50 Walks in Brecon Beacons & South Wales

In Waterfall Country

Try this sample walk from the latest edition of 50 Walks in Brecon Beacons & South Wales.

About 50 Walks in Brecon Beacons & South Wales

Walking is one of Britain's favourite leisure activities, and this guide to Brecon Beacons & South Wales features 50 mapped walks from 2 to 10 miles, to suit all abilities.

The book features all the practical detail you need, including:

  • fascinating background reading on the history and wildlife of the area,
  • clear OS-based mapping for ease of use,
  • every route has been colour coded according to difficulty,
  • annotations for local points of interest and places to stop for refreshments,
  • summary of distance, time, gradient, level of difficulty, type of surface and access, landscape, dog friendliness, parking and public toilets.

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Sample walk: In Waterfall Country

  • Distance: 4 miles (6.4km)
  • Minimum Time: 2hrs
  • Ascent: 360 feet (110m)
  • Gradient: 3
  • Difficulty: 2
  • Paths: Riverside paths and forest tracks, some rough sections and steps
  • Landscape: Wooded valleys, fast-flowing rivers, waterfalls
  • Suggested Map: AA Walker's Map 18 West & Central Brecon Beacons
  • Start Grid Reference: SN928124
  • Dog Friendliness: Rivers too powerful for fetching sticks and care needed near steep drops
  • Parking: Park car park at Porth yr Ogof, near Ystradfellte
  • Public Toilet: At start
Background reading

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 Sgŵd yr Eira, where it's possible to venture right behind the falls. Walking here is a completely different experience to that of the windswept scarpments, 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.

  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. Ignore a right fork marked 'Access for Cavers' and follow the main path through a kissing gate and on to the river bank. Now keep the river to your right to follow a rough footpath through a couple more kissing gates to reach a footbridge.
  2. Don't cross but continue ahead on the main path to climb steeply up to a fence. Stay with the path, with a wooden fence now on your right, for a few paces and you'll reach a junction of footpaths marked with a large fingerpost. Bear sharp left on to a well-surfaced track, waymarked to Gwaun Hepste, and follow this for a short distance to another junction, where you should turn right (waymarked 'Sgwd yr Eira').
  3. Continue walking along the well waymarked forest trail until another fingerpost directs you right, downhill. Follow this track to the edge of the forest and then bear around to the right. This track leads to the top of a set of wooden steps, on the left.
  4. Go down the 167 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 up to the edge of the wood. Turn left and continue, still following the redbanded posts, to a fork marked with another fingerpost.
  5. Turn left here (waymarked to Sgŵd y Pannwr) 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 original 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 Clungwyn Isaf. From here, continue along the main trail to the place where you split off earlier.
  7. Drop back down to the footbridge and continue along the river bank to Porth yr Ogof.
While you're there

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. Legend says it formed after a princess rode her horse into the cave while evading murderous pursuers. The horse fell and she drowned. Great care is needed around the cave entrance, as a fall could be fatal.

Where to eat and drink

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.

What to look out for

While the woods that line the river banks are home to many species of birds, the river itself is likely to offer sightings of the dipper. This bird is easy to spot, because it is dark brown and slightly smaller than a blackbird with a very visible white bib. It's usually seen bobbing up and down on rocks in mid-stream.

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