Brecon Beacons: Elidir Trail

Inspired by my recent visit to the Four Falls Trail, I was keen to explore more of the Brecon Beacons’ waterfall country.

So when I was looking for something to do on my birthday earlier this summer, I decided a hike along the Elidir Trail would be the perfect way to spend the day.

This turned out to be an especially inspired idea as my birthday coincided with the start of the July heatwave and the cool shaded trail proved to be the ideal place for a swelteringly hot summer’s day.

The Elidir Trail follows the path of the Afon Nedd Fechan (Nedd Fechan River) through a woodland ravine from the village of Pontneddfechan to a small car park at Pont Melin-Fach, some two-and-a-half miles away.

The clearly-marked trail (above) begins near The Angel Hotel. Along the way, there are a number of small paths leading to the river (below), where you can stop and take photos, paddle in the water or just admire the stunning views.

Afon Nedd Fechan

The geology around the river is unusual and down at the water’s edge, I was struck by the reddy-orange hue of large parts of the riverbed (below), which I think indicates there’s iron in the rock.

Afon Nedd Fechan river bed

We followed the trail for around half an hour – stopping a few times to head to the river – until the path split in two where the Afon Nedd Fechan meets the Afon Pyrddin (Pyrddin River).

Rather than continue along the trail by crossing the small wooden bridge over the Afon Pyrddin, we turned to our left and followed a short path for five minutes or so until we came to our first waterfall – Sgwd Gwladys (below).

Sgwd Gwladys

The path ended opposite the waterfall, so we clambered down the rocks to the water’s edge to get a closer look, where we found quite a few people sunbathing on the rocks and swimming in the water.

After spending a little while admiring Sgwd Gwladys, we crossed the shallow river and walked to the top of the waterfall to see it from above.

I didn’t realise it at the time, but if you continue along the Afon Pyrddin from the top of Sgwd Gwladys, you eventually reach one of the Brecon Beacons’ lesser known waterfalls, Sgwd Einion Gam.

Unfortunately it didn’t look as though the river led anywhere accessible, so we headed back to the spot where the Afon Pyrddin meets the Afon Nedd Fechan.

Here, we turned to our left to follow the Elidir Trail uphill. The trail became more difficult to traverse at this point – narrower, rockier and muddier.

Sgwd y Bedol

This section of the Elidir Trail passes three waterfalls – Sgwd y Bedol (above), Sgwd Ddwli Isaf and Sgwd Ddwli Uchaf.

Rather than go to see them, we decided to follow the trail until it petered out at Pont Melin-Fach and explore the waterfalls on the way back.

The path between the last of the waterfalls and Pont Melin-Fach wasn’t particularly interesting, so we hurried along it, then doubled back on ourselves to the far more intriguing Sgwd Ddwli Uchaf (below).

Sgwd Ddwli Uchaf

Our first glimpse of the waterfall came from the top of the cliff, which overlooks it.

It wasn’t the best of views, so we headed to the water’s edge via a narrow path through the undergrowth to get a better look. It was well worth the effort as Sgwd Ddwli Uchaf was spectacular.

From Sgwd Ddwli Uchaf, we made our way back to the main trail and followed it to Sgwd y Bedol (the Horseshoe Waterfall).

Sgwd Ddwli Isaf

The third and final waterfall, Sgwd Ddwli Isaf (above), lies hidden a little way upstream and to get to it, we had to walk across the riverbed from Sgwd y Bedol.

I was glad we took the detour to find it, as Sgwd Ddwli Isaf turned out to be delightful and far more impressive than I was expecting.

Riverbed above Sgwd y Bedol

From Sgwd Ddwli Isaf, we crossed the riverbed (above) back to Sgwd y Bedol, taking our time as we did so to inspect the many pools of water that were teeming with tadpoles.

Less welcome were the horseflies that kept doggedly trying to attach themselves to my legs and I began to get quite cross as I incessently swatted them off my shins and calves.

Sgwd y Bedol

Once we arrived at Sgwd y Bedol, we stopped to take some photos and admire the views, before rejoining the trail and retracing our steps back to where the Afon Nedd Fechan meets the Afon Pyrddin.

Here we had a choice of going back to Pontneddfechan by the way we came or crossing the Afon Nedd Fechan and following the trail along the other side of the river, which boasted the promise of an abandoned silica mine.

Old mine entrance along the Elidir Trail

Intrigued by the prospect of the mine, we crossed the river and set out along the narrow, uneven path.

Along the way, we spotted a number of entrances to what we assumed were old mine shafts carved into the cliff.

Most of the entrances were sealed with metal gates, but we were able to get a quick peek inside the one above, which had been flooded, rendering the shaft inaccessible to curious visitors.

Abandoned silica mine on the Elidir Trail

We carried on and eventually came upon a ruined building, which we took to be the silica mine (above).

After spending a little while exploring the area, we followed the trail until we reached a signpost, which suggested we needed to go up the mountain to our left to get back to Pontneddfechan.

The path ahead of us, though, looked a far more sensible option and was heading in the right direction, so we decided to continue along the path, concerned the sign was pointing the wrong way.

This was a great idea to begin with. But the path soon became overgrown and harder to traverse, and we found ourselves climbing over fallen tree trunks and crossing slippery, precarious paths along the edge of the cliff.

Eventually the path petered out altogether and we ended up at the river, with nowhere to go but across the river or back the way we came.

As the river was calm and reasonably shallow (knee height) and there were lots of people swimming in it, we decided to wade across it to rejoin the main trail.

Back on dry land, we scrambled up the river bank and followed the trail to our starting point near The Angel Hotel.

I loved the Elidir Trail, it was incredibly scenic and I liked that there was a mix of things to see and do. The trail was also more straightforward and easier to navigate than the Four Falls Trail.

It’s definitely somewhere I’ll be returning and I might even seek out Sgwd Einion Gam next time.

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