I’m still getting used to how close Wales is to where I live now. It still seems like this distant, otherworldly land that people go to for visiting grandparents, or for a summer holiday. In actual fact, it’s just across the River Severn and really isn’t difficult to access at all. When the recent bank holiday was promising the most beautiful weather I knew I didn’t want to waste it, so off we went in the car to the Brecon Beacons to visit Waterfall Country.
Waterfall Country is an area which lies within the triangle formed by the villages of Hirwaun, Ystradfellte, and Pontneddfechan. It is a very popular location, so if you are planning on visiting make sure you get there early so that you can get a parking space! The car park we were heading for was full, but an enterprising farmer had opened his field opposite for overflow parking which cost an additional pound. We started the walk at Cwm Porth and made use of the facilities before starting on our way.
The first part of the walk passes some caves (apparently it’s a good area for caving) and then follows along the side of the river. There are quite a few trees lining the bank so there was never really a point that we were in the full sun, which I was thankful for given how hot it felt. There are lots of different ways that you can complete the walking trails as they all connect to the waterfalls and to each other. We decided that we would walk straight to the waterfall which was furthest away, and then break up the journey back by stopping at the different waterfalls along the route. As a result, we ended up leaving the river for a while, walking along the top of the wooded gorge.
Due to the number of trees, the views weren’t as good as I had been hoping for, but at least it meant we were able to find somewhere shady to eat our picnic. You end up quite high up, so when it is time to return down to the river you have to walk down quite a lot of steps down the steep bank. Due to the number of people travelling both ways up the steps it took quite a while. However, once we’d reached the pebbly beach at the bottom we were rewarded with views of Sgwd yr Eira. The waterfall itself wasn’t the most spectacular I’ve seen, but what was special is that there is a natural path which leads all the way behind it. If walking behind a waterfall is something you want to try, then Waterfall Country is the place to come!
Be careful for slippery rocks and do expect to get wet – after all, you’re walking behind a waterfall! I found the spray very refreshing and it was exciting to do something that I’ve only ever seen in films. The magic was lost slightly by the number of people (it’s only a narrow path and there was a constant queue of people either trying to get one way or another) but I’m still pleased I did it. Once you’ve reached the far side you will see a path leading up the bank. This doesn’t connect to the path that you’ve already been on so if you are trying to do the same route I did you will have to return back to the original side of the waterfall (given you an additional opportunity to walk behind it!).
After we’d made our way back across to the original side and walked back up the steps, we continued on to the next waterfall. This one was my favourite! Sgwd y Pannwr is a wider cascade that you view from the side and I found it really pretty. I liked the fact that it looked like a continuous fall, but also seemed to have multiple cascades due to the rocks behind it. I could understand why there were so many people set up with their cameras and tripods trying to get a good shot. It looked to me like something which belonged in a fantasy film.
From here, we continued along the river to a series of waterfalls and pools which people were swimming in. I imagine the water was still really cold despite the air temperature, but I have to admit I was tempted! The walk here became more difficult as we effectively scrambled up the bank and then continued along a narrower path which was partway up the slope. Eventually this path meets the original path that you started on and so the first and last part of the walk are the same, following the river bank.
Having successfully managed not to slip on the wet rocks, fall into the river, or slip when scrambling up the bank, I cleverly managed to fall on the repeated bit of path. Spraining my wrist about 15 minutes walk from the car was not the most enjoyable part of the day, but it also didn’t dampen my spirits too much. I’m not sure why, but there is something about waterfalls and wooded areas with water flowing through which makes me think of fairies. I guess it’s a throwback to childhood when I used to search for fairies at the bottom of the garden, but there’s something rather magical about the scenery.
I had a lovely time visiting waterfall country, and made a mental note to come back and explore more of the Brecon Beacons (particularly now I’ve had a reminder that it’s really not that far away!). I’d love to return and do the same walk on another day as I imagine it varies quite dramatically with the seasons. A crisp autumn morning when all the trees are changing colour would provide beautiful scenery in a completely different way, and if it was cold enough hopefully there would be fewer other people admiring waterfall country too!