Devil's Bridge Falls
Devil's Bridge Falls

The small village of Devil's Bridge lies at a crossing of the River Mynach, in the beautiful wooded area of the Rheidol valley. A short distance east of the village is Devil's Bridge Falls, a lovely set of waterfalls that has drawn visitors for centuries.

Among those drawn to witness the natural beauty of this area was poet William Wordsworth, who called it a 'dread chasm', and wrote, 'From what huge height, descending? Can such force, Of waters issue from a British source'. Wordsworth was not the only luminary to visit; JMW Turner came here to paint the falls.

Jacob's Ladder staircase
Jacob's Ladder staircase

Jacob's Ladder

Visitors to the Falls follow a circular route that leads down one side of the gorge by way of a very steep set of stair known as Jacob's Ladder. There are several viewpoints during the descent, giving good views across to the main waterfalls, which crash down the hillside to a height of over 300 feet. The nature trail falls within an SSSI (Site of Special Scientific Interest) and is a good example of a Sessile Oak woodland environment.

You then cross the gorge via a lovely arching iron footbridge, and then ascend via stone steps, pausing at several viewpoints along the way for a closer glimpse at the falls.

Robber's Cave

One of the more intriguing stops 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!

The Devil's Bridge Legend

But why is it called Devil's Bridge? Well, the story goes that long ago an old woman's cow wandered across the river, and she wondered how she would ever get the beast back. The devil heard of her predicament and promised that he would build a bridge across the river if the old woman promised that he would get to keep the first living thing to cross the bridge. She agreed, and the devil built a bridge overnight.

Well, the old woman was clever; she tossed a loaf of bread across the bridge and her faithful dog dashed across to fetch it. The devil was furious; he had no need of the dog, it was the old woman's soul he was after! He disappeared in a rage. There are now three bridges, stacked one above the other, but the lowest and oldest bridge is said to have been the one built by the devil himself!

In reality, the first bridge was built 1075 - 1200 and was followed by a second bridge, built on top of the first, about 1753. Finally, an iron bridge was built atop both earlier bridges in 1901.

Admission to the Falls is by way of a kiosk which is manned during daylight hours but is open via a coin-operated turnstile at other times. If you want to make a day of it, why not plan a trip via the Vale of Rheidol Steam Railway, which terminates only a four-minute walk from the Falls entrance.