Graig Wen Campsite, Arthog, Nr Dolgellau, Gwynedd LL39 1YP
Only mad dogs and English men go out in the rain, right? Well, where does that leave the Welsh? As anyone who’s done their research will know, even in high summer the weather can be unpredictable in Wales. But see the lush, green valleys (lush, meaning attractive, is a word the Welsh adore) all around you? Their stunning looks are thanks to a beauty regime of a wet climate. Of course, the sun does come out in Wales, often within an hour of rain, and there are days and days of dry spells. It’s simply potluck as to when to expect continual blazing sunshine. Whatever the weather, this campsite will be an unmissable experience.
As one of the smartest operations in the book, everything the hosts do, they do to impress. Only two years ago the land was filled with old caravans, car batteries and monster conifers, so it’s incredible that the new owners came along and won the Green Snowdonia Award in 2009 for Most Sustainable Campsite. Well-maintained facilities with hot showers are kept spick and span. Viewing benches overlooking Mawddach Estuary offer the best seat in the house at sunset o’clock. There are various annual events: you can sleep under the stars in hammocks, enrol in a fire-making workshop, bushcraft course or a wild food weekend, eating only what you source outdoors (garlic pesto, fish and nettle beer, for instance).
The pitches themselves are positioned to suit most tastes. Starting at the top: adjacent to the boutique-style B&B is space for 10 tourers or tents. A parallel track leads to two yurts, sleeping two and five and a ‘caban’ an innovative new locally developed timber structure which has a rather Scandinavian feel to it and will sleep two – it’s glazed walls provide magnificent views but can be shuttered for when things get a little more intimate… . Isolated and sheltered among dense woodland both the yurts and the caban offer total privacy. Back down the track you pass through a top gate and walk down a steep decline – not suitable for caravans or campervans. Career off through the hedgerow heather and bracken to some of their ‘wild' camping spots that the owners hope will be a hit among backpackers and student types. There are 18 of these tent only spots in total, ranging from those with direct estuary views to pitches hidden in secret glades and a secluded hidden valley.
Intrepid explorers could tackle Cader Idris, the spectacular mountain right at the back of Graig-Wen. It’s a 10-minute drive to a cheap car park in a farmer’s field, avoiding the crowds you get on the summit of Snowdon. And then there’s the added challenge that, according to legend, if you spend the night on the top of Cader, you’ll come down a poet, or yes, a madman...
You can cycle all the way to expansive Fairbourne beach in Barmouth (which includes crossing the mouth of the estuary on a stunning bridge) without even seeing a road, and virtually the entire route to Dolgellau in the other direction is road-free, too. In addition to the cycle track along the estuary, there’s another family cycling path, plus a stack of more challenging mountain-bike trails at nearby Coed-y-Brenin, around 5 miles north of Dolgellau.
Back at camp after a hard day’s cycling, it’s time to light a campfire, and after burning rubber all day, burning a few marshmallows on sticks seems like an extremely well-earned treat.
The Owner Says
Succumb to the tranquil hills of Graig Wen; smart, sustainable and quite simply, lush camping. This back-to-basics site has access to wonderful walks (direct to the Mawddach Trail) cycling, eating, sightseeing, swimming and Fairbourne beach. All with the beautiful Snowdonia backdrop...
We stayed in Graig Wen for a couple of nights last week. Absolutely beautiful location! We were down in the tent camping fields with great views of the estuary. You do need a wheelbarrow to cart all your equipment down from the car park but it all adds to the experience. All the staff were really friendly and they helped ferry our equipment back to the car when we were packing up in the pouring rain. The shop is very well stocked - I particularly appreciated stocking Purple Moose Brewery beer! It's really easy to walk out from the campsite along the Estuary and then up a few major hills. All in all - great stay and would definitely go back.
Great views for Campervans.
We booked the panoramic view for our first campervan weekend away which didn't disappoint. Very little light pollution made for some fantastic star gazing. The proximity to other pitches was a little closer than expected but locality to facilities were very handy. We visited in October and the site seemed very popular. The site allows direct access to the estuary through the lower fields which is a great walk for the dogs and is very tranquil.
