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Hike the highest, wildest and most beautiful trail in Wales — Cambrian Way

Heiko Klug

Hike the highest, wildest and most beautiful trail in Wales — Cambrian Way

Hiking Collection by Dan Hobson

22-50

days

3-6 h

/ day

309 mi

56,950 ft

57,000 ft

The Cambrian Way is an epic coast-to-coast hike through the rugged heart of Wales that explores the highest, wildest and most stunning landscapes the country has to offer.

Hailed as the ‘Mountain Connoisseur's Walk’, the long-distance trail snakes along the mountainous spine of Wales from south to north. The 309 mile (497 km) walk begins in Cardiff and takes you over the Black Mountains, Brecon Beacons, Carmarthen Fan, Plynlimon, Cadair Idris, the Rhinogs, the Snowdon massif, the best of the Glyderau mountain group, and the Carneddau range to Conwy, on the north coast.

With 57,000 feet (17,374 m) of ascent along the trail, combined with extreme terrain, unpredictable weather, heart-pounding scrambles, many technical sections, and some long hikes through unexplored landscapes, the Cambrian Way is definitely an expert hike. This is a route for seasoned long-distance hikers with high levels of fitness and stamina, good technical ability and excellent navigational skills.

The rewards are unrivalled, though. Expect spellbinding views around every corner, solitude, serenity, wildlife, waterfalls, mountain lakes, crumbling castles, stone circles, Iron Age forts, exhilarating trails, and a warm Welsh welcome in countless cosy pubs along the way.

The Cambrian Way was conceived by Tony Drake MBE (1925 - 2012) in 1967. Drake had hoped to create a National Trail but opposition from landowners and authorities prevented it. Undeterred, in 1984 he published the first edition of his guidebook ‘Cambrian Way — A Mountain Connoisseur's Walk’. Further editions continued to be published until 2008.

This Collection follows the seventh edition of the route, which was published by the Cambrian Way Trust in 2016. The route is only partially waymarked and requires advanced map reading and seasoned navigational experience in some sections.

You might notice that there are a few sections of this route that are off-grid. By way of reassurance, all stages follow the official route from the Cambrian Way Trust and are cross referenced against different maps to ensure there is always a footpath. However, as some of the off-grid sections traverse wild and unexplored areas, the path might not be clear and it is paramount that you use your initiative and navigational experience.

Whilst it might be obvious, ensuring you have the correct clothing, enough food and water, navigational equipment, first aid, torch, and so on, is vital. Civilisation can be a long way away on this trail. You must be prepared.

In this Collection, I split the Cambrian Way into 21 stages, following the official itinerary exactly. The stages range from 7 miles (11 km) to 21 miles (34 km), averaging around 15 miles (24 km). However, due to the mountainous landscape and varied terrain, mileage isn’t always a reliable indicator of how tough the hike is. The choice of which direction to walk is entirely yours.

Despite how remote it is on parts of this route, the vast majority of stages finish close to accommodation, even if there is only one option. There are a few stages, however, where you will need to arrange a pick-up.

Getting to the start and finish of the trail is fairly easy as both Cardiff and Conwy have train stations and good public transport links.

NOTE: Network Rail is set to restore the historic Barmouth Viaduct, which the trail crosses, and plan to close it for periods of time over the next two years. Presently, it is expected that the bridge will be closed September 12 - December 12, 2021, and between October - December, 2022. Replacement train services around the estuary will be run throughout the closures.

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Cambrian Way

290 mi

56,175 ft

56,200 ft

Last updated: March 23, 2022

Plan your own version of this adventure in the multi-day planner based on the stages suggested in this Collection.

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Tours & Highlights

  • Map data © OpenStreetMap contributors

    Stage 1: Cardiff to Machen — Cambrian Way

    Difficult
    06:46
    15.5 mi
    2.3 mph
    1,150 ft
    1,050 ft
    Expert Hiking Tour. Very good fitness required. Mostly accessible paths. Sure-footedness required.

    The first stage of the Cambrian Way begins as a leisurely hike through Cardiff before rising above the city and then descending to finish by the Rhymney River.

    

    The main points of interest along this route are the castles. Right at the start, you stand in the shadow of Cardiff Castle, which has a 2,000

    by Dan Hobson

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  • Difficult
    05:53
    11.7 mi
    2.0 mph
    2,300 ft
    2,100 ft
    Expert Hiking Tour. Very good fitness required. Mostly accessible paths. Sure-footedness required.

    This stage takes you high into the hills for epic views over Newport, Cardiff and the Bristol Channel.

    

    With over 1,000 feet (305 m) more climbing than Stage 1, this hike certainly ups the ante. However, the views from Mynydd Machen and Twmbarlwm alone are worth it. The latter peak is topped with an Iron

    by Dan Hobson

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  • Difficult
    05:57
    12.6 mi
    2.1 mph
    1,675 ft
    1,850 ft
    Expert Hiking Tour. Very good fitness required. Easily-accessible paths. Suitable for all skill levels.

