Ystradfellte Waterfall Walk - Wales

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Sgwd Clun Gwyn


Interaction or animation

Sgwd Gwladus Interaction or animation

Neath River waterfalls

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Location Along the Mellte, Hepste, and Neath rivers, near the tiny village of Ystradfellte in south-central Wales.


This is a long hike on public trails in the Brecon Beacons National Park. There are steep, slippery sections and we frequently found parts of the trails were wet and muddy due to springs. It took us 6 hours to complete this hike.

See the map for details.


We began our day at the Ystradfellte Youth Hostel where we had experienced the wonderful hospitality of Dilys and Selwyn. The night before, we had had a terrific respite from restaurant cooking prepared by our offspring in the well-equipped kitchen in the hostel. UPDATE: (2005) Sadly, this youth hostel is no longer in operation.

We accessed the trail from a car park along the road between Ystradfellte and Pontneddfechan. We left our car by the telephone booth near the small shop and petrol station and then walked to the car park where the trail started. The shop is an information center for this section of Brecon Beacons National Park.

During the first half of the hike we were alone. After lunch, from Pontneddfechan to Sgwd Gwladus, there were lots of other walkers, including a whole busload of school children. The final third of the hike we were alone again.

Sgwd Clun Gwyn - This waterfall is on the Afon Mellte and falls from an abrupt ledge about 10 feet onto another ledge. It then falls another 20 feet to a large pool below. There is a jet of mist which shoots out from the falls where it hits the second ledge; we called it a "negative ion stream" and found that it correlated pretty well with our grins. We crossed the river on a footbridge about 200 feet upstream from the falls and returned on the east bank to view the falls from above. The trail along the river downstream from Sgwd Clun Gwyn was closed due to extensive erosion and some severe safety issues. So we missed seeing the smaller falls below, Sgwd Isaf Clungwyn and Sgwd y Pannwr. But we followed the trail to the top of the canyon and through a beautiful hemlock and larch forest to the gorge of the Afon Hepste which joins the Mellte below the three waterfalls.

Sgwd-yr-Eira – A near vertical trail with steps of boulders, ledges, and logs took us nearly 200 feet down into the Hepste River at the base of the famous Sgwd-yr-Eira, the "waterfall of snow." The trail follows a wide ledge behind the waterfall. It is wide enough to have been used in the past to drive sheep from one side of the rive to the other. We think that this is the ultimate negative ions experience… standing behind the falls as the water pounds endlessly on the rocks next to your feet. This is clearly a place to find "flow," or as the younger set says it, to get into the "zone". A great place for poets, lovers, and anyone who enjoys nature at its best.

The climb up out of the canyon on the south side of the river was equally demanding. Turning right at the top of the climb, we followed the trail (soggy is spots, but some nice views) to Pontneddfechan where the Mellte joins the Neath River. After lunch and a pint at the Angel Inn, we followed the trail up the Neath river gorge to Lady Falls.

Sgwd Gwladus – This famous waterfall, "Lady Falls," is in a tributary stream of the Neath River. It falls about 40 feet from a huge overhanging ledge. You can cross the river below the large pool or you can scramble along the ledges behind the waterfall to get to the other side of the stream. There is also a footbridge crossing the stream where it joins the Neath.

Neath River – Continuing upstream along the bank of the Neath River, we encountered four good-sized (unnamed?) waterfalls and numerous small rapids. The trail was very soggy in spots but eventually let to a small park and paved road. The path shown on the map leaves the road shortly and follows badly marked and very poorly maintained farm lanes back to the car. It was a pretty walk but wet and with lots of downed trees and branches blocking the path.