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Cardiff Fforests and Craig yr Allt

A walk through two of Cardiff's woodland areas: Fforest-fawr is a Site of Special Scientific Interest, whilst Fforestganol and Cwm Nofydd are local nature reserves (for further details go to www.cardiff.gov.uk/countryside and follow links to specific pages for these areas). Then you cross over into Caerphilly to climb the Craig yr Allt ridge with wonderful views from its top. The walk starts from Castell Coch, well worth visiting in its own right : see www.cadw.wales.gov.uk and follow links to Castell Coch.

Distance: 12 km (7 miles)
Difficulty: Moderate
Start Point: Castell Coch Car Park [Grid Ref ST133827 ]
Maps: Landranger 171, Explorer 151

Getting there from Cardiff Central:
by bus: No 26 Cardiff to Tongwynlais: from the centre of the village go up Mill Road which becomes Castle Road to reach the entrance to Castell Coch

From the car park walk down the road towards the entrance to the site and as the road bends to the right take a marked path on the left which rises gently through the woods. At a post (without markings) take a path veers off to the right and downwards. Follow this path around the side of a small valley. After the valley, you will see two houses in the trees on the right and then the path is bordered on its right-hand side by wooden railings. Continue on gently down to reach a stile giving access to Heol y Fforest.

Cross over the road and pick up a continuation of the path on the other side with the path running parallel to the road. You reach an information board which gives details of the wood you are in (Fforestganol) which is a local nature reserve. Cwm Nofydd, also mentioned as a local nature reserve, is our next target. At a marker post showing the present track continuing on and a further track going to the right, take the one to the right, over the stile. This ascends uphill through an ungated opening. Where the path forks, take the right-hand one which goes through a further, but narrower, ungated opening. This path follows the edge of the wood giving views to the south. The path then joins a broader track at another narrow ungated opening. Turn onto this broad track to reach Rhiwbina Hill road opposite Forest Lodge.

Turn right and go down the road about 100m and take a broad track on the left marked by gate and stile. This descends into Cwm Nofydd. Continue on this path past two marker posts until you reach a stile and gate on the left leading into a field. Go up through the field to reach a stile giving access back into the woods. Just after entering the woods, the path reaches a T-junction with another path. Turn left along this path which rises uphill to steps that give access to another path which runs downhill from the left. Turn right and descend on this path that at first seems to run parallel with the path you have ascended before veering to the left past a marker post and a pylon visible through the trees on your right. At the next marker post turn sharp left onto a path that rises steeply uphill and shortly after a stile reaches a broad track opposite a large house.

Turn right and follow this track past a bungalow. After it leaves the woodland and shortly before a broadening of the path into a sort of layby with the ruined buildings of Cefncarnau Fawr just beyond, look on the left for a path leading up though undergrowth (it is just before a hazel tree), after 10-15m the path enters a wood area where the going is easier. Follow the path uphill, in a fairly straight line over a succession of four stiles to reach more open ground., Here the path goes past a marker post that takes the path slightly to the left and to a further stile and a fine view of Craig yr Allt (photo: ST148847). Make towards a barn straight ahead, over a stile to a further stile giving access onto a lane. Take the stile directly opposite leading into a field. Bear left to another stile, with the Black Cock Inn directly ahead. Make for the corner of the field adjacent the Inn and over a stile and footbridge into the car park of the Inn.

Take the minor road opposite the Black Cock Inn which descends into the valley. As it rises and just past Blackbrook House a tarmac road comes in from the left with a marker post indicating the Ridgeway Walk (among others). Follow this road up until you reach an unmade track forking off to the right. Take this track which has a marker post and a notice proclaiming "Private land" and bear left where the track forks to pass over a stile to the left of a gate. Just after the gate is a path going off to the right. [If you do not wish to climb Craig yr Allt continue on this track, but you will miss splendid views from the top of the ridge].

The path bends to the left and passes a double telegraph pole after which it climbs steadily to reach the highest point of the ridge with fine views south to Cardiff and the Channel and to the west over to Garth Mountain. {Photos: ST133851}. Continue along the ridge which descends slightly and the broad path goes right to miss the slight incline that defines the last high point of the ridge and descends to a marker post (where the low level path rejoins the route). Turn and right and follow the path passed a dead tree towards the transmitter mast. The path now zig-zags down by a fence before reaching a stile that gives access to the Taff Trail.

Turn left and follow the Taff Trail back to Castell Coch. The path rises and bends to the right where there is a picnic site with a fine view of Garth Mountain. The Ridgeway path then leaves the trail on the right. After 1km (15 mins) you come to a set of metal vehicle barriers. The Taff Trail bears left here and begins to ascend gently. After a further kilometre (15 to 20 mins) you reach a marker post with a footpath indicator and the Taff Trail indicator pointing sharp right. Take this path which descends rapidly to Castell Coch car park.

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Current comments about the route:

I'll be giving this walk a go today. May comment later on. Only one day in Wales - so this is my decision to walk this path.
Warren - 2012-05-07