1. Woodland wander
Park at Bont Newydd and pass through the kissing gate into Coedydd Aber Nature Reserve. Follow the path beside Afon Rhaeadr-Fawr and look out for dippers bobbing on the boulders in the river. You soon arrive at a bench with carvings and mosaics illustrating some of the local wildlife.
Further along the path, cross a footbridge and pass through a gate. Bear right alongside oak, birch and hazel woodlands – a good habitat for woodland birds, which are more easily spotted in the winter months when the trees have no leaves. At an information board, follow the track ahead.
After a steep section, there are glimpses of the waterfall at the head of the valley. Ignore a path on the left of you and you will soon reach the visitor centre.
2. A Steep incline
Continue along the track, passing a fenced off enclosure containing the foundations of a recently excavated Iron Age roundhouse. In the far corner are the remains of a more recent kiln and a standing stone. Pass below a scree-strewn hillside to the rocks below the 120ft-high Aber Falls, which are at their most impressive after heavy winter rains. The river boasts one of the steepest gradients from source to sea in England and Wales.
3. North Wales Path
From the falls, retrace your steps for a few metres and cross a footbridge over the river to take the path uphill to a spectacular viewpoint of the falls.
Walk back to the fence and climb a stile to continue along the North Wales Path. Look out for ravens, buzzards and peregrines in the skies above you. After crossing a footbridge at a lesser waterfall, the path veers north, crosses a few streams, then heads uphill to a great viewpoint. If you are lucky you may spot Carneddau ponies on the hillside.
These hardy, semi-wild Celtic ponies have lived on the rugged Carneddau mountain range for hundreds of years. During the winter months they graze lower down the mountainside, and you have more chance of spotting them.
Follow the clear path along the hillside and, at a waymark, take the path indicated to where it rejoins the wider path. Continue along it and you will pass a plantation and a metal farm building to reach a fork in the track.
4. Medieval mound
Leave the North Wales Path and take the right-hand, stony track downhill. Just before it enters trees, go right on a waymarked path and descend the steep hillside. Pause to look down at the village.
In a small field near houses you can see a conspicuous mound with a flat top. A wooden keep, built by either the Normans or one of the Welsh princes, once stood on this medieval motte. Llywelyn ap Iorwerth had a court here and his wife Joan, illegitimate daughter of King John of England, is said to have had an affair with the Marcher Lord William de Braose. Llywelyn hanged the lord on a nearby hill but when Joan died in 1237, she was buried at Llanfaes Priory on Anglesey.
At the bottom of the hill, pass through the gate on to a lane. Go right to the car park or, for refreshments, go left to Yr Hen Felin.
Woodland path, firm tracks and rough pasture. There are some stream crossings, so walking boots or wellies, warm clothing and waterproofs are essential.
HOW TO GET THERE
By car: Rhayader is northwest of Llandrindod Wells on the A483 and A44.
By public transport: A bus service runs regularly between Llandrindod Wells to Rhayader.
Ordnance Survey Explorer Map 200.Grid ref: SN 966 677
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