Section One - Machynlleth to Borth - Wales Coast Path - Optional Inland Day
Distance - Around 15 miles (24km) – options to split the route into two shorter days walking at Tre’r ddol.
Grade - Generally moderate grade but with some strenuous climbs and 4 miles Easy Grade over Borth Bog to finish. Forest, Low Mountainside, high Sheep Pasture, ancient woodland & wetland - What these grades mean
Should I walk this section?
This is an optional section of the Wales Coast Path but one worth including if you can. The Ceredigion Coast Path starts at Ynyslas, north of Borth, (see Section 2). The Wales Coast Path links to Borth from the inland market town of Machynlleth, the “interior capital” of this part of Wales and the point where all trains to the region stop. Starting from Machynlleth gives a first day of inspiring and very different inland walking on the Wales Coast Path to reach the Ceredigion coast.
The other bonus of walking from Machynlleth, for the experienced and adventurous, is the option to take an extra day there and climb the mighty Mountain of Cadair Idris which dominates this part of Wales – click here for details on that option.
We think it’s well worth starting at Machynlleth as it’s the natural split between the Ceredigion and Snowdonia sections of the Wales Coast Path and the inland trail gives you some lovely variety to your walking. However, if you are short of time or only want to walk by the sea then ignore this section and start your walk from Section Two at Borth.
Click Here for more information on overnight stops at Machynlleth before the start of your Wales Coast Path Adventure
Quiet hills and forested ravines take you from the Welsh Interior to the coast, with plenty of stunning views and mountainside vistas as well as some challenging climbs and descents.
A mix of high hillside, forest and woodland tracks with short stretches of back lanes, all well-signed and wonderfully varied. Towards the end of the section, there’s a complete change of terrain as you reach the great ‘Bog of Borth’. Crossing this final hurdle before reaching the sea is a unique experience.
Leaving the ornate clock tower in the sleepy high street of the town of Machynlleth, the sea feels a million miles away as you push up into the bowl of forested hills that surround the town.
This is very much the heart of Wales – but by the end of the day you will have reached its edge at the ocean. The first few miles are shared with another National Trail – the (Owain) Glynd'r Way, an apt exit from the town that housed Owain’s Parliament buildings and you can swing by the Welsh leader’s monument and the Old Parliament building as you depart.
The first climb up the hillside is on the ‘Roman Steps’, a relic from when the Romans mined minerals in the hills here, in a far-flung outpost of the Roman Empire. At the first ridge, Owain’s route departs for the inland mountains, while the Wales Coast Path continues steadily climbing through green rolling valleys and occasional sheep farms, up to the forest ahead. Already you’re a long way from noise and bustle. There is a respite from the climbing below the peak of Cyfarthfa, an angry looking hill, half-stripped of forest while the steepest crags cling on doggedly to what remains.
The first of several descents today starts here, where a logging track takes you into the bubbling Llynfnant Valley, a great reward for the toil up here from Machynlleth. Far below, a surging, youthful mountain stream tumbles through a forested v-shaped valley, whilst Tarren Tyn y Maen looms over you on the other side of the valley.
The swish of the tall pines is gradually replaced by the roar from distant waterfalls as you descend towards dense forested banks. It’s a good place to spot the forked tailed red kite, swooping or hovering skilfully in the skies above. As you get closer to the river, look for dippers plying the waterfalls and rushing waters. Much of the site is owned by the RSPB and is an SSSI (Site of Special Scientific Interest) enveloped by ancient, twisted oak and mountain ash in a woodland full of rich green ferns and mosses. It’s a delightful stretch and as you get towards the end of it, look out on the right for the open mining tunnel dug into the hillside but long since abandoned.
The pattern of climb and descend repeats. A steep climb to the next ridge takes you through more woodland, and affords fine views over the Afron Dyfi valley to the Snowdonia section of the Wales Coast Path (a day’s walk away), heading north from Machynlleth. A tranquil descent through bracken and conifers brings you to a lonely farm track with the larger mountains still framed above the pine trees above you.
