Assuming that I don’t roll into Llandovery a bedraggled and broken mess of a walker, and head promptly for home, I’ll depart Llandovery and enter a whole new world – one of deep valleys, woods and wild rounded hills. It looks absolutely enchanting, and whilst it clearly won’t match the more dramatic scenery a couple of days behind me, it looks like it has a charm all of its own.
Long distance walks are about variety – that was one of the things I liked about the Cumbria Way as it mixed up hills, valleys and waterside walking. So it’s no bad thing that after an intense 6 day crossing of the Black Mountains and Brecon Beacons, things calm down a bit and I can enjoy some more gentle, but by no means poor, scenery. This third stage is both the shortest and statistically the easiest – in terms of average distance and ascent. And with a greater proportion of valley walking, this is time to enjoy putting one foot in front of the other as I wind my way through these lonely dales. But this also means it’s an opportunity to get some distance under my belt.
My original estimate for this stage was 3 days – a 41 mile walk with about 2,000m of ascent giving me a flat-equivalent distance of 54 miles. This looked like a nice comfortable 3 days. But ever since I realised that I’d added the figures up wrong, I’ve felt that I need to trim the number of days down, and where better than on the easiest section? So I sat down to plan this stage on the basis of getting to Devil’s Bridge in 2 to 2½ days. What is more I achieved it quite easily, and it looks like I could theoretically even do it without camping. If the plan works, then I’ll stroll through Devil’s Bridge in time for an early lunch on the third day.
The result of my planning is that the distance has rounded off at just a shade under 40 miles, but the ascent is now looking like 2,265m. So swings and roundabouts, as when converted to a flat-equivalent distance it’s pretty much the same as originally calculated.
[As usual, photos are linked to the Cambrian way website and are ©George Tod, who allows non-commercial use]
Leaving Llandovery, full of lovely fried breakfast items, I’ll make my way along a hilly minor road that parallels the River Towy, finally joining the river just before Rhandirmwyn, which looks like the last opportunity for supplies for a couple of days. Crossing the Towy at checkpoint 15, I’ll then head up the Doethie Valley, gradually climbing into wilder terrain. The bunkhouse at Ty’n-y-cornel works out about right for the day’s walk at 15.6 miles and 995m of climb. That’s enough to make decent progress and recognises that I’ll really have pushed it the day before to get to Llandovery.
The next day is a climb over the hills to Nantymaen before the ascent of Garn Gron and descent to Strata Florida. Then a long, possibly damp, trudge up onto the Waun Claerddu area, full of small llyns and boasting a bothy. Ideally I’d like to make progress past the bothy for a camp somewhere on Domen Milwyn, but the bothy provides a good contingency plan, and one to definitely consider if the weather is challenging.
The final morning is a descent to Cwmystwyth and then a climb over a wooded hill shoulder to get to Devil’s Bridge and likely my first tourists for a few days. I’ve been to Devil’s Bridge before, doing what everyone else does – looking at the waterfalls, so probably won’t linger and will get stuck straight into the next stage, as I should be able to get to the Pumlumon range for the night – also terrain that I’ve trod before.
- CP15 – Towy Bridge (near Rhandirmwyn)
- CP16 – Garn Gron
- CP17 Domen Milwyn
- Garn Gron (541m, Dewey)
- Carreg Naw Llyn (562m)
- Domen Milwyn (555m, Dewey)
Stage 3 is short one, but that’s largely because I’ve chosen start and end points with obvious escapes – in the case of Devil’s Bridge the tourist train out to Aberystwyth, which clearly wouldn’t be cheap but if I needed to bail then that’s an obvious route. In reality, stages 3 and 4 really combine to make one normal size stage, but I like having more smaller stages as this will help mentally if it gets tough. Knowing it’s only another day and a bit to go is much better than knowing you’ve got 3 or 4 days left before the next staging post.
And despite its lack of big well-known hills, I’m actually quite looking forward to the contrast that stage 3 offers against the toil and big scenery of stage 2. Certainly George’s photos have really given a flavour of this wild terrain with deep winding valleys and loads of solitude. I’m looking forward to this stage just as much as the previous one. I’ll leave you with a quote from the guidebook, which I think says it all:
For those with a limited knowledge of Wales, the central section is likely to be a revelation as to the wildness and beauty that is seen by few visitors to Wales.