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Itinerary

Wales Way - Central Cambrian Mountains Tour

The central Mid Wales uplands provide one of the most beautiful landscapes in the UK. Running from north to south, the Cambrian Mountains straddle the counties of Powys and Ceredigion and are often described as the backbone of Wales.

This one day tour starts in Rhayader and the nearby Elan Valley. The 70 square mile Elan Valley Estate has five reservoirs and is popular with people who come to see the spectacular scenery, which is ideal for walkers, cyclists and bird watchers.

From the Elan Valley, you then travel on the scenic mountain road to Devil's Bridge. This route across the top of the Cambrian Mountains is a spectacular drive in itself, through abandoned slate and copper mining areas and you will be sure to see Red Kites flying overhead.

At Devils Bridge a visit to the famous Devil's Bridge Falls is a must and then on to Bwlch Nant yr Arian on the A44 for a stroll through the forest and well-deserved afternoon tea in the cafe.

Leaving Nant yr Arian you can turn right to take you on to Aberystwyth and the Mid Wales coast or turn left towards Llangurig and travel back to your starting point in Rhayader

Morning

Rhayader is a busy, historic market town, named after 'Rhayadr Gwy' a Welsh name for a local waterfall on the Wye. It's where the A44 meets the A470 in the heart of the Cambrian Mountains and the gateway to the Elan Valley. local attractions include the Welsh Royal Crystal, the Rhayader Museum and Gallery and Gigrin Red Kite Feeding Centre.

From Rhayader its a short drive to the Elan Valley and you should allow around 2 hours to explore all the historic reservoirs and dams. The Visitor Centre is a great starting point and you can opt for a guided tour of the historic dams & reservoirs, pick up a map of the area, hire a bike or drive and explore this beautiful area before lunch at the visitor centre cafe or stop for a picnic lunch on the way.

Rhaeadr Gwy | Rhayader
Elan Valley Visitor Centre at Cwm Elan | Elan Valley
 

Lunch

The Elan Valley Visitor centre which has a large cafe on site or take your own picnic lunch and stop at one of the extensive stops around the area.
Elan Valley Visitor Centre Cafe at Cwm Elan | Elan Valley
 

Afternoon

From the Elan Valley we suggest that you take the scenic mountain route to Devil's Bridge (along the B4574). This is a stunning driving route across the Cambrian Mountains uplands and you will see ancient silver, lead & zinc mine workings from times past and red kites and in the skies above.

Reaching Devil's Bridge is the Rheidol Gorge (home to the famous Devil’s Bridge Falls), whose famous admirers include William Wordsworth, and nearby Cwmystwyth, home to the oldest mine in the UK, dating back some 4,000 years.

Your next stop is Bwlch Nant yr Arian Visitor Centre, well-known for its long established tradition of daily feeding of red kites, Wales’s National Bird of Prey.

You could consider a Cambrian Safaris Tour and sit back and experience the area through the eyes of a local guide or treat yourself to a trip on the Vale of Rheidol Steam Railway which will take you to Aberystwyth through the peaceful landscapes of the Rhiedol Valley.

Its now time for your return journey on the A44 back to Rhayader - with the highest concentration of pubs per capita in the UK your can be sure to find somewhere for a quiet evening meal to end the day.
Pontarfynach | Devil's Bridge
The Legend of Devils Bridge at Devil's Bridge Waterfalls & Nature Trail
Bwlch Nant yr Arian Forest Visitor Centre at Bwlch Nant yr Arian Visitor Centre
Cambrian Safaris Tours
Vale of Rheidol Railway

 

Morning: Rhaeadr Gwy | Rhayader

Address

Powys
LD6 5BU

Contact Details

Rhayader is a busy, historic market town, named after 'Rhayadr Gwy' a Welsh name for a local waterfall on the Wye. It is actually the very first town on the banks of the beautiful River Wye and has long been an important centre for the surrounding farming community with its flourishing livestock market.

Rhayader is said to be the oldest town in mid Wales. Sitting in the shadow of the Cambrian Mountains at the upper end of the Elan Valley, Rhayader has a long history as a market town. Because of its location at a natural crossroads between east, west, north and south, Rhayader has welcomed travellers for centuries. In days gone by it was a very important staging post, especially for the London to Aberystwyth route. The mountain road from Rhayader to Cymystwyth is described by the AA as being one of the top 10 most scenic in the world.

