Coordinates: 52°41′49″N 4°03′11″W / 52.697°N 4.053°W / 52.697; -4.053
From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

Fairbourne viewed from Golwen slate quarry
Fairbourne is located in Gwynedd
Location within Gwynedd
OS grid referenceSH614130
Principal area
Preserved county
Sovereign stateUnited Kingdom
Postcode districtLL38
Dialling code01341
PoliceNorth Wales
FireNorth Wales
UK Parliament
Senedd Cymru – Welsh Parliament
List of places
52°41′49″N 4°03′11″W / 52.697°N 4.053°W / 52.697; -4.053

Fairbourne is a seaside village in Gwynedd, Wales. Located on the coast of Barmouth Bay in Arthog community, to the south of the estuary of the River Mawddach, it is surrounded by Snowdonia National Park. It is in an area that had been listed by Gwynedd Council for managed retreat due to rising sea levels.[1]


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.[2] 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.[3] In 1916, the tramway was converted to a 15 in (381 mm) gauge steam railway.[4] 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.[5]

Sea level rise management[edit]

Fairbourne had been identified as unsustainable to defend, given predicted sea level rise.[6][7] The best estimate was that the area would be abandoned between 2052 and 2062. This was based on a rise in critical sea level of 0.5 metres (1.6 ft).[8] However, based on current rates of sea level rise it would take 100 to 200 years from 2014 to reach 0.5 metres.[9] There was an intent to maintain defences of the village for a period of only 40 years from 2014. This policy of managed retreat was strongly opposed by local residents.[10][11][7]

In November 2021, government officials declared that by 2052, it would no longer be safe/sustainable to live in the viilage.[12] This has been disputed by a number of research reports.[13][14][15][16][17] [18]

In 2021 a survey was carried out by Arthog Community Council to obtain the views of Fairbourne residents to the proposed plans for the village. There was a feeling by residents that their concerns were being ignored, and that Fairbourne was being selected for decommissioning without adequate justification.[19] "Having attended the multi-agency meeting in the village hall, residents are 'stone walled', not listened to, and told what to do without our views being considered." "It has been stressed at public meetings and acknowledged by Natural Resources Wales that local knowledge is important. Is Gwynedd Council just relying on consultants with computers?"

In March 2022, the issue of Fairbourne was raised in the Welsh Senedd by Mabon ap Gwynfor AS: "The west of Wales shoreline management plan is based on work done 10 years ago. Now, since then, of course, a great deal of work has been done on coastal flood defences, which changes the forecast for communities such as Fairbourne, but the plans haven't changed to reflect this work... There is room to doubt the modelling of Natural Resources Wales, which is based on inadequate data and old software."[20]

In May 2022, Arthog Community Council approved a motion to reject the plans by Gwynedd Council to decommission Fairbourne village, citing various failings in the decision-making process.[21]

In November 2022, Huw Williams of Gwynedd Council stated: "The Fairbourne Moving Forward Project Board has been aware of the negative impact on the community as a consequence of the mention of 'decommissioning' Fairbourne in '2054' by the press and other stakeholders"...."There are no current plans to decommission the village".[22][23] An email to Arthog Community Council from Mr Williams from July 2022 also contains the line: "No public body – let alone Gwynedd Council – is intending to destroy Fairbourne."[18]

In May 2023, Welsh Government Climate Change minister Julie James was asked about the future of the village. She was adamant that the village had not been written off. She said: "We have made no decision on the future of Fairbourne, I want to make that clear."[24]

Arnall and Hilson (2023) investigated the political conflict which had developed between residents of Fairbourne and Gwynedd Council. They concluded: "The paper highlights the need for improved dialogue...This is potentially one way to minimise the present-day harms resulting from the projected effects of sea level rise and to imagine more open-ended, hopeful futures for affected coastal communities."[25]



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[edit]

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.


