Pete's Trip Reports

Glyndŵr's Way - Sep 2017

I had come across Glyndŵr's Way on a couple of previous trips - a short section of the Cambrian Way overlapped with it near the Star Inn at Dylife, and then it also very briefly met the Wales Coast Path as it passed through Machynlleth. It seems to have a lower profile than other long distance walks in the UK, so it took a while to get round to it, but we finally got a trip booked for end of August 2017.

The journey to the start was a bit of an adventure in itself, especially with all the rail engineering chaos in London, but a total of five trains eventually got us to Knighton in about five and a half hours. The town was festooned with bunting and flags for a carnival that seemd to have happened the previous day. There was camping near to Knighton that we had used previously on Offa's Dyke, and on arrival we headed straight there, crossing from Wales into England on the way, passing a line where you could stand with one foot in each country! After pitching up we headed back into town, crossing back into Wales, and had a pot of tea at the Offa's Dyke visitor centre, and stocked up with food for the next three days until Llanidloes. We also got some picnic items for the evening, which we ate on picnic tables beside the river.

Day 1: Knighton to Felindre

There was only one other person camping at the farm, who was doing Offa's Dyke, and he had already depitched and was cooking breakfast beside the loos as we went past. We crossed back over the border into Wales and adjourned to a small cafe for a pot of tea and breakfast, before finally getting going at nine. The path started off up the narrowing street that climbed away from the clock tower, then took a succession of small cuts between houses to get out of town. Some pleasant forest sections, and grassy sheep fields led us to the small village of Llangunllo, although it started drizzling on the way, so we had to stop and put waterproofs on. The drizzle had cleared up by the time we reached the village at midday, and we sat on a bench by the bus stop in the centre and had a few snacks. The village did have a pub, but it didn't open on Mondays or Tuesdays, and even during the rest of the week it didn't open until half past four anyway. Two other chaps arrived, who it turned out were also doing Glyndŵr's Way, and they also had a quick snack before pushing on.

More grassy sheep fields, and a stretch through tall bracken, led us to a long gravel track, that eventually brought us out on Beacon Hill Moor. This section was excellent walking, on undulating track, surrounded by purple heather and bracken. After leaving the moor, the route continued across the rough grassy terrain of Warren Bank, before descending to Felindre. There was a choice of two places to camp here, but we went for the one near the centre of the village, so we would be slightly nearer to all the action. The place in Felindre seemed to be mainly a B&B, with a large lawn round the back where you could pitch up, and then use the toilet and shower in the house. The pitching was slowed down by an overly-enthusiastic resident hound that wanted to play with us, until the owner confined her to the other side of a fence. The two other walkers that we had seen appeared a bit later on and were staying in the B&B. We had a quick walk round the village, but the pub was always closed on a Tuesday, so we adjourned to the tent and cooked up noodles with added cashew nuts for tea.


Day 2: Felindre to Abbeycwmhir

It was a cloudy morning, and the tent was quite wet, but we depitched and headed off at about half past eight. The route climbed out of the village through a couple of cow fields, and the two other chaps doing Glyndŵr's Way went past as we stopped for a quick malt loaf snack. The route passed by a large wind farm, then some pleasant grassy stretches, before descending to the small village of Llanbadarn Fynydd. We were pleasantly surprised to find a well stocked community shop in the village, which even served hot drinks, so we sat down and had a pot of tea, and then picked up some extra supplies, some oat biscuits and a couple of packets of chilli and lemon flavour houmous chips. After leaving the shop, the path passed by the small village church, then climbed up a farm track to join a moor.

Crossing the moor was a great stretch, with wide grassy track through bracken and gorse, and good views of surrounding hills. Further on the path passed a series of very windswept larch trees, before eventually descending past a small farm. Some climbing led to more grassy path through gorse to pass the summit of Ysgŵd-ffordd, then a steep descent through trees, where we had to clamber under some fallen trees, We eventually reached Abbeycwmhir just after five. It was a lovely spot, surrounded by steep wooded hillside, and pitched up right beside the ruins of the old abbey, with a small lake nearby. We had a quick look round the village, but there didn't seem to be any sign of life at the pub, so we headed back to the tent and cooked up some noodles with added cashew nuts for tea.


Day 3: Abbeycwmhir to Llanidloes

It was a clear night, and a bit chilly, but we depitched and were on the move by nine. We climbed out of the village on nice singletrack through forest, then lots of grassy fields took us to the small village of Bwlch-y-sarnau. The village had a cafe in a community centre, but it was closed, so we stopped on a nearby bench for houmous chips and malt loaf. From the village, the route descended towards a forest, where we spotted eight red kites circling in the breeze above a field. It had been hot and sunny up until now, but suddenly it clouded over and turned quite chilly, and then started drizzling, so we needed to put full waterproofs on. Leaving the forest we heard screeches from a red kite in the trees. The next stretch traversed hillside on a mix of small roads and tracks, passing a few small farms. The weather alternated between hot and sunny one moment and then cold and drizzling the next, and we repeatedly had to put waterproofs on and take them off again. At one point we took our waterproofs off as we slogged uphill in the heat of the sun, only to have to put them back on again three minutes later as the temperature dropped and it started drizzling again.

