Inland from Aberystwyth, the River Rheidol winds its way up to a secluded, wooded valley, where old industrial workings have sometimes moulded themselves into the contours, rising up past waterfalls and hamlets to Devil’s Bridge. The latter is best accessed by narrow-gauge railway; otherwise you need your own transport.
Vale of Rheidol Railway
Steam trains on the narrow-gauge Vale of Rheidol Railway wheeze their way along steep hillsides from the Aber terminus to Devil’s Bridge. It was built in 1902, ostensibly for the valley’s lead mines but with a canny eye on its tourist potential as well, and has run ever since.
Twelve miles east of Aberystwyth, folk legend, picturesque scenery and travellers’ lore combine at DEVIL’S BRIDGE (Pontarfynach), a tiny settlement built solely for the growing visitor trade of the last few hundred years.
The bridge spanning the chasm of the churning River Mynach is actually three stacked bridges – the eleventh-century original, a stone arch from 1753 and the modern road bridge. Enter the turnstile upstream of the bridge and head down slippery steps to the deep cleft for a remarkable view of the Punch Bowl, where the water pounds and hurtles through the gap crowned by the bridges.
Bwlch Nant yr Arian
Bwlch Nant yr Arian is famous for its red kites, easy walks and varied mountain biking (no rentals). From the visitor centre, which has a decent café with a lovely deck, three well-marked walking trails (30min, 1hr & 2hr) head out into the evergreen forest and among the abandoned lead-mining detritus. The easiest and shortest trail loops around a lake past the kite hide, a superb spot for watching the daily red kite feeding (3pm, 2pm in winter) when 20lb of beef and lamb lure up to two hundred kites.