Bach Howey and Glyn Tarell 2009

A brief visit to the dramatic and challenging Bach Howey Gorge, and the upper Glyn Tarell, in search of hidden gems.

Bach Howey Gorge

It is very easy to overlook the dramatic Bach Howey Gorge (also known as the Bachawy Gorge), and it would appear that most people do. It is tucked on the side of the Wye Valley, just downstream of Builth Wells, and spills a surprising amount of water into the Wye. (Admitedly, I visited during winter water levels, but it must be stressed that the river was not in flood.) The few paths that used to exist along the top of the gorge have been reclaimed by nature, and can no longer be identified - most of them do not go anywhere useful anyway.

Despite being only 2.5 km long in each direction, this is easily one of the hardest waterfall walks I have done, requiring over 4 hours for that small distance. There are no paths through any of the important parts, and the gorge is far deeper and more difficult than the maps make it look. If you plan on following my route, you will need to have:

The Mid Wales gorges are typically wide and V-shaped, with their sides only just steep enough to be considered a gorge. A few manage to get vertical sides, but rarely very deep. Bach Howey Gorge is therefore very unusual for Mid Wales, as it is a properly vertical-sided, deep gorge. Its thundering waterfalls are also quite spectacular, and for the first time in Mid Wales, I felt like I was back in the splendour of South Wales' Waterfall Country.

(Note; Kayakers told me the stretch of river is grade IV, but I can only assume this refers to the section of river below the gorge and waterfalls. The main waterfall is easily a grade VI, and would almost certainly prove fatal, as its wide spread thunders into a tiny slot less than a metre wide - you're more likely to land on the ledges than the water. Although this would therefore be considered a portage, the banks are too ridiculous to attempt dragging any kind of water craft up the sides, and there would be nowhere to stand for lowering. But then, they're even more nuts than me...)


The Llanedw Falls are not mentioned on any maps, but were described in a canoeing guide. The trouble is that canoeists and kayakers have different perceptions than walkers. The slightest wave in the river is a stopper, a shallow section becomes rapids, a slight drop in river level becomes a fall, and a good waterfall becomes a portage. Whenever there is a feature of any kind, it gets a name, typically from whatever village is nearby, or the canoeist that got stuck there 17.3 years ago. I could spend several lifetimes visiting all of these pointless (from a walker's perspective) features - I really need to learn to ignore canoeing guides. Llanedw Falls is one such example, by the Llanedw farm (the one near Upper Rhose) on the river Edw, near Builth Wells. It is not worth a dedicated visit.

Upper Glyn Tarell

Since it's on the way back, I stopped in the upper end of Glyn Tarell, the massive glacial valley separating the Fforest Fawr and Brecon Beacons mountain ranges. The valley is covered in small streams whose character changes completely depending on rainfall. From the road, several looked like they might hang cleanly, so given the winter water levels, it was time to investigate.