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Home > Walks > Region > Wales > Welsh Valleys Return to Walks

Between the Valleys

tooltipDiscovering Britain walk

Explore changing landscapes in South Wales

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What comes to mind when you think of the Valleys of South Wales? Probably coal mining plus a strong sense of community held together by chapels and male voice choirs.

Mining transformed rural valleys into an industrial landscape of collieries and waste tips, while houses were built up the valley sides in long terraces.

Miners and their families loved to escape from the noise and pollution of the valley bottoms to the countryside above and between the Valleys. 

This walk recreates a journey done by Emily Roberts, who walked from Ferndale in the Rhondda Fach valley over to Penrhiwceiber in the Cynon valley in the years 1910 to 1914. 

Along the route you will appreciate a sense of open space, fresh air and natural scenery of moorland and mountains, forests and glades, streams and waterfalls. You will also see how the physical landscape and the valley towns have changed since the decline of the coal industry. This is a land of contrasts and surprises. 


On this walk you will enjoy wonderful views, diverse scenery and the fascinating stories that this landscape has to tell.


Walk Info


7 ½ miles

The walk starts in one valley and then climbs over the mountain and down into the next valley

tooltipThe walk starts in one valley and then climbs over the mountain and down into the next valley

Suitable for:
Dogs will enjoy the woodlands and open moorland; keep on a lead on roads and grazing land

tooltipDogs will enjoy the woodlands and open moorland; keep on a lead on roads and grazing land

A long section of the walk is along a country lane with no pavement so take care with children

tooltipA long section of the walk is along a country lane with no pavement so take care with children

People in the landscape Shaping the landscape Exploiting the landscape
Oakland Terrace, Ferndale
Morris Avenue, Penrhiwceiber
Getting there:

tooltipEasily accessible from M4 Junction 32 (c. 15 miles)

tooltipRegular services from Cardiff Central – nearest station to start point is Porth (5 miles); nearest station to finish point is Penrhiwceiber (0.5 miles)

tooltipStart point served by buses running up the Rhondda Fach valley; finish point served by buses running up the Cynon Valley

Welsh Valleys

Blaenllechau Road climbs up the valley side
Jenny Lunn © RGS-IBG Discovering Britain

Welsh Valleys

Road through St Gwynno’s Forest
Jenny Lunn © RGS-IBG Discovering Britain

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Route map

Select pins on the map to find out more about each point of interest on the walk

Walk kit

Choose between an audio or written guide: download and enjoy!


Written guide
A flat route mostly on urban streets

tooltipHelp with downloading - Double-click the icon to download this PDF file. You can save it to your computer or open it now. The file is designed as a booklet. To print it choose ‘Booklet Printing’ from your printer options.

Audio guide
A flat route mostly on urban streets

tooltipHelp with downloading - Double-click the icon to download this ZIP file of the audio commentary (mp3 files) and accompanying booklet (PDF) which contains maps and directions. You can save the audio files to your computer then add them to your mp3 device. This will vary for each device but you can use any supplied software (such as iTunes, Windows Media Player) or drag and drop the files. The PDF is designed as a booklet. To print it choose ‘Booklet Printing’ from your printer options.

A flat route mostly on urban streets

tooltipHelp with downloading - Double click to download this GPX file and load it on to your GPS device.

Photo Gallery

Find out what you might see on the walk - click on an image to view full size

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Find out what other people said about this walk

The scenery, together with a history that covers so much of this area's recent industrial past made this such a worthwhile walk. The variety of views, flora and points of interest in such a relatively short walk can be summed up by leaving the deep and narrow valley floor of Ferndale, to be shortly greeted by spectacular views from the nearby 'Old Smokey,' that not only take in the Rhondda Valley, but on a clear day, the far off Bristol Channel that glistened in the winter sunshine. The same views can then be found when looking down on the Cynon Valley and Penrhiwcieber from the village of Perthcelyn, and for those who are reasonably fit, and can catch a fine day to make the most of those views, then this walk comes highly recommended.

Howard Marshall, Mountain Ash

This walk from Ferndale to Penrhiwceiber is very familiar to me. I was brought up in the Cynon Valley and as a teenager I used to take this walk. I did the walk because it meant more than just exercise. It reminded me of what the valleys were and what the Industrial Revolution did to them. It helped give a foundation to my outlook on life. This walk should help people realise what the past really meant to the people who lived at the turn of the 19th/20th centuries. The contrasts between wooded areas, barren hills and mining valleys are profound.

