This circular walk does not follow a public footpath but a private walk over a particularly beautiful part of the Nannau estate, which dates back to the twelfth century. The public have been invited to use this walk by the estate since 1890 on the understanding that they observe the country code, follow the route indicated and use the proper access. Please keep dogs on a lead.
The Precipice Walk is one of the famous attractions of Dolgellau. It passes through an interesting variety of habitats which include deciduous woodland, a conifer plantation, meadows, lakeside and sheep-walk. But the main attraction of the walk is the incomparable views down the Mawddach Estuary and of the principal mountain ranges of Snowdonia. To the north are Snowdon and the Moelwyn, to the west is the Rhinog, immediately south is the long scarp of Cadair Idris, while to the east lies the Aran and Arennig.
It is a contour walk in that the path roughly follows the level of the 800ft contour line, so there is not much climbing or descending involved. There are a few stiles over stone walls which have to be climbed but otherwise it is an ideal walk for the whole family. The precipice, along part of the western side, is by no means as terrifying as it sounds but walkers who suffer from vertigo may need some assistance along this section.
There is some doubt as to the origin of the path but most authorities seem to favour the explanation that it was originally a path created by sheep in their search for summer grazing but has since been widened by public use. Information plaques have been erected around the walk to interpret the scenery.
1. Turn left out of the car park and follow the Ty'n y Groes road for 150 metres. Turn left (signposted) through a small plantation of conifers. Follow the waymarkers past Gwern-offeiriad farmhouse and over two stiles to the start of the circular walk itself.
2. Here is a fine view looking North over the Forestry Commission's Coed y Brenin (King's forest). You can see that the impact of forestry on the landscape is lessened considerably by avoiding block planting and by selecting a variety of different trees like our native oak, which are being planted to soften the appearance of coniferous plantations
3. Imagine the river valley below a mere 15,000 years ago. It would have been filled by a slow-moving glacier, scraping its steady way towards the coast. The Afon (river) Mawddach that winds its way below has since deposited silt in the flattened valley bottom making it a great deal more fertile than the rugged valley sides.
4. The valley bottom is now fairly intensively cultivated. A couple of thousand years ago, it would have been an impassable jungle of swamp, dense vegitation and trees. For that reason, prehistoric roads usually followed high altitude contours like this path, since it would have been clear of the dense tree line.
5. This is one of the best places to view Cadair Idris, and all for such a gentle expenditure of energy.
6. Much of this area used to be covered with woodland. Man has cut most of it down. The little that remains has been used as winter grazing for sheep for decades. Their nibbling prevents any seedling regeneration. The Snowdonia National Park Authority is keen to assist landowners in conserving the woodland that remains but 90% is still subjected to sheep grazing.
7. On the other side of Llyn (lake) Cynwch is the ancient mansion of Nannau estate, on whose land this walk crosses. The present house, built in 1796 was the house of Vaughan family who owned most of the land in the area. It is at least the fifth house to be known as Nannau, one having been built by Owain Glyndwr in 1404.