Weather can change very rapidly in this area of the National Park. Protective clothing should be taken and walking boots are essential as the path is rough and stony in places. The map above, which you can zoom into and move around, is intended for information only. You should carry the 1:25 000 OS Explorer Map OL12 (or equivalent) and a compass.
You can download a pdf file of the route instructions, which you can print off and take with you.
Cribarth must be one of the most intensively quarried mountains in Wales, but this actually adds to its appeal. The hey-day for this activity was between the opening of the Swansea Canal in 1794 and the 1890s. Limestone, silica rock and rottenstone were extracted in huge quantities for the iron, copper and tin industries further south around the Swansea Valley.
There were thirty-three large quarries and innumerable smaller ones, served by 10.5 miles of tramroads and railways and by eighteen inclined planes, four of which ran steeply down to the canal at Abercrave.
Start: CopperBeach pub [grid reference SN 8241 1287] at the eastern end of Abercrave village, just off the A4067, in the Upper SwanseaValley.
Parking: available on the road through the village just below the Abercrave Inn [SN 8245 1285].
Route: Head east along the tarmac road and branch left behind the Abercrave Inn. Ignore the first footpath sign on the left. Turn left through a wooden gate just before the road ends at Abercrave House and follow a track beside a fast flowing stream. This is Nant Craf (stream of wild garlic) after which Abercraf was named. On your right is Abercrave Farm.
Pass through three farm gates to begin the ascent of the mountain on a wide, gravelled track.
Stay on the main bridleway track and some 500 metres further up the hill go through a metal gate at the junction of several paths [SN 8295 1337].
Immediately after the gate leave the main track to bear left (west) for 25 metres up a slight rise to a way-marked stile.
Cross the stile and follow a stone wall on your left for 250 metres to another stile. Cross and turn right, following the way-mark, to head north across some duck-boarding for 66 metres to a marker post at a faint path junction.
Continue upwards heading north-west for 450 metres on a good path (although this can be obscured by high bracken in late summer) between piles of silica gritstone. Where this path becomes wider it was the tramroad to an old silica stone quarry.
At a fork in the grassy tramroad, bear right. You will see a stile and finger post to your left, ignore them and bear right again onto a steep grassy track which was an inclined plane used to bring limestone down from Cribarth to Abercrave.
Very soon bear left at a short way-marker (do not ascend the incline), heading north-west. The quarries to the right above you were for limestone but those below you on the left worked silica stone.
Walk around a large rock and on a clear day look at the superb views down the Swansea Valley.
The path now contours around the hillside to arrive at Pant-y-Ffyrch [SN 8241 1388], where there is the ruin of an old drovers inn.
Cross the stile and head in the direction marked ‘Open Hill’, just legible on the old signpost, continuing northwards for 60 metres towards a mound of rocks.
Just before the rocks you will come to another grassy track, which is a 19th century quarry railway.
Turn right and follow this for about 500 metres, initially between criss-crossing quarry tracks and the sites of old limekilns (tell-tale pieces of friable burnt lime) and then up another steep inclined plane heading north-east up the south-west flank of Cribarth mountain.
At the top of the incline, where the railway curves to the right, is a stony hollow which would have housed the drum around which passed the rope or chain attached to the wagons. Most inclines were engineered so that the descending full wagons counterbalanced the mostly empty ascending ones. There is also a small ruined building, probably the incline operator’s hut. Leave the incline at this point and continue walking north-east, following sheep tracks to the summit of Cribarth (423 metres, 1387 feet) where there is a white trig-point [SN 8283 1420] and a disturbed Bronze Age round barrow(there is another round barrow visible on the second summit 200 metres to the north-north-east).
Pause to enjoy the spectacular panoramic views before descending from the summit in a north-easterly direction to meet a high stone wall.
Cribarth is formed by a steep upfold of the rock layers running north-east to south-west, the summit ridge is the top of the fold. The limestone rocks along the crest were fractured by the folding, making them relatively easy to quarry. You can see that the limestone beds on the left of the ridge dip steeply to the north-west whereas those on the right dip to the south-east.
Continue north-east alongside the wall for about 200 metres until it bears right. Follow the wall for another 30 metres before striking out on an indistinct path in a north-easterly direction (bearing 64o) for 200 metres until you reach a raised grassy railway, somewhat hidden from view amongst piles of limestone [SN 8330 1440]
It is important that you locate this particular railway, as there are many others in this area. Check your compass to make sure you are going in the right direction.