Another descent to the valley floor follows, crossing another wooded ravine, before climbing onto the flanks of the more mountainous Foel Fawr, and with a new-felt sense of freedom you now track the lower mountain slopes below scree and crags through bracken and heather. At the highest point of the walk on a rocky outcrop, well-placed topography helps identify points of interest in the expansive Dyfi Estuary laid out below. Beyond lies another range of hills - the Tarren Mountains.
The next valley is the Afgon Einion, long known here as Artists Valley for the artists who have been attracted here for over 150 years. A steep descent into a deep, isolated, forested gorge is followed by a climb out the other side.
Look for the lonely mountain yurt, built on the edge of the forest by someone who evidently could not bear to leave the beauty of this place. Blaeneinion is an idyllic conservation project set in 75 acres of land surrounding the route here high up in the Artists Valley. They have reintroduced the European Beaver to this valley - the first of these amazing animals to return to Wales, so do look for signs when you cross the tumbling stream.
If time allows, you can divert a short distance to visit an 18th century charcoal burning furnace, sited here due to the fast-flowing waterways and the abundance of trees for charcoal – it took an incredible 16 tonnes of wood to produce just one tonne of iron.
The furnace was built in 1755 by iron producers from the West Midlands. Previously, there was a smelting works here for processing silver and lead from the local mines. Later it became a sawmill, and it’s a picturesque spot now with its remaining waterwheel.
The next stages are through gentle woodlands and pasture as the mountains recede and you head towards the twin villages of Tre r Ddol and Tre Tailiesin which sit on the main Aberystwyth to Machynlleth road and bring the first and welcome hint of a larger settlement and a pub!
The path criss-crosses a myriad of bubbling streams via little wooden bridges in shady glades, while inquisitive sheep look on. At a more defined stretch of woodland the path descends for the final time today to the valley floor where the forest blends into ancient oak woodland alive with the sounds of birdsong.
The villages of Tre r Ddol and Tre Taliesin which almost run into one another, are prospecting settlements, built on the income from nineteenth century lead, copper and silver mining - although mining has taken place in the area for more than 4000 years. Note the Wesleyan Chapel Yr Hen Capel in Tre’r ddol, which would have been the centre of the village 200 years ago.
There are some basic refreshment options here - a pub and an excellent community café - but unfortunately there’s no accommodation so you will either push onwards to Borth or take a bus to Aberystwyth and return tomorrow to continue.
After your glorious switchback of woodland ravines, the day ends with a complete contrast as you stand at the edge of the mighty Borth Bog, the last barrier to finally meeting the sea.
No walk in Wales would be complete without a peat bog and this one happens to be one of the most significant and valuable environments in Wales. Be assured, the way through avoids you sinking up to your knees, and the flatness of the next 4 miles will be something of a relief after the climbs and descents from Machynlleth!
The Bog of Borth (Cors Fochno) is said to be the home to Llyffant the Great Toad of Wales, an important character in Welsh Mythology. Part of the Dyfi National Nature Reserve, this is one of the largest estuarine peat bogs in lowland Britain, a vast area of shimmering reed beds, dark pools and peat bog, a raised peat mire, now a designated UNESCO Biosphere Reserve. Look out for curlew, snipe and redshank as you cross. It’s also home to a healthy population of otters, polecats, rare moths and dragonfly, and many adders!
While there are views of mountains on both sides to enjoy, it is the draw of the sea now that will spur you on as you wander along narrow watercourses banked by high waving grasses and an array of rare plants that thrive in this isolated place. Partway along, the path diverts through a low marsh forest before joining the main watercourse along the edge of the bog, but you get the chance to take a wander out over a section of boardwalk to experience what the rest of the peat bog is like…without sinking into it.
On the far side of the bog and after crossing the Afon Leri you finally reach green, firm and relatively higher ground at St Mathews Church, built in 1879 and locally known as “The Church of the Bog” standing isolated on a little knoll above the surrounding marshes on the first piece of dry land for 4 miles and unusual for its touching pet cemetery set in solitary pines just outside the main cemetery.
Crossing the tiny Cambrian Railway line beyond, you finally reach Borth, strung out along the sands marking your rendezvous with the coastline of Wales and The Ceredigion Coast Path proper.
Click Here for information on your overnight in Borth on The Ceredigion Coast Path.