From Roader's Digest: The SABRE Wiki
|To:||Blaenau Ffestiniog (SH696460)|
|Length:||32.8 miles (52.8 km)|
|Meets:||A487, A487, A470|
|Former Number(s):||B4391, B4408, B4409, B4407, A544|
|Now part of:||A470|
|Route outline (key)|
Dolgellau appears to be the hub for the A49x series, with the A493, A494 and A496 all beginning within a three mile stretch of the A470. The reason is apparent - the town lies at the confluence of the Mawddach and Wnion rivers, where the impenetrable mountain barrier gives way to steep sloping valleys.
Dolgellau - Blaenau Ffestiniog
The A496 has the northernmost terminus and can be reached by taking a left turn from the A470, following the broad floodplain of the Afon Mawddach. The reason why the A496 hugs the edge of the floodplain is apparent from the Landranger map - the floodplain itself is low lying and marshy. To our right the steep hillside is wooded - to our left, across the floodplain - hugging the southern hillside, is the A493, though we will not meet that road again on this journey. Indeed, the only road link across the estuary is an unclassified toll road running south from Pen-y-bryn.
At Bontddu, we head in land, through a wooded valley for a short distance before returning to the narrow coastal plain, which soon disappears altogether as we round the headland marking the southernmost point of the A496. As we do so, we see the Barmouth railway bridge running across the estuary, then we follow the road and railway into the town centre. Main roads in seaside towns do one of two things - either they run along the sea front, or, as in this case, they run at the back of town, sandwiching the town between itself and the coast.
As we continue north, we enter the Snowdonia National Park, the land to the right rising over many miles to Cadair Idris. We continue to hug the lower slopes of the hillside, with the coastal plain broadening out to our left. We pass through Dyffryn Arudwy and other small villages as we progress northwards towards Llanbedr, where the coastal plain is sufficiently broad to give rise to an airfield. From time to time we cross the end of wooded valleys draining the mountains to the east.
The next place is Llanfair, where we meet the railway and the coast once again, on the approach to Harlech. Paul Berry reports that in Harlech, you can find the steepest motorable road in Britain, though I understood this accolade was held by Rosedale Chimney in North Yorks. Harlech is also home to one of the most spectacular and well preserved castles, which dominates the town as much now as it must have done in the Middle Ages.
North of Harlech, the job of hugging the bottom of the hill is taken by the B4573, leaving the A496 to find a very straight course across the coastal plain, past a wooded nature reserve (Morfa Harlech). At Ynys, there is a sharp right then we cross the level crossing before meeting the B4573 again, thus resuming our job as guardian of the base of the hills. The sea has now given way to a river estuary, this time the Afon Dwyryd. There is a toll road across, which links to the A487 at Penrhyndeudraeth, whereas we continue north into a steep sided gorge, which broadens out into the Vale of Ffestiniog. We meet the A487 at Maentwrog, crossing it and remaining south of the River Dwyryd towards our terminus on the A470 in the slate mining town of Blaenau Ffestiniog.
If it wasn't for the A470, I'd be describing a route leading all the way to the north Wales coast at Llandudno.
The original northern terminus of the A496 was on the A487 at Maentwrog. It was extended to Blaenau Ffestiniog in the mid-1920s albeit entering town from the east rather than the west. In 1935 and also extended along the B4407 and A544 to reach Llandudno. When the A470 was extended, it terminated once again in Blaenau Ffestiniog.
Original Author(s): Simon Davies