It would be fair to say that many of the best ideas are conceived in pubs; buffalo wings, Quidditch, and Shark Week to name but three. Perhaps one of the best to come out of a Welsh pub though is the Heart of Wales line.
Back in 2015, a group of railway workers and ramblers sat in the pub together and decided to start up a crowdfunding campaign.
Their crowdfunding campaign was a success and The Heart of Wales Line Trail was completed in 2019.
What is the Heart Of Wales Line Trail?
The Heart of Wales Line trail takes up 141 miles of picturesque footpath. It’s a brilliantly simple idea. It combines a railway line with frequent stops, to some of the most picturesque hikes in the country. So often beautiful walks are out of reach for those without a car, but not anymore.
This pub-borne idea has ended up boosting tourism to Wales enormously. Looking at some of the walks, it’s not hard to see why.
Not only is the trail brilliant for walkers, but it has also proven incredibly popular with locals. The Heart of Wales railway connects all stations between Shrewsbury and Swansea. The stops along this line are vital for those living in small and remote villages.
This line provides a way for these communities to connect with the largest cities in Wales. The trains run reliably seven days a week and offer frequent connections that would otherwise not have been possible.
If you are starting off your hike, consider these travel minimalist backpacks to bring along on your journey.
How Much Time Do You Need On The Heart Of Wales Line
Those with weeks to adventure can pack their bags and walk the whole line, stopping at towns and villages on the way. A fit walker can reasonably expect to finish the whole heart of Wales line in around 10 days.
Of course, this is factoring in minimal time spent admiring the view or pottering around the pretty villages.
If you feel like taking on the challenge then it would be best to leave yourself two weeks. This gives you time to properly appreciate all of the castles, pubs, and idyllic views along the way.
That’s not to say that casual walkers can’t also enjoy the trail. The beauty of being able to hop on and off a train means that you can cherry-pick the bits you’d most like to see.
The entire train journey takes just four hours and whilst the views from the train window are beautiful, it would be criminal not to hop off and explore a little on foot. You can see many of the highlights in just one well planned weekend.
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Heart of Wales Line Trail Itinerary
Let’s get into the journey.
Start Your Adventure in Swansea
Whilst it’s entirely up to you where you’d like to begin your adventure, a good place to start is in Swansea. The city is easily reached from Cardiff and boasts restaurants, museums, and several good-value hotels.
If you’re traveling from further afield then it could be worth booking in for a night beforehand to allow you to start fresh-faced in the morning.
The Beachcomber B&B is a chocolate box guest house by the sea, which offers rooms from £66 per night. These rooms include a breakfast so enormous that it could set you up to walk the whole trail.
A pleasant way to spend your first day in Swansea is to take part in a tour of the Gower Peninsula. There are some walks from the Heart of Wales Line that take in views of the Gower peninsula, but none get quite as close as the guided tours. This part of the coastline is littered with ancient monuments and clifftop vantage points.
There are also several charming pubs dotted around the peninsula, including the King Arthur Hotel.
This delightful little pub frequently features highly on Britain’s Best Pubs lists and makes an ideal rest and refresh stop. Once refreshed make your way back to the train and settle in for the short journey to Pontarddulais.
Begin Your Heart Of Wales Line Walk In Pontarddulais
Pontarddulais will be the start of your first day hiking the heart of Wales trail. Begin your 9-mile journey by walking through the town and up onto the spectacular open moorland of Graig Fawr.
This National Trust area is a Site of Special Scientific Interest, thanks to its unique landscape.
The limestone outcrops combined with its exposed location have made Graig Fawr ridge a favorite spot for rare butterflies and the lesser spotted horseshoe bat.
If you’re lucky, you might even be able to spot some circling before returning to their limestone caves. Whether you see the bats or not, there are spectacular views across to the Brecon Beacons and Loughour Estuary.
Continue hiking the heart of Wales on to Penlle’r Castell, a historic ruin right at the top of Mynydd y Betws.
Although this particular castle isn’t one of Wales’ most spectacular castles, it is amongst the oldest. Penlle’r Castell dates back to the late 13th century and is now very much a ruin. You’ll need to use a little imagination to picture its former glory.
Though with such a dramatic backdrop, it’s easy to see why this stronghold was positioned way up here, some 1200 feet above sea level.
The next part of the trail will take you down a shallow decline into the small town of Ammanford. Hop on a train at the station here to nearby Llandeilo. Those who didn’t have their castle needs quenched by Penlle’r Castell should make a beeline for Dinefwr Castle, which is altogether more impressive!
This castle is Grade I listed and sits on a steep ridge overlooking the Tywi.
Although the interior of the castle has long been lost, the ruins that remain are substantial and make the perfect Instagram photo opportunity.
Where to Stay in Llandeilo
Llandeilo is a delightful town that sits right next to the River Towy. A dramatic 19th century stone bridge crosses over the river from the foot of the town and is worth exploring if you have a few steps left in you! For such a small town there are a surprising number of guesthouses to choose from.
