The Four Waterfalls Trail

Four Waterfalls Car Park, Ystradfellte, United Kingdom

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This is one of the most celebrated of Welsh waterfall walks, and in my personal opinion is one of the best in the country. As one of the very few dedicated and named waterfall trails, it is one of the highlights of my lists. If you only have the opportunity to do one waterfall walk in the country, this route would be one of my first suggestions.

Follow the path on the opposite side of the road (not the one a little further up the road, which takes a much more boring route, though that may be preferred if the river is flooding), which eventually joins the Mellte River. Until this point, the river has been flowing beneath the path through the Porth yr Ogof cave system (whose massive entrance can be seen from a path leading down from the parking area), and the water’s resurgence can be seen to the right just before the path joins it. However, the edges of the resurgence are slippery, and the drop is quite far, so take great care.

Follow the river bank (quite a long way) to the first waterfall (Sgwd Clun Gwyn). Choose either the beginner or moderate routes, depending on your ability. Children may also be capable of following either route, depending on their abilities, but will need to be carefully supervised no matter which route is taken. The two routes are usually combined to create a loop route, using the moderate route on the way out, and returning along the beginner route.

The beginner route is to go back up to a major path above Sgwd Clun Gwyn, and follow signs to “Sgwd yr Eira”, staying at the top edge of the gorge all the way until steps offer a way down to it. After about 1 km, an optional path doubles back down to the right (this is where the Moderate route rejoins). Take a detour down that path to reach the river, where Sgwd y Pannwr is just downstream and Sgwd Isaf Clun Gwyn is just upstream (the path continuing upstream past the waterfall is the moderate route). Return to the gorge-top path, and turn right to reach the steps down to Sgwd yr Eira. Skip the next paragraph.

The moderate route is to stay at the same height as the Sgwd Clun Gwyn viewing platform – about half way down the gorge, and follow the path around a long bend in the river. It’s a bit exposed. The path scrambles down to the next waterfall (Sgwd Isaf Clun Gwyn, which is actually several waterfalls, all in one place). Follow the path at the bottom down the river to the next waterfall (Sgwd y Pannwr). Just before it is a path on the left, leading quite a way back up to the beginner route. Turn right.

The beginner route takes you to a sign pointing down a long set of steps to the right, to Sgwd yr Eira, which you can walk behind in order to cross the Hepste River – it is famed for being the only waterfall in Wales with a public footpath running behind it, and is frequently visited for this reason (there are many others that can be walked behind, but none of those have official footpaths). Hidden to the right at the bottom of the steps are a cascade and 4 more waterfalls (Cilhepste Falls) – the last two require descending a small rocky outcrop to get down to them. This path is also a little exposed. Most visits end here, turning back and taking the beginner route back to the parking area. (To get to The Sheep Dip waterfall, follow the river downstream to its junction with the Mellte, then head upstream along the Mellte to The Sheep Dip. The river needs to be forded a couple of times to get to the junction. As a result, this small waterfall is usually ignored, and should only be visited by experienced river walkers.)

The path on the other side of Sgwd yr Eira can also optionally be followed (passing a closed path on the left) up to a junction, where left is the way to Penderyn, and right is the way to Pontneddfechan – some people use that path to do a long loop including the Elidir Trail, or to do this walk in reverse. The loop is too far for most people to do in one day.

The path to Penderyn (which is not correctly shown on Explorer maps) also contains another waterfall, at the point where the path reaches the corner of a fenced field after about 500 metres. From there, the way to the waterfall is to cross the field diagonally over to the upper part of the gorge (take extreme care to avoid the taller parts of the gorge), and locate a point to descend to the short segment of dry valley below the Ogof Tarddiant Hepste waterfall. This area requires skill and experience in exploring gorges, and should not be attempted by inexperienced visitors. Return to the path to continue to Penderyn or to return to the earlier waterfalls. Avoid the deteriorating path running directly along the top of the gorge, as it is now closed at the lower end.

If heading to Pontneddfechan, just follow the path through a long, patchy forest until it reaches the Dinas Rock – identifiable as the point where the Sychryd Gorge nearly meets the left side of the path, while the main river remains on the right. Here, a major path doubling back to the left is the way into the Sychryd Gorge, where there are further waterfalls, which are covered in the Sychryd Gorge route guide. The main path continues over to the far-right side of the Dinas Rock, then descends down to the parking area. From there, the road crosses the main rivers into Pontneddfechan. Follow it to a Y-junction, continuing ahead to arrive at the Angel pub, and the start of the Elidir Trail.

400 metres before the Sychryd Gorge is reached, an alternative route down to the right can be used to visit one more waterfall. The path begins at a sign post pointing to the gunpowder works, and leads down into the main gorge. Cross the bridge over the river to reach the old gunpowder works. Turn right and follow the river bank for about 1 km, past the gunpowder works and a weir, to reach the final waterfall. Then return past the gunpowder works, this time remaining on the same side of the river, past some modern houses, to eventually reach a proper road. To the left is a bridge that leads to the Dinas Rock parking area.

It is also possible to begin the entire walk at the Dinas Rock parking area. For directions to it, see the Sychryd Gorge route guide. Note, however, that while this approach is popular, it is generally used by groups who have no intention of walking any further than Sgwd yr Eira, as it feels like a much more lengthy walk in this direction

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