Spilling water, mossy riverbeds and tree-shrouded caverns – Waterfall Country at the head of the Vale of Neath in South Wales is a ramblers dream.
Dozens of routes run through the valley, some short and easy, others long, muddy and sure to test your thighs. Which ever route you choose, adventure won't be far away. Try this 3.5-mile circular between the Clyngwyn Bunkhouse and Cwm Porth.
1. The sound of water
Park at the lay-by near to Clyngwyn Bunkhouse and walk down a bridleway. Turn right (signed waterfall walk) and follow a wide path. After 500m turn right to a viewing platform over the impressive Lower Fall of the White Meadow (Sgwd Isaf Clun Gwyn).
Retrace your steps then turn right and walk through woodlands to a second set of falls – Sgwd Clun Gwyn. Continue on the high path then turn right to the falls. If the water level is low you can explore the moss-covered rocks and even clamber down to the shelf to watch the water cascade into the valley.
2. Beside the flow
Back on the path, take the peaceful route alongside the river. Cross a wooden bridge by a pebbled bank and turn right onto a rocky path. Keep right and walk along the ancient riverbed, evidence of the river’s course before it cut further into the limestone. Follow the path right to a viewpoint overlooking Sgwd Clun Gwyn.
3. Mossy falls
Walk left on a narrow path that weaves over tree roots. Be careful of your step and keep an eye on children near the edge. Descend with the path down to the river, bearing right to look at Sgwd Isaf Clun Gwyn, a long curved waterfall dripping with mosses.
Pick your way carefully downstream to a deep pool and a peaceful spot beneath a three-tiered fall that makes for a beautifully composed photo. Amble further downstream to Sgwd y Pannwr as the river turns sharply and tumbles into a deep pool surrounded by overhanging trees.
4. Out of the vale
Turn back on yourself and take the path right, then turn off immediately right to follow an unclear rocky path. Take a left steeply uphill and climb out of the valley, then follow the path right. Bear left through lush woodland and dappled sunlight. Turn right and head steeply downhill to a grassy bank, then turn left and follow the river to a two-tiered waterfall in a delightfully peaceful spot.
Head back the way you came and rejoin the path, turning right. When the path drops down to the riverside you can walk alongside the river to Wales’ best-known waterfall, Sgwd yr Eira. Until recently you could walk behind the falls but the path is now closed due to unstable rocks.
5. White Horse cave
Turn back and walk up steps. Turn left then take the top route and continue above the tree line. Carry straight on at a junction, then stick to the upper path, bearing right, and turn right to return to the viewing platform at Sgwd Clun Gwyn. Walk uphill, turn left at the top and follow the path back to the bridge.
Carry straight on alongside the river bank until you reach Cwm Porth, an eco-friendly information centre, with picnic and toilet facilities. Walk down from the car park to explore Porth Yr Ogof, one of the largest cave entrances in Wales. At 20m wide and 3m high, you can safely explore the opening of the cave (don’t forget your torch). Look out for calcite streaks on the back wall that resemble a white horse, giving the cave its name.
6. A final fall
You now have two options: Get picked up by a friend at the car park; or walk back to Cwm Porth, cross the road and retrace your steps. For an interesting detour, turn right through a gate, signed "Access for Cavers", and walk over the ancient water-worn riverbed to the resurgence pool where the River Mellte gushes out from its underwater course.
Back on the path, turn right then left to rejoin the main path. Cross the bridge and follow the path back to the bunkhouse lay-by.
What's your favourite waterfall? Here are our top five.
Main image ©Getty
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