  1. ^ Thomas, Rhidian (11 February 2014). "Sea level threat to force retreat of communities in Wales". BBC News. Archived from the original on 18 February 2014. Retrieved 11 February 2014.
  2. ^ "Fairbourne, a potted history". Bill Hyde. 2013. Archived from the original on 10 August 2013.
  3. ^ Reader's Digest Association (1979). The Past all around us: an illustrated guide to the ruins, relics, monuments, castles, cathedrals, historic buildings, and industrial landmarks of Britain. Reader's Digest Association. p. 150. OCLC 220770889.
  4. ^ Billing, Joanna (2003). The Hidden Places of Wales. Aldermaston, Berkshire, England: Travel Publishing Ltd. p. 147. ISBN 978-1-904434-07-8. Archived from the original on 10 November 2023. Retrieved 22 November 2019.
  5. ^ Wall, Tom (18 May 2019). "'This is a wake-up call': the villagers who could be Britain's first climate refugees". The Guardian. Archived from the original on 18 May 2019.
  6. ^ Wall, Tom (18 May 2019). "'This is a wake-up call': the villagers who could be Britain's first climate refugees". The Guardian. ISSN 0261-3077. Archived from the original on 18 May 2019. Retrieved 4 March 2020 – via www.theguardian.com.
  7. ^ a b Gerretsen, Isabelle (9 May 2022). "The UK 'climate refugees' who won't leave". BBC Future Planet. Archived from the original on 28 May 2022. Retrieved 29 May 2022.
  8. ^ Page, Thomas (9 June 2019). "Sea level rise could make climate refugees of UK village". CNN. Archived from the original on 17 March 2020. Retrieved 4 March 2020.
  9. ^ "Climate change: UK sea level rise speeding up - Met Office". BBC News. 28 July 2022. Archived from the original on 31 August 2022. Retrieved 31 August 2022.
  10. ^ "Welsh village to sue government over 'alarmist' rising sea level claim". The Telegraph. 11 February 2016. Archived from the original on 11 February 2016.
  11. ^ Harries, Robert (26 May 2019). "The Welsh village being abandoned to the sea because of climate change". Wales Onlline. Archived from the original on 26 May 2019.
  12. ^ "The 'doomed' UK village to be abandoned to the sea". NZ Herald. Archived from the original on 12 November 2021. Retrieved 12 November 2021.
  13. ^ "Flood and Coastal Erosion Risk Management (FCERM): Fairbourne Going Forward" (PDF). Archived (PDF) from the original on 8 November 2022. Retrieved 8 November 2022.
  14. ^ "Fairbourne: modelling future risk of groundwater flooding" (PDF). Archived (PDF) from the original on 8 November 2022. Retrieved 8 November 2022.
  15. ^ "Stability of the Ro Wen shingle spit, Fairbourne" (PDF). Archived (PDF) from the original on 8 November 2022. Retrieved 8 November 2022.
  16. ^ "Investigating the protection of Fairbourne village from flooding" (PDF). Archived (PDF) from the original on 8 November 2022. Retrieved 8 November 2022.
  17. ^ "Fairbourne – Demolition of a whole village is a massive overreaction to a solvable problem". www.grahamhall.org. Archived from the original on 3 December 2022. Retrieved 11 January 2023.
  18. ^ a b "Fairbourne: Authorities dismiss alternative plan for flood-threatened village". 14 June 2023. Archived from the original on 24 June 2023. Retrieved 24 June 2023.
  19. ^ Arthog Archived 16 November 2022 at the Wayback Machine cyngorarthogcouncil.cymru
  20. ^ "Cyfarfod Llawn 15/03/2022". Archived from the original on 9 November 2022. Retrieved 9 November 2022.
  21. ^ Motion to reject the plans Archived 8 September 2022 at the Wayback Machine cyngorarthogcouncil.cymru May 2022
  22. ^ Newsletter 20 November 2022 Archived 8 November 2022 at the Wayback Machine grahamhall.org
  23. ^ Fairbourne Cambrian Archived 15 January 2023 at the Wayback Machine grahamhall.org
  24. ^ "'No decision' made on future of North Wales village on climate frontline". 28 May 2023. Archived from the original on 20 June 2023. Retrieved 20 June 2023.
  25. ^ Arnall, A., & Hilson, C. (2023). Climate change imaginaries: Representing and contesting sea level rise in Fairbourne, North Wales. Political Geography, 102, 102839.

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