Cambrian Mountains and Mid Wales Walks

Mid Wales is the Cinderella of welsh wildernesses. Overlooked due to vested interest for National Park status in the early 70s, most of wild Mid Wales is offered no protection as is given to Snowdonia and the Brecon Beacons that border the north and south of the area respectively. The Cambrian Mountains Society now fly the flag on protecting the Cambrian Mountains, which include the Elenydd and Pumlumon areas, and are campaigning for the area to be recognised as an AONB. This wilderness makes Mid Wales a good place for dark skies and stargazing, so there’s plenty to do if you visit Mid Wales.

Defining Mid Wales is rather difficult – so we’ve also included the counties of Powys and Ceredigion – as well as parts of South Snowdonia and the Berwyn hills that border the very northern end of this area. Someone somewhere will probably disagree!

Mid Wales boasts three official Long Distance Footpaths – The Wales Coast Path, Offa’s Dyke and Glyndwr’s Way which is entirely contained in Mid Wales. There are also a selection of routes such as the Severn Way that start in the area and the Cambrian Way that crosses the best of the Cambrian Mountains.

The Ceredigion Coast offers more variation to the walker visiting Mid Wales. Along the Ceredigion Coast Path, now a section of the all Wales Coast Path. This starts from Machynlleth (yes, that’s in Powys) and along to Borth, Aberystwyth and onwards south through to Aberaeron.

South Snowdonia is often included into Mid Wales. Cader Idris and Aran Fawddwy being the two main peaks in this area. Cader Idris is the more popular of the two, and one of the most popular mountains in Wales often climbed via the Minffordd Path.

The hills of the Berwyn range to the north of Powys is another mountain area offered no official protection. While the Clwydian Range to the north is protected as an AONB, there’s no such status to the Berwyn Range, and attempts to extend the Clwydian Range further south blocked by self-interest groups. There’s some good walking here – with the highest point of the Berwyn hills being Moel Sych at 827m in height. The Berwyn Hills can be walked from Llandrillo to the north, or the more remote Llanrhaeadr-ym-Mochnant to the south via the spectacular Pistyll Rhaeadr. The Tanat Valley and Llangynog have some wild walks and rambles, and is suitably quiet.

Llyn Efyrynwy (anglicised Vyrynwy) is a reservoir, to the south of the Berwyn hills nearl Llanwddyn, that has some walking trails and especially popular for bird watching.

The first part of the Cambrian Mountains proper is Pumlumon (meaning five peaks or summits) to the south of Machynlleth. Pumlumon, or more correctly Pumlumon Fawr is the highest summit in the Cambrian Mountains at 752m. Sometimes anglicised as Plynlimon – even Wikipedia is behind the curve on this one – you’ll only find place names that respect local language on Mud and Routes. Pumlumon is an expansive upland area that boasts the sources of the Afon Hafren (River Severn) , Afon Gwy (River Wye) and the Rheidiol. Pumlumon boasts some real wilderness areas, rarely visited. To the west there’s a reservoir, Nant-y-moch. The flooding of welsh valleys and the forced displacement of the local population to provide the industrial cities of Birmingham and Liverpool with water has long been controversial and a spark for welsh nationalism. One of the valleys to the north was the site of the Battle of Hyddgen – Glyndŵr’s most famous victorious battle, and another link to the tenuous independence of Wales which Glyndŵr aspired to and succeeded, if only for a few brief years. Pumlumon can be approached from all directions –with the direct approach from Eisteddfa Gurig being the most popular. From the North, it is a boggy drudge. From the Hafren Forest in the East you can visit the sources of the Severn first. However, the best approach is from Nant-y-Moch via Llyn Llygad Rheidol to the west, which at least provides some views that makes Pumlumon look like a mountain!

The other main area of the Cambrian Mountains is the Elenydd, which includes the Elan Valley. The highest point is Drygarn Fawr at 645m, which makes up for the lack of altitude with bags of remoteness and people often walk up Drygarn Fawr from Caban Coch Reservoir. Rhaeadr makes a practical base for visting the Elan Valley, sometimes known as the “Welsh Lake District” – though they are a chain of reservoirs rather than natural lakes. These are in no particular order; Caban Coch, Garreg-ddu, Penygarreg, Craig Goch, Claerwen and the tiny Dolymynach Reservoir. Large sections of the uplands here is run by the Elenydd Estate, as well as the visitor centre at Elan Village.

