Penwyllt Mountain Dog Walk Gallery - Dog Friendly Wales | Dog Friendly Hotel

Dog Friendly Wales
Go to content

Penwyllt Mountain Dog Walk Gallery

Local Walks & Reservoirs

South Wales Dog Friendly Walks - Penwyllt Mountain

Penwyllt Mountain Dog Walk Muddy Jack

Penwyllt Mountain Tracks Dog Walk Information

Penwyllt is a Welsh hamlet located in the upper Swansea Valley, to the east of the Black Mountain. It now has only a few houses and is mostly open mountainside with a disused quarry. It used to be home to 400 - 500 people in the Industrial Revolution era. You would not know this now as all the housing stock was dismantled and presumably the stone re-used elsewhere.

A former quarrying village, quicklime and silica brick production centre, its fortunes rose and fell as a result of the industrial revolution within South Wales. It is now an important caving centre and there are old railway tracks that you can do a circular walk around, all with excellent views over mountains and the Upper Swansea Valley.

Penwyllt Mountain Dog Walk Jack and Sheeba cross small plank bridge

Penwyllt Mountain Tracks Dog Walk Information

The Geology of South Wales provides it with the basic raw materials structure to be at the centre of the industrial revolution. The large natural coal fields enclose significant deposits of iron ore and limestone, each basic to the production of materials via production methods.

The best coal in South Wales is found in the eastern sections beneath Rhondda Fawr, where the pressure is highest. The greatest deposits of limestone are found above the western section, around the northern section of Swansea Valley where it borders Breconshire.

There were also coal deposits below the limestone layer, and the coal which lay underground at Clydach, Ystradgynlais, and Abercraf became more valuable as the Industrial Revolution of the Victorian era led to a huge demand for iron and steel, giving the area great prosperity.
So when Adelina Patti resided at Craig y Nos Castle, this area was presumably not regarded as being as remote and isolated as it now is. Penwyllt was a thriving industrial town.

Penwyllt Mountain remote tracks Walk

Penwyllt Mountain Tracks Dog Walk Information

Penwyllt developed primarily as a result of the need for quicklime in the industrial processes in the lower Swansea Valley, taking limestone from the quarries and turning it into quicklime in lime kilns.

Subsequently Penwyllt also supported the Penwyllt Dinas Silica Brick company, which quarried silica sand at Pwll Byfre from which it manufactured refractory bricks, a form of fire brick, at the Penwyllt brick works (closed in 1937 - 1939).

The bricks were used in industrial furnaces. A narrow gauge railway, with a rope pully system to pull the trains up the very steep incline, transported silica sand and stones to the brickworks. The brickworks were adjacent to the Neath and Brecon Railway (which on 1 July 1922 became part of the Great Western Railway).
None of the railway tracks have rails on them now, though the sleepers, rotted and buried, still lie in the ground in some places. The steep incline is a nuisance to have to climb, so I prefer to walk anti-clockwise from the quarry, up the Swansea Valley, take a right turn through some woodland, then return via the Caving Club, descending the steep incline. You will pass the remains of the pulley house, in an area that has now become a separate little nature reserve.

Penwyllt Mountain Dog Walk Sheeba

Penwyllt Mountain Tracks Dog Walk Information

The circular dog walk takes about one and a half hours. Because the weather can change suddenly up in the mountains, with sleet and wind and driving sideways rain, it is best to go prepared with warm waterproof clothes, though in the summer you should be OK.

Park near the Quarry. Walk back down the road you drove up, for five yards or so, and go through a latched field gate up a gravelled track to a second field gate. You should be passing the quarry on your right and at this point are looking north up the Swansea Valley and at some points can see the line of the straight Swansea to Brecon railway track that you are now going to walk along.

The second five bar aluminium gate is always locked, which is a nuisance for dogs. Small dogs can sometimes squeeze under a dip worn into the ground under one side of the gate. Larger dogs have to be lifted over the lower barbed wire fence to the right of the gate. The public right of way goes either over the gate or over a style to the right. Leaving the Quarry behind you on your right, continue for a mile or so along the railway track till you get to a right hand track going uphill into some woods.

