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Barmouth - Overview

As the town name indicates, Barmouth (in Welsh Abermaw) is located on the estuary of the river Mawddach. First recorded as a settlement of four houses in a survey of 1565, little is known about the town prior to the eighteenth century. As coastal shipping increased in the late eighteenth century, Barmouth developed as a ship building centre, with a harbour supporting fishing and the export of wool from the Merioneth sheep farms. Despite the picturesque surroundings, the infrastructure for sea bathing developed only in the first half of the nineteenth century.

With the arrival first of the Great Western Railway from Shrewsbury, and later the Aberystwyth and Welsh Coast Railway from the south, more and more tourists began to arrive, making it necessary for the town to expand. Owing to the close proximity of the sheer cliffs to the coast line, the new guest houses were built on rising terraces against the rocks and amused tourists frequently commented that it was possible to look into the chimneys of the houses in the streets below. In contrast to other popular seaside towns in Wales, Barmouth never developed an overtly resort architecture, but retained its appeal as a place visited for the simple and picturesque experience.

During one particularly enchanting walk along the beach in moonlight in the 1880s, the German holidaymaker Johann Jakob Honegger witnessed an extremely rare sighting of milky seas in the northern hemisphere.

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