    You step into the Brecon Beacons National Park on this stage and climb the first mountain on the Cambrian Way, the Blorenge.

    

    From Pontypool, the trail rises steadily north for the majority of the route and eventually summits the Blorenge, which affords glorious views over the Usk Valley. The trail then

    by Dan Hobson

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  • Difficult
    07:00
    13.5 mi
    1.9 mph
    3,450 ft
    2,600 ft
    Expert Hiking Tour. Very good fitness required. Mostly accessible paths. Sure-footedness required.

    Expect breathtaking panoramas and challenging climbs on this hike through the Black Mountains.

    

    The testing 3,450 feet (1,052 m) of ascent on this stage leads you up two of the most iconic peaks in the Black Mountains: Sugar Loaf, a neat conical hill with one of the best vistas in the Brecon Beacons; and

    by Dan Hobson

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  • Difficult
    08:00
    16.5 mi
    2.1 mph
    2,450 ft
    3,200 ft
    Expert Hiking Tour. Very good fitness required. Easily-accessible paths. Suitable for all skill levels.

    Stage 5 takes you to the highest peak in the Black Mountains, Waun Fach, and visits plenty more spellbinding summits.

    

    You begin with a steep climb out of Capel-y-ffin and soon summit Twmpa. Here, the trail near-u-turns and takes you south over the peaks of Rhos Dirion, Waun Fach, Pen Allt-mawr, Pen Cerrig

    by Dan Hobson

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  • Difficult
    10:38
    21.3 mi
    2.0 mph
    4,425 ft
    3,250 ft
    Expert Hiking Tour. Very good fitness required. Easily-accessible paths. Suitable for all skill levels.

    This challenging hike takes you deep into the Brecon Beacons where peaceful peaks, technical trails and endless views await.

    

    With 21.3 miles (34.3 km) of distance, 4,425 feet (1,349 m) of uphill and 3,250 feet (991 m) of downhill, this stage is the toughest in the itinerary and will really test your

    by Dan Hobson

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  • Difficult
    06:08
    12.6 mi
    2.0 mph
    2,125 ft
    2,900 ft
    Expert Hiking Tour. Very good fitness required. Easily-accessible paths. Suitable for all skill levels.

    This stage takes you to the summits of Fan Fawr and Fan Gyhirych and passes Ogof Ffynnon Ddu, the deepest cave in the United Kingdom.

    

    After a seriously tough previous hike, Stage 7 is more leisurely with almost half as much distance and climbing. However, the glorious mountain scenery is unabating and

    by Dan Hobson

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  • Difficult
    08:59
    18.8 mi
    2.1 mph
    3,000 ft
    3,450 ft
    Expert Hiking Tour. Very good fitness required. Mostly accessible paths. Sure-footedness required.

    Classic ridgewalking, rugged summits, beautiful views and abundant wildlife combine on this hike

    

    Upon the completion of this stage, the Brecon Beacons chapter of your adventure is over. However, you depart in characteristic fine form. The summits of Fan Hir, Fan Brycheiniog, Picws Du and Waun Lefrith

    by Dan Hobson

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  • Difficult
    08:23
    18.8 mi
    2.2 mph
    2,125 ft
    1,300 ft
    Expert Hiking Tour. Very good fitness required. Mostly accessible paths. Sure-footedness required.

    You visit a nature reserve that is home to all manner of birdlife and see a cave that was home to the ‘Robin Hood of Wales’ on this hike.

    

    RSPB Gwenffrwd Dinas provides a habitat for many bird species including red kites, pied flycatchers, redstarts, common sandpipers, dippers and grey wagtails. Whilst

    by Dan Hobson

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  • Difficult
    06:29
    14.7 mi
    2.3 mph
    1,900 ft
    1,475 ft
    Expert Hiking Tour. Very good fitness required. Mostly accessible paths. Sure-footedness required.

    This stage takes you to a medieval monastery where generations of Welsh princes are buried and winds past stunning llyns nestling in remote scenery.

    

    From Ty’n Cornel, the trail heads north through wild upland scenery, over the peaks of Esgair Cerrig and Garn Gron, before dropping into the greener lowlands

    by Dan Hobson

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  • Difficult
    07:23
    16.0 mi
    2.2 mph
    1,975 ft
    2,700 ft
    Expert Hiking Tour. Very good fitness required. Mostly accessible paths. Sure-footedness required.

    You explore breathtaking waterfalls in the heart of the Cambrian Mountains on this hike and pass plenty more pretty llyns.

    

    The trail takes you past Llyn Du, Llyn Fryddon fach and Llyn Fryddon fawr and over the summit of Domen Milwyn before dropping to Afon Ystwyth. You then hike through farmland and woodland

    by Dan Hobson

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  • Difficult
    06:37
    14.9 mi
    2.3 mph
    2,375 ft
    1,925 ft
    Expert Hiking Tour. Very good fitness required. Easily-accessible paths. Suitable for all skill levels.