Follow this right hand track through the woods for another mile or so, going uphill steadily but not too steeply. On exiting the forest at another metal field gate (both the gate into and out of this forest can be opened, so there is only the first gate that you have to lift dogs over), a track goes off to the left and another to the right.

Take the right hand track which after a few yards crosses a bridge with a small pond on the right whcih dogs may choose to splash in, though I recall this was being filled in when I last looked. A right hand path curls around the side of a mountain, and leads you back to the Caving club.
Branch off to the right after the small bridge and follow this to the steep incline and winching building (now a ruin). Descend the steep track to the Caving Club; at the bottom of the steep straight section of track you do not continue straight on down the valley but instead you turn off right towards the low caving club buildings. Pass the caving club on your left as you go through a pedestrian gate, and walk down the caving clubs rutted and wide access road, back to your car which you should have parked by the quarry, ideally next to Adelina Patti's waiting room at the now disused Penwyllt railway station.

Penwyllt Mountain Walk view of Upper Swansea Valley

Penwyllt Mountain Tracks Dog Walk Information

An alternative walk if you are not willing to do the one and a half hour circular walk, is simply to continue along the straight Brecon to Swansea railway tracks. You can walk three or four miles in a straight line, on the level, no hill work at all, keeping the Upper Swansea Valley and at times the road below, in view. Once you have had enough of going in one direction, you simply turn around and walk back again.

If you kept on walking northwards you would eventually come out on to the A4067 Swansea to Brecon road that passes by the Castle. The track itself peters out though it does resume at later points - not really walkable further along as it passes through farm fields.

The picture in the above photo is of the Upper Swansea Valley as seen from the railway line heading South back to Penwyllt. The photo is at an angle but you can clearly see the A4067 road on your right here; this leads back to Craig y Nos Castle but you do not want to walk along it as the road is busy and you will not get back to your car once you have dropped down on the main road.

Penwyllt Mountain Walk along old railway track looking down the upper swansea valley
Penwyllt Mountain Tracks Dog Walk Information

In 1819 Fforest Fawr (English - Great Forest of Brecon) was divided up into fields, and large parts of it became the property of John Christie, a Scottish businessman based in London. John Christie had become wealthy through the import of indigo.

Christie developed a limestone quarry at Penwyllt, and decided to develop lime kilns there as well. In 1820 he moved to Brecon, and developed the Brecon Forest Tramroad.

The tramroad ran from a depot at Sennybridge through Fforest Fawr via the limestone quarries at Penwyllt, to the Drim Colliery near Onllwyn.

A branch line served the Gwaun Clawdd Colliery on the northern slopes of Mynydd y Drum and was extended to the Swansea Canal.
Christie however was declared bankrupt in 1827 and most of his assets, including the tramroad, eventually passed to his principal creditor, Joseph Claypon, of the banking house of Garfit & Claypon in Boston, Lincolnshire. The story continues on the next page.

Penwyllt Mountain dog walk along old railway track

Penwyllt Mountain Tracks Dog Walk Information

Claypon took over Christie's assets, and soon concluded that shipping lime, coal, iron ore and quicklime south to the larger industrial premises in the southern Swansea Valley was much more productive and profitable than trying to serve a small rural population in the Usk valley to the north.

Claypon quickly sold or leased the farms and developments north of Fforest Fawr and concentrated on expanding the lime kilns at and around Penwyllt.

There were once fifteen lime kilns at Penwyllt:

Penwyllt quarry: two lime kilns created in the railway age by "Jeffreys, Powell and Williams", 1878,

Pen-y-foel: a bank of four kilns near the Penwyllt Inn erected 1863 to 1867 by the Brecon Coal & Lime Co.

Twyn-disgwylfa: Built by Joseph Claypon in 1836 - 1842. This bank of seven kilns has been largely destroyed by quarry tipping. Only one draw arch can now be seen.

Twyn-y-ffald: The 1825 and 1827 kilns built by Joseph Claypon have been largely demolished, although the single draw arch can still be seen.
You will see evidence of the former kilns at Penwyllt if you take the old railway line SOUTH down the valley instead of north past the Quarry.

