A 28 mile circular loop around the Rhymney Valley in South Wales.
I did this trail early in the year (February 2019) as its fairly local to me, I wouldn’t normally recommend getting out this early unless you know you can manage the cold nights but the forecast was good albeit wet.
The trail starts in Penallta Park near Ystrad Mynach you can park here while you do the route. If you wanted to leave the car at home you can catch a train to Hengoed train station and the trail is right at the back of the station.
To start the trail is a paved multi use path so do expect to see cyclists using it to, after a few miles you’ll leave the trail and start to cross fields. This trail does use a mix of trail surfaces through out so be prepared for some road walking.
Its not long until the trail leaves built up areas and starts heading up in to the hills, the upland areas look and feel very much like the Brecon Beacons but that’s not overly surprising considering they’re not far away.
While in the built up areas the trail as easy to follow up in the upland sections there are very few markers so its good to keep on eye on your map/gps to make sure your on course. It would be quite easy to follow what you think is the trail and end up on the wrong side of a valley. The trail spends a lot of the day up over these upland areas giving you great views for miles around down in to the valleys on each side.
Towards the end of day one you should be nearing Caerphilly, there are plenty of bed and breakfast you could chose from and many taxi companies will be wiling to come collect you. You’ll be able to see your approach to Caerphilly (keep an eye out for the famous castle) when you drop in to Caerphilly you’ll pass a garden center on your right, there is a very busy very fast road you need to cross if you are carrying on up Caerphilly mountain. If you are looking to camp I recommend some where on Caerphilly mountain, there are lots of spots available up there. I went for something a bit more open due to the time of year.
One big reason to camp on top of the mountain is you’ll have easy access to a damn good breakfast at Caerphilly mountain snack bar. The only people you may see are mountain bikers and the occasional dog walker depending on how early you get there and what time of year it is.
Day 2, make sure to get a good breakfast in yourself, if you overnighted in Caerphilly today is going to be a little bit longer. There is less road walking on day 2 and you will get to see more of the industrial past as you guy past some old slag heaps.
To start the day you’ll be heading through some mountain tracks and then over a golf course before joining back on dirt tracks eventually passing on old quarry (Its possible to camp here if you make good time on day 1, there is signs of local use olds fires empty beer cans etc).
If at some point you feel a rumble beneath your feet that will be the train heading to and from Cardiff passing underneath. After feeling the earth move and continuing on your journey you’ll reach Ruperra castle, im unsure if this is open to the public as I didnt stop. Up through the forest and down the other side of the hill will lead you right past the Hollybush inn, a lovely little pub that serves food. I recommend a stop here at least for a nice refreshment. The people who run it were lovely and thought I was mad.
After some road walking you’ll arrive in Machen, there is a little shop to restock on Haribo if needed (it was a £5 minimum spend for cards at the time) after restocking its time to get up to the highest point on the trail, Mynydd Machen.
From here if you’re lucky you’ll be treated to some great views in all directions, again you’ll see monuments to the past mining industry. It seems like there’s a section of locals that use the slag heaps as a play ground for their motocross/dirt bikes and maybe some 4x4ing. This has been a past time for many many years, I grew up in Caerphilly and remember my uncle taken us out in the back of his 4×4 where the only seating was a little wooden bench above the wheel arch and there wasn’t a seat belt in sight! You couldn’t get away with that these days! Because of this use a lot of the trail around this area is deeply rutted and you could twist your ankle pretty easily.
You’ll stay high on the ridge following a range of different trail types. Day 2 for me felt bleaker, you could see a lot more of the mining heritage but there was also more signs of the poverty in the local areas. Even with their proximity to Cardiff these are still relatively poor areas.
After traversing the ridge past many 4×4 and dirt bike areas you should see Hengoed in the distance as you pass some wind turbines. All thats left to do is make your way down the hill through the housing estate and join back up with the cycle path you started on. Take some time here to enjoy the views off the viaduct and treat yourself to a pub lunch before getting the train home if you used public transport or keep heading along the trail back the Penallta Park and your car.
This was a great early season 2 day trail it is one I recommend especially around spring when the bluebells and wild flower start coming out. Hopefully one you can enjoy soon.