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Walking in Glamorgan, South Wales. Guided walks, routes & local information

Last updated  26.6.08

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Walks around Merthyr Tydfil

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Cyfarthfa Castle

Three walks around Merthyr Tydfil. The walks all start from Cyfarthfa Castle, built by the Crawshays, where there is car parking, a museum which is free to enter, toilets and a cafe. Whilst the gates are open for longer than the castle, check closing times before setting off. The walks vary in distance from short and easy to long and moderate.

Start at SO 04145/07303

Click here for map to start; on entering the grounds head up the drive and park in front of the castle.

A short walk in the grounds of Cyfarthfa Castle - 2.45 miles

Just under 2.5 miles of easy walking and you never leave the grounds of Cyfarthfa castle. Despite being in Merthyr town you pass meadows with good views and woodland with abundant birdsong and wild flowers. The first half is tarmac but the second involves woodland paths and is more uneven underfoot. Initially flat but later some respectable inclines.

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The start heads along this path

With your back to the steps leading into Cyfarthfa castle head left along a tarmac path. Keep straight ahead with paths converging from right and left, ascending gently. After about 8 minutes you come to the end of the park, passing through bollards and with a building straight ahead. Turn left, heading uphill, along a tarmac path. Pass a metal barrier with fields opening up first to right and then left and good views behind you.

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Meadows and hills

The path starts to descend. Where it levels, note a row of pine trees to the left and the boundary wall ahead right. (0.73 miles). Turn left down the path alongside the pine trees, descending into woodland. At a junction, head right along the main track which descends, passing a series of ponds on the left. At the bottom with the castle just ahead to the left, turn right along a tarmac road which curves left to merge with another tarmac road and just before reaching the road which takes traffic past the lake out of the castle, turn right along a woodland track, passing a dark metal barrier - NOTE: this is the second track you pass off to the right.

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Woodland track

After about 500 yards and just beyond a bench on the right, take the gravel track to the right, heading uphill, and ignoring side paths. 40 yards before reaching metal fencing which is the park boundary, fork left through trees towards a metal park entrance and just before this head left along a path, railings on your right, to descend through woodland. (32 mins, 1.68 miles).

You pass the gravel track you took earlier and 10 yards beyond this head diagonally right downhill through a grassy area with a grove of trees to your right towards a metal barrier by a road. Cross the road and then the grass to meet a path runnning around the lake. Head right and walk right round the lake and just past the children's playground head left up the road back to the start. (46 mins, 2.45 miles).

A riverside ramble - 4.7 miles

This pleasant riverside ramble takes you along the Taff Fechan river in scenery reminiscent of the waterfalls area around Ystradfellte. Easy walking but uneven underfoot in places. You might see Herons and Dippers and amongst the wildflowers are Water Avens and Meadow Saxifrage. The Aberglais Inn is about half-way round.

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Cyfarthfa Lake

With your back to Cyfarthfa Castle, cross the car park, down the steps and head down the road. Pass to the left of the Adventure Playground and then follow the track around the lake, leaving the park at the far end. Cross the road and head left down the pavement which then curves right. Cross a bridge over a river, then immediately right to cross a second bridge with Bridge House ahead. Take the narrow path off to the right passing the garages on your left. As soon as your are under the bridge head right down to the river and then right alongside the river, heading upstream. On your right is the feeder for the lake, the source of water dripping down on to the path. You will get better views of it further along the path. Many mosses and liverworts grow on the damp wall.

The route is an old tramway and you will see rail fixing holes in the stones underfoot. You pass under a high bridge - the Heads of the Valleys road. A metal kissing gate brings you to a more open area - the Taff Fechan nature reserve. You pass a wooden bridge on the left which you cross on the return leg but keep straight ahead. Note the Alders which would have been used by Cloggers. The path later crosses a short wooden bridge, then a stile/gate. A wooden stile brings you into an open area. As the river curves to the right, the path heads uphill via some wooden steps, through a wooden gate, then head left to reach an area of hardstanding and then a road. (45 mins, 2.15 miles)

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The Taff Fechan winding through the limestone.

