The Route: Llangorse Lake Circular | Distance: 16km | Time: 5 Hours | Height gain: 1016m
Max Altitude: 393m Start: SO128272 Finish: Same as start | Map: OS Explorer OL13 | Date: 07/04/2012
Llangorse Lake, or Llyn Syfaddan, is the largest natural lake in South Wales noted for its rich flora and fauna. This walk would follow a route around the lake before an ascent offering striking views of the lake and the mountains beyond.
The walk had always on the radar but the god-awful wet and rainy weather over the past night and morning had made the decision to hike a low-level route an easy one to make. The lake as a bonus also had a fascinating history associated with it steeped in Welsh folklore and mystery.
The lake has a ‘crannog’ or (artificial island) just off the north shore thought to be the ancient seat of the kings of the kingdom of Brycheiniog. This crannog is the only known one in Wales (they are more commonly associated with Scotland and Ireland). It is constructed of massive planks of oak behind which was built a dwelling platform formed from layers of stone, soil and brushwood. It’s a fascinating place steeped in myth and made a spectacular backdrop to our walk! Before or at the end of the walk do if possible make the time to visit the crannog viewing platform and learn a bit about the myths and history linked to this area, it;s fascinating and well worth it.
To start the walk first we headed for the small concrete footbridge at the edge of a caravan park leading us into water drenched meadows on the other side. Crossing a succession of meadows and always following near to the shoreline we gradually begun to swing eastward, always following the waymarked signs.
We were headed for St Gastyn Church impressive for the simple beauty of its location and architecture situated as it is on the southern shore of the lake.
On the way to the church you first come across what must be the most expensive bird-hide in Christendom! The new hide evidently cost near on £50,000 and has had a mixed reception by locals. To the uninitiated (me) it looks a wonderful construction, very much in keeping with the surrounds. As we explored the hide and attempted to spot unusual birds from its confines we managed to pick up a new friend, one of the four-legged variety.
This old boy with his scruffy coat and dribbling mouth we found out was a resident of the nearby farm, but he evidently preferred to follow walkers along the lakeshore for miles and miles than stay at home in the warm and dry. He was a lovely old dog, rather prone to pissing at every opportunity but you can’t hold that against him! In the end however after several miles we had to give him the slip as he followed us for ages and we became worried that he would never find his way back home. The sight of two middle-aged hikers with full rucksacks on and waterproofs running along a country lane and hurdling a mighty stile to escape an aged old dog must have looked rather silly to the onlooker but as the weather was so dreary luckily we were the only people for miles and miles around stupid enough to even be out and so our dignity was saved!
After admiring the church we headed inland away from the lake and towards a series of farms each as a destination point on our route. Soon we came upon ‘Rectory Cottage’ an abandoned old house that was just begging to be bought up and renovated from the looks of it from the outside. I peered into the windows but spooked myself at the thought of what I might find. In the middle of the countryside ones mind can runaway with mad ideas when isolated and cold and around old buildings!
The rain persisted as we trudged across open fields in the general direction of the foothills beyond. We reached Nant-y-felin a small hamlet and set off up a less distinct track into some woodland following a stream. After a ford in an eroded gully we found a gate which we passed through and followed a sunken lane to its natural end.
The route suggested onward but the way was barred by a fence and barbed wire. After several minutes of confusion I opted to climb up out of the gully to gain a better overall perspective of where we were. But the way was barred so a muddy slog back to the hamlet and a quick trot across non-waymarked fields eventually brought us back on track. (note to walkers: this route is now diverted east of Nant-y-felin hamlet, do not assume to follow the waymarked path, access is denied by the landowner).
A quick consultation of my GPS told me that we were back in the hunt with only a minor time hit time-wise as a result of our enforced detour. Now the fun would really begin as we started to ascend the steep grassy banks of the hills of Mynydd Llangorse to an old ruined farmhouse isolated on the slopes of the range.
Passing the farmhouse we headed up onto open moorland and the ascent steepened dramatically. The views though were magnificent out across the lake and toward the snowy Brecon Beacons beyond. The rain drenched us through and never let up, not even for a minute. After navigating carefully across the rain straithed moors we could finally sight the woodland that we were aiming for in the distance and made haste to get to it’s cover as soon as was possible
The woods were thick with pine trees and a twisting path lead through the dark forest. We halted under the protection of the dense trees for lunch before descending out of the forest where we crossed more fields with spectacular views of the snow-capped mountains as a backdrop.
Llangorse village was now in view and we yomped on through the village streets with renewed vigour now that the end was in sight. Eventually we ended up back exactly where we had started back at the car in the lakeside carpark next to the Outdoor Activity Centre on the shores of the lake.
For 16km the walk seemed to take a long time but given the atrocious weather and muddy ground underneath caused by days of persistent rain I was not too unhappy with the overall time taken. For a wet day when the peaks are out of reach this makes for an excellent long low-level walk with the added bonus of a bit of history thrown in for good measure it’s also good to see some more of the countryside away from the obvious honey pot peaks once in a while, even if it is through driving rain!