Llanwrtyd Wells: Around the Garn
Distance: 5 miles
Duration: 2 ½ to 3 hours
Gates and no stiles; pet friendly.
Note: Can be muddy and wet, with steep hills and rough ground.
Start at the town square, you can park behind the hotel. Start out in a westerly direction along Dol-Y-Coed Road, past the blue house (pic1). Continue along the road past the fire station until you reach the former Dol-Y-Coed Hotel building (pic2). This was originally a country house built in 1537. However, when the spas were discovered, it subsequently changed into a hotel and was prominent in the development of Llanwrtyd as a spa town in the 19th Century.
Follow the footpath sign and turn left off the lane to walk in front of the building, with the river on your left hand side. Go through the gate in front of you, past the friendly horse and donkey and the sign illustrating all the wildlife to be found in the area. Continue along the tree lined avenue towards the spa buildings. This is where the vicar of Llangammarch, Theopholis Evans, discovered a spring bubbling to the surface around 1732. As the popularity of the spa increased, the building on the left was built in 1820 and the rest of the buildings around 1884. Whilst nearby Llandrindod Wells tended to cater for the gentry, Llanwrtyd was generally more popular with the people of South Wales, from the steel and coal towns. Not only were croquet lawns, bowling greens and hard tennis courts built here. Llanwrtyd Wells also became important in the cultural development of the people, with many summer schools set up. The decline of the wells began in the 1940’s, partly as a result of the founding of the National Health Service. By the end of the 1950’s Llanwrtyd Wells was a ghost of it’s former self.
At the Spa buildings veer left towards the river. Turn right at the river and follow the path along the river. Continue walking along the path to the end of the D0l-Y-Coed Park, through a kissing gate, to join the lane. Follow the lane until you meet another road veering off to the right. Take the right hand lane which is marked with a dead end sign, and is also a bridal path. Follow the tree lined lane up the hill, and through the trees on your left you can just make out a few of the remaining houses that made up the original Llanwrtyd. The present Llanwrtyd Wells prior to the 1800’s was called Pont-rhyd-y-fferau.
(Pic 3) Stay on the lane baring left through a gate and past the large house and gardens known as ‘Kilsby’, on your right. Between the years 1813 and 1899, this house was owned by James Rhys Kilsby Jones. He was a Liberal politician, a church minister and a strong campaigner against the Welsh Language. He was instrumental in persuading Parliament to examine the state of education in Wales in 1847, and whose report became known as ‘the treachery of the Blue Books’. He established an English school for boys in 1855 and one for girls in 1856.
Once past Kilsby, you soon come to another fork in the road. Bear right, and carry on over the cattle grid and onward up the hill through a gate marked ‘Pen y Banc’. Carry on climbing up the steep hill, keeping to the right again at the next fork in the road. The road becomes a rough steep track (Pic 4) that levels off over rough moor land leading to a gate into the forestry. The views from this point are exceptional (Pic 5); you can look across the valley to the old Llanwrtyd church, an ancient church occupying a holy site that is said to have been used for the last 1500 years. (Pic 6) This track and the forestry paths are well used bridal paths so beware horses. (Pic 7/8)
Continue walking down the sometimes muddy track, (Pic 9) through the forest to a forest road. Cross over the road and follow the narrow path, which leads steeply down hill through thick fir trees down to a tiny stream. Follow the path over the stream and uphill, then down hill again, keeping right down to the Cerdin stream. Cross the stream and immediately bear sharp right where the grassy and often wet, muddy path winds along side the stream until you meet back with another forest road.
Join the road and head right down the valley, eventually leaving the forestry through a gate on the left hand side. Carry on walking down the track, passing the farm of Gilfach. At this point the track becomes a tarmaced road. Carry on along the road passing through Maes-y-Gwaelod, where a school used to be held in the 18th century (Pic 10). Continue onward until you meet the road adjacent to the Cambrian Woollen Mill. When you meet the road, bear immediately right and walk along the road side path back into the town. Perhaps before returning to the town, you may care to visit the Mill, where guided tours of the factory are available, as well as the gift shop.