Turn left down the road. After 100 yards the road forks left over a narrow bridge. Just after this, on the left, is a good spot for a break with a limestone outcrop overlooking the river on your left. (See variation below). Continue on the road uphill, passing the Aberglais Inn on your right. On meeting the main road turn left, downhill, under a wooden bridge, then across a stone bridge, the Glais Bridge. Now head uphill. 80 yards beyond the bridge as the road curves gently right, turn left off the road through an unwaymarked gap heading into an area of bracken. (1 hour, 2.65 miles, SO 04214/09782).

VARIATION from limestone outcrop (see previous para). A new path has been created from the outcrop which offers a variation on the route described and shortens the walk by a few hundred yards. To the right of the rocks as you look downstream is a cinder path, with occasional steps, which you can follow through woodland, via a wooden bridge over a stream. Then uphill straight opposite, curve left and parallel with the stream to an open bit of grassland stretching down to the stream which is 'the path alongside the river' (next para).

On meeting another track, head left, then pass through a gate to meet a tarmac track. Head just to the right to a picnic table, then take the stile just below it to the left, into a field, now heading right, downhill and towards the trees and the river, opposite where you were walking earlier. Head slightly right through the bracken to pick up a path alongside the river, heading right, downstream. Pass through a wooden gate, over wooden duckboards, another wooden gate, then a stile. Look out for a ruined building to the left of the path (SO 03506/08455) - an old mill. Follow the path up to a stile to meet a gravel track - now head left along this downhill. This brings you to the wooden bridge you saw earlier. Cross this and head right to return the way you came to Cyfarthfa Castle. Just remember to leave the path just after a low stone bridge and metal barriers. (1 hr 45 mins, 4.74 miles).

For map see bottom of page

Gateway to the Beacons - 12.45 miles

A moderate walk that takes you into the Brecon Beacons via a ruined castle and returning partly along the Taff Trail. Iron Age, Plantagenet and Victorian relics are passed and the paths go through woodland, moorland and meadow and alongside rivers and reservoir. If visibility is poor, the walk over the Open Access moors to Llwyn Onn reservoir would be helped by a compass or GPS although the route described here should be straightforward. No facilities en route but a refreshments van is often parked in the lay-by by the Lwyn Onn reservoir. 

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Left, view from Morlais. Right, on the Taff Trail.

The route starts out in the same direction as the Riverside Ramble. With your back to Cyfarthfa Castle, cross the car park, down the steps and head down the road. Pass to the left of the Adventure Playground and then follow the track around the lake, leaving the park at the far end. Cross the road and head left down the pavement which then curves right. Cross a bridge over a river, then immediately right to cross a second bridge with Bridge House ahead. Take the narrow path off to the right passing the garages on your left. As soon as your are under the bridge head right down to the river and then right alongside the river, heading upstream. On your right is the feeder for the lake, the source of water dripping down on to the path. You will get better views of it further along the path. Many mosses and liverworts grow on the damp wall.

The route is an old tramway and you will see rail fixing holes in the stones underfoot. You pass under a high bridge - the Heads of the Valleys road. A metal kissing gate brings you to a more open area - the Taff Fechan nature reserve. You pass a wooden bridge on the left which you cross on the return leg but keep straight ahead. The path later crosses a short wooden bridge, then a stile/gate. Note the Alders which would have been used by Cloggers. A wooden stile brings you into an open area. As the river curves to the right, (note the millstone lying by the bracken) the path heads uphill via some wooden steps, through a wooden gate, then head left to reach an area of hardstanding and then a road. (SO 04521/09635, 45 mins, 2.15 miles).

