Devil's Bridge (Pontarfynach) sits above the confluence of the Rheidol and Mynach rivers in Ceredigion, West Wales. It is a peaceful village just 12 miles inland from the town of Aberystwyth and the west coast of Wales. The village is set in beautiful yet rugged countryside and is most famous for the waterfalls and the eponymous bridge, which is in fact three bridges one on top of another. Devil's Bridge is also the eastern terminus of the Vale of Rheidol steam railway that puffs its way up and down the Rheidol Valley (Cwm Rheidol) from Aberystwyth. The village is known in Welsh as Pontarfynach - 'The Bridge Over the Mynach River' but Devil's Bridge is the term most widely used.
My wife Eira Wyn and I arrived at Devil's Bridge by the back door, which is via the A4120 and the A44 from Mid Wales. We parked near to the bridge and paid a few bob to pass through a turnstile and descend some steep stone steps to enable a better view of the Three Bridges, the Chasm, and what is known as the Devil's Punchbowl or Cauldron. You will know why it is called a cauldron when you see it.
The original and lowest bridge was built between the 11th and 13th Century, and the two upper bridges were subsequently built when the original was considered unsafe. Considering the height of the bridge, you have to admire the skills of the original bridge builder, be he the Devil or whoever.
Myths and Legends
Legend has it that the bridge was built by the Devil because it was too difficult for any man to build. Being the Devil, he was crafty enough to put a clause in the building contract stating that he would receive the soul of the first life to cross the bridge. On completion of the bridge the Devil awaited his victim.
However the Devil wasn't the only one with a trick or two up his sleeve. The villagers had put their heads together and had come up with a cunning plan. They simply threw bread onto the bridge and encouraged a dog to follow. The dog thus became the first life to cross the new bridge... poor dog!
Across the road from the Devil's Bridge turnstile there is another pay as you go turnstile that points to the Mynach Falls. A pathway cuts through the woodland and leads to a fine view of the falls where the River Mynach drops 300 feet to meet the River Rheidol.
Although it wouldn't be correct to describe Devil's Bridge as over populated or “busy” there are a few souvenir shops close to the Bridges and the Falls, and there is a Cafe for refreshments at the Railway Terminus. Eira Wyn remarked that the Devil might still have some shares in the local businesses considering all the pay as you go turnstiles in Devil's Bridge. What has happened to the freedom to ramble and the “right to roam”
Walks, Cycle Trails and Other Activities
The area is becoming ever more popular with walkers, cyclists and mountain bike riders wishing to sample the fantastic scenery of the Rheidol Valley. Indeed the area around Llyn Nant y Moch and the Nant yr Arian Visitor Centre has a number of fantastic mountain bike trails, bridleways, and scenic walks.
The Rheidol Valley cycle trail takes you from Devil's Bridge mainly along quiet back roads and dedicated cycle routes to Aberystwyth some 12 miles away on the Cardigan Bay coastline. Be prepared for a steep climb on the return journey for the final leg of the trail to Devil's Bridge.
Mountain Bike enthusiasts are also well catered for in the Rheidol Valley with the Nant y Arian Forest Trails being located between the lower valley and the Nant y Moch reservoir. The Syfydrin (35km), Summit (16km), and Pendam (9km) trails use twisting all weather tracks carved into the steep valleys and ridges of the forest to create challenging routes for even the more experienced Mountain Bikers.
There is an alternative to all this exercise however. You could let the train take the strain. The Vale of Rheidol Railway, a narrow gauge steam train built at the turn of the 20th century travels from Aberystwyth the 11¾ miles to Devil's Bridge and back. On the hour-long journey passengers have spectacular views of the wooded Rheidol Valley.