This is a 3 mile mostly flat circular valley walk into the abandoned village of Ratgoed in the Dyfi forest, 10 minutes drive from Isfryn. Most of the first part of the route follows the path of the old horse-powered tramway used to transport slate from the mines in the valley down to the slate sheds and railway station at nearby Aberllefenni and then on to the sea ports on the coast.
Ratgoed is an anglicisation of its original welsh name, Yr Alltgoed. Many of the slate workers were English (or at least non-welsh speakers) and couldn’t pronounce the welsh name properly. The original name means ‘wooded hillside’ and presumably refers to the woods above the abandoned village.
Firstly, find the parking spot:
From Isfryn turn left towards the river and, at the crossroads after the river (i.e. 100m from Isfryn), turn left through the white gateposts (don’t mind the private road signs, it’s not really a private road any more).
Follow that road up and then down a hill to a multi-way junction. Turn left and drive up a steep hill (just under 1 mile to the top) and then down the other side. After about a mile and a half of winding downhill you’ll go over a cattle grid and a few hundred metres further on you should see a private road on the left with some stone pillars, a bridge over the river and a post box – this is Llwydiarth Hall.
About 500m past the hall, on a sharp right hand bend is a big building on the left with a section of stone wall in front and a large layby on the left where you can park. If you see an outdoor pursuits centre on your right, you’ve gone a bit too far.
From the layby walk back about 100 metres and take the forestry track on the left. Follow this for just under a kilometre until you hit a Y junction. You should see the Cymerau quarry cottages to your right – these are a group of listed quarryman’s cottages and you will have seen the slate spoil from the nearby Cymerau South quarry to your right already. The Cymerau quarry was at its peak in 1883 and closed in 1972.
Take the right fork, cross the stream and head up the valley. You rapidly start seeing further signs of the industrial past of this area, with the odd mysterious slate construction to your right. After about 1km, you will reach the first of the buildings of the abandoned village. There were once four buildings here which housed the local quarry workers. The end building closest to the tramway doubled up as the local shop and had a bay window. A little further are the impressive ruins of the chapel/Sunday school which was built in 1871 & further still, in the shade of a large oak tree, is a ruined slate building which was once the blacksmith’s. Behind it are the old slate dressing sheds.
To your left are further signs of slate working, with ramps for slate trolleys and a system of reservoirs and ditches that provided the water power for working & dressing the slate.
Further on you’ll see Ratgoed Hall – less of a hall than a large house, and now in need of some serious TLC. The Quarry owner, rather marvellously named Horatio Nelson Hughes, built the house in 1860. After the quarry closed in 1946 it became a Youth Hostel but now appears to have been unused for many years.
Go through the gate by Ratgoed Hall and follow the track into the fields beyond until just before you reach a farmhouse.
The farmhouse, Dolgoed, was a Quaker house, and is possibly the oldest house in Meirionnydd. It has been owned by the same family since the 1600s.
The path turns left just before Dolgoed, crosses a small stream and then pops out onto a track close to a 2nd house. This house is Ceiswyn (named after the stream you’ve just crossed) and was the home of Sion Dafydd Lloyd, sheriff of the county 1557-1558. During his time as sheriff the Red Brigands of Dinas Mawddwy were an infamous group of red-haired highwaymen who operated in this lawless area. They achieved notoriety after capturing and killing a local judge, Sir Lewis Owain in a revenge attack for having some of their members tried and executed. Sion Lloyd was with the judge, but survived the ambush. Legend has it that Lloyd hid swords in the chimney in case of future attacks.
Once on the track turn back left towards the foot of the valley and your car. If your feet are aching by this stage, you could consider dropping in to Ffynnon Badarn, just over 1km along the track on the left – you may have seen the house on the other side of the stream as you walked up the valley. The name means St Padarn’s well and just to North side of the house is a ‘Holy Well’, actually a spring of water coming out of a wall. I’m not entirely sure what magical powers it possesses, but it might be worth a go… Ffynnon Badarn is also known the Cadbury House – it was bought by the progressive Cadbury chocolate family in the 1960s who allowed it to be used as a holiday home for their employees.
Either continue on the forestry track back to your car or ford the stream by Ffynnon Badarn to rejoin the path you came up on.
If you find that holy water hasn’t done the trick when you get back to your car, you could always drive another couple of miles onwards into the village of Corris, where there’s the Slater’s Arms (a proper, not-messed-about-with old pub) with a very friendly labrador called Sophie, and Andy & Adam’s cafe & deli. The local Corris Institute also has a tea room.