The tourism website has a comprehensive list, including a personal favorite, The Loft.
This cute Bed and Breakfast is available to book through Airbnb and offers unparalleled views over beautifully kept gardens and the Towy Valley beyond.
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A Pub Dinner in Llandeilo
If you fancy a hearty, no-frills dinner then head to Yr Hen Vic pub. Although the pub is simple on the outside, it’s a real gem once you get inside. Yr Hen Vic is a favorite amongst locals for its generous portions and friendly service.
It certainly isn’t fine dining, but the prices are incredibly reasonable and the food is delicious. Another point goes to Yr Hen Vic for offering vegetarian and even vegan options – quite a rarity in such a remote location.
Prepare yourself for a proper pub sized portion and don’t be afraid to ask for a takeaway container.
If you’d like something a little more refined, that’s still within walking distance of the town center, then the Cawdor Arms should suit perfectly. This bright red pub sits right on Rhosmaen Street and offers a more condensed menu. There is a real focus on local, seasonal produce.
With the abundance of rich farmland in this part of the country, it would be a shame not to! Charcuterie connoisseurs should be sure to try some of their in-house smoked and cured meats. Those that love nothing more than a pie and proper chips will also be well catered for, with plenty of pub classics gracing the menu.
After filling your belly, take the stroll back to your guest house and be sure to get in a good night’s sleep for the day ahead.
From Llandeilo to Coeg Trib
Start your walk bright and early as you’ve got around 10 miles to cover before you can settle in at another pub! Cross over the suspension bridge and head towards the woodlands of Coed Tregib. This woodland is of particular importance, being one of the largest areas of ancient woodland in the area.
The Woodland Trust manages this 100-acre forest. It is home to a multitude of different flora and fauna.
Fallow deer are fairly easy to spot and roam freely, whilst the hazel dormouse is considerably trickier to catch a glimpse of. If you’re lucky enough to be visiting during the early spring then the woodland will be teeming with heavily scented spring flowers.
Bluebells are the most prominent, but wood anemones, celandine, and even purple orchids litter the forest floor.
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From Coeg Trib to Llangadog
If you can bear to tear yourself away from the picturesque Coed Tregib woodland then the next part of your journey will take you over the Afon Cib. Once you’ve crossed the Afon Cib bridge, you’ll be looking out for a series of several farms.
First is Lwynn Bedw farm, with a pretty 19th century cowshed. Next on the heart of Wales line trail is Hafod Farm. A particularly lovely collection of farm buildings make up Hafod Farm.
They are now used as a beautiful backdrop for country weddings.
Blaen Cib farm is the final landmark of the trinity. Once you reach here you’re just minutes away from some spectacular views.
As you walk along the lane joining Blaen Cib Farm with Blaencib and Helgym woods take a look out across the valley over to Carreg Cennen Castle and the village of Trap.
This view of the castle are particularly dramatic and shouldn’t be missed.
You’ll now head across the Carn Powell moorlands towards Carn Goch. Prepare for a little exertion as this part of the trail has a couple of ladder stiles and even a stream to cross.
Carn Goch itself is one of the oldest hillfort sites in Wales and for those with an interest in prehistory is well worth a stop.
The final stretch of your walk takes you through the pretty village of Felindre.
Don’t be tempted to stop and snack – there’s a pub coming up soon! Next, you’ll head on to Carreg Sawdde Common, a pleasant swathe of nature reserve.
Cross over the common and through two remaining pastures and you’ll end up in Llangadog. No doubt ready for a cold beer and a warm lunch.
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Celebrate A Successful Hike in Llangadog
Just like that, you’ve completed your hike of the heart of Wales line trail! Those who are in a hurry to get back can jump straight on a train from Llangadog station. If you’re fortunate enough to have a little time, or even overnight, then take some time to explore this quaint little village
The ruins of Carn Goch are Llangadog’s most popular attractions. However, the village has a handful of tucked-away coffee shops and pubs to explore.
If you’re staying the night then The Red Lion on the main street is a good choice. This inn is very traditional, both inside and out. The building itself is a stunning,16th-century, Grade II listed coach house with a fascinating history. Soldiers and priests amongst others utilized the building as a safe house during the Civil War.
Nowadays it has been sympathetically modernized to retain a wonderful sense of coziness. The pub downstairs is very relaxed, with friendly staff that will make you feel right at home. Rooms are simple but comfortable and after your walk, you’ll be off to sleep in no time.
Make time for a trip to the Goose and Cuckoo, where their lunches have become a thing of local legend. Sundays lunches are reputedly the best. With that said, those after a hearty meal will be more than satisfied any day of the week.
Inside, dark wooden beams accentuate the low ceilings in the traditional bar area.
The owners have transformed the outside into a lush and prettily planted beer garden. The menu offers plenty of variety, but frankly, you’d be crazy not to try a burger. Their towering creations combine top-quality beef with fresh bread and a cornucopia of different toppings.
Save room for homemade pudding, then waddle back to the station to end your weekend.
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