Amazing Camping Trip
Arrived on Saturday afternoon to a lovely warm welcome. The man behind the reception was brilliant, providing advice and tips for our camping trip and even printing out a weather report for us. He explained where our pitch would be and advised us of the opening times for reception, the sites facilities, the local area and about the Honesty Shop next door. Our pitch was on the lower field which meant we were able to park our car to unload our tent and things right next to our plot although there were wheelbarrows provided for those further away. The campsite was lovely, with our pitch being a short walk into a small wooded area and the shore line...the views were amazing! We pitched our tent quickly and went for a drive into the local village Dollegalu for a look around and a few drinks.
As we had booked at pitch in the Lower field it meant we could have our own campfire next to our tent. We made use of this both nights we stayed and collected fire wood from the woods around camp (you could purchase firewood also from reception and they even offer to deliver this to your plot.) The lower field was nicely spread out with just a few tents meaning you didn't feel overlooked. We were a short walk away to a 'tree bog' which was quicker than walking back to the main reception area, it was also very clean and well kept. The shower facilities were good, warm and clean. They were located next to the small honesty shop which sold lots of different items you may need. On our final day we were recommended a short walk from a local train station to the Seasode village of Barmouth - again this was from the fantastic staff!!
Couldn't fault this campsite, beautiful location and excellent customer service. Would definitely come and visit again, especially after the many recommendations the gentleman from reception made with regards to walks and local spots! We loved your site and had such fun weekend - THANKYOU!!
If I could live here I would! We hired a motorhome for the first time and this was our 4th stop. As novices to both motorhoming and Wales we were hoping for the best in picking what we thought looked like nice places to stay. To say we 'lucked out' here is an understatement. This is a truly beautiful place and would come top of my list for views and the warmest of welcomes. I could not recommend it more highly. The bike ride along the Estuary from the site to Barmouth is stunning (and flat in the main) so with a 4 year old on the child seat, that was a highlight. Really really lovely. Thank you Sarah
We have just returned from Graig Wen for the second time, after falling in love with the campsite the first time round. We opted for a pitch and park with our tent in the lower camping field. The pitch itself was in a field with only three other pitches, so there's always plenty of space to unwind and relax in. The view from here down the valley towards Cader Idris is awe inspiring, and just a short walk down the hill leads you to the Mawddach Trail along the stunning Mawddach Estuary. Watching the sun set behind the mountains from here is just magical! What we loved most about the site is that it feels like you are wild camping but with all the mod cons of hot showers, toilets, water points and even an honesty shop to keep your food supply well stocked on site! There is also an eco-friendly composting loo, with quite possibly the best view from a loo you may ever see, and each pitch has it's own fire pit too, which is great for toasting marshmallows and warming your feet on a chilly night! The staff are so friendly and very knowledgeable on things to do in the local area if you need some ideas! The location is perfect, with some fantastic hiking in the mountains of southern Snowdonia on your doorstep (a trip up Cader Idris is a must), and the beautiful beaches of Barmouth and Tywyn only a few miles down the road. We have two little terriers and unfortunately there are dog restrictions in force on Barmouth beach, but the 5 mile stretch of sand from the end of the promenade at Tywyn to Aberdovey is a doggy paradise! White sand, aqua-marine waters and big waves make it a fantastic place to throw big sticks into the water and allow them to run free!
All in all, Graig Wen really is a little slice of heaven and we have already booked our third visit in August! We cannot recommend it highly enough!!!
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Cool reception more like
I booked a pitch on this site with about a months notice, whilst speaking to the staff I asked about the different pitches, lower fields and the touring park, ideally trying to get a tent pitch, somewhere I could park my car next to, with a view (as I noticed a little bit on there website about a view premium charge). The man took my booking for a tent pitch, 'with the view', that a car could get to. A deposit was taken, and two days later I get a confirmation by email, stating that I was booked on the lower field. I assumed that maybe one or two of the lower field pitches were close enough to the track to get a car next to a pitch. I turn up at about 4.20... A bit after the recommended 'kit delivery' window of opportunity for the lower fields. I didn't think I'd need it as I specified a pitch that I could drive to. We were greeted with a hefty degree of indifference, and when I explained I was there to camp, the 'owner' shifted his tone to disbelief. No booking, nothing in the diary. I explained about the confirmation email and the deposit etc and eventually the owner found the booking in the Lower Field file and promptly started blaming his assistant. He then went onto explain that as they had had a wedding the day before, the guests were using the touring site as a car park, so there were limited pitches, with cars in the way.
