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Home > Trips&Photos > Trips > Elan Valley #3

Elan Valley #3 / 3 days / 39 miles (63km)

OS Route Map → Map GPX Route file →

Date: 21 May 2007
Start / Finish: Rhayader. Free car park, toilets 967678.
Maps: Explorer 200 Llandrindod Wells & Elan Valley + 214 Llanidloes & Newtown.

Day 1Gwastedyn Hill & Carn Gafallt10.5 miles / 2680 feet (16.9km / 816m)
Day 2Claerwen, the Cerrigllwydion lakes & Carn Ricet15.8 miles / 2230 feet (25.4km / 679m)
Day 3Cefn Bach & Garreg Lwyd12.7 miles / 2200 feet (20.4km / 670m)

Another little trodden circuit in the wilds of the Elan Valley from Rhayader, including three new Marilyns and a closer exploration of the Cerrigllwydion lakes that we only glimpsed last time.

Day 1 - Gwastedyn Hill & Carn Gafallt

The day began with two wasted attempts to find a riverside route from the car park. Taking the path through the small park on the W side of the river, the bridleway at the far end does indeed go straight through the river exactly as suggested on the map. Returning to the road and descending on the E side, a notice welcomed us to 'The Riverside Walk' but that looked impassable as well, so we walked through the town and along the A470 to Tan House bridge and the signed riverside footpath. This is little used but the stiles and footbridges are in place, and immediately after the treatment works the path climbs L to rejoin the road. A good bridleway track climbs to gain the ridge of Gwastedyn Hill and a prominent cairn lies a short walk SW, but the summit lies in access land across a shallow depression and a fence must be negotiated in the corner next to a metal gate to gain entry. From the summit cairn there are good views of the surrounding hills including the next objective, Carn Gafallt.

View from Gwastedyn Hill
View from Gwastedyn Hill (21 May 2007__11:01:20)

Returning to the gate, a track descends through an infant plantation to join the bridleway around the steep southern slopes. A short sunken lane drops down on the R of Pen-y-ffynnon farm to join the continuation bridleway SW, and keeping a close eye on the map, this passes through Ashfield farm and emerges on the A470 a short way S of Llanwrthwl bridge. Across the river the Wye Valley Walk (WVW) climbs NW to access land at Bwlch Coch, where we left it to follow a good track SW across the shoulder of Carn Gafallt. It is a matter of deciding where to strike out up the rough pathless slopes, and after threading our way through heathery and tussocky hillocks we reached the cairned summit, which was rather characterless under the grey skies but had a view down to Caban-coch reservoir dam.

Summit of Carn Gafallt
Summit of Carn Gafallt (21 May 2007__14:42:54)

It seemed easiest to return eastwards and descend S to the unfenced track, but a vague thin path soon appeared that meandered down SW to meet a fence. Following a cross fence down through the trees, there were huge numbers of 'abseiling caterpillars' dangling from their threads, and on reaching the track we were covered in them. These are the caterpillars of the oak leaf roller moth and the trees here were indeed all oaks. The track emerges on a lane and a short walk along is a surfaced bridleway that ascends on the R of a forest to the boundary of access land. Diverging S from the main track, a path climbs the cropped grass to the rocky outcrops of Crugian Bach and we continued southwards over pathless but easy terrain to cross the Nant y Gro and collect water. The grassy top of Gro Hill just beyond made a good pitch.

Day 2 - Claerwen, the Cerrigllwydion lakes & Carn Ricet

There were crystal clear views and a glowing dawn sky as we headed W over a minor rocky top and descended to the bridleway track alongside the forest. This leads down to Caban-coch reservoir and the historical buildings of Llannerch Cawr, whose architecture and history are described on an information board.

Dawn sky from Gro Hill
Dawn sky from Gro Hill (22 May 2007__06:38:38)
Caban-coch (22 May 2007__07:46:51)

The lane to Rhiwnant leads on to the bridleway along the wide and spacious Claerwen valley, a pleasant walk near the river with just one boggy area near the end to be circumvented on the L side. A footbridge at the far end gives access via some small enclosures to the valley road and visitor area (public toilets). A path climbs steeply up to the top of the dam wall and the first view of the huge Claerwen reservoir.

