G2: Caban Coch circuit

This is a lovely circular walk beginning on the eastern slopes of Caban Coch, with a short detour up the Nant y Gro valley before coming back to Caban Coch. This leads to the much smaller and more naturalised Dolymynach reservoir. The return is along the western shore road and across the dam separating Caban Coch and Garreg Ddu reservoirs.


  • Grade: Moderate – mostly level but a steep climb up steps to the top of the dam, and then a slow climb and slightly steeper descent in the earlier stages. The last sections are relatively level.
  • Length: 9 miles
  • Key Features: Nant y gro dam (used in the the film ‘Dambusters’); Victorian dam structures; Views over Caban coch and Garreg-ddu reservoirs
  • Refreshments: Elan Visitor Centre

For an interactive version of this map click the image above or here


Park at the Elan Visitor Centre, and then walk upstream to a grey stone bridge which crosses the river below the dam. Go right, and up several flights of steps until you reach the level of the top of the dam.

Continue along the left hand (east) bank of the reservoir, and after a few hundred yards follow the path leftwards up a flight of steps. After about ¾ of a mile the path turns to the left and begins to follow a stream uphill, to Nant y Gro dam.

Further along, and going up a slope, you will come to a place just before a stand of conifers, where several paths meet. You want to go sharp right downhill. Following the path you go over two streams, and one boggy pool with some stepping stones, and then begin to go uphill again.

You will find yourself walking along a fence with conifer trees behind it, on your right hand side. When you come to a gate on your right go through this, and follow the path down to the banks of the reservoir.

When you reach the reservoir turn left along a track. Continue along through various gates, until you reach a small bridge going back over the river, and when you reach a minor road you turn right to begin your walk back.

About halfway back you cross the dam of the Garreg Ddu reservoir, and after that you can walk on the cycle way back to the Visitor Centre.

The walk

When we walked this route one of the most striking things in the earlier stretches were the masses of plump ripe blueberries waiting to be picked. We consider doing this, but previous experience has taught us that the most likely outcome is a bag of warm squashed fruit at the end of the day. So we just ate a few there and then.

A little further along we came across Nant y Gro Dam. Apparently this small dam was originally used to provide a water supply for those labouring on the reservoirs, and their families. In 1941 Birmingham Corporation Water Works gave permission for this dam to be used to test the best way to destroy dams in the industrial Ruhr area of Germany. This led to the development of the famous ‘bouncing bomb’  and later to the production of a classic film, the Dam Busters, in 1955.

One particularly beautiful part of the walk was when we descended through the conifer forest to the bank of the reservoir. The open spaces under the trees were clothed in a beautiful fine grass, which caught the light from the sun, and looked like a massive green feather boa on the shoulders of a giant. There was also a deep mattress of moss which had built up underneath the trees, and one of the most heartbreaking things was that further along the reservoir the trees had been cut down, leaving the brutalised remnants of these beautiful moss mattresses.

At the time of year we were walking (July) young shrews seem to wander around with no awareness of risk at all. We came across one of these, bumbling around at random – hopefully he’s made it into adulthood!

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