This lively market town is a great base for exploring the surrounding countryside and the town boasts lovely riverside walks, cycle routes and is the home to Welsh Royal Crystal. Water has always played an important role in the town and today visitors flock to the nearby Elan Valley where Victorian engineers created a series of magnificent dams and reservoirs as a water supply for the City of Birmingham some 70 miles away. Gigrin Farm, just outside the town, is a designated Red Kite feeding area, and visitors can watch the breathtaking aerial feats of these beautiful birds who have returned from the point of extinction in Wales.

LOCAL HISTORY & CULTURE
The town dates back to the 5th century, although Prehistoric evidence suggests earlier Bronze Age and Roman Settlements in the area. In 1177, the Lord Rhys of Deheubarth constructed a castle in the town, which sat at the very edge of his lands in order to resist Norman invaders, and in 1194 he rebuilt it, making it stronger and more durable to invasions. This castle was known as the Castle of Gwrtheyrnion, and like many castles in Wales passed hands between various Welsh princes and lords and the Norman invaders innumerable times until it was destroyed by fire in 1231 by soldiers from North Wales.

During the 18th and 19th century sheep and cattle drovers crossing the Cambrian Mountains on their journey towards the English market towns of Banbury, Hereford and London would often stop at Rhayader for lodging and provisions.

Its strategic position in the heartlands of Wales and at a crossroads meant that during the 19th century, no fewer than six toll gates were placed on the roads in and out of the town. This made journeys bringing animals into market expensive and became a real burden on the hard lives of the poor. When prices of stock fell and harvests were poor, these tolls became an impossible burden. As a result, between 1839 and 1844 the area witnessed mass rioting (known as the Rebecca Riots) when local people, angered by the increasing financial pressure followed a group of local tenant farmers and workers who dressed as women, known as Rebecca and her daughters. It is thought that the idea for disguise came from the Bible. In Genesis Rebecca recommended that some "possess the gates of those which hate them".

Directions

By Car: Main A470 from north or south Wales and A44 from Leominster

Public Transport Information - www.traveline.cymru

Prices and opening

Free entry
 

Morning: Elan Valley Visitor Centre at Cwm Elan | Elan Valley

Address

Nr Rhayader
Powys
LD6 5HP

Contact Details

Tel: 01597 810880
** THE VISITOR CENTRE IS NOW CLOSED UNTIL FURTHER NOTICE IN LINE WITH UK WIDE EFFORTS TO DELAY THE SPREAD OF CORONAVIRUS **

The Elan Valley Visitor Centre is the perfect place to start a visit to the area. The Visitor Centre includes an exhibition (which shows the history and natural history of the area), an audio-visual show, information desk, shop and cafe, toilets, children's play area, cycle hire, large picnic area and a large car and coach parking area. Well behaved dogs are welcome in the Visitor Centre.

The Visitor Centre provides easy disabled access. For further information visit: http://www.elanvalley.org.uk

Directions

By Car: The Elan Valley is 3 miles from the town of Rhyader on an unclassified road leading from the B4518. The town of Rhyader is crossed by the main A470 (North/South) and A44 (East) roads.

By Public Transport: Rhayader has no train station (the nearest being Llandrindod Wells) but is connected by a local bus network. The Elan Valley is connected by local public transport via Rhayader on request/pre-booking ONLY.

www.traveline-cymru.info

Prices and opening

Free entry
Open all the time. The Elan Valley Visitor Centre is open 7 days a week 9am - 5pm until Sunday 3rd November 2019
From Monday 4th November until 1st April 2020 we will be open 7 days a week 10am - 4.30pm
We are closed on Christmas Day

Opening details

Season DatesOpening Hours
NotesThe Elan Valley Visitor Centre is open 7 days a week 9am - 5pm until Sunday 3rd November 2019
From Monday 4th November until 1st April 2020 we will be open 7 days a week 10am - 4.30pm
We are closed on Christmas Day
 

Lunch: Elan Valley Visitor Centre Cafe at Cwm Elan | Elan Valley

Address

Nr Rhayader
Powys
LD6 5HP

Contact Details

Tel: 01597 810880
** THE VISITOR CENTRE & CAFE IS NOW CLOSED UNTIL FURTHER NOTICE IN LINE WITH UK WIDE EFFORTS TO DELAY THE SPREAD OF CORONAVIRUS **

The Visitor Centre cafe has a spacious seating area with windows all around to enjoy the wonderful view of the River Elan and Caban Coch Dam. There is a patio area with picnic tables for people wishing to sit outside in fine weather. Well behaved dogs are welcome in the café.

