The river Rheidol rises on Plynlymon mountain, the highest point in mid-Wales and the source of the rivers Severn and the Wye.
If the Severn is Britain's longest river, the river Rheidol has one of the shortest, steepest descents in Wales, dropping about 1700 feet in only 28 miles. It rises at Llyn Llygad Rheidol (the lake of the eye of the Rheidol) on Plynlymon mountain.
The Rheidol's catchment is the basis of the huge, 60 square mile Cwm Rheidol hydro-electric scheme.
From Nant y Moch reservoir it flows down through ancient Welsh oak woodlands to Ponterwyd village.
Later it joins the Afon Mynach before descending dramatically to form one of the most spectacular waterfalls in Wales at Devil’s Bridge.
Spanning the River Mynach (a tributary of the Rheidol), three separate bridges are built on top of each other.According to legend, the original bridge was built by the very Devil himself, as it was too difficult for mortals to build. The Devil agreed to build the bridge in exchange for the soul of the first living being to cross the bridge. However he was tricked of his prize by a canny old woman, who threw bread across the bridge, which her dog ran after, thus becoming the first living being to cross the new bridge.
The area was once part of the vast 18th century Hafod Estate owned by Thomas Johnes. A tourist attraction for centuries, Devil’s Bridge was celebrated by author George Borrow in his book Wild Wales (1854).
The Rheidol then meanders through fabulous scenery, on past long abandoned mines such as those at Ystumtuen. High above, carefree buzzards, red kites, swallows, wagtails and other birds abound.
One of the best ways to visit Devil’s Bridge is to travel on the historic narrow-gauge Vale of Rheidol Railway, which opened between Aberystwyth and Devil's Bridge in 1902.
The narrow-gauge, steam Vale of Rheidol Railway runs between Aberystwyth and Devil’s Bridge and originally transported metal ore from the busy mines that now stand silent.
A large stag shape, which is coloured with the mineral in the mine spoil, overlooks the valley. It is a scheduled ancient monument and one of only two of its kind in the UK.
Local mining history is portrayed at the Silver Mountain Experience,formerly Llywernog silver lead mine, near Ponterwyd.
Located just off the A44 in a wonderful lakeside setting, Bwlch Nant yr Arian is an outstanding forest recreation centre that is owned and managed by Forestry Commission Wales. An award winning attraction, the Visitor Centre includes an ecologically-friendly building with excellent restaurant facilities, a gift shop and superb views.
Bwlch Nant yr Arian (meaning ‘the gap in the silver valley’) is famous for the daily red kite feeding, viewed from the Visitor Centre or beside the lake. There is a video system with a cameras around the lake, giving close-up views of the birds. There are a number of waymarked walks at the centre. Excellent cycle and mountain bike trails start and end at Nant yr Arian, with a bike washing facility at the Visitor Centre.
Along the gentler valley bottom, near the Rheidol Power Station's visitor centre, the river is important for salmon and trout breeding. The river ends its journey at Aberystwyth.