Devil’s Bridge Falls is a spectacular waterfall attraction at Devils Bridge in the heart of the Cambrian Mountains. As beautiful and interesting as the falls was, I got the feeling that the Devil’s Bridge was the more well known of the attractions here due to its historical value.
For a casual observer like us, it seemed like nothing more than a road bridge where vehicles on the A4120 would traverse the Afon Mynach. However, there is a lot more to discover about this mysterious place.
What is Devil’s Bridge?
Devil’s Bridge can refer to a wide range of places in a wide range of countries. However, it refers to a village as well as the bridge that inspired the village’s English name when used in the context of Wales. As for why Devil’s Bridge is called Devil’s Bridge, well, suffice to say that the structure is a very striking sight.
After all, Devil’s Bridge isn’t a single bridge. Instead, it consists of three bridges, each of which has been built upon its immediate predecessor. The first bridge seems to have been built at some point in the medieval era. Meanwhile, the second bridge is a product of the mid 18th century while the third bridge is a product of the early 20th century.
It isn’t clear how the curious structure came to be. The first bridge is sometimes speculated to have been built by Strata Florida Abbey after a young monk lost his life while seeking to cross the river. This can be seen in how while the Welsh name of Pont y Mynach means “Bridge over the River Mynach,” it is possible that it was once something closer to “Monk’s Bridge.” Having said that, the origins of the second bridge are much better-known. Over time, its predecessor had become unstable, which was a huge problem because of the huge amount of traffic brought about by lead mining. As such, there was a need for something stronger, thus resulting in the second bridge.
Of course, there are more fantastical stories about how the Devil’s Bridge came to be as well. To be exact, an old woman is said to have lost her cow, which wandered off to the other side of the river. She couldn’t get to the cow, which is why the Devil offered to build a bridge in exchange for the soul of the first being to use it. Once it had been built, the old woman lured a dog over the bridge by throwing a crust of bread, thus preserving her soul while still retrieving her cow.
Regardless, Devil’s Bridge has been a site of tourist interest for quite some time. In part, this is because of the structure itself. However, it should also be noted that its surroundings are no less impressive, particularly since people can actually walk down for a better look at the site. As such, it is definitely something that interested individuals should consider for their own visit to Mid Wales.
The 300ft Mynach Waterfalls are set deep withing the ancient wooded gorge and have attracted many thousands of visitors since the 18th century. The Mynach Falls walk is very nice. Initially it heads down the right side of the stream, with some viewpoints. It then crosses the stream and ascends the other side, very close to the superb waterfalls. At various points, the Falls can be seen at the bottom of a dramatic gorge in the next valley, just before the two rivers combine. It may also be possible to see it from the road just past the bridge, but this depends on tree growth.
One of the most intriguing stops on this trail is beside a cave known as Robber’s Cave. According to legend, this was the lair of a pair of brothers, the sons of Bartholomew, or Bat. These robbers, called Plant de Bat, or Bat’s children, preyed upon passers-by along the main road, sometimes aided by their sister.
They made the mistake of killing a rich man, and his outraged friends set dogs to track the robbers to their lair, where they were captured. The men were hanged and the woman burned at the stake as a witch. The cave was then partially plugged to prevent it from being used again for nefarious deeds!
What kind of tales were told about the Devil in Wales?
Such stories are very common. After all, damnation was a rather terrifying prospect, so it made sense that people would prefer stories in which they managed to beat the Devil at his own game. Still, it seems that Mid Wales was particularly enthusiastic in this regard, as shown by the sheer number of stories out there.
Amusingly, the Devil was also very consistent in such stories. He was always either black or at least very dark in coloring. Furthermore, the Devil was fond of taking on either an animal form or the shape of a horned man with cloven hooves. Of course, the only thing that he couldn’t turn into was a white sheep, which makes sense because that would’ve been associated with Christ. Naturally, such stories have inspired a number of local customs, with examples ranging from spitting whenever the Devil’s name was mentioned to whitewashing the doorstep to prevent the Devil from entering the home.
Featured image © Richard Croft / The Three Bridges at Devil’s Bridge /
Travel tips and information
How to find:
Devils Bridge Falls
Address: Woodlands, Pontarfynach, Aberystwyth SY23 3JW
Entry tickets: Adult £4.00 · Child (5 to 16 yrs) £2.50 · Under 5 Free · Senior citizens (65+) £3.50 · Student (with ID ) £3.50
About the trail:
The Devil’s Bridge Fall Nature Trail take approximately 45 mins. Please note that this trail is a challenging walk that contains many steep steps and so is not suitable for everyone and sensible shoes must be worn.
Where to eat:
Definitely worth a visit for a meal after Devils Bridge Falls. Great food and location.