Waterfall Country (Pontneddfechan Circular) walk

More rapids, cascades and waterfalls than any other walk, wooded gorges, limestone uplands, caves, mines and far views


This is a list of previous times this walk has been done by the club (since Jan 2010). For more recent events (since April 2015), full details are shown.

Date Option Post # Weather
Sat, 06-May-23 Saturday Walk - Waterfall Country (Pontneddfechan Circular) [Extra Walk] [New Walk] [Brecon Trip] 16 overcast with short periods of drizzle then sunny
Length: 22.4 km (13.4 mi)
Ascent/Descent: 545m
Net Walking Time: ca. 6 ½ hours
Toughness: 7 out of 10
Many other – longer or shorter – options, are possible. See the webpage or the pdf for details.
Meet at 09.30 next to the Market Tavern, where it borders the Morrison’s car park. Car drivers bring their cars into the car park. After allocating passengers to cars, drive to Pontneddfechan (post code SA11 5NR, a 37 km drive as per the AA Routeplanner). Passengers: please pay your driver a respectful sum for the journey. If the car parks near the start of the walk are full already, check the route map for alternatives along the route and pick up the walk from there.
Spare walkers will have to either take a taxi (online quotes for a 6 seater to Penderyn on the long walk are from £127 each way, and to Pontneddfechan from £140, on the spot quotes may be different) or go on an alternative walk (see below).
This route, entirely in the Fforest Fawr Geopark area of the Brecon Beacons National Park, is the ultimate waterfalls experience, and possibly not just in the UK, packed up in a moderately strenuous walk, with more strenuous options possible. It leads through the wooded gorges of the Upper River Nedd and its tributaries Pyrddin, Mellte, Hepste and Sychryd above Pontneddfechan, often referred to as the Celtic Rainforest, as they pass through a millstone grit and limestone plateau, and along Moel Penderyn (hill) to the east.

The rivers have eroded deep, narrow valleys in the plateau, which lies some 300m above sea level, with caves, wooded mossy gorges, river cliffs, block scree, rapids, cascades and waterfalls in what is the greatest concentration of them in the UK.
The route passes a total of 13 named falls or cascades (2 of those on extensions), including all 8 of the most famous ones in the area, plus countless other unnamed falls, cascades and rapids, as well as one of the largest cave entrances in the UK.
Some sections are easy to walk as you follow disused tramroads to former silica mines (some entrances can still be seen), others go over more demanding terrain, at times rough, rocky and slippery and/or exposed. En route to lunch, you rise out of the Nedd Fechan valley up to the limestone upland with fine views to the mountains in the Fforest Fawr, source of the rivers passed on the route, and across to the Central Beacons.
The return to Pontneddfechan is along a scenic and lofty route high above the wooded Mellte and Hepste gorges, topped near the end with another excursion to some more falls and stunning rock features.

A longer walk via Penderyn with surround views in all directions, loops around the slopes of Moel Penderyn.

Lunch: The New Inn in Ystradfellte (10.0 km/6.2 mi, open from 13.00, food all day).
Tea: several options en route and at the end of the walk, check the webpage or pdf for details.
For walk directions, map, height profile, photos and gpx/kml files click here. T=swc.400
Alternative Walks for today:
Waterfalls and Bluebells - SWC 280 Henrhyd Waterfall/Sgwd Henrhyd from Craig y Nos. Take the 10.10 Bus T6 from Brecon Interchange Stand 5, direction Ystradgynlais (for Abertawe/Swansea). Bus calls Llanfaes, St David’s Church and arrives Glyntawe/Craig y Nos - Adelina Patti Hospital at 10.46. Return buses: xx.20 to 17.20, then 18.23 and 19.23 from Craig y Nos Country Park, a few minutes later from Glyntawe.
Or, if that’s too tame: SWC 278Brecon Beacons Horseshoe; walk any of the variants straight from Brecon to the ridge and back down a different route.
  • 07-May-23

    We assembled at 9.30 to assess whether we had enough cars to get everyone to the walk, and thankfully we did (thanks to all the drivers!), so off to Pontneddfechan we went. After getting waterproofed up and organised, we set off at 10.30 into the Nedd Fechan gorge, more or less immediately having a raging torrent of a river to the right, flanked by lots of wild garlic in flower. And within minutes, the rain stopped. This had for a few days seemed a fortunate posting as being the only low level walk of the trip and on the day with the worst weather forecast. And it was. But on an even better level, as we didn't experience any serious levels of precipitation at any time later on.

    I don't want to bore with details of the waterfalls passed, but the rivers were full of water and the falls were in magnificent shape. There were loads of stretches of wild garlic, and intially also some bluebells here or there.

    After the initial rush of spectacular falls, the whole group followed the main walk route further up the narrowing Nedd Fechan gorge, which was an absolute delight. More falls and cascades, bluebell covered mossy slopes and fine if narrow paths often high above river level.

    Truely, a gorgeous gorge!

    On out of the gorge and across some commons to lunch. 60 minutes at The New Inn, with the picnickers joining for a drink. Onto the cave entrance at Cwm Porth (some ice cream was purchased) and then the tourist track passing the four big falls of the return stretch.

    Some were getting tired and weary and weren't fully convinced of the out-and-backs to some of them, but friendly cajoling did the job. I think no one regretted the effort.

    Which left Sgwd yr Eira to do, the falls one has to walk behind to move on. It was raging and slightly intimidating but we all got past it safely and while enjoying it.

    The downside of full rivers and impressive falls were plenty of muddy paths on the high level return route. Back in Pontneddfechan at 20.30, where The Old White Horse Inn had spaces (just). What a quirky but well run pub!

    Heard: cuckoos in 2 places.

    Seen: wild swimmers in 2 places.

    Group Cohesion: 10 out of 10.

    13 walkers on this walk with 3 others doing a milder walk, 16

    The weather was overcast with short periods of drizzle then sunny

    As for the SWC trail running Marathon man: he did not complete after a slip and an injury, but is well and in good spirits.

    As for that televised event happening in London today: paths in the morning seemed less busy than I have seen them on the recces, but that may have been more due to the rain and the forecast for the day being really bad, but the pubs and the afternoon paths: as busy as ever.