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A low-level walk among riverside scenery with four breathtaking waterfalls.
Distance 4 miles (6.4km)
Minimum time 2hrs
Ascent/gradient 360ft (110m)
Level of difficulty Easy
Paths Riverside paths, some rough sections and steps, no stiles
Landscape Wooded valleys, fast flowing rivers, waterfalls
Suggested map aqua3 OS Explorer OL12 Brecon Beacons National Park Western & Central areas
Start/finish SN 928124
Dog friendliness Rivers too powerful for fetching sticks
Parking Park car park at Porth yr ogof, near Ystradfellte
Public toilets At start
© AA Media Limited 2015. © Crown Copyright Licence number 100021153
1 Cross the road at the entrance to the car park and head down the left-hand of the two paths, waymarked with a yellow arrow. Follow this path on to the riverbank, then keep the river to your right to follow a rough footpath through a couple of kissing gates to reach a footbridge.
2 Continue ahead, drop into a dip and climb steeply out. Keep left to climb to a broken wall where the path forks. Take the left fork here (the bottom right-hand path has a fence along it) and follow the edge of the wood. When you see the odd green-banded marker posts, follow them to a waymarked crossroads where you turn right, now following the red-banded posts.
3 Continue through a dark tunnel of trees and out into more evenly spaced deciduous woodland. Carry on following the waymarked trail to a post directing you downhill. Follow this track, then bear around to the right when you reach the edge of forest. This leads to the top of a set of wooden steps, on the left.
4 Go down the steps to Sgwd yr Eira (Waterfall of the Snow) and then, having edged along the bank and walked behind the falls (waterproofs recommended), retrace your steps back to the edge of the wood. Turn left and continue, still following the red-banded posts, to a fork marked with a green-banded post.
5 Turn left here and descend to the riverside. Turn left again to Sgwd y Pannwr (Fullers Falls), then turn around to walk upstream to Sgwd Isaf Clun-Gwyn (Lower Waterfall of the White Meadow). Take care, the ground is very steep and rough around the best viewpoint.
6 Retrace your steps downstream to your descent path and turn left to climb back up to the fork at the top. Turn left and follow the red-banded waymarkers along to Sgwd Clun-gwyn, where there's a fenced off viewing area. From here, continue along the main trail to the place where you split off earlier.
7 Keep to the left-hand side to drop into the dip and retrace your steps past the footbridge and back to Porth yr ogof.
In a National Park justly renowned for its sweeping, but barren, mountain scenery, lovers of high ground are in danger of completely overlooking one the Brecon Beacons' hidden gems. This is the pocket of dramatic limestone scenery often referred to as Waterfall Country. South of the upland plateaux of Fforest Fawr, geological faults and water erosion have produced a series of deep, narrow gorges, sheltered by impressive woodland and randomly broken up by a succession of gushing waterfalls. The highlight of this is Sgwd yr Eira, where it's possible to venture right behind the falls. Walking here is a completely different experience to that of the windswept escarpments, but the scenery is marvellous and the generally sheltered nature of the terrain makes it an ideal outing for those days when cloud obscures the peaks.
In simple terms, the falls are the result of a geological fault that pushed the hard sandstone, which makes up the backbone of most of the National Park, up against softer shales. The force of the rivers, which spring up high on the mountains of Fforest Fawr, has eroded the shales leaving shelves of the harder rock exposed. These shelves are clearly visible on most of the waterfalls.
At the southern edge of the high ground, a layer of carboniferous limestone overlies the old red sandstone. This younger rock is soluble in the slightly acidic rain and river water that constantly pounds it. The erosion results in caves like Porth yr ogof at the start of this walk, where the rivers literally disappear underground, and craters where rainwater exploits weaknesses and faults in the rock - these are often referred to as sinkholes or shake holes.
The New Inn in the small hamlet of Ystradfellte is approximately 1 mile (1.6km) from the start and incredibly popular with walkers, cyclists and cavers. It's a fairly laid-back sort of place, and a little scruffy inside, but the food is good and the beer is excellent.
While the woods that line the banks of the rivers are home to many species of bird, the river itself is likely to throw up sightings of two fairly distinctive species. The easiest to spot is the dipper; dark brown in colour and slightly smaller than a blackbird with a very visible white bib. It is usually seen bobbing up and down on rocks in mid-stream. It feeds on aquatic insects and larvae and nests in cracks and crannies on the river's edge. The grey wagtail is also easily identifiable. It is around the same size as a robin but with a much longer tail. The uppers and head are grey, the underside yellow and the tail and wingtips black. It feeds on insects and is easily distinguished from the closely related yellow wagtail by the darker uppers and pink legs.
Porth yr ogof is accessed by following the steps down from the rear of the car park. You can walk in far enough to see the Pool of the White Horse, named after a strip of white calcite on the wall. This is reputed to have formed after a princess rode her horse into the cave in an attempt to outsmart some murderous pursuers. The horse fell and she drowned. Great care is needed around the cave entrance, as a fall could be fatal.