    Stage 12 takes you to the highest point in the Cambrian Mountains, a wild landscape that is perfect for the solitude-seeking hillwalker.

    

    At 2,467 feet (752 m) above sea level, Pumlumon Fawr is the highest point of the Cambrian Mountains and the highest point in Mid Wales. From the summit, you are afforded

    by Dan Hobson

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  • Difficult
    10:52
    23.2 mi
    2.1 mph
    2,975 ft
    3,875 ft
    Expert Hiking Tour. Very good fitness required. Mostly accessible paths. Sure-footedness required.

    This stage takes you into the southern tip of Snowdonia National Park, a wonderfully-diverse landscape of river gorges, green valleys, woodlands, coastline and, of course, mountains.

    

    From Dylife, the trail zig-zags north through rugged upland, farmland and woodland. At 23.2 miles (37.3 km) long, and with

    by Dan Hobson

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  • Intermediate
    04:00
    9.68 mi
    2.4 mph
    2,800 ft
    2,100 ft
    Intermediate Hiking Tour. Good fitness required. Easily-accessible paths. Suitable for all skill levels.

    You wind through the deep south of Snowdonia on this stage to experience a landscape of glacier-cut valleys, contours and hanging cwms.

    

    This might be one of the shortest stages at 9.7 miles (15.6 km). However, in that distance you cram in 2,800 feet (853 m) of climbing as you traverse the peaks of Foel

    by Dan Hobson

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  • Difficult
    06:16
    12.8 mi
    2.0 mph
    2,400 ft
    3,325 ft
    Expert Hiking Tour. Very good fitness required. Mostly accessible paths. Sure-footedness required.

    Stage 15 traverses Cadair Idris, a magnificent mountain reserve composed of rugged peaks, glacial lakes and a wooded gorge, to the Welsh coastline.

    

    Legendary among hikers for commanding cliffs, enticing ridges and pretty tarns, Cadair Idris is a place that is rich in myths, legends, folklore, beauty

    by Dan Hobson

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  • Difficult
    08:13
    14.6 mi
    1.8 mph
    4,550 ft
    4,075 ft
    Expert Hiking Tour. Very good fitness required. Sure-footedness, sturdy shoes and alpine experience required.

    You climb over the Rhinog mountains on this stage, a place where staggering beauty and exhilarating hiking go hand-in-hand.

    

    With a whopping 4,550 feet (1,387 m) of uphill, Stage 16 has the most amount of climbing of any in this Collection. The rewards are abundant, though; breathtaking panoramic views

    by Dan Hobson

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  • Intermediate
    04:38
    10.00 mi
    2.2 mph
    1,775 ft
    2,275 ft
    Intermediate Hiking Tour. Good fitness required. Mostly accessible paths. Sure-footedness required.

    Action-packed scrambling over some of Snowdonia’s rockiest peaks combines with sublime views and stone circles on this stage.

    

    A steep climb from Cwm Bychan eventually levels for some scrambles over Craig Ddrwg, Moel Ysgyfarnogod, and Foel Penolau. You then drop to Moel Y Gyrafolen, descend to Llyn Trawsfynydd

    by Dan Hobson

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  • Difficult
    07:13
    14.7 mi
    2.0 mph
    3,300 ft
    3,275 ft
    Expert Hiking Tour. Very good fitness required. Easily-accessible paths. Suitable for all skill levels.

    Stage 18 explores perfectly-formed peaks with enchanting views over Snowdonia National Park.

    

    You begin with a steady ascent from Maentwrog before a steep climb to Moelwyn Mawr, a surprisingly little-visited peak that affords views over Cnicht’s ridge, Snowdon, Yr Aran, Lliwedd, and 15 lakes. The trail

    by Dan Hobson

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  • Difficult
    06:31
    10.9 mi
    1.7 mph
    3,475 ft
    2,425 ft
    Expert Hiking Tour. Very good fitness required. Mostly accessible paths. Sure-footedness required.

    You summit the highest mountain in Wales and the namesake of the national park on this stage, Snowdon, via a particularly fun scramble.

    

    From Beddgelert, you follow the course of the Afon Glaslyn to Lyn Dinas, a picturesque lake surrounded by mountains. You then ascend Snowdon from the south via Allt Maenderyn

    by Dan Hobson

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  • Difficult
    04:57
    7.06 mi
    1.4 mph
    2,775 ft
    2,950 ft
    Expert Hiking Tour. Good fitness required. Sure-footedness, sturdy shoes and alpine experience required.

    The penultimate stage is packed with technical ascents, rocky scrambles, rugged scenery and spellbinding views.

    

    Stage 20 might be the shortest in the Collection. But with 2,775 feet (846 m) of climbing packed into its 7.1 miles (11.4 km), don’t expect an easy ride. Scrambles to the summits of Glyder Fawr

    by Dan Hobson

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Collection Stats

  • Tours
    21
  • Distance
    309 mi
  • Duration
    150:55 h
  • Elevation
    56,950 ft57,000 ft

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