The Best Walks in Torfaen, Wales
The Best Walks in Torfaen, Wales

The Best Walks in Torfaen, Wales

Torfaen is a small county nestled in the Llwyd Valley in South Wales. Being in the South Wales valleys means that it’s full of adventurous walking trials that, more often than not, lead to a great viewpoint overlooking the lush green valley or beyond. I was born and raised in Pontypool and so know Torfaen, its valley and its walking trials intimately. With that said, let’s get into my list of the best walks in Torfaen.

Table of contents

Best walks in Torfaen 1: Pontypool Park to Tirpentwys nature reserve

The forest in Tirpentwys, which is one of the best walks in Torfaen.

Distance: 8.4 km Time: 2 hours Difficulty: easy

Tirpentwys is the site of an old coal mine now reclaimed as a nature reserve. Getting there from Pontypool Park usually takes you along main roads, but I got off the roads and into scenic woodlands and small nature reserves that make the walk much more interesting. It’s a pretty easy walk that winds through a quieter and heavily wooded arm of the Llwyd Valley.

From Pontypool Park you’ll want to head up above the town centre and join the cycle track. You’ll be sticking to the cycle track for a while as it takes you away from Pontypool town and towards Tirpentwys.

The cycle track is lined by trees and is a really peaceful place, great for those who like having the time to be with their thoughts and enjoy nature. A short while on the cycle track and you’ll come to the Branches Fork Meadows nature reserve.

You can take the cycle track all the way to Tirpentwys, but the Branches Fork Meadows reserve is well worth the detour. The reserve is a forest of tall, thick trees and golden brown grass mixed in among the greenery.

This is the best part of the walk for me and it’s great on a sunny day, especially early in the morning or at sunset, as the light filters through the trees creating a fairy tale like atmosphere. I spent a while taking pictures and making the most of the golden light.

Head up to the top of Branches Fork Meadows and you’ll join a curving famers road. Go right and follow the road. You’ll leave the woodlands behind and come to an opening which has some nice views onto the far side of the valley.

Keep heading along this road and you’ll re-enter the woodland. The trees are really tall here and they make you feel tiny. A few minutes in and you’ll come across the Tirpentwys downhill bike trails.

At the end of this road, you’ll re-join the main road. Cross to the other side of the main road and you’ve arrived at Tirpentwys nature reserve.

Best walks in Torfaen 2: The Keeper’s Pond and Blorenge Circular Blaenavon

A pond surrounded by fields. There are mountains in the background. It's the Keepers Pond Blaenavon.

Distance: 6.6 km Time: 1h 50 min Difficulty: easy

The large Blorenge hill sits at the top of the LLwyd Valley overlooking the Usk Valley and the scenes up there can be magical in sun, snow and mist.

On a good day you have a stellar view of the Sugarloaf and the Black Mountains. And on a clear evening it’s one of, if not the best spot in the Llwyd Valley to watch the sunset.

There’s also a pond there, called the Keeper’s Pond, which adds to the scenery. It’s an easy walk that’s practically flat the whole way, although you need to watch your footing in some spots as the trail can get uneven. 

The Blorenge circular walk begins at the Keeper’s Pond and is one big loop back to where you started. It’s grassy, earthy trail for almost the whole walk and you’ll spend a lot of it walking between ferns and sheep grazing on the plains.

The trail itself is one of the less exciting ones on this list. But it’s the awesome views of the Usk Valley that make it such a good one.

Best walks in Torfaen 3: Cwmynyscoy to Blaen Bran Reservoir

Distance: 8.4 km Time: 2 hours Difficulty: medium

Blaen Bran Resrvoir can be reached from Cwmbran or Pontypool. Coming from Pontypool, it’s a medium difficulty walk that takes you through rocky trails and green plains, and it has great views all the way until you reach the reservoir. I recommend starting from Cwmynyscoy as the walk can be made longer and more adventurous from there. 

Things get off to a steep start as you begin on Prescoch Lane. This is a steep treelined lane that takes you up to what’s known as the Mountain Air (and also the lamb). Prescoch Lane starts out as paved road, but after the steep climb turns to a rocky and uneven trail.

At this point you’ll get your first views over Pontypool. Follow the rocky trail until you re-join the road. Turn right and you’ll come out at Mountain Air.

At the Mountain Air the plains open up, dominated by the Mynydd Maen hill. Here you follow Mountain Road which takes you away from Pontypool and towards Cwmbran. This a flat and very scenic part of the walk.

Continue along Mountain Road until you come to the Mountain Air car park. Get on the walking trail above the car park and follow it along the base of Mynydd Maen towards the reservoir. The trail takes you into a wooded area as you approach the reservoir. Now it’s just straight on as you drop down to Blaen Bran Reservoir.

Best walks in Torfaen 4: Pontypool Park to the Shell Grotto

The Shell Grotto in Pontypool Park.

Distance: 3 km Time: 1 hour Difficulty: Medium

Pontypool Shell Grotto walk is a quick and relatively easy one that’ll get the blood pumping. It takes you to some to some great views overlooking New Inn, Cwmbran and plenty of countryside. You’ll finish at the Shell Grotto, which is a small round hut with an interior lined with animal bones and shells.

