillars at Bryn Mair.
18. Viewpoint over the town towards the surrounding hills and mountains.
19. Ffynnon Plas Ucha is one of several springs which were important sources of clean water.
20. The word domen suggests this was the site of a mound or rubbish dump.
21. Tan y Gader (1800) was once the town's maternity home.
22. The Catholic Church dates from 1966.
23. Fro Awel is a typical vernacular cottage of the period 1650 to 1750.
24. The upper storeys of Siop Y Seren (1800) were used for weaving.
25. The town jail occupied the site of the Clifton House Hotel between 1716 and 1813.
26. Aran Bridge Cottage was built in the traditional local style.
27 Aran Bridge is built on top of its very narrow hump-backed predecessor.
You may follow the trail in any order you wish. Following the route will take about an hour and a half at a leisurely pace.