Cadair Berwyn from Pistyll Rhaeadr

Cadair Berwyn

This walk is in the lesser trodden Welsh county of Powys. At 830m above sea level, Cadair Berwyn is the highest point in Denbighshire, and the highest mountain in Wales outside of the National Parks. The county boundary line of Powys and Denbighshire traverses the summit ridge of Cadair Berwyn meaning that it lies in both counties. This walk starts from the spectacular Pistyll Rhaeadr waterfall. Falling two hundred and forty feet over the rocky Silurian cliff face above Tan-y-pistyll it is the tallest waterfall in Britain outside Scotland. This route ascends Moel Sych and Cadair Berwyn before a steep descent to the beautiful glacial lake of Llyn Lluncaws and a return walk through the wild and remote Cwm Nant y Llyn valley. From Llyn Lluncaws a short and steep ascent reaches the summits of Moel Sych and Cadair Berwyn. From the summit of Cadair Berwyn on a clear day there are incredible views to the higher mountains of Snowdonia and the Brecon Beacons.

Route Directions

  1. The walk starts from Tan-y-pistyll at grid reference SJ073294. There is a small car parking area at the very end of the road by the Tan-y-Pistyll Cafe and just a stone's throw away from the Pistyll Rhaeadr waterfall. On busier days there is also a large lay-by car park further back down the road at grid reference SJ076293. Parking at Tan-y-Pistyll isn't free, but it isn't extortionate either.
  2. To reach Tan-y-pistyll. Turn off the A483 trunk road between Oswestry and Welshpool at Llynclys Crossroads, taking the A495 to Llansantffraid. After two miles ignore the A495 to Llansantffraid on the left, instead continue on the same road which is now the B4396 to Llanrhaeadr-ym-Mochnant. After seven and a half miles you will pass the B4396 to Bala on the left. Continue on the same road which is now the B4580 to Llanrhaeadr-ym-Mochnant. After one mile you will pass through the village centre, following the road round a left bend in front of the Post Office. After fifty metres turn right down the aptly named Waterfall Lane. Four miles further on you will reach Tan-y-pistyll.
  3. The Tan-y-Pistyll Cafe's restaurant and tea rooms make for a fabulous start or finish to a great walk. It is a lovely establishment selling homemade food including breakfasts and sandwiches. They provide ice cream during summer months and you can even stay at their excellent B&B. What a fabulous place to wake up and start a walk from! The Tan-y-Pistyll car park also has public toilets.
  4. The car parks are so close to the spectacular Pistyll Rhaeadr waterfall that it makes sense to visit the waterfall both at the beginning and end of the walk. The reason I say this is that the waterfall is hidden in woodland and takes on different light and colours depending on the direction of the sun.
  5. The waterfall can look very different depending on which time of year you visit. In winter the falls look spectacular when covered in rime ice and icicles. In summer the waters can be a tame trickle but after long rains the waterfall can be a frightening thunderous torrent of water.
  6. There are viewing platforms above the Afon Rhaeadr pools below the waterfall. A wooden footbridge crossing the Afon Rhaeadr provides a great viewpoint and photo opportunity. One of the most striking features of the falls is its natural stone arch that the falls pass through half way down. Also look out for dippers bobbing about on the rocks in the Afon Rhaeadr.
  7. From the car park ascend the signposted footpath that heads in a north easterly direction away from the car park. Follow the path through a wooden gate and through a small wood until it opens out at the edge of the wide Cwm Nant y Llyn valley.
  8. Just a few metres after the woodland turn left up a steep path. This path zigzags up the side of the hill and reaches the track again. At the track turn left and walk along the track. After less than a hundred metres you will reach a path that heads left into the woodland over a stile. Here, if you want, you can cross that stile and make a diversion to see the top of the Pistyll Rhaeadr waterfall.
  9. At the same point a path turns right heading north away from the track and ascends the southern ridge of Moel Sych. Turn right and ascend this path up Trum Felen on the south ridge of Moel Sych.
  10. After just over a kilometre you will reach the 691m summit of Trum Felen where you cross another wooden stile. Continue walking north along the highest point of the ridge following the fence now on your right.
  11. When you eventually reach the 827m high summit of Moel Sych there is a cairn of stones, two wooden stiles and the junction of three fences. As you approach Moel Sych you should get your first glimpse down to the beautiful glacial lake of Llyn LLuncaws.
  12. From the summit of Moel Sych turn right over a wooden stile then continue along the ridge heading north east for seven hundred metres. You will cross another wooden stile over a fence as you approach the summit. This is the highest summit on Cadair Berwyn at 830m above sea level. There is no cairn or OS trig point pillar, just a rocky knoll with a few impressive rock pinnacles.
  13. There is an OS trig point pillar on Cadair Berwyn but it is located two hundred metres further north along the ridge. It was originally thought that the 827m high summit where the OS trig point pillar is situated was the highest point on the mountain. However, a few decades ago the Ordnance Survey confirmed that this rocky knoll two hundred metres south is in fact three metres higher at 830m above sea level.
  14. From the true summit continue north along the ridge for another two hundred metres to reach the original summit where you will find the OS trig point pillar. There is a fence on the left most of the way and you will pass a small pool of water on the col between the summits.
  15. The panoramic views from Cadair Berwyn's summit are amazing and will make you realise just how remote a location it is. To the east you will see the flat fertile land of Cheshire, to the south the Brecon Beacons and hills of South Wales, to the west the high mountains of Cadair Idris and the Rhinogs, and looking north west you will see the three highest mountain ranges in North Wales; the Snowdon massif, The Glyders and The Carneddau.
  16. From the original summit of Cadair Berwyn retrace your steps by heading south back along the ridge. After two hundred metres you will pass the true summit again and cross the wooden stile. After the wooden stile continue retracing your steps, this time heading south west in the direction of Moel Sych.
  17. After six hundred metres the path splits. One path heads to the summit of Moel Sych the other south over the top of Craig y Llyn and Llyn Lluncaws. Head south along the path over Craig y Llyn to Llyn Lluncaws. The path is fairly steep and muddy in places so take care when descending. The path swings round onto an easterly ridge and descends to Llyn LLuncaws.
  18. Llyn Lluncaws is a typical glacial lake. These glacial lakes are not too common around these parts of Wales. The lake is backed by the Craig y Llyn crags of Moel Sych on one side and the Cadair Berwyn ridge of Moel yr Ewig on the other. During winter months Llyn Lluncaws can ice over for weeks.
  19. From Llyn Lluncaws rejoin the path and continue along it crossing the Nant y Llyn outflow from Llyn Lluncaws before turning right and heading south with the Nant y Llyn into the Cwm Nant y Llyn valley. The path reaches the head of the valley and continues along above its eastern edge.
  20. Follow the path south for a kilometre along the path above the eastern edge of the Cwm Nant y Llyn valley. At the Tan-y-pistyll end of the valley the path rounds the end of the ridge to the left then heads south east for another half kilometre to reach the road to Tan-y-pistyll.
  21. When you reach the road turn right and walk in a north westerly direction along the road for half a kilometre to reach Tan-y-pistyll where the Tan-y-Pistyll Cafe's restaurant and tea rooms make for a fabulous finish to your walk. If you have the time you could always re-visit the Pistyll Rhaeadr waterfall to see how it has changed during the day.