At a minor road junction we passed an old mangle that was a rather impressive piece of engineering, and had been turned into a house sign. Shortly after the mangle, the route descended steeply down a gravel track, and two women walkers with a collie went past, followed closely by two farmers on quad bikes with sheepdogs balanced on the back who waved as they passed by. At the bottom of the descent the path crossed over a small river, then climbed steeply up an untracked grassy hillside, followed by further climbing on a mix of minor roads and tracks. There were good views back to the hillside that we had been traversing, together with a wind turbine farm on the top. Further on we passed a cider farm, a house that advertised repairs to musical instruments and computers, and at Newchapel a small chapel that was originally built in 1740, and seemed to have been repeatedly rebuilt since then. A long stretch on a quiet minor road, passing a bunkhouse, led down towards Llanidloes, and two people walking in the other direction stopped for a chat and enthused about the quality of the scenery on Glyndŵr's Way, which they had done a few years ago.

By the time we reached Llanidloes, just after five, we were feeling rather hungry, but we seemed to be just slightly too late for all the cafes in the town. However, we found a small Subway in the back of the Spar supermarket so sat down for a six-inch sandwich and a cup of tea. After the snack we stocked up with more food for the next couple of days until Machynlleth. A short walk got us to the campsite, which was about one kilometre out of town. It was a nice spot, a few families pitched up, people playing rounders in the evening sun, hot showers, and right on the banks of the River Severn.


Day 4: Llanidloes to Dylife

It was a clear cloudless night, a bit chilly again, and the tent was quite wet from condensation in the morning. It took us a while to get moving, but eventually we got back into town by nine. We stopped for a pot of tea and breakfast, and it was ten by the time we finally going on the trail. There was a nice stretch through forest, and some signs with a blue angel-like figure appeared alongside the Glyndŵr's Way signs, which turned out to be the Sarn Sabrina trail, based on a water-nymph that is associated with the River Severn. The route descended through grassy fields, with views of old lead mine chimneys at Van. A bit more walking led to the impressive Clywedog Dam, which appeared suddenly. The path descended right down to the bottom of the dam, where there were ruins of buildings from the Bryntail lead mine, then climbed all the way back up the other side on a quiet road, which was hot work in the sun, to reach the viewpoint for the dam. A cup of tea would have gone down very nicely, but unfortunately there was no sign of life at the Red Kite kiosk. It was still a good spot though, so we sat down and had a snack.

We pushed on along the reservoir, there was more ups and downs than might be expected, and great views as new bits of the reservoir gradually appeared. Near the sailing club hut, we met two people coming in the other direction who were also doing Glyndŵr's Way, in small chunks. There were some nice bits through trees next to the water, and a good grassy path through bracken. The route eventually started to move away from the reservoir, and the blue water nymph signs for Sarn Sabrina turned off in a different direction. A few forest stretches led to an Osprey viewing point, and further on next to a bridge over a river was a small hut, with a sign explaining that it was a "lime doser" which adds lime to the water to counteract increased acidity from acid rainfall. The final stretch felt more remote, high up on the moors, on old trackway which was worn down to bare rock in places.

At about half past five we reached the turnoff to Dylife, and we dropped down the short track to reach the Star Inn. The pub does basic camping, and we pitched up on the edge of a field just above the pub, then left the tent to dry out, while we had an evening meal in the pub. There were only two other people staying at the pub, who turned out to be the two chaps that we had been bumping into for the past few days. Because it was fairly quiet, we were able to get hot showers, which was a result! Clear skies and a chilly night again, although superb views of the stars.


Day 5: Dylife to Machynlleth

It was a nice morning, blue skies and sunshine, and we were able to get an early breakfast in the pub while the condensation on the tent was drying out in the sun. Looking out of the pub windows we could see a fox hunting pack on the slopes overlooking the pub, and a handful of people watching them from their cars, although the hounds didn't seem to be finding anything and were mostly just going in circles. We climbed back up the hillside and rejoined the route at half past nine. It was good walking across rough moorland, and I recognised some of it from doing the Cambrian Way back in 2008. Further on we passed by the small high-level lake of Glaslyn, surrounded by heathery moor, and framed by distant hills.

