The Cambrian Way Long Distance Path
By Dave Roberts
on May 22, 2020 5/5 (4)
The Cambrian Way Long Distance Path
The Cambrian Way stretches from Cardiff in the south to Conwy in the north and traverses almost every bit of high ground you’d want to in between! Not yet an official route, but lets hope it will be one day.
Originally planned as a national trail, linked to the opening of the Cambrian Mountain National Park but neither happened.
Large sections of the Cambrian Way are pathless – and isn’t way-marked so you’ll really need to know your way across a mist covered moor or mountain if you’re even going to consider this.
Where does the Cambrian Way Start and Finish:Caerdydd / Cardiff - Conwy
Cambrian Way Weather Forecast:
Where is the Cambrian Way ?
The Cambrian Way is in Wales, crossing the Cambrian Mountains from Cardiff to Conwy.
How long will it take to walk the Cambrian Way ?
The itinerary outlined below is taken from the official Guide Book – The Cambrian Way by A.J. Drake. This divides the route into 18 days, but you could follow this link for an 11 day itinerary, or take a few rest days.
How Long is the Cambrian Way ?
A whopping 479 kilometres or 291 miles in old money.
How hard is it to complete the Cambrian Way ?
This is more challening than the official National Trails. The only one that compares for distance is the SW Coast Path, but the Cambrian Way follows rough and pathless sections as well as long sections that require wild camping.
Recommended Cambrian Way Maps:
Cambrian Way Highlights:
Too many to list! This walk is a who’s who of welsh mountains. Scaling most of the Brecon Beacons, Pumlumon and the hills of Snowdonia from the Rhinogydd to Snowdon, the Glyderau and Carnedd Llywelyn.
What’s Public Transport Like on the Cambrian Way ?
While some sections might be doable by public transport, it would not be practical in most sections. There are railway stations at the start and the finish, with train stations at Machynlleth….. in between if you wanted to walk this LDP in stages.
The Cambrian Way Long Distance Path Ordnance Survey Map and GPX File Download
Download file for GPS
The Cambrian Way Long Distance Path
The Cambrian Way is an unofficial long distance trail that travels the length of Wales from Cardiff to Conwy in the north. It crosses a significant number of Welsh mountains and a lot of remote and rugged terrain. Unlike the Pennine Way, there isn’t a clear trail all the way and sections of the Cambrian Way are pure mountain walks. What else would you expect from a trail named after the spine of mountains that stretch from North to South Wales?
The Cambrian Way Long Distance Footpath was conceived as one of the UK’s National Trails, to complement the likes of the Pennine Way, Offa’s Dyke and the Pembrokeshire Coast Path. Considering that the Cambrian Mountains were at the time planned to become Wales’ 4th National Park, it seemed fitting to have a national trail that passed through the three mountainous National Parks. The process to create the Cambrian Mountains National Park was started in 1965, and was ultimately thwarted by vested interest – with more details here. It was during this process that Tony Drake, in 1968, proposed the Cambrian Way. However as it was largely over open mountainside with no official right of way, which was essential for a National Trail, that the plan was abandoned in 1982. Despite the fact that the ground it crosses is now Access Land – there is still no plan to bring the Cambrian Way into the National Trails family.
With this in mind, a lot of the Cambrian Way was designed when there was an actual network of Youth Hostels in Wales, rather than at the more popular sections and these days some sections are questionable. The alternative guidebook mentioned above – A Cambrian Way by Richard Sale, was to be an official guide of sorts but was renamed and released anyway. It offers an alternative route over Pumlumon that takes in Machynlleth rather than a more easterly direction via Commins Coch that seems to cause more logistical issues than anything else. We walked the section from Machynlleth to Barmouth a few years ago, and our Not the Cambrian Way – Mach to Bermo – proved to be a hit.
However, it seems this trail is finally getting the love it deserves after Ramblers Cymru decided to update the route in 2019. The changes made are minor and a sensible update on Drake’s original route, bringing the route into the 21st Century.
The description below divides the Cambrian Way up into 18 sections, which are far from equal, but roughly follow the stages suggested in Drake’s ‘official’ guidebook. The new Cicerone guidebook, which is the new official guide, breaks the trail down into 21 sections, but you can see from the distance of a few of the legs below that you may well need to break them down into two sections or treat them as a single section with an overnight wild camp
As already mentioned, some sections are clearly best completed over 2 days, so the route could easily take 3 weeks to complete.
