A market town lying on the River Wnion, a tributary of the River Mawddach. With a population of 2,700, the woollen industry was long of the greatest importance to the town's economy together with tanning.
In the C19th, local gold mines employed over 500 workers and Clogau St David's goldmine, Bontddu, supplied gold for many royal weddings; more recently the gold came from the Gwynfynydd goldmine at Ganllwyd. Cadair Idris mountain is 2,930ft (893m) high with magnificent views from the summit of Pen y Gader towards the Mawddach estuary and Cardigan Bay.
The Snowdonia National Park Authority maintains three paths up the mountain - Pony Path from Ty-Nant, the Minffordd Path and the Llanfihangel y Pennant Path. The Quaker Heritage Centre in Eldon Square relates the story of the Quaker community that once lived in the area in the C17th and of the persecution which forced them to emigrate to Pennsylvania in 1686.
The route of the former Ruabon to Barmouth railway line west of Dolgellau is now the Mawddach Trail, a footpath and cycle track that runs for 8 miles following the southern bank of the Mawddach through Penmaenpool, Arthog and on to Morfa Mawddach; from here, you can then walk over the bridge across the estuary into Barmouth itself. The RSPB has two nature reserves near Dolgellau around the Mawddach estuary.
Coed Garth Gell, off the road to Barmouth, is a woodland and heathland reserve with a nature trail that follows the route of an old gold mining track. Arthog Bog is a small wetland off the Fairbourne road and is a wonderful place to see weird and wonderful plants, flowers, butterflies and birds. Coed-y-Brenin was the first forest to be developed for mountain biking and is still the sport's premier location. Surrounded by stunning scenery in Snowdonia National Park, with superb views of mountains and to the coast, it is located 8 miles north of Dolgellau. There is a visitor centre and a great range of networks, including rocky trails for experienced riders and a family route.