Maps for this walk

Paper maps for this walk

Click to buy OS Explorer EX255 Map Click to buy OS Landranger 125 Map Click to buy Pathfinder Guides North Wales Click to buy Collins Ramblers Guides Snowdonia & North Wales

GPS files for this walk

Route map of this walk

Photos & Trip Reports

Planning for a walk

Check the weather

The weather is a very important part of hill walking. Weather conditions and daylight hours will dictate where you walk, what gear you will need to carry, how far you walk, and may even decide if you go at all. The following links will help you gather information on weather conditions for areas of Britain...

Plan your journey

Planning your journey before you set off for your walk can save you vital hours on the day. You need to make sure you know the area surrounding your starting point as many factors can influence or change the place you park. Don't forget change for parking meters and fees.

Maintenance of your vehicle and being ready for breakdown situations when driving to remote areas is also vital. Pack a full spare petrol can in your boot, and take de-icing tools in winter, including a shovel. The Transport Direct website below is a great resource for anyone wanting to get to the start of their walk using public transport...

Pack the right gear

Carrying and wearing the right gear is essential for walkers to remain comfortable and safe while hill walking in Britain. However, the best gear in the world is of no use to anyone who doesn't know how to use and care for it. Knowing how to use your gear will give you a much more enjoyable experience. The following items are, in my opinion, the essential items to wear and carry for a hill walk in Britain. It would be foolish to head into the hills and mountains of Britain without these essential items and the knowledge of how to use them. Check out the gear section of this site for techniques and gear lists...

  • Footwear
  • Clothing
  • Rucksack
  • Warm Clothes
  • Waterproofs
  • Map & Compass
  • Emergency Kit
  • First Aid Kit
  • Food & Drink
  • Seasonal Gear

Know what to do in emergencies

It is good practise to tell someone where you are going, and when you expect to return. If you don't get in contact when you said you would on your return, and those you told can't get hold of you, at least they will be able to provide the search party with your general location.

Emergency equipment in the check list above means items such as a survival bag, whistle, and emergency food rations. This isn't anything special; any whistle will do, the orange emergency bags only costs a few pounds, and basic food rations can consist of a couple of chocolate bars. Carrying a head lamp is also an important component and a vital piece of kit used for signalling when you require rescuing.

You should always try and get out of a difficult or emergency situation using your own gear, knowledge and energy. If you cannot do this, then you should dial 999 and ask for the police. Use all the gear you have to keep any unwell or injured members of your party or yourself safe and warm, and use your signalling devices to let the rescuers know your whereabouts. To do this blow six good long blasts on your whistle, or flash six flashes of your torch. Stop for one minute. Repeat. Carry on with the whistle blasts until someone reaches you, and don't stop because you've heard a reply.

Never contact mountain rescue unless absolutely necessary, but on the other hand don't ever feel guilty for having to do so, especially if you are a prepared walker. The Mountain Rescue teams are full of fantastic like-minded souls who love nothing more than people who are prepared for being safe in the mountains.