Chérie Hoyle, Australia

I have enjoyed very much reading about the walk that Emily Roberts traveled on between the Valleys in South Wales, I do not know this area at all but I am now very interested in walking this area myself! I especially enjoyed the excellent maps and the old Photographs and learnt much about life in past days in the mining communities , I can now understand a little about slag heaps and appreciate the beautiful countryside ! How different it was then to how it is now. Hopefully in June I will try this walk out and this has given me an interest in finding out more of the history of the area.

Stella Groves, Australia

A varied and very interesting walk with striking contrasts between the rural 'tops' and the industrialised valleys. It was brought to life by the personal stories. Recommended.

Les and Anne Hampson, Helsby, Cheshire

It’s great to find a walk in the Valleys, away from the usual tourist areas and with such an unusual theme. Recommended!

Martin and Heather Haslett, Leamington Spa

Send your review


Find out more about the walk story and places of interest along the route

External links open in a new window

Adit Now

A website for people interested in mine exploration and mining history

The Brynffynon Hotel

This 17th century inn on the walk route is a great place to stop for lunch

Coal House

Read a variety of people’s memories of life in pit towns

Dr Who Locations

Find out about scenes for Dr Who filmed at St Gwynno’s Church in 2009

Nos Galon

See pictures and results from the last race and find out about the next race


Explore the collections of the National Museum Wales on this informative website

St Fagans National History Museum

This free museum near Cardiff includes a living museum where traditional crafts and activities are demonstrated

Syndicalism in south Wales: The origins of The Miners’ Next Step

Excellent article written in 1987 to mark the 75th anniversary of the publication of The Miners’ Next Step

The Valleys: Heart and Soul of Wales

Visitor information about the Valleys

Welsh Coal Mines

Includes detailed history and statistics about specific collieries such as Ferndale and Penrhiwceiber

Welsh Women's History 1900-1918

Excellent written, photographic and audio resources on women’s history

Self catering holiday cottages in Wales

Big Pit: National Coal Museum

At this free museum at Blaenafon near Newport you can go on an underground tour inside a real coal mine

Coalfields Web Materials

Lots of information on the social, political and cultural life of the South Wales Coalfield during the 19th and 20th centuries

Cynon Valley Museum & Gallery two

Find out how the lives of the people of the Cynon Valley have changed at this free museum in Aberdare

Loops and Links (Cylchoedd A Dolenni)

A network of over 250km way marked trails around the valleys, forests and hill tops of the Merthyr and Rhondda Cynon Taff areas

Pontypridd Museum

A free museum in Pontypridd that tells the story of the town and its people

Rhondda Heritage Park

This Visitor Centre in Trehafod includes a reconstruction of a village street displaying the domestic and commercial life of the valleys

St Gwynno Forest

Find out about the forest including species of trees, flora and fauna that you might see

Terraced houses in Penrhiwceiber to be transformed into modern eco-homes

Article about plans to modernise traditional houses

Visit Rhondda Cynon Taff

Visitor information for the Rhondda, Cynon and Taff valleys

The Welsh Pit Ponies Centre

Visit the last few surviving ‘pit ponies’ who used to work hauling coal at Fforest Uchaf Farm near Pontypridd

Recommended place to stay - YHA



The RGS-IBG would like to thank the following people and organisations for their assistance in producing this Discovering Britain walk


Emily Roberts, the wonderful lady who inspired this walk


Jennifer Lewis for creating and narrating the walk and providing photographs


David Newman for help with checking the route and preparing a map 


Valerie and Heather for adding their family memories


Howard and Gwylythyn for helping to check the route and providing additional anecdotes


Lowri and Erin for accompanying part of the walk


Anita and Caspar for reviewing the script


Barbara Castle for sharing details about the history of Gelli Wrgan farmhouse


John and Denise at Central Guest House for providing the walkers with a hearty breakfast


Jenny Lunn for editing the walk materials, providing the commentary and taking photographs


Caroline Millar for editing the audio commentary and Rory Walsh for assistance compiling the walk resources


Menna James at Aberdare Library for help with archive images and the Rhondda Cynon Taff Library Services for kind permission to reproduce these images from their Digital Archive


National Library Wales for kind permission to reproduce an image


David JonesChris Downer, and Derek Cummings for providing additional images via geograph


Charlotte Dubenskij from BBC Wales forproducing a feature on the walk

thank you
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