At approximately 75m/240ft tall, Pistyll Rhaeadr is one of the UK’s tallest waterfalls. It’s also an awesome place for a family hike. With an adjacent car park, café and a range of hiking trails in the area to enjoy and experience, it should, therefore, definitely be on your to-do list.
Situated in the beautiful Berwyn Mountains, Pistyll Rhaeadrwaterfall is, without doubt, one of the seven wonders of Wales. Located just over the Welsh border, west of Oswestry, this is one spectacular place for a family hike. Unlike many other waterfalls that we visit, Pistyll Rhaeadr is unusual in that it doesn’t require a walk-in to get there. In fact, the car park can be no more than about 100m from the base of the waterfall. This makes it so accessible, even to the smallest of legs who will be blown away by its size and majesty.
Of course, this does mean that the base of the waterfall is always pretty busy on a nice day. Consequently, it’s not necessarily a place for getting away from the crowds. That said, with the trail options available in the area, some of which are extremely quiet, you’ll have plenty of choices available to you once you’ve had enough (if you can ever have enough) of the waterfall itself.
On our last visit we decided to walk through the short section of woodland on the car park side of Pistyll Rhaeadr waterfall and then uphill to the top so that we could explore that area. This was only in the region of three miles long but, be warned, the journey up can be steep in places, particularly if you have little legs with you and choose the more adventurous route.
Fortunately, if you do have kids with you, there is aneasier route if you keep to the main track. This route, which continues to the right, is more gradual in its ascent and follows a wide track that hairpins. The alternative way up isthe more direct and rocky route, which bears to the left, just off the main track. Of course, us being us, we decided to take the more adventurous trail and, although our Little Man needed a few short rest stops, he genuinely relished the adventure of what was a little scramble to him. However, whichever route up you select, the views that open up before you to the valley below are gorgeous, so take them in.
When you reach the top of the climb you’ll be aware of many more connecting routes which you can choose to explore. We decided to head straight for the top of the waterfall in the first instance. You’ll descend slightly towards a stile and, shortly after crossing it, you’ll be surrounded by an intricate network of plunge pools. It really is an amazing place to sit and have a family picnic. Simply choose a rock or boulder and settle down in amongst the myriad of miniature waterfalls and streams that envelop you.
You can also see right over the top of Pistyll Rhaeadr waterfall from this area. Obviously, extreme caution needs to be taken with little ones – there is no safety barrier or fence at all – so keep hold of them! However, if you’re not feeling like you’ve got a head for heights that particular day, you can stay well away from the edge and never leave your beautiful picnic spot amongst the boulders and plunge pools. The choice is yours.
If you feel like you want to extend your hike many other trails intersect that of Pistyll Rhaeadr waterfall. Cadair Berwyn, for instance, is easily reached if you fancy a walk in the region of about 6 miles/10km. Climbing up to 830m above sea level, you’ll take in the highest point in the county of Denbighshire, which is another reason to go, particularly if you’re into bagging county high points.
All in all, for the price of the £4 car park, Pistyll Rhaeadr is a stunning waterfall that will really inspire you to get outside more often. Add to that the fact that there are a myriad of walking trails that link up to this stunning natural feature, a tea room and even a campsite for those who wish to enjoy the views over a longer period, then you can’t really go wrong. Just don’t forget your camera.
Start point: Tan y Pistyll (GR: SJ073294)
Car Park: £4
Difficulty: moderate – difficult for little legs. Easy for adults
Time: 2-4 hours depending on the length of your picnic.
OS Maps downloadable route