The beauty and the trials of Glyndŵr's Way

By Emma Sawyer
6 minute read

Emma Sawyer and a friend were walking the whole of Glyndŵr’s Way National Trail with the help of the Cicerone guidebook. And despite the after effects of several bottles of prosecco, they were making good progress on their latest stage from Llanbrynmair to Llangadfan.

Hungover and very much regretting staying up until 2am the previous night, I staggered very slowly up the huge hill near the start of the Glyndŵr’s Way section from Llanbrynmair to Llangadfan. Feeling very sombre about the idea of walking another 10 miles I quietly gasped as my friend, who seemed to be much more chipper than me, chatted away and tried to encourage me to the top.

It was a gorgeous sunny day, which was lucky for the end of February, and the views from the hill were exquisite, although I couldn’t properly appreciate them due to thoughts that I might die of my hangover imminently.

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Glyndwr's Way

A National Trail through mid-Wales

£11.66

Guidebook to walking Glyndwr's Way, a long-distance National Trail through mid-Wales. The 135 mile route from Knighton via Machynlleth to Welshpool takes 9 days to walk, and 2 days (29 miles) to complete the loop down the Offa's Dyke Path to create a circular trail. A lovely trail through quiet hills, forests and rolling countryside.

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The summer before, I’d started walking the trail by myself from Knighton with the intention to walk it in one go and to camp along the way. I’ve done a few other trails alone and carrying my tent and thought nothing of it – but I hadn’t counted on endless rain and overcurious/potentially murderous cows.

After two days of eerily quiet walking past wind turbines and terrifyingly large fields of cows, I abandoned the plan and slunk away to join some friends camping in Pembrokeshire instead. I had learned not to punish myself if I wasn’t feeling it and to be a bit kinder to myself.

Determined to complete this beautiful trail, I resumed it in day stages when the cows were in for winter, with the help of my good friend who has helpful inside knowledge from her father who does trail maintenance on Glyndŵr’s Way.

Before we went out we received in depth-advice about what we could expect on whichever section we were about to embark on, as well as some paper notes, which was much appreciated.

With two Cicerone guides between us, paper notes and phone GPS, we couldn’t fail! Although the way marking was generally good we did need the book in some larger fields where the exit was obscured from view.

The first section we did is listed as the final stretch in the book; a delightful amble between Meifod and Welshpool through muddy sheep fields and over rolling hillsides, stopping on Moel Y Golfa at the trig point for a can of gin and tonic as a toast to our endeavours.

Between Llangadfan and Llanwyddyn
Miniature ponies between Llangadfan and Llanwyddyn

We spent other days walking alongside the rushing river between Dolanog and Meifod, and another day enjoyed a wonderful forest walk through the Dyfnant between Llangadfan and Pont Llogel.

We saw logs being loaded onto a huge lorry and stared in fascination at the massive machinery, and coming out of the forest on the brow of a hill there were stunning views of Lake Vyrnwy.

On our travels we met miniature ponies, a hare and plenty of swooping birds of prey (as well as numerous sheep, of course).

Llanbrynmair to Llangadfan

The day we walked from Llanbrynmair to Llangadfan was my favourite section so far, despite starting off a little worse for the wear. The sunshine probably had something to do with it, but the thing I loved the most was how remote it felt.

After the monster climb first thing I was grateful that we stayed pretty high up from then onwards. We strolled along the tops of hills and were lucky that there was little wind as it was very open.

We followed forestry roads through beautiful trees and saw huge mounds of frogspawn on marshy tracks. We stopped for sandwiches once we were back in the sunshine as an inquisitive bumble bee investigated our treats and we felt more rejuvenated after eating and resting.

The highland bogs and moorland felt so isolated we felt like we were alone in the world for a little while. I was quite glad to be with a friend as it was rather strange. Descending to a one-track lane off the fields the exhaustion giggles from the night before caught up with us and we chuckled and cried with laughter for the next mile or so.

We passed an adorable chapel and a couple of houses in what seemed like the middle of nowhere as we chattered away. We soon grew quieter as we’d been told what to expect next – that we’d have to walk through a yard of cows.

I would certainly say we are both disproportionately/irrationally frightened of cows (which is laughable if one expects to enjoy the UK countryside, I know) so we were a bit nervous and had to talk ourselves up as we approached the farm.

On seeing the dreaded yard of cows we panicked – luckily a farm hand spotted us and kindly said he would help us through. He opened the gate and we slowly walked through with him right at our side between us and the great beasts. He must have thought we were absolutely hilarious being so scared, and sure enough I gave him a laugh as we came out the other side. I was so eager to get away I accidentally stepped off the concrete and submerged my whole boot into sloppy cow muck!

Near Dolanog
Near Dolanog

As we thanked him and carried on up a grassy track to the fields beyond we called back to him and declared him our hero. With that weight off our shoulders we enjoyed the rest of the afternoon wetting our boots in bogs and taking breaks on grand fallen trees.

Triumphantly we made it into Llangadfan and met my friend's car not long before dark after our embarrassingly late start.

Another fabulous section complete, we are keen to see what the rest of the trail has in store for us. We have from Llanbadarn Fynedd to Llanbrynmair still to do (as well as a short stretch from Pont Llogel to Dolanog).

We’ve coined the phrase ‘Enjoy and endure - Owain Glyndŵr!’ to reference the beauty and the trials (big climbs and cows-hopefully no more hangovers!) of this wonderful Welsh walk.

Growing up on the borders of Shropshire and Powys I can easily see the difference as I head further into Powys and the people and cars grow fewer – quiet, lush Wales is where my heart lies.

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