At the heart of Dolgellau is a Welsh medieval settlement, which became a flourishing market and trading centre and a hub of the woollen industry before finding popularity as a picturesque place to stay in the nineteenth century. Its medieval and marketing past is reflected in the extraordinary structure of the town centre, where buildings are crowded onto irregular plots of land, divided by meandering lanes and alleys which suddenly open out as wide spaces. The few straight lines were introduced in the nineteenth century as attempts to impose order on this seemingly haphazard layout. Buildings of many different types are crowded together, with small cottages rubbing shoulders with substantial townhouses, workshops, warehouses and shops. The town centre is fringed with villas in their own grounds, built as the town became a fashionable destination in the nineteenth century. The local building stone is distinctive, not least for the sheer size of some of the blocks. It lends a harmonious character to the town.
The study of Dolgellau was prepared to support a Townscape Heritage Initiative focussed on the conservation area, but provides an introduction to the character of the town as a whole for anyone wanting to get to know Dolgellau better.