The ‘Ponty Circular’ walk is certainly not for the faint-hearted. It’s a 12mile (18km) round trip up, down and over some of the best scenery in the south Wales valleys, with the added bonus of the Llanover Arms at the start and end of it.
The walk provides various views of the town and the surrounding area from numerous high vantage points. By following the signs in either direction you can observe the town through a full 360 degrees from the surrounding hills, while strolling through ancient woodland, common, moorland, conifer plantation and farmland.
Starting the route in town, at the Llanover Arms pub, you head out the front door and cross under the A470 and up ‘Corn Stores’ hill, across Merthyr Road and onto Pontypridd Common.
The longest climb
Heading clockwise (like all good Buddhists) the route takes you up, then up some more, followed by a bit more up! In fact the steep section near the top of the Eglwysilan road is probably even steeper than the road in Harlech (the steepest road in the world).
Very steep road
Once you reach the top of this narrow country road it’s worth pausing for breath and looking back across the valley. Graigwen can be seen above Pontypridd, the old pilgrim route past ‘Paddy’s Well’ heads north and in the distance is Merthyr and further on the Brecon Beacons.
When you cross the cattle grids and reach the top of the road instead of bending right go straight up (back left slightly). You should see the sheep path up the side of the bracken hill in front of you and you’ll eventually reach the Trig Point.
This is the highest section of the whole trail and the views on a clear day are just stunning.
Pen-Y-Fan in the distance
Heading up to the top of the ridge you see the three masts, which are a good landmark, especially for later on in the walk as you look across from the opposite valley.
TV and mobile phone stuff
Upon reaching the Trig Point, stop for a rest, secure in the knowledge that it’s all downhill from here. Well, apart from all the other hills it is, lol.
On a nice day you can see clearly all the way down to the Bristol Channel as well as Flat Holm and Steep Holm islands. After a few photos you carry on the path and head down the path towards the road again before doubling back on yourself to find the signpost and farm fence to walk alongside.
Head back to the sign
Once at the road if you gaze across you will see the old ‘School of Mines’ which became the Polytechnic before finally gaining university status. You can also see the hills you are heading for next.
On the trail down from the Trig Point, watch out for sheep and cows, like this one, helpfully stood on the path to show me the way. Keep dogs on a lead if you need to of course.
Walk back (right) as if you’re heading back the way you came until you see a green sign, which points you the way. Follow the sign, across the field and head down and past a farm and some houses.
Keep walking down until you get to a steep downhill on a local road. Watch out for a sign that directs you across a field. Through the gate you hug the left-hand side of the field until you see another gate. This eventually comes out at the top of Glyntaf Cemetery.
Steep hill down
Following the path you come out at Morien Crescent and take the path under the bridge on the Taff Trail.
Head down the road and cut across the green and take a shortcut (on your right) down to the main road. Go under the A470 bridge and pass the Trefforest Weir. There is a salmon ‘fish pass’ on the opposite side.
The signs point across the old bridge, but due to flooding this bridge is now unsafe and so a slight detour is needed using the road bridge. Walk on the opposite bank of the river and head south towards the Otley Arms. Under the railway bridge you take the steps up to the station and head uphill on Brook Street. You walk past the university, some new houses and onto the mountain again.
Read the signs carefully!
Back on the hills the path winds through a delightful section of forestry as you head back to Pontypridd.
Looking back on the way you’ve come you see the highest point behind you now.
The path soon starts to fall and you head downhill to The Graig.
Heading towards Graig Terrace
Once back on the main road turn right and head downhill for a little while before crossing the road and walking down a lane towards Shoni’s Pond. You are probably about half way now, 6miles (9km).
Cross the little footbridge, go up the steps and towards Maesycoed.
This is another lovely section through old woodland. Eventually you come out at yet another wonderful view of the Welsh countryside, this time looking north up the Rhondda Valley.
As you emerge from the trees, alongside a farm, there are great views across the valley at Pantygraigwen.
Well over half way now
Pushing on you follow the path until the trees change to conifer woodland, Take the gravel road down towards Trehafod.
There aren’t many signposts, but if in doubt just take the biggest track and keep heading north and down.
This section is a great place to walk on its own. It’s also popular with mountain bikers. Eventually the path bends back on itself and you stroll down behind the Barry Sidings cafe, popular with families on weekends.
Once out of the park, you can either take the main road back to town and head south after crossing the River Rhondda or follow the cycle / walking trail back to town. You need to look out for the steep path down to the Hopkinstown cricket club now. Once at pitch level follow the path around and cross the river.
You should see a sign near the old Hollybush pub.
Go up and under the bridge. Follow the ‘heart attack’ steps, cross the road, keep heading up, follow a little lane until you come to Underwood Terrace. You should now see another sign which points up. And when we say ‘up’ we mean UP.
This is a really steep section, although thankfully quite short. Pausing for breath you can look across at the ‘House of Pain’ – home of the greatest rugby team in Wales.
Once back on the mountain the track leads up towards ‘White Rock’ (see earlier photo) and the track takes you behind the housing estate and towards the quarry. This is a really pretty section too – very peaceful and quiet. When you emerge, if you look north you’ll see Cilfynydd (the greatest village rugby team in the world) and the TV masts on the top of the first hill near the Trig Point.
Emerging on to the Darren
The final bit of uphill is followed by a winding trail through trees and mixed woodland until you eventually turn downhill to Berw Road. The last bit of the route must also be detoured as the White Bridge is out. Yep, more flood damage thanks to some bloke called Dennis.
On the opposite side
A final stroll down Berw Road, alongside the Taff, past the iconic Old Bridge leads us across the river again and we’ve now come full circle. If you’ve timed your walk properly you’ll arrive just in time to pop into the Llanover for a much deserved pint of real ale.
To see larger images just click on the photo.
The ‘out of date’ RCTCBC map – click here.