|OS Route Map →||GPX Route file →|
Date: 13 Jun 2023
Start: Llywernog / Finish: Machynlleth.
Maps: Explorer 023 : Cadair Idris / Llyn Tegid + Explorer 213 : Aberystwyth & Cwm Rheidol.
|Day 1||Llywernog & Y Garn||5.7miles / 1995 feet (9.2km / 608m)|
|Day 2||Pumlumon, Cwm Rheidol & Hyddgen||7.4miles / 1268 feet (11.9km / 386m)|
|Day 3||Bwlch y Groesen & Glanmerin||7.9miles / 758 feet (12.7km / 231m)|
A 3-day central route through the Pumlumon hills of mid Wales that traverses the mountain summits of Y Garn and Pumlumon, explores Cwm Rheidol and the remote valley of Hyddgen and finally picks up Glyndwr's Way (GW) through the northern hills for a descent to Machynlleth. A large proportion of the route is on good paths and tracks with only a very brief amount of rough terrain.
The route starts close to the rarely visited Llywernog Pond, east of the Bwlch Nant Yr Arian orienteering facility, and soon enters the deserted Pumlumon heartland. After the mountains of Y Garn and Pumlumon it crosses the Afon Hengwm and enters the Hyddgen valley with a splendid feeling of remoteness before ascending to the little known and tamer northern hills of the region.
The recent long spell of dry sunny weather was holding save for one very brief thundery evening and this route was an excellent choice, the modest ambitions and long daylight hours allowing plenty of time to walk slowly and relax in the heat of the afternoons and enjoy the expanse of this deserted area. We saw only one other person in the three days and that was from a distance very early in the morning, surprisingly descending from Pumlumon on the Eisteddfa Gurig path.
On the X47 bus we watched out for key landmarks approaching our bus stop (it was a nondescript point on the road with no physical stop sign), including the George Borrow hotel and the Red Kite cafe. A feeding event is hosted regularly here and as we alighted we quickly saw a couple of kites overhead. A short way up the road we took the good bridleway track around Llywernog Pond that continues as a vague and rarely trodden footpath to a gate into the Bwlch Nant Yr Arian site, passing an old cabin signed "Georges Retreat".
Inside the facility perimeter the walking is on easy tracks whose layout includes local signposted walks and some new cycle tracks. We kept a careful eye on the layout to select the correct track that exits the forested facility landscape at the north-eastern corner to enter the open heartland. We have often seen one or sometimes two red kites at any one time, but here there were dozens of them gliding low overhead.
The track gives very easy walking through this deserted area of spacious grassland with the Disgwlfa hills and Dinas hill fort as a backdrop, crossing the pass road and easily fording the Nant Dinas for a descent to the Afon Rheidol at Aber-Peithnant. We had a moment of alarm approaching the Rheidol when we thought the footbridge had gone but it just remains out of sight until the last minute.
We ascended to the valley road and walked northwards to pick up a good surfaced track south-eastwards that parallels the Ceunant Du stream. Where the track levels out at a gate, there is a discernible line of an old quad bike track down to the stream where we easily crossed to gain the foot of the south-western slopes of Y Garn.
The long climb alongside the forest fence was very slow in the heat but the cooling breeze increased with height to assist. There is a thin path to follow most of the way to the uppermost slopes, but the terrain is easy near the top and we finally gained the ancient cairn that crowns the summit. There were good views over the Nant-y-moch reservoir to the sea that later gave a colourful picture of the warm light of sunset on the waters.
The cooling breeze had strengthened into a brisk and chilly wind as we pitched for the night.
The wind rattled the tent all night but it guaranteed no midges as we broke camp and captured a pleasing view of Nant-y-moch below. We headed eastwards by the forest fence to its corner and took the path on the western side of the fence northwards towards Pumlumon. The path leads directly to the trig point and ancient cairns with more clear views of distant mountains. We walked over to the cairn at the north end and descended the path towards the small rise of Pumlumon Fach.
From Pumlumon Fach we retraced our steps to the bwlch where a good path, not shown on our mapping, descends into Cwm Rheidol and arrives at the reservoir access track. This was our first visit to this lake and the views of the cwm were very fine today in the morning sunshine.
We descended on the access track above the Nant y Llyn to the point where it turns westwards. Here we surveyed the slopes for options to continue by the stream: the terrain ahead looked awful. On the map the public footpath on the far side shows no physical line on the ground, but we could see clear evidence of a path from here, so we decided to brave the badass terrain and make the crossing - at least it would be very short. We reached the thin path and followed it down to the bridge over the Afon Hengwm. This desolate confluence of the Hengwm and Hyddgen infant rivers has a wonderful atmosphere of remoteness.
A short walk westwards gains another very good track northwards into the deserted Afon Hyddgen valley, easy walking flanked by Banc Llechwedd-mawr to the west and Carn Hyddgen to the east. At the high point we branched off westwards to the bridge over the Afon Hyddgen and through the Hyddgen enclosure buildings to resume the track ascending the slopes of Bryn Moel, now a braided peaty affair but still easy in these dry conditions. Looking back over Hyddgen, the twin cairns atop Carn Hyddgen can be seen.
The path crosses the upper fence at a gate and later joins another good track beside Foel Uchaf. A short walk northwards after this point we made our pitch.
At dawn it was quite warm already as we broke camp and resumed the track around Bwlch Hyddgen, a fine morning promenade in the early light with good views of the surprisingly precipitous upper slopes of the forested areas. We entered Pen y Darren forest for a steep descent on a slaty path known as The Chute with a notice at the top warning mountain cyclists of a tricky manoeuvre ahead. There are pleasing views from these sections.
At the bottom of The Chute the GW joins from the right and we followed the trail from there to Machynlleth. Lower down when we had stopped for eats, a local sheep farmer passed us on his quadbike with three loud excitable dogs on the back. They were all softies of course when he stopped for a brief chat but they failed to charm any of our goodies from us.
The GW descent to Machynlleth took us by a good scenic route with a view to the Tarrens, but not without making us climb a bit more on the way.