With reluctance he thought he'd show me the pitch. Which was essentially a glorified car park with a very restricted view (from the right angle, assuming there is no one in the way) pretty much right next to the main road (go on, google earth it... I've seen laybys further from the road). I explained about my original query - view, parking close to the tent, whether touring park or the lower field and so he offered me a space on the lower field, but didn't seem keen to let me go and have a look at it. There were two pitches on the touring park with a view, with no one on them, but I couldn't have them as they were expecting a booking tomorrow (what about my booking today - for 4 nights?). He kept blaming one particular member of staff, then when I mentioned the confirmation email came from another named stuff member he just rolled his eyes and continued to moan about the staff. He then went onto explain how we'd have to carry our kit to the lower field because we missed the delivery service... And we'd have to hurry up and make our mind up as he was about to go out...
This made my mind up... I would rather sleep in the car, then spend a night there...
There was barely an apology, or an acknowledgement of any concern for our situation and little or no attempt to compromise or accommodate us. Such as offering to transport our kit to the lower field...
After being offered a refund, and the flimsiest of sorrys, we took our chance trying to find somewhere elsewhere.
I would never return here, it is noisy as its next to the road, the toilet block looked grim, the pitches would have been rock hard and the mainly, the attitude was appalling. I am only grateful that I had only travelled a few hours from a campsite in South Wales, not driven straight there from home 350miles away. This campsite does not offer value for money, or good camping. It attempts to be stylish, yet lacks substance and only trades on the view, which is inaccessible from most of the touring site. (And there are better examples of views up the road, believe me... Within an hour we were safely pitched in a beautiful, hospitable site, with superb facilities and 2/3rds of the price).
A few weeks later, I got a email from graig wen, just a marketing one, so I clicked on the facebook site just to have a look, I was surprise to learn from this site, that they were celebrating that they could use the lower fields for camping in September after they had finally secured a license for camping in them. (Previously the license stopped in August). This posting was after they took my booking... So at the time they took my deposit and my booking - for camping in September- they didn't even have a license to operate (that field).
If you really want to go to this place (and I really don't recommend it at all) double check your booking.... And then check it again.
Response from campsite owner:
Ok, facts first. People have been enjoying camping at Graig Wen for generations and we have just won a 5 year battle with planners to secure the future of tent camping on the lower fields from 1 May until the end of September each year. Hooray! We were entirely within our rights to be pitching campers in this area this season but hey – enough about planning law already...
Secondly, hands up – a mistake was made with this customer’s booking by a member of staff who is no longer with us. It doesn’t happen often, but we are all human. It’s understandably concerning to us as owners/managers when a mistake is made which means we can’t offer the customer what they expected as we are passionate about what we do. When we have occasional wedding bookings we close down the site so there is no disruption to other campers. John apologised and did his best to make amends – but sometimes there’s no pleasing angry people. He explained the cars from the wedding would be gone within half an hour and showed them to one of two alternative pitches – they chose not to spend time looking at the second. Sensing a lost cause we offered to call other local campsites to check they had pitches available and gave these people a full refund. Off they sped.
We are surprised that they say our loos “looked grim” as they did not even step inside them to our knowledge - another team member was mopping the floors at the time. Our washblock may look functional rather then pretty but facilities are always spotlessly clean.
When some people arrive at the upper, touring part of our site, sometimes they worry that it’s close to the road. However once they have settled in and spent a night here, 9 times of out 10 they say the road is not busy and has not bothered them. People often say there is more than first meets the eye to our site – that it has a friendly, laid back feeling with outstanding access to the beautiful Mawddach Estuary and lots of attention to small details. It’s a shame that this person probably spent more time getting steamed up and writing their review than getting a feel for our lovely campsite….
We came for 2 nights: we stayed for 7.