The cafe serves a range of meals, including breakfasts, light snacks and main meals. Welsh cakes, bara brith and many other cakes are baked on the premises. Last orders for food are taken at 4pm in summer and 3pm in winter.

There is also a well stocked gift shop with a wide range of useful maps, books, toys, locally sourced crafts and souvenirs.

Coaches are welcome to use the cafe, but it is important that you contact the centre prior to arrival if you are planning a visit so that delays can be kept to a minimum. For further information visit: http://www.elanvalley.org.uk

Directions

By Car: The Elan Valley is 3 miles from the town of Rhyader on an unclassified road leading from the B4518. The town of Rhyader is crossed by the main A470 (North/South) and A44 (East) roads.

By Public Transport: Rhayader has no train station (the nearest being Llandrindod Wells) but is connected by a local bus network. The Elan Valley is connected by local public transport via Rhayader on request/pre-booking ONLY.

www.traveline-cymru.info

Prices and opening

Free entry
 

Afternoon: Pontarfynach | Devil's Bridge

Address

Ceredigion
SY23 3JW

Contact Details

Tel: 01970 612125
The village of Devil's Bridge, which translated in Welsh is Pontarfynach, means 'The bridge on the Mynach' and recently featured in the BBC detective series 'Hinterland /Y Gwyll'.

Devils Bridge is internationally famous for its waterfalls and narrow gauge Steam Railway. The village is situated at the head of the Rheidol Valley amidst the Pumlumon massif in the heart of the Cambrian Mountains. Nearby Pen Pumlumon Fawr, at 752 metres (2,467ft) is the highest peak in the Cambrian Mountains Range and the area is well-known for its forest and mountain walks.

Two rushing streams, the Mynach and Rheidol, descend dramatically into a gorge below the village where over time three different bridges have been built, one on top of the other. Visitors can enjoy several footpaths and walks to view the bridges and waterfalls. The bridge is at a point where the River Mynach drops 90 metres (300 ft) in 5 steps down a steep and narrow ravine before it meets the River Rheidol. The set of stone steps leading down to the lowest bridge at the waterfall are known as Jacob's Ladder.

Devil's Bridge has its own railway station on the historic narrow gauge Vale of Rheidol Railway, which opened between Aberystwyth and Devil's Bridge in 1902.

HISTORY & CULTURE
According to the legend the original bridge was built by the Devil, as it was too difficult for mortals to build. The agreement stipulated that the Devil would build the bridge in return for the soul of the first life to cross the bridge. The Devil built the bridge but was tricked by an old woman who threw bread onto the bridge. Her dog crossed the bridge for the bread, thus becoming the first life to cross the new bridge.

Devil's Bridge has been a tourist attraction for centuries. The celebrated English author George Borrow wrote Wild Wales (1854), which includes a lively, humorous account of his visit to Pontarfynach and a 17th century inn where Borrow reputedly stayed during his visit, is located nearby.

The area was once part of the Hafod Estate owned by Thomas Johnes. Johnes built a small hunting lodge on the estate which, after several expansions and upgrades, is now operated as the Hafod Hotel. For further information visit: http://www.devilsbridgefalls.co.uk/

Directions

Devil's Bridge is located on the A4120 (Aberystwyth - Ponterwyd) road. It is in close proximity to the A44 (from the east) and the A487 coast road at Aberystwyth.

The nearest mainline railway station is at Aberystwyth; however the Vale of Rheidol narrow gauge railway terminates in Devil's Bridge.
 

