Recently, I visited the Brecon Beacons National Park in Wales with my wife and 8 year-old son, to walk the Four Falls Trail, also known as the Waterfall Walk. I found the walk such an enjoyable family day out, that I wanted to share our experience.
Known as “Waterfall Country” the area of the Brecon Beacons National Park that houses the Four Falls Trail/Walk, is a beautiful, colourful area of woodland, gorges, caves and waterfalls. The Four Falls Walk is located in Fforest Fawr, near the villages of Ystradfellte, Hirwaun and Pontneddfechan, or more specifically OS grid reference SN935123, or post code Aberdare CF44 9JF.
The walk is approximately 6 miles long. It is specified as being “energetic” or “strenuous” because it includes some very steep steps and tracks. Regardless of the weather conditions you should wear walking boots because there are muddy and slippery sections – this is Waterfall Country after all!
I would suggest that you need at least four hours to complete the walk to allow for time to stop and gaze at the beauty of the waterfalls. They are truly stunning so this is not a walk that you want to speed through.
The most popular starting point for the walk is Cwm Porth car park. The car park gets full rather quickly because the area is also popular with potholers and cavers, so I would suggest you get there early. The car park is located close to the point where the River Mellte runs into the widest cave entrance in Wales. You may want to visit the cave before you start the walk – the water is shallow in most seasons.
Once you get going, you will realise you are in an area of incredible beauty, and will soon hear the roar of the waterfalls that are waiting for you. The four waterfalls you will see along the way are:
- Sgwd Clwn-gwyn – “White Meadow Waterfall”
The highest of the falls, it has an impressive drop of approximately 40 ft over two ledges. It marks an unforgettable first cascade of the walk. The edge is fenced alongside the main path. Direct access to the fall can be made from the other side of the river which you can reach by a footbridge that you pass on the route.
- Sgwd Isaf Clwn-gwyn – “Lower White Meadow Waterfall”
This is the lower partner to Sgwd Clwn-gwyn. To reach it, you must walk to a dead end so, unfortunately, it is sometimes missed. Although it may not be particularly unusual or remarkable, it is still beautiful enough to make the effort to seek it out. It produces a series of cascades that are popular with kayakers and canyoning groups.
- Sgwd y Pannwr – “Waterfall of the Woollen Washer”
The lowest of the falls on the Afon Mellte, the Sgwd y Pannwr is also considered to be the most secluded fall on the trail. It plunges over an elongated shelf, giving it a Niagra-esque effect. This is in contrast to the pool below the fall which is calmer than many other parts of the river due to a sharp curve that slows down the flow.
- Sgwd yr Eira – “Waterfall of Snow”
One of the most famous waterfalls in the Brecon Beacons, also known as the Curtain Waterfall, Sgwd yr Eira tumbles down a 50 ft drop off a cliff between high banks. Its size and magnificence are not the only reasons for its popularity. Its unique quality is that it has a pathway behind it, allowing you to walk underneath the fall. I can thoroughly recommend doing this – it is a safe and recognised route, but you will
get wet from the spray, which only adds to the fun. The path down to Sgyd yr Eira is by far the steepest part of the entire walk, but it’s well worth the lung busting walk back up, even drenched to the skin, (which you will be). As long as you’re prepared with decent waterproofs and boots, it is an experience that shouldn’t be missed.
The Four Falls Walk is a versatile hike for adults and children – you can make it a one-mile stroll, or a full day out. If you’re not inclined to do the full walk, you can choose to go to one or a couple of falls and retrace your steps.
As long as you stick to the designated path, the walk is fine for children, who particularly enjoy walking behind Sgwd yr Eira, and playing in the mud and puddles. Some of the paths are tricky, however, so you should give careful consideration to whether it would be suitable for your child. Please note that the rough riverside paths hug the cliff and there is a scary drop at one point, so those routes are not recommended for children. Otherwise, there is so much to see they certainly won’t get bored!
I’m an experienced walker, and it is of no surprise to me that the Four Falls Walk is so popular with walkers of all levels of experience and families alike - particularly as along the walk there are clear information points, indicating where you are in relation to the waterfalls and paths. I’d highly recommend it, and have taken away some wonderful memories of a fantastic day’s walking.