Just after the lake we bumped into the two people again that we had passed at the Clywedog Reservoir. They stopped for a chat, and revealed that they had done a long distance walk every year for the past 40 years, and reeled off a rather impressive list! Not only that, but they had researched and written the guidebook for the Pennine Journey long distance walk, and enthused about the quality of it. After the lake was a superb descent from the slopes of Foel Fadian, starting on a path of loose slate, then becoming grassy further down. The next stretch had a surprising amount of up and down, passing sections of forest here and there.

Apart from a rather barren climb through a clear-felled forest, the last bit to Machynlleth was very good, crossing heathery moors, grassy track through bracken, and bushes that had grown up on old clear-felled forests. At one point we even got a view of the sea in the distance! Then for the very last descent the path briefly joined up with the Wales Coast Path. The guidebook listed a place doing bunkhouse and camping in Machynlleth, but a phonecall revealed that they had stopped doing it. Some research and another phone call got us a room in a pub, which turned out to be a comfortable spot. After eating in the pub we went out to the supermarket and stocked up on food for the next few days. The forecast for the next day was for constant rain all day and night, so anticipating the need to dry out, we booked a room for the next night in the pub in Llanbrynmair.


Day 6: Machynlleth to Llanbrynmair

It was already raining quite heavily as we headed off from the pub at half past eight. It was easy going along road to start with. Before Abercegir the route took a pleasant high level traverse on grassy path through bracken, although the enjoyment was somewhat diminished by the rain pouring down on us. After Abercegir we climbed up to cross moors, before descending to Cemmaes Road. We had hoped the village might have a bus shelter where we could have a lunch stop out of the rain, but we couldn't spot anything, so we pushed on. The bit after Cemmaes Road was nice, starting through trees, then grassy track through bracken, although we got a bit confused at one point after a holiday cottage, where a sign seemed to have disappeared, where a gate had recently been replaced.

After Gwalia, we climbed up a sunken path which was slightly sheltered by trees, so we stopped for the first snack since breakfast and had some fruit bread. From here we traversed along a slightly sunken path, which would have been nice walking, apart from the fact that it was more exposed so we had wind-blown rain in our faces. We were hoping for a bit of shelter through a forest section, but when we got there all the surrounding trees appeared to have been recently clear felled, although thankfully the signs were still in place, and the track wasn't too bashed up. After the forest, there was a slightly marshy section that we sploshed through, before descending a grassy shoulder past a large aerial to a minor road, which took us all the way in to Llanbrynmair.

The B&B was fairly basic, and a bit chilly, and we wrapped ourselves in blankets to keep warm! However it warmed up a bit when the pub opened downstairs at seven, and we ate with the two chaps who we had been bumping into since Llangunllo on the first day. It turned out they were experienced walkers, and one of them had even done the 3,500km (2,200 mile) Appalachian Trail running the length of the USA, as a retirement present to himself!

The next day to Llanwyddn was a longer day, and the campsite was a bit further on again, so I rang them to check that they could fit us in, only to find that the prolonged rain had left many of the pitches waterlogged! I made a few more calls, one of the B&Bs in the village had closed down, and the one remaining B&B was full until Tuesday as there was apparently a festival going on. There was one other option, which was the rather grand hotel overlooking Lake Vrynwy, and they had a room on special offer, still a bit pricey, but it did beat the thought of the tent slowly sinking into the mud!


Day 7: Llanbrynmair to Llanwyddn

We had an early breakfast, and got going at eight, passing all the kids waiting for the bus to school, for their first day back after the summer holidays. Everything looked very wet, and there was a lot of cloud about, but it wasn't actually raining, so a definite improvement over the previous day. After climbing out of Llanbrynmair, the route took us through quite a few forests, where there were lots of cobwebs that glistened with the dew on them. In places, on the carpet of pine needles were lots of bright red mushrooms, scattered amongst the trees. Leaving the forest were some boggy sections through reeds, that we needed to pick our way through, before descending to a minor road.

The route went across the slopes of Pen Coed, it was boggy in places, and a bit featureless, but fortunately there were small knee high marker posts every so often. At Llangadfan we were very pleased top find a bright pink cafe, and we stopped for a pot of tea and toasted teacake, served by a woman with elaborate and colourful tattoos. It was a nice place, colourful prints covering the walls, and quite a few locals in situ. The cafe had a small shop section at the back, and we picked up two packets of ginger nut biscuits, which were on special offer. On leaving the village we passed a couple of red kites, which gave us an impressive aerobatic display.