Afternoon: The Legend of Devils Bridge at Devil's Bridge Waterfalls & Nature Trail

Address

Devils Bridge
Aberystwyth
Ceredigion
SY23 3JW

Contact Details

Tel: 01970 890233
One day in the olden times, old Megan of Llandunach stood by the side of the river Mynach feeling very sorry for herself. The Mynach was in flood, and roared down the wooded dingle in five successive falls. Just below where Megan was standing there was a great cauldron in which the water whirled, boiled and hissed as if troubled by some evil spirit.

Now Megans' concern was for her one and only cow which was on the wrong side of the ravine. How the wrong headed animal had got there Megan could not guess, and still less did she know how to get it back.

"What is the matter Megan?" said a voice behind her.

She turned round and saw a man cowled like a monk. She had not heard anyone coming, but the noise of the waters boiling over and through the rocks, she reflected, might easily have drowned the sound of any footsteps.

"I am ruined," said Megan. "There is my one and only cow, the sole support of my old age, on the other side of the river, and I don't know how to get her back again. Oh dear, dear, I am ruined."

"Don't you worry," said the monk. "I'll get her back for you. It is one of my amusements to build bridges, and if you like, I'll throw a bridge across this chasm for you."

"Well indeed," said the old woman, "nothing would please me better. But how am I to pay you? I am sure you will want a great deal for a job like this."

"I am very easily satisfied," said the monk. "Just let me have the first living creature that crosses the bridge after I have finished it, and I shall be content."

Megan agreed to this and the monk told her to return to her cottage and wait there until he should call for her. Now, Megan was not half such a fool as she looked, and she had noticed, while talking to the kind and obliging stranger, there was something rather peculiar about his foot. She had a suspicion, too, that his knees were behind instead of being in front, and while she was waiting to be summoned, she thought so hard that it made her head ache. By the time she was halloed for, she had hit upon a plan. She threw some crusts to her little dog to make him follow her, and took a loaf of bread under her shawl to the riverside.

"There's a bridge for you," said the monk, pointing proudly to a fine span bestriding the yawning chasm.

"Hmm, yes," said Megan, looking doubtfully at it. "Yes, it is a bridge. But is it strong?"

"Strong?" said the builder, indignantly. "Of course it is strong."

"Will it hold the weight of this loaf?" asked Megan, bringing the bread out from underneath her shawl.

The monk laughed scornfully, "Hold the weight of this loaf? Throw it on and see. Ha, ha."

So Megan rolled the loaf right accross the bridge, and the little black cur scampered after it.
"Yes, it will do," said Megan. "And, kind sir, my little dog is the first live creature to cross the bridge. You are welcome to him, and I thank you very much for all the trouble you have taken."

"Tut, the silly dog is no good to me!" seethed the stranger, and with that he vanished into thin air!

From the smell of brimstone which he had left behind him, Megan knew that, as she had suspected, it was the Devil whom she had outwitted!
And that is how the Bad Man's Bridge came to be built.......... For further information visit: http://www.devilsbridgefalls.co.uk

Directions

Devils bridge waterfalls are located on the A4120 (Aberystwyth - Ponterwyd) road. It is in close proximity to the A44 (from the east) and the A487 coast road at Aberystwyth.
The nearest Mainline railway station is at Aberystwyth, however the Vale of Rheidol narrow gauge railway terminates in Devils Bridge.

www.traveline-cymru.info

Prices and opening

Waterfalls:
Adult £3.75
Child (age 5-16) £2.00
Child under 5 Free
Student £3.00
Senior Citizen £3.00

Punchbowl:
Per person: £1.00

Opening details

Season DatesOpening Hours
NotesOpen all year by turnstile
Attendant at entrance from 9:45 to17:00 Easter to end of October
(please note - attendant hours may vary slightly depending on high or low season).
Groups welcome during attendant hours.
 

Afternoon: Bwlch Nant yr Arian Forest Visitor Centre at Bwlch Nant yr Arian Visitor Centre

Address

Bwlch Nant yr Arian Visitor Centre
Ponterwyd
Aberystwyth
Ceredigion
SY23 3AB

Contact Details

Tel: 0300 065 5470
Bwlch Nant yr Arian Visitor Centre sits at the head of a dramatic valley and has commanding views of Cardigan Bay and the Cambrian Mountains.