Penwyllt Mountain Walk Daniel and Martin Gover walk along old mountain tracks

Penwyllt Mountain Tracks Dog Walk Information

The picture above shows the tracks heading south towards the Caving Club. The Upper Swansea Valley is off to your right at this point, still within sight occasionally but you are now quite high up. Some good views of mountain scenery all around. But bleak and desolate looking and often quite windswept.

You can continue past the caving club and walk south along the railway track as well.

If parking at the station, you would walk along the old station platform, past the railway station on your right, and down the old tracks. However the southerly route has several locked gates which you have to lift dogs over. Some can be opened but not all.

The farmer that owns this section of the Brecon to Swansea old railway tracks walk wants to end the right of way, and he is striving to stop people using the path by allowing it to become completely overgrown.

He has mostly achieved this a mile further down, by allowing some gorse bushes to so completly obscure the path that if you did not know better, would make you conclude the path has dead-ended. Once through the gorse bushes, the path resumes.

The Gorse can be quite prickly to walk through. As not many people use this walk, the views and scenery here is not really appreciated by many.

There is a right of way, albeit the official footpath leaves the old railway line at some point around the gorse bushes and heads across open fields to a large aerial mast. So if you meet the farmer, know your right of way route as at some point you will be off the right of way by sticking to the tracks.  The first track off to the right takes you to the road and the mobile phone mast at this location, and you will then back on the right of way.

You could walk back along the road to make a circular walk, but there is no point as you will have to walk UP the hill to the now abandoned Pennwyllt Railway Station to get back to your car

Penwyllt Mountain Walk dog walk tall mountainside

Penwyllt Mountain Tracks Dog Walk Information

This is a dramatic looking bit of mountainside. You are now nearing the end of the circular anti-clockwise walk, and will curve around this mountainside, before descending the steep track down to the caving club.

To your right will be a view of the track you walked along earlier, a mile to your right down the hill. If you look carefully you will make out the bridged causeway that you walked along an hour or so earlier. At this point in the walk you are actually only 20 minutes or so from the car.

Learn more about Penwyllt here:

On 29 July 1862, an Act of Parliament created the Dulais Valley Mineral Railway, to transport goods to the docks at Briton Ferry, Neath built by Isambard Kingdom Brunel.

The population of Penwyllt grew on this increased transport route to 500 citizens (1881 Census).

The passenger station at Craig-y-nos/Penwyllt was in part funded by opera singer Adelina Patti, who lived at and extended Craig-y-Nos Castle. She built the road from the castle to the station, and a separate waiting room. The railway supplied her in return with her own railway carriage, which she could request to go anywhere within the United Kingdom. A gun would be fired when she arrived at Penwyllt, to signal the coach and horses to come up from the castle and collect her.

Penwyllt was created on the back of the industrialisation of the Swansea valley. However the industry here was mostly all manual labour and became uneconomic. Penwyllt declined as industrial processes became more automated, shifting instead, on a much larger scale, to Port Talbot.

Penwyllt was in decline from 1900, but World War II created the final closure. The Penwyllt Inn closed in 1948, and the line north of Craig-y-nos/Penwyllt station closed. By 1960 the population fell to 20 people. The railway line remained open south to Neath until 1977 to serve the quarry until it closed.

Many former industrial buildings, commercial properties and houses of Penwyllt were demolished in the 1980s, as they were beyond economic repair. The former pub survives as private accommodation for cavers. The former Craig-y-nos/Penwyllt station was apparently once used as a private holiday cottage though I have not seen it used as such for years; it was recently re-roofed but inside it looks abandoned.

The only group of terrace houses still occupied are in Powell Street - now the headquarters of the South Wales Caving Club, and the South & Mid Wales Cave Rescue Team.

Beneath Penwyllt and the surrounding area is the extensive limestone cave system of Ogof Ffynnon Ddu, part of which was the first designated underground National Nature Reserve in the UK. A corresponding area on the surface is also part of the National Nature Reserve, on the slopes of Carreg Cadno.
The quarry, though not the railway, re-opened in 2007 to provide limestone for the works associated with the new gas pipeline being laid through South Wales. In 2008 it was again dormant. In 2009 it was operational but at a relatively low level of activity. It has now appeared to close completely though there are still some signs around saying "working quarry"!

Copyright Dog Friendly Wales and Jack the Dog
Back to content