With a 2 year old, genuine wild camping is out of the question, but here; we came close enough to restore my ecologist husband's faith in campsites and have enough little extras to make the experience fun for all. We started with friends at the far field tucked in lovely Hawthorn Corner with wonderful sweeping views down to the Mawddach: made more sweet as you can only do this for 28 days of the year. A bit of a campsite showdown (the one bad egg in a really lovely clutch) with a new camper led us to request to move on to another pitch. I'm not going to tell you which one, because I'm keeping that to myself - total seclusion we felt like we were there on our own - fabulous. Lovely showers, great honesty fridge (with Pellegrino!) and the tree bog with its views out to the woods has to be the best view from a bog I've ever had. Just one tip: if you have a two year old who suddenly decides to give up on potty training and wees on your bed - there's a great service wash to be had in Fairbourne. And Nick, you're right: we will be back, but it might be sooner than next year ;-)
My fiance and I visited this campsite a year ago for one night and came back this year for a week on the lower field. We generally go camping once or twice a year and we have found that Graig Wen is our most favourite place to camp. The scenery and general surroundings are stunning and the pitches are really well spaced leaving you feeling secluded, unlike other camp sites we have visited where there is only a foot between you and your neighbour!! We stayed at the Stream Corner which was such a beautiful plot.
The owners John and Sarah are lovely and very friendly and are more than happy to help if we needed. In particular we got on very well with Deputy Manager Nick who was most accomodating and gave us tips on good places to visit and even stopped for a quick game of Frisbee!! We love Nick!!
The facilities were brilliant, always hot water and always really clean. The honesty shop is wonderful and has lots of essentials should you forget anything and it's always well stocked. One of the bonus points about this Graig Wen is that you can have a camp fire which is quickly becoming a rare thing at most camp sites, but it adds to the fun of the camping experience and has to be done!!
All in all, we love Graig Wen, it's the best camp site we've been to and we intend to make our trip an annual visit.
Beautiful outlook over the Mawddach Estuary, though noise from road which runs past bit close. Clean toilets, good showers and a great honesty box system for forgotten items or fresh milk, bacon etc. Useful noticeboard on site for local information. Would have liked a bit of hot water for washing up but otherwise can't fault it.
Response from campsite owner:
We’re so pleased you enjoyed you stay with us. There are 2 sinks with hot water in the covered washing up area. There’s also a couple of sinks on site which we can only plumb in with a cold water but are handy for just rinsing out cups, etc. Hot water for hand washing is also available in the ladies and gents as well as the free showers.
Not good for camper vans.
Stayed here weekend of 2nd August, went with short notice and chose it having read Cool Camping book and it having great views, being close to Barmouth and the cycle path which we like; however on arrival we were put on a small grass patch close to the toilets, (which was no problem) on the area containing camper and touring vans which was not much more spacious that a supermarket car park!
We chose the site for views but had the views of the vehicles parked opposite and for a good view of the Mawddach estuary and sourrounding countryside there was a spot on a grassy patch behind the house, at the end of the `car park'. Yes that small area had good views and 2 small viewing benches to be used by all, but was obviously very close to the sceptic tanks too as it smelt. We were told the patch we were on and had to move the following night, which was fair enough given we had not booked. However the following day we were moved into the corner of the `car park' with no view apart from the brown base of some very tall pine trees and a BBQ, compost bins and an old shed opposite; there was really space for us to sit out to eat here. We also had to wait for the people moving from here to go around 12 noon before we could move, despite there being room on a `pitch' opposite us, despite the fact we we waiting to head out for the day. We did ask the manager if we could park on the vacant pitch and the new arrivals move into the corner and we would move later but this wasn't allowed. Although other people staying on the site for a few days said they had moved pitches several time to accommodate others!
We we returned from our day out a long walk into Barmouth (approx 5 miles) and back we were stuck in `compost corner' and 2 very large tents had moved onto the grass patch opposite where we had stayed the 1st night. Each of those tents took up the space of approx 4 camper vans and one of the tents (which looked big enough to house the platoon of Tenko) and his truck blocked out what little view the rest of the campers had (that didn't include us as we had no view)!
So facilites toilets and showers nice and clean, but steer clear camper vans, there are other sites in the area with amazing views. There is also a very steep and rough hill approx 600 metres to get to the cycle path, which we didn't even attempt to get back up with our bikes!