The terrain is mostly easy, but there are two sections of the walk that some may find a little challenging. This is the rocky section that takes you from the bottom of Pontypool Park up past the dry ski slope (through a tunnel), and the last few meters up op the Shell Grotto that are quite steep.

Start by heading past Pontypool leisure centre and turn right. Follow the road straight and after about 100 metres come off the road and head towards the tress on your left. You’ll see a trail leading up into the forest.

This is the rocky trail section that some people may need to take it easy on. Keep following the rocky trail up and away from the park. After a few minutes you’ll go through a tunnel that takes you under the dry ski slope. The rocky trail ends once you come out the other end of the tunnel.

Now you join a grass path and shortly you’ll see a sign for the Shell Grotto that points directly uphill. Keep going uphill; after around 15 minutes you’ll see a steep and narrow trail going off to the right. You’ll see another sign pointing to the Grotto.

Head up these last few steep metres and you’ll get to the grotto and a nice flat section to enjoy the surroundings.

Best walks in Torfaen 5: Pontypool Park to the Folly Tower

The Folly Tower in Pontypool.

Distance: 7 km Time: 2 hours Difficulty: Medium

This one easily makes the list of the best walks in Torfaen. The Folly is an old observation tower that looks like a mini caste, but that has commanding views looking back over Pontypool right down the valley and also towards The Skirrid. It’s another medium difficulty walk on this list, but with plenty of flat sections, most will find it easy.

To get to the Folly Tower, you need to pass the Shell Grotto, so we’ll pick up there. Read the Shell Grotto info above first if you haven’t already.

From the Shell Grotto, head down the slope the wall separating you from farm fields. Take the gate through the wall and join the trail on the other side. You’ll have nice views here looking towards the countryside beyond New Inn.

Head left and stick to the trail passing through a gate. The trial now turns into a stony road for a section. Stick to this road until it splits into a couple of narrow rocky lanes. Take the rocky lane heading straight uphill.

At the top the rocky lane  becomes a flat grassy trail as you walk between farm fields with great views over towards Abergavenny. You’ll also see the Folly Tower up ahead.

A dirt road going up to the Folly. The Folly is in the background.

From here it’s plain sailing as you just need to stick to the trail — it will lead you right up to the Folly. Get there on a good-weather day, and you’ll have some sweet 360 views of the the Llwyd Valley and over to Mynydd Maen.  

Best walks in Torfaen 6: Pontypool Park to Mynydd Maen

A view of Mynydd Maen.

Distance: 11.2 km Time: 3 hours Difficulty: Medium (with small difficult section)

Mynydd Maen is the most difficult walk on this list, but, in my opinion, also the best one. Most people won’t have any trouble with it, but you may find the final section challenging.

Here it gets steep as you ascend the final metres to reach the 461 metre peak of Mynydd Maen — so a good level of fitness is needed.

To begin, you’ll leave Pontypool Park and head up to Blaendare Road. This is the first of several hills on the walk, and from here on it’s practically all uphill.

Blaendare Road will bring you to the edge of Pontypool town leading to the Upper Race. It’s easy to get lost here as you’ll arrive to a turn point with several lanes coming off of it.

Take Blaendare Farm Road and after a couple of minutes walking veer off to the left onto an unnamed lane. But don’t worry, the lane shows up on Google Maps and you’ll know you’re in the right place once you pass the gypsy camp that the lane runs parallel to for a short section.

By now you’ve well and truly left the town behind and are walking through treelined lanes. The unnamed lane takes you in the direction of Cwm Lickey Pond (also known as the Lido), which is the next point on the walk.

Keep following the lane until you come to a pair of small houses. The lane leads up to the second of these two houses, but you’ll see a narrow and easily missable footpath on the other side of the fence to the left. Hop the fence stile and you’ll join the footpath which goes up to the Lido.

A cloud and walker reflecting on the surface of Cwm Lickey Pond, a section of one of the best walks in Torfaen.

The gradient here is pretty flat and you’ll gradually climb as you head towards the final section of the walk. Looking ahead, you’ll see the radio mast at the top of Mynydd Maen.

Turning around to look back the way you came, and you’ll see the valley in all its glory. The views here are great and they’ll get even better soon.

The gradual incline form Cwm Lickey Pond comes to a sharp end at the foot of the final stretch of the walk. Now it becomes much more of an incline as you begin the final push to up to the radio mast. There are two ways forward here.

You can either stick to the walking trial, or you can follow the tracks made by offroad motor bikers who sometimes ride up to Mynydd Maen. I chose the much more difficult motorbike tracks, but a walker I bumped into told me the walking trail wasn’t too hard.

This final ‘motorbike-track’ section of the walk gets really steep. You’ll need to dig your toes in because the tracks are loose soil, but it adds to the fun. Get to the top, and you’ve conquered Mynydd Maen.

Taking in the panoramic views is the best way to enjoy it. In one direction you’ll see over towards Abergavenny, in the opposite you’ll see all the way to Newport.

More walking and hiking guides for South Wales

Torfaen is just one area of South Wales that has great walks. There are plenty more adventurous walking and hiking trials throughout South Wales and I’ve got guides for them linked below — so make sure to check those out.

Also, remember to check this list again in the future as I’ll add more of the best walks in Torfaen to it as and when I do them. For all of my travel guides and inspiration, head to the A World Over blog.

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