Ramblers Cymru are currently in the process of waymarking Wales' most challenging long distance route, The Cambrian Way.
The Cambrian Way starts in the south of Wales at Cardiff Castle in the centre of the country’s capital city and ends at Conwy, the mighty northern fortress of a town. Between the two lies glorious verdant countryside featuring steep-sided valleys with streams and waterfalls, picturesque rolling hills, an abundance of high ridges and, in the north, rugged, cragged and challenging mountains. Much of the route runs through two national parks – Brecon Beacons and Snowdonia – as well as most of the areas in Wales that have been designated as wilderness.
Tempting as it may be, the entire Cambrian Way should not be the first outing attempted by the novice trekker. It is nearly 300 miles long and much of the route is in open access country, requiring good navigational skills. Some sections are long and remote, and accommodation can be rudimentary. While the mountains are not high, reaching a little over 1000m, the isolation and the challenge of the highest peaks require good mountain walking experience.
The Cambrian Way is 479km (298 miles) in total with around 22,500m (73,700ft) of ascent. It starts in the middle of Cardiff at the main entrance to the impressive castle. After leaving the city it passes through the Brecon Beacons National Park, traversing the iconic Pen y Fan mountain. It then leads through the Carmarthen Fans with their legendary Llyn y Fan Fach lake. Beyond Llandovery the countryside becomes more remote and wild as the route enters the Elenydd region and crosses Pumlumon. There is a challenging traverse of Cadair Idris, and a brief glimpse of the sea when crossing the Barmouth viaduct. A stiff ascent leads to Rhinog Fach and Rhinog Fawr where there are views north to Snowdon. The route ends with a descent to the coast at Conwy Castle.
There is a wide range of accommodation along the Cambrian Way, from youth hostels, bunkhouses, bothies and campsites to expensive hotels. There are many bed-and-breakfast establishments on the route. Wild camping in Wales is only allowed with the landowner’s permission. There is a detailed accommodation list on the Cambrian Way website.
With often quite long distances between accommodation it is unwise to arrive without booking in advance. It is safest to book for the whole route or the part of the route you’re walking before setting off so that you can be assured of a bed for the night.
Much of the Cambrian Way is waymarked with the Welsh hat symbol or on marked public rights of way. Substantial parts of it are over open access country and mountain ridges and peaks where paths are not always clear. Often there can be a confusion of paths, many of which may be sheep tracks. For these reasons it is necessary to have good map-reading skills, particularly if visibility is bad.
The official route has its origins in the 1960s when a small group of members of Ramblers (formerly The Ramblers Association) decided to look at the formation of a south–north trail running through the upland areas of Wales. Agreement could not be reached, and the project would have failed without the determination of Tony Drake, a rambler with a passion for wild Wales. His work is carried on by the Cambrian Way Trust and Ramblers Cambrian Way Working Group.
The waymarking project along the route is being supported by the People’s Postcode Lottery.
A Ramblers Cymru Working Group was established through Ramblers GB and Welsh Council Executive Committee following the gift of funds by the late Tony Drake. This this was designed to ensure the maintenance and general promotion of the route continued into the future.
Ramblers Cymru Groups and members came forward to adopt sections of the trail and report back into the Working Group. Following this it was felt that more regular time was needed on the Cambrian Way and the creation a staff post within Ramblers Cymru was created.
Presently our Walking Spaces Officer works closely not only with our volunteers but with all the major stakeholders across Wales, such as Local Authorities, National Parks and National Trust Cymru. This work includes general promotion of the route, trail marking, landowner negotiation, along with input into the recently published Cicerone Guidebook.
For mapping information: http://www.cambrianway.org.uk/maps1.htm#gpxnew
To see a copy of the guidebook visit: https://www.cicerone.co.uk/the-cambrian-way