Route of the Cambrian Way
Southern Section - Cardiff to Llandovery. 112 miles (180km), 22,515 feet of ascent (6,860m).
[Central Section] [Northern Section]
Sugar Loaf from the Llangattock Escarpment
The way out of Cardiff is mostly through pleasant parkland alongside the River Taff. From the picturesque mock castle of Castell Coch, forestry and pleasant ridge walking takes the walker quickly across two industrial valleys before joining the open common ridges bordering on the Vale of Usk. The Brecon Beacons National Park is entered just north of Pontypool and open moorland followed to the Blorenge, thence by steep descent to the town of Abergavenny. After ascending Sugar Loaf a horseshoe shaped route follows the finest ridges of the Black Mountains via Capel y Ffin to Crickhowell. Thence follows an east to west traverse of the wild moorlands of the Brecon Beacons including Pen y Fan, the highest point in South Wales at 886m (2906Ft.). The moorland continues to the Black Mountain, also known as the Carmarthen Vans, the largest common in Wales, before dropping to Llanddeusant (Youth Hostel) and field country to Llandovery with its railhead on the Heart of Wales line (Swansea to Shrewsbury). Allow nine days. Do not omit the first three days to Abergavenny and regret it later when you've got to Conwy. Most walkers do too much in the early days of a walking holiday. An extra day is worthwhile to explore the waterfall country at Ystradfellte.
Running on a roughly parallel lower level alternative route through the Brecon Beacons National Park is the Beacons Way, opened at considerable expense in 2005 by the Park and the Brecon Beacons Park Society (www.breconbeaconsparksociety.org/). From Abergavenny to Llangadog it is similar in distance to the Cambrian Way but involves over 3000ft more of ascent than the Cambrian Way from Abergavenny to Llandovery, due to its switchback routing. The Mountain Connoisseur will opt for the wide open spaces and spectacular route of the Cambrian Way.
Central Section - The Cambrian Mountains. 83 miles(133km), 14,895ft ascent (4,540m)
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The most frequent comments from walkers is how amazed they were with the beauty and remoteness of the central section, from Llandovery to Dinas Mawddwy. Back in 1972 the Countryside Commission tried to designate the area as the Cambrian Mountains National Park but the Secretary of State for Wales rejected the proposal without even a public inquiry. With hindsight it would probably have got through as an 'Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty' which gives much of the protection given to national parks. Recently formed is the Cambrian Mountains Society (www.cambrian-mountains.co.uk/) which is seeking AONB status to give more protection to the area from undesirable development including an excess of wind turbines.
The route follows the attractive Towy valley at Rhandirmwyn where it is difficult to imagine this was once a busy metal mining area. Even more attractive is the remote path up the Doethie valley leading to Ty'n y Cornel Youth Hostel, the most isolated hostel in Wales, saved from closure by benefactors who have bought the hostel, and by the formation of a charitable trust, Elenydd Wilderness Hostels (www.elenydd-hostels.co.uk/), to service it as a franchise hostel of the YHA. The route follows the western side of the wild moorland and forest area known as the Elenydd, which includes the gathering grounds of the Birmingham reservoirs. After superb rambling country around Devil's Bridge and Ponterwyd, the route crosses the uninhabited land mass of Plynlimon, with opportunities to view the sources of the Severn and Wye. The hamlet of Dylife once the workplace of 2000 miners, now only has a few houses, including, crucially, the Star Inn, which accommodates Glyndwr's Way as well as Cambrian Way walkers. A mixture of forest and sheep grazing land brings one through the windfarm on Mynydd Cemmaes and so to Mallwyd and Dinas Mawddwy.
Northern Section - Snowdonia National Park 88miles (142km), 27,711ft ascent (8,446m)
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The Bwlch Main ridge to Snowdon Summit
From the idyllic mountain enclosed village of Dinas Mawddwy a westward line is taken on a spectacular cliff top route via Cribin and Waun Oer before mounting the important and dramatic summit of Cadair Idris. Descent is made to the resort of Barmouth via the Cregenen lakes and the path alongside the railway on the Barmouth Bridge.
The Rhinog Mountains are the most controversial section of the whole route mainly due to the rough scrambling required in the adventurous central section. Barmouth to Maentwrog is 22 miles but progress is slow and there is no accommodation without considerable detour to Llanbedr or Trawsfynydd.
The new edition of the guidebook offers lower level alternative routes in deference to opposition to the main route.
Moelwyn Mawr is ascended before a difficult navigation exercise across to Cnicht. The ascent of Snowdon is by the lower reaches of the Watkin Path, thence by the Bwlch Main ridge to the normally clouded and crowded summit. The £9milllion scheme to rebuild the summit buildings is due to open later in 2008. (see www.snowdon-summit.co.uk/). The Pyg track is followed to Pen-y-pass and over the Glyders to Ogwen, thence via the east approach of Pen yr Ole Wen to the Carnedds, entailing 4½ miles at over 3000 feet (likely to be in cloud). The magnificent finish to the Cambrian Way drops down to 2000 feet at Tal y Fan before the final descent from Conwy Mountain to the end of the Mountain Connoisseur's Walk at Conwy Castle.
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