4.2 of 5 (12 votes)

The Elan Valley

A hard walk (mountain (above 600m)) in Powys, Wales, about 46.00km (28.58 mi) long with an estimated walking time of about 16:00h (2 overnight stays). It is unsuitable for families with children, prams & pushchairs, wheelchairs.
Elevation Profile
Ascent 794m (2604ft)
Descent 812m (2664ft)
Max. Elevation 630m (2066ft)
Altitude Gain & Loss 1606m (5268ft)
Start & End
Distance 46.00km
Duration ~16:00h
Car Free Walks TeamCreated by Timwoods on 11 Jun 2009
The Elan Valley, in the heart of the Cambrian Mountains, is one of Wales' most scenic regions. It is famous for its birdlife, especially birds of prey such as the Red Kite, which find refuge in the wooded valleys and mountains outcrops. A two day walk here gives you the chance to enjoy the region in the peace of dawn and dusk, and also provides the best chance to spot birds. But no camping is allowed on the estate, which is owned by Welsh Water, so you will need to head out for a wild camp.

Walk Functions


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Walk Map

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OS Grid SN971681
Rhayader is a town with a rich history dating back to the Bronze Age. It has excellent bus connections around mid-Wales. The first section of the walk - along the Wye Valley Walk to Llanwrthwl - can be made via bus - services run every two hours on most days, but it is a good walk if you have time.
OS Grid SN974638
At Llanwrthwl, leave the Wye Valley Walk and take the bridleway on to Graig Ddu and the open access land of the Elan Valley.
About 4.31 km (~2.68 miles) from
OS Grid SN947613
This is the first of a series of high points around the Elan Valley that define this walk. Good navigation skills are required; much of the terrain is open, flat mountain tops, with few clear paths or features to guide the way. This makes it a great adventure, but make sure you can navigate!
About 3.67 km (~2.28 miles) from
OS Grid SN918591
The views from this rounded summit down towards Caban-coch Reservoir are fantastic, but remember to keep checking the skies for the avian visitors and residents for which the region is renowned - it is a stronghold for Red Kites, which are spotted most days in the region.
About 3.63 km (~2.26 miles) from
OS Grid SN895588
The route from Gorllwyn crosses a clearly marked bridleway running from north to south. This leads alongside the reservoir back to the Wye Valley Walk and Rhayader, which is an option for a long day walk. But those with time to spare should keep going on to Drygarn Fawr.
About 2.31 km (~1.44 miles) from
OS Grid SN863584
This is the high point of the walk at 641m. The long summit region is marked by two cairns. More sensational views from here, with many of mid-Wales' big peaks visible. This also marks the boundary of the Elan Valley Estate, so you can drop down the western side and find a spot to wild camp.
About 3.22 km (~2 miles) from
OS Grid SN806563
For those not wishing to wild camp, Dolgoch bunkhouse (run by the YHA) is an equally fine place to spend the night. It's 5km from Drygarn Fawr - follow the bridleway from the summit until it meets a steep road through the woods. You have to follow the River Towy for a bit to cross at the bridge.
About 6.06 km (~3.77 miles) from
OS Grid SN837595
Wherever you slept, it's worth making an early start to get back to the hills before the sun is too high. No people, the scent of morning and hopefully plenty of rare birds to spot. Unless it's raining of course, in which case have another cup of tea and stay in bed a bit longer.
About 4.45 km (~2.77 miles) from
OS Grid SN855612
Remote Llyn Carw is yet another good place to spend a few minutes and enjoy this unspoilt swathe of Welsh countryside. Nearby is the bridleway that leads back to the shores of Caban-coch.
About 2.47 km (~1.53 miles) from
OS Grid SN906612
Back to something approaching civilisation after a wild day and a half; but fret not, it's still a great walk home. The route hugs the shoreline of this vast body of water, and the wooded lower hills provide some enjoyable contrast for the final stretch.
About 5.09 km (~3.16 miles) from
OS Grid SN930645
Unfortunately the Post Bus service to Elan Village no longer runs, so you will still have to walk the final leg. But there is a tea shop at the visitor centre if you need a quick energy boost to keep you going. The vast Victorian dam is also very impressive.
About 4.12 km (~2.56 miles) from
OS Grid SN965654
There is a maze of quiet roads and footpaths back towards Rhayader, so you can pretty much make up your own route back. The main Elan Valley road is the most direct, and it's usually not too busy to walk alongside.
About 3.51 km (~2.18 miles) from
OS Grid SN969677
The end! Time for a beer/bath/beef stew and dumplings, depending on which is your most urgent need after two days of walking. There is a good mix of accommodation in Rhayader as well, if you don't want to head straight off - check out www.rhayader.co.uk for more information.
About 2.42 km (~1.5 miles) from

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