Response from campsite owner:
Ho hum…August weekends are our busiest time but we made an effort to accommodate these campers when they arrived without having booked or called us at 7.30 on a Friday night in a large motorhome and 5 man tent. We found a pitch for the motorhome at the top of our small touring site and gave the tent campers a lift to a pitch on our spacious lower tent camping fields. The next morning they all asked to extend their stay for 3 or 4 days which we were able to help them with on the proviso that the motorhome would have to move around pitches. We indicated these at the time.
For August, most of our campers pre-book their pitch which is available from midday to midday, so we were not able to offer these late arrivals the pitches with the best views or ask other campers to leave their pitch early. The tents they describe were normal size family tents, one of which belongs to campers who regularly book 6 months in advance.Our touring site only has 8 pitches suitable for vans so during peak times such as this, one of the busiest weekends of the year, we do advise people to pre-book, or drop in on us during the many months of the year when there is more choice of pitches and space to enjoy the lovely location.
Not that great.
Not great - I'd much rather go wild camping - or to one of the beach side sites further along the coast. There are nice views here though and I like the fact that there are large car-free zones in the campsite. But on the other hand all you get is a slanted sheep field. Pitches are not level in the slightest - no effort's been made to make into a campsite. And it's completely covered in sheep droppings - not a little bit, but COVERED fresh every morning and evening all around your tent. I've been camping with sheep before but it was really bad here. We were two families with 4 children and the washing up and toilets are a good distance up a steep track. It's not a campsite but a bumpy field full of sheep.
Response from campsite owner:
We're glad you enjoyed the wonderful views from our site and our car-free camping areas which help preserve the tranquility of this special environment in Snowdonia National Park. Graig Wen offers different camping experiences – from a more conventional area at the top of the site with electric hook ups and hardstandings, to our lower tent camping fields. Cool Camping Wales described these fields in their first book some years ago, saying "it doesn't feel like a camp site at all, just a beautiful slice of countryside with a few tents scattered around". We've made improvements to the site facilities since then, including adding a compost loo, and many people share the view that our lower camping fields are a wild and precious place to camp.
Sheep do graze across the organic farmland at times of the year but with 40 odd acres there is plenty of breathing space for campers and their woolly neighbours. Not all camp sites suit everyone and those after a more traditional camping experience such as that offered by the coastal camp sites are usually better camping on the top part of our site rather than our lower fields. We strive to make this clear to people when booking and certainly always advise families that there is a steep walk uphill to the washing facilities – as Cool Camping has always pointed out in their coverage of us too. We spend quite a bit of time talking to people when booking including asking campers to tell us how big their tent is so we can pitch them on a suitably level spot. If anyone expresses concerns about their pitch to us when they arrive, we always do our best to find them a suitable place for them to enjoy their holiday with us.
Wonderful views from the camping areas although the camper van/electric hook up pitches back onto the road so not quite as peaceful for us. Would recommend taking bikes if you want to get to the pub as its a fair distance to the nearest one.
Hot water would be nice!
Spent 4 nights at this beautiful location in June, 2013, and made welcome by the owners/staff.
Great facilities including good free showers, clean toilets and level pitches with reliable electrics. However, seems a bit weird that the "hot" water in the toilet was only just about warm and the washroom/ toilet was 150m from the showers which housed the (useful) honesty shop.
You will also need some toughened steel pegs if you want to get more than inch into the ground, as the campsite is on a slate subsoil which is almost impossible to penetrate with ordinary pegs.
One thing Craig Wen can't be blamed for was the millions of midges which live around the Estuary, but take some Insect Repellent anyway!
I went here 3 years ago, (May 2008). Its a great location for walking and cycling. The site was huge, all on very gently sloping fields, and you really felt out in the wild. They told me to make a fire where the ground had already been used, rather than damage more grass. I take everything that I need, so didn’t use the facilities. They told me that the track down to the camping fields can get too slippery sometimes for vehicles, but they were more than happy, to load all my camping stuff into their Landrover, and take me down, leaving my car in the parking area by the house. They were really friendly people and the campsite was large, open and comfortable.