The Cambrian Way Daily Stages
Cambrian Way Stage 1 – Caerdydd to Risca
Height Gained – 830 metres , Distance – 30.5 km, Time –8 hours+
The first section of the Cambrian way takes you from Cardiff to Risca. This varies slightly from the guidebook route and instead follows the Taff Trail from Caerdydd to Castell Coch as it is much easier to follow and avoids the Coryton Interchange. From Castell Coch, the route follows the Rhymney Valley Ridgeway Footpath, intermittently until you end the day on Mynydd Mechen before the final descent to Risca.
Cambrian Way Stage 2 – Risca to Y Fenni (Abergavenny)
Height Gained – 1060 metres , Distance – 33km, Time –8 hours+
Day two of the Cambrian Way ascends from Risca up to the hill fort of Twmbarlwm and on along Mynydd Henllys. Descending to Pontypool, the Cambrian Way finally enters the Brecon Beacons National park before a final ascent over the hill of Blorenge before arriving at Abergavenny.
Cambrian Way Stage 3 -Y Fenni (Abergavenny) To Capel-y-ffin
Height Gained – 1060 metres , Distance – 21.5 km, Time – 8 hours
Now you’re finally in the Brecon Beacons, there’s a steady ascent up Y Fâl (Sugarloaf) from where views open up into the Black Mountains. You’ll get to climb most of those over the coming days. This section finishes off with an ascent over Bâl Mawr and Chwarel y Fan before descending to Capel y Ffin. This is a strange choice as Llanthony is a few kms down the road with a couple of pubs and a bunkhouse, and would make more logistical sense to descend here.
Cambrian Way Stage 4- Capel-y-ffin to Crug Hywel / Crickhowell
Height Gained – 930 metres , Distance – 27 km, Time –6-7 hours
From the heart of the Black Mountains, you set off to climb Lord Hereford’s Knob, or Twmpa, before a long but pleasant ridge walk to Crug Hywel (Crickhowell), practically where you stared off from yesterday! The walk takes you to the highest point so far, over the 810m high summit of Waun Fach.
Cambrian Way Stage 5 – Crug Hywel / Crickhowell to Storey Arms
Height Gained – 1700 metres , Distance – 34 km, Time –9 hours+
The fifth day sees the Cambrian Way take on some serious distance and ascent as you tackle main summits of the Brecon Beacons – you’re in for a treat. The initial section is over the largely pathless Mynydd Llangynidr before the relatively easier terrain of the main Brecon Beacons is reached. The highlight is the walk over Fan y Big, Cribyn and Pen y Fan. You’ll need to work out some form of transport for accommodation for the night, or walk the 2km or so to the YHA Brecon Beacons down the road (on top of an already tough day!)
Cambrian Way Stage 6 – Storey Arms – Llanymddyfri
Height Gained – 1600 metres , Distance – 38.5 km, Time –10 hours+
The sixth section is somewhat tough if attempted in one day! However, the new route takes in the village of Glyntawe which splits sections into two days of 19km and 30km. Setting off across mainly pathless terrain with a river to ford and a hell of a distance to cover, you’d better get up early. That’s before you reach the highlight of crossing Fan Brycheiniog before a long descent to the end of the walk.
This would mark the end of the South Wales section, and with a railway station at Llanymdyfri, this would be one of the recommended spot to break the Cambrian Way into multiple sections, with the Mid Wales and Snowdonia Sections to follow.
Cambrian Way Stage 7 Llanymddyfri to Rhandirmwyn
Height Gained – 300 metres , Distance – 11 km, Time –3 hours
The first day of the Mid Wales section is a shorter day, as the previous was extended – but you could continue the walk to the Hostel at Ty’n Cornel in order to make these two days more even. Rhandirmwyn has a welcome pub, the Royal Oak, which provides accommodation and food.
Cambrian Way Stage 8 –Rhandirmwyn to Strata Florida
Height Gained – 1060 metres , Distance – 31 km, Time –9 hours+
The trail is now starting to live up to it’s name by beginning the crossing of what are generally known as the Cambrian Mountains. This section has a lengthy stretch along old tracks and the Doethie, past the hostel at Ty’n Cornel and then over pathless moors to the runied abbey at Ystrad Fflyr (Strata Florida). Again – the path leaves you stranded, with the walker either needing to camp high or add 4 wasteful kilometres to walk into Pontrhydfendigaid.
Cambrian Way Stage 9 – Strata Florida to Devil’s Bridge
Height Gained – 780 metres , Distance – 23.7 km, Time –7 hours
The 9th stage sets off from Strata Florida Abbey along the Teifi Pools Walk initially, past the Claerddu Bothy, before heading again off over pathless moors to Cwm Ystwyth and Pontarfynach (Devil’s Bridge).
