Fairbourne is a Welsh seaside village. It lies on the coast of Barmouth Bay in Arthog community, to the south of the estuary of the River Mawddach in Gwynedd, surrounded by the Snowdonia National Park. It is in an area listed by Gwynedd council for managed retreat due to rising sea levels.
Fairbourne is part of the historic county of Meirionnydd. The area was originally salt marshes and slightly higher grazing lands. Before development began in the mid-19th century, there were three farms on the land. The coastal area was originally known as Morfa Henddol, while the promontory outcrop now occupied by the Fairbourne Hotel was called Ynysfaig.
Circa 1865, Solomon Andrews, a Welsh entrepreneur, purchased the promontory. Over the next few years, he built a seawall for tidal protection and several houses. To facilitate this, he built a 2 ft (610 mm) gauge horse-drawn tramway from the main railway to the site in order to bring in building materials. In 1916, the tramway was converted to a 15 in (381 mm) gauge steam railway. The wealthy flour-maker Sir Arthur McDougall had been looking for a country estate but when he discovered this area, he soon conceived of it as a seaside resort. In July 1895, Arthur McDougall purchased a substantial acreage from land speculators, which he enlarged by additional lots the following year. He then immediately hired a builder to begin the development of a model seaside resort.
Unusually for Gwynedd county, the village has no official Welsh-language name. Unlike most of Gwynedd, where Welsh is the majority language, English is the predominant language in Fairbourne with most of its inhabitants coming from or descended from those who came from England.
Fairbourne has been identified as unsustainable to defend, given predicted sea level rise. The best estimate at present is that the area will be abandoned between 2052 and 2062, though the range of uncertainty is between 2042 and 2072. This is based on a rise in critical sea level of 0.5 metres (1.6 ft). There is an intent to maintain defences of the village for a period of 40 years from 2014. The policy of managed retreat was strongly opposed by local residents.In November 2021, government officials declared that by 2052, it would no longer be safe/sustainable to live in the viilage.
The beach is a two-mile stretch of sand, backed by a steep storm beach of pebbles which is as high as the sea defences in some places. At the northern end the beach joins the Mawddach Estuary, while at the southern end of the beach is squeezed between sheer cliffs and the sea. The beach is a venue for people exercising their dogs, however, during the summer months there is a dog ban enforced on the central area. There is access to the beach for those visitors with prams and/or wheelchairs. The beach is fronted by tank traps known as "Dragon's Teeth" dating from the Second World War. The beach regularly meets the European Blue Flag criteria.
Railway and Ferry
The Fairbourne Railway has provided a link from the village to Penrhyn Point for over a century. It runs regular passenger services between April and October.
The Barmouth Ferry sails from the seaward end of the Fairbourne Railway to Barmouth/Abermaw.
Fairbourne railway station is served by the Cambrian Coast Railway, which runs from Machynlleth to Pwllheli and is operated by Transport for Wales.
Lloyds Coaches also operate a regular bus service to Dolgellau and Tywyn.