At the time of writing, the Hafod Estate has fairly recently been taken over by the National Trust. We have yet to see what changes that will make, but there may well be positive improvements in facilities for walkers. Hafod is becoming increasingly known and popular, rightly so for its landscapes and varied waymarked walks. In this walk, we sample a lovely corner of the Estate, the short walk around the gorges of the Ystwyth and Nant Gau, combined with a section of the Borth-Devil's Bridge path (Mal Evans Way), and the wonderful wild hill country around Cwmystwyth. It is relatively strenuous, with a sharp but dramatic climb up to Graig y Ddalfa around the half way point, and a longish loop back to the starting point at the top Hafod car park. But apart from a short section on Graig y Ddalfa it is along clear tracks, obvious paths, and lanes. I have included this walk here in memory of my late good friend and walking companion, Harm de Boer, who sadly left us in 2023. He is featured in many of the photos.
The starting point is the well-marked National Trust car park near the Hafod Estate church, which is reached by branching off from the Devil’s Bridge/Pontarfynach to Cwmystwyth road (B4574) following the signs to Hafod.
From the car park, take the blue+ yellow waymarked route which descends diagonally down the hill, at first alongside the upper end of the church cemetery.
The path soon hairpins back on itself, then crosses a much larger track halfway down.
After crossing the track, soon take the left fork where the other option descends to below the first waterfall (Peiran Falls), now keeping on the level following the ‘green waymarks, winding round higher up, and eventually crossing a bridge upstream of the falls over the Nant Peiran.
Continue to follow the clear obvious path as it winds round in a wide arc through the trees, rising briefly, then level again.
Eventually, the path rather suddenly descends to the right, becoming narrower and zig-zagging steeply down to an entertaining chain and rope bridge across the narrow rocky gorge of the Afon Ystwyth.
A good vantage point to photograph others having fun on the bridge with the gorge below, is a so-called ‘gothic arcade’ a short distance further on along the path, with a rather impressive drop down into the river below. Further on, the path descends to Pont Dologau, where the smaller Nant Gau meets the Afon Ystwyth in an attractive pattern of rushing water, and there are three small bridges.
Cross the footbridge at the confluence of the two streams, turn left on the track, then almost immediately turn off left crossing the Nant Gau stream back again slightly higher upstream, following a wide track that leads uphill into the trees.
There is then a large clearing and fields to your right, and you are now exiting the Hafod Estate on the long-distance Borth-Devil’s Bridge path (Mal Evans Way).
The path is a clear track for a little less than 2 km all the way to Cwmystwyth village, undulating here and there, but gradually ascending overall, with views opening out ahead, and some muddy patches and gates to be negotiated.
Approaching the farm at Dol-Chenog, there is a clear sign and waymark indicating your route to go off the main track which forks left to the farm. This sends you instead on a faint footpath across an open meadow, to soon arrive at the small lane which crosses the Ystwyth to the left on the stone bridge.
Cross the bridge and walk up the tiny tarmac lane steeply uphill towards the village.
Turn left at the t-junction, and at the farm buildings in the village look out for the waymark post indicating a right turn off the road then a left leading behind the large barn on a wide track, bearing left where there is a choice of ways further on.
At a metal gate on the lefthand side of the small lane, be careful to spot a grassy footpath opposite, on the right, which rises diagonally back on yourself. The path climbs steadily in a roughly straight line for about ½ km, into somewhat open country.
The path now bends round and briefly becomes more difficult to follow, before picking up again to descend purposefully towards the Ystwyth valley floor ahead along the very steep side of a hill (Glog) to the left.
The path emerges onto the valley road, with the river down to your right, the huge desolation of the former Ystwyth lead/silver mine ahead in the steep-sided and impressive upper Ystwyth valley. Cross a cattle grid, then the road descends and bends slightly right, before you will see a ruined building on the left of the road amongst a few trees, and a layby and seat on the right, almost opposite.
Immediately after the ruin is the path on the left where you start ascending the hill. This is steep, but quite clear at its lower level. Gaining height, you soon take the obvious hairpin to the left, and continue to climb, with the path getting smaller but still easy to follow.
The path keeps ascending, with wonderful views in all directions opening out, curving round to the right up to the bwlch between Glog and Graig y Ddalfa to your right. Gradually, the gradient is easing as the path gets near a fence over to the left.
It is really a matter of taste where to branch off right heading towards Graig y Ddalfa summit…there is no path, but the slightly tussocky grass and rocks are quite manageable, but steep. Branching off earlier gives better views down into the Ystwyth valley, but a longer climb, and probably harder going. Either way, after a few false summits, you arrive on the rocky spine, with the highest point at the far end at 448 m.
The views from the summit are wonderful, particularly peering down into the valley below from the edge of the low rocky and grassy ridge.
From the summit, head downhill NW to regain the original path further on and continue in a broad curve across the small valley of Nant Gwndwn-gwyn towards Tanlan-fawr.
Avoid dropping down to the farm, continue on the small path above it, arriving at the tiny lane (from Cwmystwyth village) where you can cut off the corner and drop down to it by a wooden footpath signpost.
Turn left on the lane then immediately right off it again over a waymarked stile near a white cottage with green outbuildings, then another to take you into open grazing land.
You then meet another cottage, the path running alongside it, and then meet the lane again.
Cross the lane, where you will see the path dropping down to a wooden footbridge, and then following a clear straight line via a couple more stiles and bridges across marshy land towards a forest boundary.
Walk about 3-400m along the forest path, until you arrive at a forest track crossing the path, and turn left onto it.
The view opens out rapidly as we walk downhill.
After about 600m, a path is clearly seen turning left, crossing a small stream, leading uphill, then emerging from the forest again at the same lane yet again, where we turn right.
Follow the lane for about 750m, passing a small water supply facility on the left; very soon after this, go through the gate off the lane into the pasture to the right.
The faintest of paths leads on, contouring round the shoulder of the hill, then dropping down quite sharply to a gate, followed by an awkward broken stile onto the B4574. If you miss this section, just continue on the lane to Point 28.
Turn right here, then almost immediately spot a stile leading off into the field to the left. Once over this, descend on a permissive footpath along the edges of four fields, until you emerge on to the B4574.
Turn right, then round a left-hand bend, being careful of traffic.
Walk along the edge of the road carefully for about 600m, moderately uphill, until you arrive back at the car park and starting point of the walk.