The visitor centre is the starting point for a range of waymarked trails for walkers, mountain bikers, runners and horse riders. It is well-known for its long established tradition of daily feeding of red kites, Wales’s National Bird of Prey.

The range of trails include:
three waymarked walking trails of different lengths which all offer great views.

three of the finest mountain bike trails in Wales, famous for long singletrack runs and superb views.

skills park with purpose-built track for mountain bikers to practise their technique.

two running trails with flat sections, climbs and a variety of surfaces.

four orienteering courses ranging from beginner level to a more challenging option for experienced orienteers.
a way-marked circular trail for horse riders via forest tracks, paths and quiet tarmac roads.

The café serves fresh, locally sourced produce daily and the menu includes succulent pork sausages and tasty venison or beef burgers, homemade soups and a delicious choice of cakes.

There are two play areas, one for toddlers and one for older children.

The toddlers’ play area is for children aged between three and six years. It has a safety-surfaced play zone and easy access for parents, pushchairs and young children. The equipment includes two toddler swings and a purpose built unit with a slide, climbing wall, climbing net and ladder.

The Dizzy Heights Play Area is for children aged six years and older. It has a wood chip surface, two giant basket swings, an orangutan climbing frame and a purpose-built section with slide, climbing wall, rope ladder, fireman's pole and climbing net.

All of the play equipment is of robust timber construction which blends in with the forest surroundings.

Discovery backpack
You can borrow a free discovery backpack at the visitor centre and discover more of the great outdoors.

Each backpack contains useful goodies like binoculars, a magnifying glass, a bug pot and nature identification cards along with a guide explaining how to use them.

Please note:
Sometimes we need to close or divert trails for your safety whilst we undertake maintenance work or forest operations.
Occasionally we may have to close a site in extreme weather, such as high winds or snow and ice due to the risk of injury to visitors or staff.
Please always follow any instructions onsite and make sure you follow any temporary diversion signs in place.

Please see the Bwlch Nant yr Arian update on our Bwlch Nant yr Arain web page for the latest information.
For further information visit: https://naturalresources.wales/bwlchnantyrarian?lang=en

Directions

Bwlch Nant yr Arian Forest Visitor Centre is nine miles east of Aberystwyth on the A44.

The nearest train station is Aberystwyth.

OS Grid Reference: SN 717 813

Prices and opening

Open all the time. Visitor Centre open 10am until 5pm daily
Visitor centre Cafe is open 10am to 5pm (hot food is served between 10am and 3pm).
Red Kite Feeding - the red kites are fed by the lake every day at 2pm in winter (GMT) and at 3pm in summer (BST).

Opening details

Season DatesOpening Hours
NotesVisitor Centre open 10am until 5pm daily
Visitor centre Cafe is open 10am to 5pm (hot food is served between 10am and 3pm).
Red Kite Feeding - the red kites are fed by the lake every day at 2pm in winter (GMT) and at 3pm in summer (BST).
 

Afternoon: Cambrian Safaris Tours

Address

Devil's Bridge
Ceredigion
SY23 3JL

Contact Details

Tel: 01974 261425
Cambrian Safaris provide excursions into the heart of the Cambrian Mountains in a Land Rover Discovery. The tours are designed to be flexible and the Mid Wales area is beautifully diverse for spectacular touring and fantastic views, scenery, local history and wildlife.

Cambrian Safaris aim is to show you places you will want to go back to again and again. Your guide has extensive knowledge of the local area and will adjust every tour to your interests. Examples include:

Tours of the 'Hinterland' - Ceredigion uplands including locations used in the BBC series 'Y Gwyll' ('Hinterland').
Tours of the 'Picturesque' historic estates of the Ystwyth Valley and surrounding area.
Tours of the Cambrian Mountains byroads and the Elan Valley.
Tours can include a selection of old mines, Churches and Chapels or other historic sites and will always pass a variety of small lakes and reservoirs.

Some tours may include driving rough tracks where permission has been obtained. If you want a predominantly "off road" trip please ask. (Trips individually priced) For further information visit: http://www.cambriansafaris.co.uk

Directions

We will pick you up from your accommodation or arrange a meeting point.