The path soon entered a large area of forest, and we made fast progress on the firm forestry track. There were some good sections through mixed trees, often with lichen and moss covered banks skirting the path. At one point the path led down the middle of a stream, and we took the edge of the field next to it instead. After Ddol-cownwy there was a steep uphill, which was rather unwelcome last thing in the day, but it was eventually compensated for by the superb views of Lake Vrynwy, that suddenly appeared, together with the impressive structure of the dam built from huge stone blocks. We pushed on over the dam, then a short uphill took us to the hotel. It was an impressive place, with a lovely large swarm room, and bath and shower, and helpful staff. After hot baths, we adjourned to the brasserie bar for lentil burgers.


Day 8: Llanwyddn to Meifod

Breakfast was in the restaurant, which had panoramic views over the lake, and just to top it all, they had homemade marmalade and leaf tea. Looking out of the window, it was a bit gloomy outside, and there was light drizzle. The internet forecast for Machynlleth gave rain all day, but for Welshpool it had rain in the morning only and clearing up by lunchtime, which seemed a bit suspicious given that they are only about 55km (35 miles) apart. Since we were almost midway between them, but slightly closer to Welshpool I hoped that we would get the latter forecast! After putting on all our waterproofs, we made our way back across the dam, and a few fields took us to Abertridwr, where there was an open village shop, and also a sign on a field offering basic camping for three pounds per person.

There were some nice forest stretches after the village, through larch trees on a carpet of pine needles, and lots of interesting red toadstools, although a sign warned that there was a disease that was killing off the larches. As we descended to the small church at Pont Llogel, the two other chaps that we kept bumping into passed by. There was an easy river section after Pont Llogel, along the banks of the River Vyrnwy, with little waterfalls in some places. Before Donalog we left the river for a while, and there was a good stretch on grassy path through bracken, and the drizzle had even eased off. At Donalog there were some public loos, and a metal sculpture describing a walk named after Ann Griffiths, who was a local hymn writer. The two chaps had stopped for lunch on a wooden bench carved from a tree trunk, and we joined them. A farmer passed by in an old tractor, with his wife balanced in the carrying bucket behind, and two sheepdogs running behind, and stopped for a chat.

We joined the river again, this time the path was a bit more undulating, but very pleasant, and took us to Pont Robert, where we had a short stop on a bench beside the bridge for a snack. From here the farming seemed more intensive than the usual grassy sheep fields, but a nice bit of final forest brought us to Meifod. We headed up to the camping on a farm on the edge of the village. It turned out that they had actually stopped doing the camping, as there weren't enough people coming through to make it viable any more, but they very kindly let us pitch up anyway. It was a very nice spot, small grassy field, fringed by apple trees, and good views of the surrounding hills, so it was a real shame that they weren't able to do the camping any more. We headed into the centre of the village, and had a look round the church, and picked up some extra supplies in the small shop. The pub was closed up, and surrounded by scaffolding, which means that the opportunities for B&B are now quite limited, it seems that there is now one place left, which is about a mile outside the village.


Day 9: Meifod to Welshpool

There was some rain during the night, but it had dried up by the morning, and we got packed up and headed back into the village. We got some juice and fruit bread from the shop, and were back on the route just after half past eight. We crossed over the River Vrynwy, and then climbed on tracks and minor roads, with some good views back to the village. We bumped into two people coming in the other direction, who were doing the Glyndŵr's Way as a set of circular walks. They mentioned that the two chaps had passed by about ten minutes earlier. Some less interesting bits across fields, led to a good grass path through bracken which took us round the edge of a golf course to the summit of Y Golfa, where we sat down and enjoyed the views for a little while.

From here it was all downhill, and we descended through parkland surrounding Llanerchydol Hall, with some tall trees. There were occasional hoots from a steam train whistle as we descended, and the path popped out at a small heritage station on the outskirts of Welshpool. We pushed on down the main street and crossed over the canal to find the Glyndŵr's Way marker, then backtracked into town for a celebratory pot of earl grey tea. Another mammoth five and a half hour journey of five trains got us back home.


Finally...

Glyndŵr's Way turned out to be an enjoyable trail. Some interesting hills, moorland, lakes, dams, and forests. There is a fair bit of walking through farmland, although quite a lot of that is fairly open grassy fields with just the sheep accompanying you. There were a few fields with cows and bulls in them, but they all seemed very calm, and just watched us as we went through. Here are the stats for the route:

  • Total distance: 217km (135 miles)
  • Total ascent: 7,180m (23,556ft)
  • Hilliest day: Machynlleth to Llanbrynmair (Day 6) - 990m (3248ft)
The trail doesn't seem to get that much walker traffic, we saw a total of six other people doing it, and some of the locals suggested that numbers had dropped over time, making it harder to keep facilities going. We did notice that quite a few pubs, B&Bs, and campsites listed in the guidebook were no longer open, even though the book is only three years old. As of right now, there are still enough facilities to do the route for both B&Bers and campers, but it is worth doing some research in advance, and checking that everything is still open.