Discover Pumlumon's secret, a jewel of a tarn set among the rocks of the Rheidol's dark northern corrie.
Distance 5.5 miles (8.8km)
Minimum time 3hrs
Ascent/gradient 623ft (190m)
Level of difficulty Easy
Paths Good track up, sketchy return path
Landscape Wild moorland
Suggested map aqua3 OS Explorer 213 Aberystwyth & Cwm Rheidol
Start/finish SN 762861
Dog friendliness Dogs are okay off lead outside summer months when sheep will be in lowland fields
Parking Off-road parking - room for several cars by woods at start of walk, car park by Nant-y-moch dam
Public toilets Nearest at Ponterwyd
© AA Media Limited 2015. © Crown Copyright Licence number 100021153
1 From the car parking spaces beneath the woods east of the Nant-y-moch dam (near the spot height 392m on OS Explorer maps) walk north along the road and take the right-hand fork. The road descends to cross the streams of Nant Maesant-fach and Nant-y-moch before traversing rough moorland along the east shores of Nant-y-moch Reservoir. The reservoir, stocked with native brown trout, is popular with anglers during the season.
2 Beneath the quarried rocks of Bryn y Beddau, a rubble track on the right-hand side of the road doubles back up the hillside then swings round to the left. The steep sides of Pumlumon now soar away to the skyline on your right, with the little stream of Maesnant tumbling down them. The track climbs further, then levels out to pass some shallow lakes, which lie above the rocks of Fainc Ddu uchaf. Now high above the bare valleys of the Hyddgen and Hengwm the track swings south beneath crags of Pumlumon Fach to arrive at Llyn Llygad Rheidol's dam.
3 To get to the footpath along the other side you'll have to ford the stream a short way downhill Â- take care if the stream is in spate. The path, which runs parallel to the eastern banks of the stream, is sketchy in places, especially where you ford a side stream. It descends peaty terrain where mosses and moor grasses proliferate.
4 When you reach a small stand of conifers in the Hengwm Valley, turn left to follow an old cart track which fords the Afon Rheidol, close to its confluence with the Afon Hengwm. The track heads west and soon the Hengwm Valley meets that of the Afon Hyddgen. The track swings to the south west and passes between the squat cliffs of Fainc Ddu uchaf and the western shores of Nant-y-moch Reservoir.
5 Go through the gate above the outdoor adventure centre at Maesnant and continue along the tarmac lane used in the outward route, to return to the car park and the start of the walk.
The phrase 'sodden weariness' has often been quoted by writers trying to describe Pumlumon and its environs. The description is unfair and used only by those who do not know the area very well. There are secrets to enjoying Pumlumon. Approach it from the north and you see the best of its crags and cwms, and you'll experience the feeling of remoteness. This lower-level route begins by the shores of Nant-y-moch Reservoir and sets out to discover an ice-scooped corrie reminiscent of those found in northern Snowdonia.
Nant-y-moch Reservoir was constructed in 1961. The water from the Nant-y-moch and Dinas reservoirs are pumped to the Rheidol hydro-electric power station to the south. Items rescued from a farm and chapel that were submerged by the lake can be seen at the visitor centre in Cwm Rheidol.
Early on in the walk you pass beneath the rocks of Bryn y Beddau, a rather unremarkable piece of quarried moorland. But the name means hill of the graves, and therein lies a story. In 1401 the troops of Owain Glyndwr met those supporting the English King, Henry IV, on the northern slopes of Pumlumon. Glyndwr had only 400 men, the English had 1,500. The Welsh troops were hemmed in on all sides. The scene was set for the famous Battle of Nant Hyddgant. The Welshmen realised they would have to fight like fury or die. Many did both. They lost 200 fighters but in the process a famous victory was theirs. The battle gained Glyndwr a considerable following among his countrymen - one which would sweep him to power and help him to the title of Prince of Wales. The dead from the battle were buried here at Bryn y Beddau.
Llyn Llygad Rheidol is a natural tarn, but unfortunately it was dammed and enlarged to supply water to Aberystwyth. Nevertheless this place still retains its beauty, especially on a day when the air is still and those crags reflect perfectly in glass-like waters.
On the return journey you'll be looking downstream and towards the Hyddgen Valley that stretches away to the north. Desolate and uninhabited these days, it is the site of a tragic tale of a shepherd who was caught in a violent blizzard. His wife was alarmed when his horse returned alone. She took a lamp, for it was now dark, and went in search. Eventually she found him unconscious and tried in vain to drag him back home but sadly both died on that ferocious night. It is said that at the end of each day a light can be seen, wavering as it travels from the valley to the spot where the shepherd fell.
Visit the Bwlch Nant-yr-Arian Forestry Centre just off the A44, west of Ponterwyd. Here you can learn about forestry and conservation with pictures and dioramas. Refreshments are available. You can watch the red kite feeding every day at 3pm (2pm winter). The centre is open 10am-5pm in summer and 10am-dusk in winter.
The red kite can often be seen flying here. At one time they had become nearly extinct with only a few breeding pairs here in central Wales, but these days they are more widespread. Red kites have been imported from Spain to make up the numbers and feeding centres have been set up to encourage the bird to stay. The reddish bird has large but slender wings, a long forked tail and glides very gracefully in the sky.
The Dyffryn Castell Hotel on the A44 just east of Ponterwyd is a 400-year-old whitewashed coaching inn set in the wilds of Wales and in the foothills of Pumlumon. It's family run and serves good home-cooked food in a bar, made cosy in winter by a glowing log fire.