Prices and opening

Prices depend upon choice of tour number of people and start point.
see https://www.cambriansafaris.co.uk/tours for a price guide.Open all the time.
 

Afternoon: Vale of Rheidol Railway

Address

Park Avenue
Aberystwyth
Ceredigion
SY23 1PG

Contact Details

Tel: 01970 625819
All aboard the Vale of Rheidol by narrow gauge steam train. An unforgettable journey from Aberystwyth to Devil's Bridge, through the beautiful Rheidol Valley and sit back, relax on a nostalgic journey through the spectacular Mid Wales countryside.

Hop aboard at Aberystwyth and watch the scenery passing by your window. You will soon see the countryside change travelling through wide open fields, ancient woodland and rugged mountain scenery as the line twists and turns, clinging to the hillside to reach Devil's Bridge - home of the famous Mynach Falls and Devil's Punchbowl.

Look out for birds of prey such as red kites and buzzards soaring high above the valley floor and listen to the sound of the narrow gauge steam engine working hard on the climb into the hills.

Opened in 1902, the railway is a masterpiece of engineering and has been delighting passengers young and old for generations. Although the line no longer carries lead ore from the mines it has been carrying holidaymakers to the beauty spot of Devil's Bridge for over a hundred years!

The railway is a registered charity, dedicated to preserving the heritage railway for future generations to enjoy. The historic coal fired steam locomotives and vintage carriages were built by the Great Western Railway in the 1920s and 30s and are now fully restored.

CHARTER A TRAIN
Yes you really can hire a whole train! You can charter your own private excursion along the scenic Rheidol Valley on board the Vale of Rheidol Railway

SHOP & CAFE
The Railway Shop is located at Aberystwyth Station and sells a range of railway books, gifts and souvenirs including the popular Thomas the Tank Engine ranges as well as hot and cold drinks, snacks and ice creams and the online shop is also available and stocks a wide range of books with more titles and products being added all the time.

The 'Two Hoots Cafe' is located at the Devil's Bridge Station and is open for light refreshments when the train is running.

ABERYSTWYTH STATION
"Wales to the World" - All change at Aberystwyth Station with the building of a new station and multifunction display facility at our Aberystwyth station. The £1.6 million project started in late 2018 and will finish at the end of 2020; see https://www.rheidolrailway.co.uk/project.htm for all the details.

The 12 mile journey takes 1 hour in each direction. See timetables for departure times.

The railway offers advance bookings through its website, but there is also the option to purchase tickets from the Booking Office on the day of travel. Passengers may upgrade to the the First Class Observation Saloon for a small charge.

Dogs are very welcome on the railway and can travel in all Third Class carriages. A dog rover ticket costs £3.00.

The railway can carry bicycles although owing to space limitations on certain popular trains, please contact us in advance so we can reserve space. For further information visit: https://www.rheidolrailway.co.uk

Directions

By Public Transport: The Vale of Rheidol Railway is located in the centre of Aberystwyth and is a short walk from the mainline railway and bus stations.

By Road: The Railway has a large car park off Park Avenue/Boulevard St Brieuc near the Park & Ride site and the SAT NAV Postcode is SY23 1PG.

Please note that if you start your journey at Devil's Bridge, car parking is adjacent to the station platform. SAT NAV: SY23 3JL

Prices and opening

You can save money by helping us to preserve this historic railway! By choosing the Donation Fare, you make an additional voluntary donation of 10%, and in return we will give you a voucher worth 12% of the total amount paid, to spend in our Gift Shops or Two Hoots café.

2020 Return Fares with Gift Aid: Adult £26.00, Child (3 - 15) £11.00, Family (1 + 2), £40.70 Family (2 + 2) £60.50. Children aged 2 years old and under travel FREE.

For non-gift aid, prices are £23.60, £10.00, £37.00 & £55.00 respectively.

Dogs are welcome. The dog rover fare is £4.00 per hound. Small bicycles may be conveyed for £6.00. Restrictions may apply at busy periods – please telephone our Booking Office in advance on:01970 625819.


Opening details

Season DatesOpening Hours
NotesSee website for train times. Please aim to arrive at least 20 minutes before the scheduled departure time in order to purchase tickets and board the train.