WHISKY & WATER
Here’s another excellent walk from Brecon Beacons navigation teacher Kevin Walker. It involves some waterfalls and whisky, but don’t get your hopes up, you won’t get to see any whisky waterfalls!
This weeks Walk Wednesday offers visitors a chance to stop by Wales only whisky distillery, as well as getting the chance to view a great waterfall from all sides.
The quickest way to walk behind the famous waterfall, Sgwd yr Eira, is to start from the home of Welsh Whisky!
DISTANCE – 5kms (3 miles)
HEIGHT GAIN – 100 metres (300 feet).
START POINT – Roadside parking in Penderyn.
GRID REFERENCE – SN/945090.
MAPS – OS Explorer OL12. OS Landranger 160.
This is a straightforward stroll on good, if sometimes muddy paths. However, the descent into the valley to reach the waterfall is very steep – as is the climb back out!
Penderyn lies on the A4059 between Hirwaun and the central Beacons, and is the home of the Penderyn Distillery, where Welsh Whisky is made (the visitor centre is well worth a visit). At the extreme northern edge of the village is a narrow road that loops round past a line of houses. Park along the non-residential section, leaving enough room for the bus that uses this loop as a turning circle!
1. In the angle formed by the residential and non-residential parts of the loop is a muddy “island” populated by a motley and often noisy assortment of chicken, ducks and geese, beyond which a rough track heads off to the west. Ignoring the farm entrance, walk along the level, fenced track to reach a gate (usually open), and continue into more open countryside past old quarries on the left. Keep your eyes open for a waymark pointing right, the veer off down this initially rocky path and start to cross the boggy hillside, trending right. At the end of this section, cross either of the two stiles on the left, and follow the field boundary up the hill, with forestry to the left and open fields to the right, where there are great views of the distant Brecon Beacons. At the top of the hill, turn left along a grassy path that descends past piles of gravel to reach a large boulder and a finger post. Listen for the sound of falling water!
2. Beyond and to the right of the boulder, a rocky path leads down into the gorge. There are steep drops here, and several very large steps, so keep your eyes on any young children (and timid adults!). The noise of the water gets louder as you descend, and after a short, very rough and slippery section, the path swings to the right and you get your first view of Sgwd yr Eira – the Falls of Snow. This is an impressive sight at any time, but particularly after rain, when the river is in spate.
3. Carefully follow the path and walk behind the waterfall – an unforgettable experience! There is plenty of room behind the fall, but there is often a strong back-draught that sucks spray into the gap, so you will almost certainly get wet. It is, however, an experience not to be missed… apparently, the falling water ionises the air behind the waterfall, and ionised air can cause short-term euphoria. Whilst the scientific accuracy of this is debatable, it is undeniable that most people emerge from the falls with a huge grin on their face!
4. There is a reasonably level area away from the spray on the far side of the gorge, beyond which a rough, riverside path leads over extremely slippery rocks towards a long section of wonderful cascades in an increasingly deep and narrow gorge. The ground here is extremely steep, and the very narrow paths stray close to large drops, so caution is needed if you decide to explore downstream of Sgwd yr Eira.
Having explored and/or rested, return to the start by retracing your outward route.