Cambrian Way Stage 10 – Devil’s Bridge to Dylife
Height Gained – 1260 metres , Distance – 31.5 km, Time –8 hours+
From Devil’s Bridge, the Cambrian Way climbs over Pumlumon, which is a long and steady plod to the highest point in Mid Wales (depending on how you define Mid Wales!) – or at the very least the highest point in the Cambrian Mountains Should-be-a-National Park. You’ll need to cross the Hengwm valley (and notorious bogs) before a final descent to the former mining community of Dylife. There’s a pub with accommodation in Dylife – The Star Inn.
This is a tough stage, but one suited to wild camping. You may be interested in the Richard Sale alternative that sets off from the summit of Pumlumon and rejoins the path at the summit of Cadair Idris!
Cambrian Way Stage 11 – Dylife to Comins Coch
Height Gained – 530 metres , Distance – 15 km, Time –5 hours
This is where the Cambrian Way goes on a bit of a tangent. As it does tend to make things difficult for itself, avoiding any convenience of resupply points on the way in favour of a stubborn intent to keep things as difficult as possible. This section is a perfect example, ending in Comins Coch, which lacks the facilities for resupply.
Cambrian Way Stage 12 – Comins Coch to Dinas Mawddwy
Height Gained – 980 metres , Distance – 22 km, Time –8 hours+
The final walk in the Mid Wales section sees you arriving at Dinas Mawddwy and the southern edge of Snowdonia over the windfarm on Mynydd Cemmaes.
Cambrian Way Stage 13 – Dinas Mawddwy to Barmouth
Height Gained – 2050 metres , Distance – 36 km, Time –12 hours+
The first leg in the Snowdonia section is a tough one with two full mountain ranges in one day. First you need to cross the Maesglase ridge and then the entire length of Cadair Idris, including the outliers. The only comfort you’ll have is that this is child’s play compared to the next section over the Rhinogydd.
Cambrian Way Stage 14 – Barmouth to Maentwrog – The Rhinogydd
Height Gained – 2370 metres , Distance – 39 km, Time –15 hours
There are no tougher mountains in Wales than the Rhinogydd and the Cambrian Way traverses the entire range from Barmouth to Maentwrog. If you can complete this in one day, then you’re doing well! It’s much more realistic to camp half way in Cwm Bychan as the guidebooks recommends, or even better to wild camp by one of the many lakes in these hills.
Cambrian Way Stage 15 – Maentwrog to Beddgelert
Height Gained – 1260 metres , Distance – 22.5 km, Time –7 hours
The Moelwynion are an easy follow up to the Rhinogydd, despite being tougher to navigate than the more popular mountains of north Snowdonia. The route takes you along the Vale of Ffestiniog to Tanygrisiau before ascending Moelwyn Mawr and over Cnicht. It’s a comparatively easy descent to Beddgelert via the Fisherman’s Path to Beddgelert.
You could vary this route and ascend Moelwyn Bach if you choose.
Cambrian Way Stage 16 – Beddgelert to Pen y Pass
Height Gained – 1290 metres , Distance – 17.5 km, Time – 6 hours
While some sections of the Cambrian Way are questionable, this one certainly isn’t. Choosing to ascend Snowdon via the South Ridge from Nantgwynant is probably the best choice from this side, with the ridge being interesting enough without being too tough too tackle with a long distance pack. The section ends with a descent of the PYG Track to Pen y Pass.
Cambrian Way Stage 17- Pen y Pass to Ogwen
Height Gained – 760 metres , Distance – 9 km, Time –4 hours
The Cambrian Way keeps some of the highlights for the final few days and the crossing of the Glyderau is no different. Crossing Glyder Fawr and then past Castell y Gwynt to Glyder Fach and the iconic Cantilever. Descending to Bwlch Tryfan, you might well be tempted to tack Tryfan onto the walk. You could tack this penultimate day onto the previous day if you want or once over the Glyderau you can start up the Carneddau for a wild camp and give yourself an easier final day! Other than that, this is the shortest day so far.
Cambrian Way Stage 18 – Ogwen to Conwy
Height Gained – 1500 metres , Distance – 31 km, Time –10 hours
The final leg of the Cambrian Way is over the Carneddau to Conwy, and it’s a tough day out. Climbing Pen yr Ole Wen by the East Ridge, a good choice, before the pleasure of a walk across from Carnedd Dafydd to Llywelyn. It’s practically all downhill from there, albeit a long downhill to Conwy!
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