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Escape To The Cambrian Mountains: Where To Hike, Cycle And Swim In Wales

Often referred to as the ‘last wilderness of Wales,’ Penstacan is an area nestled at the foot of the Cambrian Mountains, and if you’re looking to spend more time outdoors this summer, it’s a must-visit to add to the list. With views that scale across the western end of the Brecon Beacons and Mynydd Mallaen, the southern peak of the Cambrian Mountains, this is the perfect starting point to try out a variety of activities.

With undiscovered wild swimming spots, scenic cycling routes and numerous hikes to set foot on, we’ve rounded up a selection of offerings in the Cambrian Mountains; whether you’re seeking a challenge or something more slow-paced during your stay.

Hiking routes

The beauty of the Cambrian Mountains is that most of the walking routes are remote, offering wild scenery and paths that you’ll most likely enjoy all to yourself. Here are some of the most infamous selections in the surrounding areas.

The summit of Pumlumon
Scale the highest point in Ceredigion and discover the beautiful lakes and streams that are the source of the mighty rivers of Wales. Here you can enjoy uninterrupted views of the mountain ranges and Ceredigion inland landscapes and choose from five different walking routes – all varying in difficulty – to reach the top of Pumlumon Fawr.

Drygarn Fawr From Caban Coch Reservoir
Located in the centre of the Cambrian Mountains, this is one of Wales’ wildest and most remote mountains, where you’ll find a moderate walking route suitable for most fitness levels. The summit is topped with two distinctive large cairns and lies between the Elan Valley Reservoirs and Radnor Forest – both of which are also worth exploring whilst you’re there.

Doethie Valley
A sensational valley loved by mountain bikers, walkers and horse riders alike, there is an abundance of routes of lengths to try here. A great starting point is Llyn Brianne and there are various loops you can take from here, depending on how long you feel like walking.

Teifi Pools
For a coast-to-coast walk through wild Wales, Teifi Pools is made up of beautiful lakes and has become known as one of the most scenic and challenging routes in the Cambrian Mountains. Another hour from here is the even more remote spot Llyn Gyn, which offers picturesque views and avenues that feel completely unspoilt.

Pen y Fan
A well-loved walk that is suitable for all activity levels, Pen-y-Fan is located nearby and there are four routes differing in pace and difficulty, all of which take you to the highest peak for views across the iconic Brecon Beacons. Whilst you’re there, try the scenic Four Waterfalls Walk too, where each point boasts an alternate view to take in.

Cycling trails

Llandovery has long been a favourite town to visit and stay in amongst cyclists, with openings to tracks in forests and mountains, as well as a variety of quiet road routes. Whether you’re new to road cycling or you’re a keen mountain biker looking for a stretching course, here are some of the favourite options amongst Welsh locals.

The Tywi Valley
The Tywi Valley route follows the river Towy to Rhandirmwyn for stunning hills and it is a fairly short road option – perfect for the beginners amongst us. If you want to take things slow and relax along the way, there are three pubs you can stop at including the Towy Bridge Inn, the Royal Oak and the Neuadd Fawr Arms.

The Black Mountain road
For more of a challenge, cycle the Black Mountain road, which is located on the western side of the infamous Brecon Beacons. This is an ensuing climb that spans 703 metres, so it’s a route for more experienced cyclists and offers unrivalled views of the Cambrian Mountains. A long-time favourite amongst locals, it’s even used in the Tour of Britain race.

Brechfa
If mountain biking is your thing, Brechfa offers The Gorlech Trail which consists of three big climbs and descents that total 19km spanning the forest. It’s best suited to those with some cycling experience but if you’re a beginner it can be taken at your own pace. Looking for even more of a workout? The Raven Trail brings narrow tracks and steep descents together for something more demanding.

The Celtic Trail West

If it’s family-friendly routes you are seeking, The Celtic Trail West has a selection of off-road routes to choose from. A favourite is the Millenium Coastal Park route which lasts around 2-3 hours and stretches across 13 miles. It’s mostly flat and follows the Carmarthenshire coast for great views during the summer months – start at Bynea and end at Pembrey Country Park.

Wild swimming spots

As wild swimming becomes more and more popular, Wales offers the perfect selection of spots for taking a dip. Whether you want to swim across glacier lakes or cool off in a natural pool, discover the tried-and-tested swimming locations across the landscape.

The Wash Pool Cwm Irfon
This renowned pool is a place where farmers used to wash their sheep before shearing, yet it is now a favoured wild swimming spot for taking a dip. There’s parking nearby so you can drive up and the water brings shallow areas for children, as well as a deeper section for adults and stronger swimmers.

Llyn y Fan Fach
This is an iconic glacier lake that lies under the Carmarthen Fans in the Brecon Beacons, however it is known to be a colder choice – whatever the season. There’s a car park about 45 minutes away, so you can also enjoy a relaxed short walk to the lake in spring-summer.

Llyn Cwm Llwch
The best-preserved glacial lake in South Wales; Llyn Cwm Llwch sits at the head of the Cwm Llwch Valley, underneath Pen y Fan. If you’re making a day of it, park at the bottom and walk for about an hour to reach the lake, then continue up to the summit of Pen y Fan. You will also take in the summit of Corn Du and it’s recommended to tackle this on a clear day because then the views are spectacular.

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