Turn right up the road towards some houses passing Pontsarn Close. After about 8 minutes on the road, look out for a trackway on the left of the road, heading sharp left (SO 04856/09205). After 20 yards the track ahead is signposted Morlais Heritage Trail with stones on which tramway rails were laid. Our route takes us up to the right to Morlais Castle but you can avoid this by staying on the tramway track until you get to the 'climbing' quarry rockface. To get to Morlais Castle head right up the grassy bank for 10 yards then left along a path which ascends - a small earth 'pyramid' straight ahead, the path becoming little more than a sheep track, a quarry rock-face to the right. The path curves right through some stunted Hawthorn trees to reach a flatter area. Head left towards the end of the quarry and then ascend to the top to reach a plateau with the remains of masonry - Morlais Castle - lying around. Cross the plateau to the opposite corner taking care to avoid a large gaping hole in the middle. At the opposite corner is the crypt, on top of which is a flat area with panoramic views and a height of around 1270 feet above sea level. (SO 04961/09562, 1 hr 3mins, 2.90 miles).

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Left, remains of Morlais Castle. Right, the surviving crypt.

Now retrace your steps diagonally across the plateau - remembering to avoid the gaping hole - to the opposite corner where you first came up and start to descend in a northerly direction with some scree to your right. There is a quarry on the hill opposite and a couple of large houses in the valley below. Aim towards the right-hand end of the scrubby trees ahead but take particular care as beyond them you are at the top of a steep rock-face used by climbers. Follow a sheep-track to the right but where you see a stony patch between bracken - just opposite the first hawthorn tree on the right, head down through the trees to the left to pick up a path which descends with the rock-face just to your right. At the bottom you come to a flatter area with the tramway from earlier coming from the left and the 'climbing' rock-face to your right. (SO 04701/09689)

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Looking down on the Taff Trail viaduct

Cross the tramway to pick up a narrow stony path virtually opposite and descending to the right. (If you avoided the ascent to Morlais and reached here via the tramway you now turn left down the stony path as soon as you see the extensive 'climbing' rock-face to the right ahead). The path meets a broader track - head right along this. After a minute on this track, and passing narrow paths off to the left, head left down a path with some wooden-backed steps and then up steps at the far side to reach the Taff Trail - a broad cinder track with viaduct to the left. Head right along the track. Later you can glimpse the tower of Vaynor church, which we pass later, across the valley to the left. Pass a bench on the left, then two on the right and immediately after these head down the stone steps to the left. The path crosses a narrow wooden bridge, then descends towards a stream and heads right upstream to reach a wooden bridge which you cross. (1hr 22 mins, 3.72 miles).

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Wooden bridge over the river - a good resting spot

Now cross the field ahead, at first slightly right along a grassy path but as soon as the path starts to ascend, take a left fork along a narrower path, winding uphill through thick undergrowth, cross a small concrete bridge and then a stile with Vaynor church ahead. The path goes through the garden of Church Tavern to reach the road via a gate. Head left along a path with the church wall of Vaynor Church, St Gwynno's, to your left. You will glimpse old gravestones through a gap in the wall, next passing Old Vaynor church. 

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Left, Vaynor new church, St. Gwynno's. Right, Vaynor old church.

Keep ahead across the stream and where the path forks keep left soon walking with wire fence on left and hedgerow on right. You can see the quarry from earlier and the bump in the field is Cae Burdydd. You come to a road - head right past an Italianate villa.

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Italianate Villa

Immediately past the villa take the trackway to the left signposted Penrhiwglais Farm. Just beyond the farm house turn right along a track which descends towards a metal gate. Head to the left of the barn, then right along a track through the field, the valley and quarry to your left. Cross a wooden stile and keep ahead to a waymark at the top right-hand corner of the next field. Pass through a metal gate attached to a dry-stone wall, then a second. Now head diagonally left through the next field to a stile in the far left-hand corner. Cross the stile, then a wooden bridge, then a second stile and wooden bridge, then a third stile to head along the left-hand edge of the next field. This brings you to a wooden/metal stile, beyond which is open moorland, a waymark post to your right. (SO 03750/11121, 1 hr 52 mins, 5.21 miles).

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Through meadows, the moorland in the distance.