Head north-east along this railway for 700 metres, passing many small quarries and piles of limestone, until you reach a large old quarry site at SN 8379 1477.
There are steep drops on your right along this path, so take care in adverse conditions.
In the distance you can see the distinct shape of Fan Gyhirych and the prominent quarry face at Penwyllt.
From the quarry carry on heading north-east over the brow of the hill and descend to a ladder stile over a stone wall [SN 8384 1499].
To the north-west the landscape is pock-marked by shakeholes and rottenstone workings (rottenstone is a crumbly rock made of limey sand which was used in large quantities to polish the copper and tin smelted in the Swansea valley).
Cross the stile and continue downhill keeping the wire fence on your left.
This is a steep descent and although steps have been cut into the hillside, it can be slippery in wet weather.
As the wire fence turns, the path veers off to the right, away from the fence. There are good views from here of Craig-y-nos Castle, just before you descend more steep steps. (This can be a difficult path to follow in late summer when the vegetation can obstruct the way ahead).
At an old wooden ‘open hill’ marker post at the end of the descent, turn left and shortly go through a gate/stile onto the A4067. Cross the road and walk carefully along the main road for 400 metres to the entrance to Craig-y-nos Country Park, originally the grounds of Craig-y-nos Castle, home of the famous opera diva Adelina Patti between 1878 and 1919.
Enter the Country Park (where you will find toilets and a café) and walk through the car park, turning left at the end of a high brick wall and then right at the duck pond. Bear right again, walking alongside the river for 50 metres, and then left across an oak footbridge from where you can see the confluence of the rivers Tawe and Llynfell.
Turn left after the bridge to walk upstream by the Afon Tawe until you reach another bridge, do not cross but turn right up to and through a wooden gate at the north-east corner of the Country Park. Turn right again to walk south on the Beacons Way, following a wide bridleway which can be muddy after rain.
After 600 metres you will reach a metal gate by a farm and then a tarmac lane. Do not turn left with the Beacons Way but continue along the lane to pass Grithrig Cottage on your left and, 40 metres further on behind some plastic bollards on your right, the resurgence of the river that flows through Ogof Ffynnon Ddu.
Carry on along this lane and where another lane joins from the left, keep right. After 200 metres this lane swings right by an electricity pole with a street-light on it. Swing right with the lane and cross the Afon Tawe at Pont yr Offeiriad [SN 8458 1454] to reach the A4067.
Turn right at the main road and walk north-westerly for 200 metres (no pavement but a narrow grass verge). Cross the road and turn left up a minor road that ascends, south-westerly, towards Pant-y-Wal farm.
300 metres up the hill, before you reach the farm, look for a way-marked stile [SN 8417 1446] by a metal gate on the left, as the road turns sharply right. Cross the stile and follow an obvious track heading south, keeping a fence on your left. Keep going straight on across the fields through 3 more gates/stiles but after the 3rd stile turn immediately right to follow the way-mark, with a wall/fence on your right, heading for a stone wall with a wooden gate in it [SN 8398 1415]
Go through this gate and bear left to follow the wall on your left, heading south-west.
This path can be difficult to see/follow but pick your way carefully through the bracken and stones, keeping as near to the wall as you can.
After 250 metres you will see a rusty ornamental iron gate in the wall [SN 8379 1397]. Do not go through this gate but bear right to ascend a well-worn path to gain a plateau on the hill-side with the jagged ridge of Cribarth above.
Here you should turn left (south-west) following a grassy track for 300 metres, passing to the right of some rocky outcrops, to find a stile set in a stone wall [SN 8345 1374].
Cross this stile and follow an obvious path south-west for 200 metres towards a gate in a fence.
Turn left just before the gate [SN 8329 1368] and cross a ruined wall, then turn right and follow a small path which skirts the perimeter of the grassy field.
Cross the next stile and continue south-west across another field to cross another stile after which an obvious 150 metres long grassy track leads back to the junction of several paths which you passed near the start [SN 8295 1337].
Go through the metal gate and bear right on the stony track back to Abercrave Farm and then right onto the tarmac road leading back to the Copper Beach, where a roaring fire and a fine selection of Real Ales awaits you.