The gently undulating lakeside track along Claerwen is a very good walk, 6 miles long and presenting an ever changing aspect of the expanse of water and surrounding hills from its four side arms.

Afon Claerwen from below the dam
Afon Claerwen from below the dam (22 May 2007__09:25:22)
Claerwen (22 May 2007__10:37:32)
Lichen covered rock & Claerwen
Lichen covered rock & Claerwen (22 May 2007__11:23:44)
Claerwen (22 May 2007__11:28:28)

At the far end shortly after crossing the Ddwynant, a track branches off R and quickly fades out but asserts itself after a short steep climb L to the nose of the ridge. This is a very enjoyable and easy walk on the broad ridge of Esgair Cywion, with good views to Gorllwyn, Drygarn Fawr, Waun Claerddu and Domen Milwyn, while the foreshortened silvery shapes of the Teifi lakes could also be seen.

Directly ahead the little rocky ridge above the Cerrigllwydion lakes contrives to appear more impressive than it really is, but we left the track to walk alongside the ridge through the tussocky grass to the first lake Llyn Cerrigllwydion Uchaf. The green hut of Cerrigllwydion lies in a hollow above the lake and hidden from the track. Leaving our packs, we made an out-and-back walk below the rocky ribs following thin trods through the tussocks to the boggy shore of Llyn Cerrigllwydion Isaf. It has a rocky cliff on one side and a perched boulder at the far end, and there is a great feeling of remoteness here. Returning to the hut we picked up our packs and rejoined the track for another couple of miles to Carn Ricet, where we made a good pitch on the rough grass of the flat summit.

Llyn Cerrigllwydion Uchaf
Llyn Cerrigllwydion Uchaf (22 May 2007__15:17:41)
Llyn Cerrigllwydion Isaf
Llyn Cerrigllwydion Isaf (22 May 2007__15:28:55)

Day 3 - Cefn Bach & Garreg Lwyd

In the morning we unzipped the door to thick mist but there were hints of brightness as we resumed the track eastwards. There was a dull view of Graig Goch reservoir as we emerged from the thinning mist and left the track to join the road to Pont ar Elan (the track forges ahead directly across the wide river).

Esgair Rhiwlan and the Afon Elan
Esgair Rhiwlan and the Afon Elan (23 May 2007__08:06:46)

Cutting across the bends in the road on the far side, we walked down the road to join the good bridleway that climbs NNE near the Nant y Ffald to a saddle in the hills near Cefn Bach, a very pleasant area in the now sunny skies. From here an engineered track descends around the steep slopes with great views across the valley to arrive at Pen-yr-ochr farm.

Cefn Bach track
Cefn Bach track (23 May 2007__08:54:08)

A short walk along the lane is the A470 and the access track to the wind farm, an easy way to reach the high ground. After the second windmill we turned R at a track junction and headed towards Garreg Lwyd. On reaching a fence corner there are several vague trails diverging uphill and the summit is beyond the next fence, an area of short grass and outcroppings of rock with good views.

Moelfryn from Garreg Lwyd
Moelfryn from Garreg Lwyd (23 May 2007__11:15:49)

We headed E to join the public footpath across the fields which becomes a good track descending around the slopes of Yr Wylorn with great views into the valley below, similar to the Cefn Bach track. Near the bottom, rather than hairpinning round on the right-of-way to Pen Rhiw, we continued above the fence to its end to join the unfenced road.

A road crosses the river and climbs to the visitor centre where the WVW climbs to a high point above the valley with more grand views. From here the WVW leads directly back to Rhayader on quiet lanes.

Cefn Lletyhywel
Cefn Lletyhywel (23 May 2007__12:14:40)
Moelfryn from Wye Valley path
Moelfryn from Wye Valley path (23 May 2007__13:10:41)