This area of moorland is Open Access so you can roam at will but the low-lying areas have extensive boggy sections with tussocky grass. There is a bridleway marked on the OS map but this is not obvious on the ground. Our route is straightforward, easier going and safer if visibility is poor. Follow the direction of the waymark sign indicating Llwyn Onn reservoir, cross the stream and head uphill in a westerly direction on the grassy track keeping the stone wall and wire fence on your left. After about 7 minutes, the stone wall disappears but there is still a wire fence and you are heading for a grove of large Beech trees with a scattering of smaller trees to the right. As you reach the grove, a wire fence is ahead of you. Turn right following the path with the fence on your left heading downhill. After crossing a couple of stream beds the path curves slightly left, now ascending. An old stone wall is to the left, the wire fence beyond it. Next, the wall heads off left at 90 degrees, and our path gradually converges with the wire fence on left. As you reach the end of the valley, the stone wall re-appears and fine views open up of the Brecon Beacons. You are at around 1,300 feet above sea level. You reach a track marked by an area of small stones (SO 02248/11835).

Head left along this stony track towards the right-hand end of the conifer plantation ahead. A short boggy stretch brings you to a gate at the corner of the plantation (SO 01644/12042, 2 hrs 28 mins, 7.08 miles). Pass through the gate and head downhill with the plantation on your left. Cross a stony trackway via two metal gates, continuing to descend, Llwyn Onn reservoir soon appearing ahead. As you approach stone buildings take the footpath via a metal gate to the right of the wooden gate ahead of you. The narrow track brings you out via another metal gate onto the drive to the buildings on your left. Cross the drive and keep straight ahead down the field to the right of the trees. At the bottom a wooden gate brings you to a road. Cross this busy main road with care and head slightly left into the layby where a refreshments van is often parked   (2 hrs 40 mins, 7.54 miles).

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Left, looking down on the reservoir. Right, Llwyn Onn reservoir.

Half-way along the layby, between two picnic tables, head right over a wooden stile to the edge of the reservoir. Now head left along the edge of the reservoir - you can either head across the stones or if the water level is high a path runs parallel with the edge through vegetation. A metal gate brings you to a road - turn right to head across the dam. once across the dam, head left uphill, along a tarmac road signposted 'Taff Trail, Merthyr Tydfil'. The road passes a barn, becoming a stony trackway. Keep ahead through several metal gates. The track descends with Merthyr visible in the valley ahead. The track curves right and passes a wooden gate by a metal gate. Pass a metal barrier, then a large stone boulder. 200 yards after the boulder, as you approach some conifers and as the track curves gently right,  head left along an indistinct grassy trackway immediately opposite a Loops and Links waymark post, passing old Taff Trail signs. Shortly the path turns right, heading gradually uphill, crossing a trackway and then passing a waymark post. The path curves left continuing uphill to emerge on a broader track with Taff Trail sign. Head left along this track. Just after a waymark post and on the edge of woodland you come to the sculpture seen below. (3 hrs 17 and 9.41 miles)

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Sculpture on the Taff Trail

The grassy path heads through the trees, descending gently. You pass a stone seat and a sign pointing left to Penmoelallt Nature Trail. Keep ahead, later crossing a stile by a metal gate with boulders, now ahead along a stony track. A metal gate brings you onto a road - cross a second metal gate and immediately turn sharp left through a wooden gate, heading downhill with a main road to your right, (3 hrs 40 mins, 10.51 miles). Follow the track as it curves down to the right under the road bridge - you have left the Taff Trail which keeps ahead. The main road is still on your right but you are heading in the opposite direction. Pass a wooden gate - a large cemetery to your left, the track now tarmac. More of the cemetery appears to your right. Continue downhill, the lane passing under a road bridge and curving left to cross a river via a stone bridge. The road now curves uphill, passing under a viaduct. You pass a junction on the left, then where the road forks take the right fork along Pontycapel road. Pass Cefn Coed Pentecostal church on left and emerge on a main road. Head right down this road, crossing when safe. Opposite the Gwynne's Arms is the entrance to Bridge House which you took earlier. Carry on along the road to re-enter Cyfarthfa Castle. (4 hrs 15 mins, 12.45 miles).

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Map of Long Walk and Riverside Ramble