Nestled in the heart of waterfall country in the Brecon Beacons National Park is the Four Falls Trail, an 8.4km circular route that takes in four of the park’s most impressive waterfalls.
I first became aware of the trail a couple of weeks ago when my brother mentioned how incredible it was, and looking for somewhere to go on Friday, decided it would be the perfect place to begin the long bank holiday weekend.
The trail is marked by red pillars and there are maps at various points throughout the route to guide walkers. The red route is graded a moderate walk and is fairly easy to traverse.
There are also optional link paths at various points that take you to the waterfalls – these trails, marked in green, are more strenuous, and at times, a lot trickier to navigate.
Parking in the Gwaun Hepste car park at the top of the trail, we set off through the countryside and soon reached a series of woods.
The floor of the woods and the trees were carpeted in a bright green moss and they looked eerily beautiful, the sort of place you’d imagine elves, fairies, and possibly trolls, making their home. It had a very Middle-earth feel to it.
We continued along the trail and soon the ethereal, moss-covered woods gave way to a brighter part of the countryside and we found ourselves walking above a ridge filled with bluebells as far as the eye could see.
Photos don’t do justice to just how idyllic the scene was (above).
After around half an hour or so, the path split in two – one path led to Sgwd Clun-gwyn and the other to the trail’s most famous waterfall, Sgwd yr Eira.
We decided to veer to the left and head to Sgwd yr Eira, keen to get there before it got too busy, as it’s the most popular of the falls.
It took around 25 minutes or so to get to Sgwd yr Eira and the scenic trail boasted superb views over the surrounding countryside (above).
The path was wide, easy to follow and surprisingly quiet – we barely passed anyone along the way.
Once we reached the top of the ravine leading down to Sgwd yr Eira, we turned off onto the link path to the river.
Sgwd yr Eira, which means Fall of Snow in Welsh, lies along the Afon Hepste (Hepste River) and the path to the waterfall consists of a series of steep, narrow, muddy steps.
As we made our way slowly down the uneven path, passing a few people who were struggling to traverse it, I could hear the roar of the water gushing over the cliff.
The steep descent to the bottom was worth the effort, and when we reached the water’s edge, I was blown away by how impressive the waterfall was (above).
One of the reasons Sgwd yr Eira is so popular is because you can walk behind the veil of water.
However, going behind the waterfall isn’t easy, as you have to clamber over the rocks along the river’s edge to get to the narrow ledge that leads behind it.
The rocks were wet and slippery, and unsuitable for anyone who’s unconfident or unsteady on their feet.
There also wasn’t much room to manoeuvre on the rocks or the ledge, which meant only a few people could visit the waterfall at any one time.
The ledge behind the waterfall was, unsurprisingly, sopping wet and very slippery, but it was worth the effort to get to.
It was an incredible experience standing behind the waterfall, watching the roaring cascade of water pour down from above.
After admiring Sgwd yr Eira from every conceivable angle, we headed back up the ravine to rejoin the Four Falls Trail.
The climb up the ravine was painful, but it felt much sturdier going up than on the way down.
We followed the Four Falls Trail for a short while and soon turned off onto another of the green-marked link trails – this time heading to Sgwd y Pannwr.
Sgwd y Pannwr (above) is one of three waterfalls along the Afon Mellte (Mellte River) and lies downstream from the other two waterfalls along the Four Falls Trail – Sgwd Clun-gwyn and Sgwd Isaf Clun-gwyn.
The waterfall isn’t as tall as Sgwd yr Eira and is distinguished by the long, picturesque corridor of rocks and water that lead up to it.
The waterfall was really pretty and I liked how different it was to Sgwd yr Eira. After spending some time taking in the beauty of the falls, we made our way along the river’s edge to the channel of rocks and water (below).
We gingerly walked over the rocks to get a better view of the channel, taking great care over where we trod as the rocks were slippery in places.
From the rocks, we rejoined the waterfall link trail, which took us along the edge of the Afon Mellte to the second of its waterfalls, Sgwd Isaf Clun-gwyn.
While the path to the waterfall started off okay, as we got closer to it, the path became less of a path and more a scramble over muddy rocks.
We clambered over the rocks to the first of the viewing points, where we had a great view of the lower end of Sgwd Isaf Clun-gwyn (above).
From there, we continued our precarious scramble up the cliff, over it’s non-existent paths, to the viewing point near the top of the waterfall (below).
Sgwd Isaf Clun-gwyn is by far and away the prettiest of the four falls and the spectacular sight more than made up for the arduous climb to get to it.
Unsurprisingly, given how difficult it was to get to, it was also by far the quietest of the four waterfalls and we only came upon a handful of other people while we were there.
After stopping to take far too many photos, we scampered further up the cliff, getting a little lost as we tried to work out which way we needed to go to pick up the trail again.
Eventually we hit upon the right path, and as we followed the meandering trail along the edge of the cliff, we soaked up the incredible views of the Afon Mellte below (below).
This part of the trail was perilous and not for the faint hearted. Running along the edge of the cliff, it was narrow, muddy, uneven and slippery, with a sharp (and potentially lethal) tumble into the ravine below if you lost your footing.
When we reached the end of the trail, we came across a sign warning walkers coming from the opposite direction of the dangerous path ahead and advising them to take an alternative route – something we could have done with knowing before we embarked on the trail from the other side!
We followed the diversion, which led back to the main Four Falls Trail, through a series of woods filled with bluebells.
On rejoining the path, we followed the red waymarkers until we reached the signs pointing to Sgwd Clun-gwyn, the last of the four falls.
The path to the waterfall was a little uneven, but much easier to navigate than the others. Sgwd Clun-gwyn (above) was a little underwhelming compared to the other waterfalls, but that’s possibly because it had the worst vantage point of the four.
The cliff from which you looked out over the waterfall jutted out over the river below and it was tricky to get close enough (without falling off the edge of the cliff) to get a good view.
After seeing what we could of Sgwd Clun-gwyn, we made our way back to the Four Falls Trail and followed the path back to the car park.
By this point, we’d been hiking for a good four hours and the walk back to the car park seemed to take a lot longer than it did on the way down.
I loved the Four Falls Trail. It was strenuous and somewhat precarious at times, but the magnificent waterfalls more than made up for any discomfort.
I loved how different all four falls were and how different the trails to them were, it’s a spectacularly beautiful part of the world and I’m only sorry I hadn’t discovered it earlier. It’s definitely somewhere I’ll be returning.
Facilities: We parked in the Gwaun Hepste car park, which costs £5 for the day (you can pay using coins or card) or £4 between 4pm and 8pm. The car park has three portaloos and there’s a small caravan selling drinks and snacks.
Trail: The trail is 8.4km and a mix of moderate to strenuous. The waterfall link paths aren’t suitable for everyone and you need a good level of fitness/head for heights to navigate them. We spent a good four and a bit hours there, so give yourself plenty of time to see everything.
Clothing: If you’re planning to veer off the Four Falls Trail to the waterfalls, make sure you have sturdy waterproof footwear with excellent grips and wear clothing you’re happy to get muddy.
Fabulous trail! I love waterfalls.
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