About Mynach Falls (Devil’s Bridge)
Mynach Falls (Rhaeadr Mynach in Welsh [pronounced “HRHYE-uh-dur MUH-nahkh”]) was an impressive series of waterfalls said to tumble over a cumulative drop of 90m. We did an down-and-up loop walk that started and ended from the Devil’s Bridge (Pontarfynach in Welsh; said to mean “Bridge over the Mynach”) so I’ve also seen some refer to this waterfall as the Devil’s Bridge Falls. In any case, our visit here was a relatively peaceful and intimate one as we were one of a few people who managed to show up relatively early in the morning as this was on the way between our very long drive from Conwy to Cardiff through this part of Mid-Wales. In addition to the view of most of its dramatic cascading series you see pictured above, we were also able to walk closer to each of the waterfall’s tiers to really get that sense that we were amongst some steep and forbidding terrain.
As beautiful and interesting as this waterfall was, I got the feeling that the Devil’s Bridge was the more well known of the attractions here due to its historical value. For a casual observer like us, it seemed like nothing more than a road bridge where vehicles on the A4120 would traverse the Afon Mynach. However, there were two lower layers of the stacked arch bridges, and the heritage was such that 11th century monks of Strata Florida were said to have built the lowest and oldest layer. Given that the name of the falls was mynach, it made sense when I looked in my trusty Welsh dictionary and saw that the word meant “monk.” So Mynach Falls, or Rhaeadr Mynach, was the Monk Falls.
I came across a sign near the waterfall walk entrance telling the story of an alternate origin of that bridge. It told how the Devil had built the bridge to help an old woman get back her runaway cow on the other side of the gorge in exchange for the Devil to keep the first living thing to go across the new bridge. When the lady was about to go across, she pulled out a piece of bread and threw it towards the cow so her dog would go after it. And thus, the Devil ended up with the soul of her farm dog. Disgusted with being outwitted by the old lady, the Devil left Wales never to be seen from again.
From the well-signed car park off the A4120 road (see directions below), we went down a ramp towards the narrow road itself, then carefully crossed it towards the turnstile to our right. There was another turnstile to our left for the Punch Bowl, which we didn’t do. The Mynach Falls turnstile was 2 pound per turn (though it ate one of our turns so we ended up paying 6 total for Julie, me, and our three-year-old daughter). The Punch Bowl turnstile was 1 pound per turn. There wasn’t an attendant when we were here (I guess we showed up a bit too early), which would have charged 3.75 pound per adult for both excursions.
Immediately behind the turnstile, we descended onto a well-established trail. I first went left from the entrance, which quickly brought me to an angled and awkward view of the Devil’s Bridge itself. This was when I realized that the whole point of the Punch Bowl walk was probably to get a more direct view of the Devil’s Bridge. Anyways, I then went the other way along with Julie and Tahia, and we walked downhill as the relatively quiet trail descended through forest with some partial views down the Vale of Rheidol, where the Afon Mynach would feed the Afon Rheidol (afon means “river”), which in turn would flow through the valley.
After about 15 minutes of this relatively gentle part of the walk, we descended upon a sheltered lookout with the view of Mynach Falls that you see pictured at the top of this page. It would turn out that this was the most satisfying view of the impressive waterfalls as the rest of the time, we would only be getting to see bits and pieces of its constituent parts. So after getting our fill of this viewpoint, we then continued descending the trail which got steeper. It ultimately reached the steepest part of the descent as a series of steps called Jacob’s Ladder. We had to be cautious and take it slow here so as to not have a potentially nasty (maybe even fatal) fall, but at the same time, I was distracted by some decent but overgrown views of the lowest tier of Mynach Falls.
Once we got to the bottom, we then crossed a bridge over the Afon Mynach before the trail would then climb steeply up a series of steps that pretty much followed alongside the Mynach Falls itself. So while we took our time catching our breaths while enjoying the partial views of each part of Mynach Falls, all the distractions helped to make the overall climb feel less arduous than it would have been had we just gone straight up without all these breaks. One interesting break in particular was at the so-called Robber’s Cave (Ogof y Lladron in Welsh, which seemed very close to the Spanish word “el ladron” for thief).
Even though we didn’t really get a view of any part of the waterfall from this cave (more like an alcove), it was said that hundreds of years ago, three highway robbers who were also called Bat’s Children (Bat was short for a local man named Bartholomew) used this spot as their hideout. Back then, it really was a cave, and we could totally envision what a perfect hiding spot it would have been given that the noise from Mynach Falls would drown out any audible signs of human activity here. Anyways to make a long story short, in one particular robbery, they accidentally killed a well-respected gentleman. And this prompted a manhunt that included dogs that ultimately led the search party to this cave. The two male robbers were then hung while the woman was burnt at the stake. Then, the walls of the cave were opened up to its present alcove-like state to keep this place from being used for a similar purpose again.
Beyond the Robber’s Cave, the steps continued past a few more lookouts of the uppermost tiers of Mynach Falls before we then got to a final lookout that peered right back into the Rheidol Vale with a telescope. We were able to also peer back towards the sheltered lookout with the best view of Mynach Falls earlier in the hike as well as what appeared to be a distant but fairly impressive other waterfall (perhaps that was what the telescope was for). Anyways, after getting our fill of this spot, we then went uphill a few paces more to another turnstile, which marked the end of our Waterfall Nature Walk. Because it was a one-way exit turnstile, the walk was meant to be done in one direction, and the ultimate loop that we were on was meant to be done counterclockwise. There was no way to start the walk from here (unless you somehow wanted to go back down and up to the start, then back down and up to this exit again, which would seem like a lot of effort just for the thrill of doing this walk in both directions).
Now that we were outside the Nature Walk, we had to walk the narrow road past the Hafod Hotel, then over the Devil’s Bridge, back to the turnstiles, and ultimately to the car park. From the top of the bridge, I was able to look down at the Punch Bowl Walk, which had a lot of steps and almost looked like something out of an MC Escher drawing. Anyways, the signs said the Waterfall Walk would typically take 45 minutes to do while the Punch Bowl Walk would take 10 minutes. Since we took our sweet time, we ended up taking nearly 90 minutes away from the car (of which just over an hour was spent to do the Waterfall Walk itself).
We visited this waterfall as part of a very long one-way drive from Conwy to Cardiff via the Devil’s Bridge and Mynach Falls. From Conwy, we went south on a combination of the A470, A487, then veering away from Aberystwyth (the closest large town to the falls) turning left onto the A44, before finally turning right onto the A4120 near Ponterwyd where we went the final 3 miles to the well-signed and fairly spacious car park on our left. This part of the drive took us about 2 hours and 20 minutes early in the morning. I’m sure it would take a lot longer later in the day (possibly 3 hours) given how much slow-moving traffic there can be throughout this drive (think tractors, lorries, tour buses, and other slow drivers unfamiliar with the area).
I’m sure most people would be coming from Aberystwyth (a place I really regret not taking the time to stop at), where you have your choice of going roughly 12 miles east of town on the A44 or the A4120 roads.
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