You could base yourself towards the western side of the Elenydd– in the Tywi Forest. There’s a cople of excellent wilderness hostels run by the Elenydd Wilderness Hostels here ar Dolgoch and Ty’n Cornel. Elenydd Wilderness Hostels are keeping the original ethos of youth hostelling alive by providing good accommodation and a base for outdoor activities in more remote and less commercially viable areas. Their website has a number of walks – which we’ll be adding to our database over time.

The Radnor Forest is is the final section of Mid Wales that has what we’d call a mountain – that is over 600m in height. Black Mixen is the highest point at 650m in height, which is included on this walk starting in Maesyfed (New Radnor) coveing most p. With more in common with the hills of Shropshire than Snowdonia, the hills of the Radnor Forest provide good walking nevertheless.

The Marches form the border area between Wales and England. Offa’s Dyke passes through the area and a number of border towns such as Kington and Knighton serve as bases for more sedate rambles as opposed to the rampant wilderness of Pumlumon and Elenydd.

So Mid Wales offers a wide range of excellent walking – take your pick below.

New Quay to Cwmtydu Ceredigion Coastal Walk

Walk along the Ceredigion coast from New Quay to Cwmtydu, returning along an inland route. The Route Visit the Ceredigion Coast Circular routes homepage here, or download the printable route leaflet here. Featured Image The beach below Castell Bach for SN3658   © Copyright Dave Croker and licensed for reuse under this Creative Commons Licence

Walk around Garreg Ddu Reservoir

Starting between Garreg Ddu and Caban Coch Reservoirs, this is a walk along the eastern side of the latter. The map outlines a suggested alternative return route. The Route Click here to view the full description and download a printable route guide and map. © Copyright Andrew Hill and licensed for reuse under this Creative Commons Licence

The Elan Valley Trail

Walk into the heart of the Elenydd along three reservoirs and ending at the fourth. If you love waterside walks, then this will appeal. Makes a good approach into the Elenydd from Rhayader if you’re going wild camping as well. This is wild terrain, but the route is easy enough and stays low on forestry …

The Elan Valley Trail Read More »

A Ramble up Gwaunceste Hill and Cwm Cest in the Radnor Forest

A steady walk around the rolling hills to the south of New Radnor to Gwaunceste Hill and the ancient byways through Cwm Cest. Click here to view the full description and download a printable route guide and map. Featured Image © Copyright Richard Webb and licensed for reuse under this Creative Commons Licence

The Across Wales Challenge Walk

Here’s an epic walking challenge that’s difficult, but with proper preparation, within the ability of a fit walker. The Across Wales Challenge Walk is a serious 73km challenge walk from the Welsh border to the sea, all undertook in 18 hours!. It starts off around 500m from Anchor, Shropshire, slap bang on the Wales-England border, with little …

The Across Wales Challenge Walk Read More »

Cwm Mynach From Penmaenpool

This is a straightforward walk, trail run or rough cycle starting from the George at Penmaenpool, or from the other side of the Mawddach (parking available further along the main road. You could easily extend the walk into the Rhinogydd or perhaps descend to Ganllwyd from the col (which at that point is the shortest …

Cwm Mynach From Penmaenpool Read More »

Y Gamriw from Llanwrthwl

The shortest of the three ‘mountains’ in the Elenydd region of the Cambrian Mountains that hit the magical 600m contour, though providing no less challenge or remoteness. Starting from the village of Llanwrthwl, this path crosses the National Trust’s Abergwesyn Commons and is not an easy clear path all the way! Navigational skills not optional. The Route …

Y Gamriw from Llanwrthwl Read More »

Craig Cnwch Walk from Elan Village

Not quite a wilderness walk, but takes you onto the Cambrian Mountains and gives you a taster of how empty and remote these hills are. The Route Click here to view the full description and download a printable route guide and map.   © Copyright Chris Gunns and licensed for reuse under this Creative Commons Licence

Walk Around Garn Dwad From Llanwrtyd Wells

A walk starting in the small town of Llanwrtyd Wells, walking around and almost to the top of the town’s own hill – Garn Dwad. Returning via a wooded valley and the local woollen mill. The Route Click here to view the full description and download a printable route guide and map.

Slate Valleys Path – Aberllefenni

Another route in the Corris area, this time further down the valley in Aberllefenni. The Route An easy walk along a quiet minor road with no through traffic and returning along forestry paths. The link to more information is here – http://www.visitsnowdonia.info/slate_valleys_paths-93.aspx Make sure you visit the pub in the village if you want some …

Slate Valleys Path – Aberllefenni Read More »