Adventures by train – River Severn Source

Two groups of walkers with small rucksacks walking along a boardwalk next to a bubbling river.

Afon Hafren, the River Severn is the longest river in the UK. From its source in the wild Cambrian mountains of Wales to its estuary in the bustling city of Bristol, it flows through an amazing variety of landscapes. The River Severn is 220 miles (354 kilometres) long.

And has its own long-distance hiking trail.

Moss covered old signpost with blue and white Severn Way round marker.
Severn Way long distance walk, Fi Darby

The Severn Way is a long distance walking route that follows the River Severn. From childhood experiences, I know some of this great river’s banks well, and one day I would like to undertake the hiking route as one of my adventures by train but for now I’m exploring sections.

So far I’ve explored the areas around the final and first sections of the Severn Way walk.

Walking to the source of the River Severn

Worn wooden marker post on barren moorland with the word 'source' visible.
Marker Post Source of the River Severn, Fi Darby

Yes this walk is possible by train (with the help of local taxis and accommodation).

The walking route to the source of the River Severn is a personal favourites. It’s one of several way-marked Hafren Forest hiking trails (including the accessible Cascades Walk) from the main forest car park (Rhyd-y-benwch).

But with a bit of help, you can complete this walk car-free.

Although it is in a remote location, it is possible to visit the source of the River Severn by train. Here’s my recommended method.

  1. Train to Caersws.
  2. Local taxi to Hafren Forest Hideaway.
  3. Stay overnight and enjoy a fantastic breakfast.
  4. Chat to Darren and Sarah about route options.
  5. Enjoy your walk (and take lots of waterfall photos).
  6. Enjoy another relaxing night at the Hideaway.
  7. Local taxi back to Caersws train station.
  8. Train home.

If that sounds like quite the trip, please let me reassure you, you’ll want to stay longer; the area around Hafren Forest is stunning and super-peaceful.

If you are lucky enough to stay longer around Hafren, here are a few suggestions of what to do.

The Source of the Severn walk by train

Single lin, single platform rural train station with trees and stone building. People waiting.
Caersws train station, Fi Darby

This walk describes the main Source of the Severn trail from Rhyd-y-benwch car park. On a longer walk, you can also access the trail directly from Hafren Forest Hideaway.

  • Train station: Caersws (a Transport for Wales station)
  • Travel time from London: 4.5 hours
  • Travel time from Bristol: 1.5 hours
  • Walking route time: 4.5 hours (steep sections)
  • Walking route map and gpx file: The Source of the Severn trail
  • Toilets: Caersws (not the station) and at the start of the trail
  • Refreshments: Book an evening meal at Hafren Forest Hideaway (recommended). Caersws has a cafe and a shop.

Source of the Severn walking route instructions

Group of people on walking path looking at a tumbling waterfall.
Waterfall Source of the Severn route, Fi Darby

This is a there-and-back walk but the views are so different on the return journey, you won’t feel as though you’re covering the same ground.

Author’s adventure tip: Pack a swimsuit just in case you’re tempted to river swim on the way back down the hill. On damper summer days, this area is popular with midges so don’t forget the insect repellent (my favourite is Smidge).

Practicalities: Although this hiking route follows a clearly marked trail, it does include steep and open moorland sections. I recommend walking boots and a waterproof jacket as it can get windy at the top. If you want to venture beyond the Source of the Severn, you’ll need a map and compass.

Walk instructions

Man in red top explaining a walking route next to an information board with maps.
Walking guide Darren from Hafren Forest Hideaway, Fi Darby

Leaving the car park, follow the wide winding path down into the forest until you come to the ford.

Get your camera out!

Follow the boardwalk of the accessible trail until you come to the first viewpoint. There are benches here so take your time and enjoy the view.

This is a great River Severn selfie spot!

Continue up the steep path keeping the river on your left. This section is marked ‘flume’ on the map and you’ll hear the river tumbling through the rocks below you.

I like to record the sound.

Follow the path as it flattens out. Just above the weir (possibilities for river swimming), you’ll pass a wooden shelter.

Group of people underneath a large wooden shelter next to a river.
Picnic shelter on the Severn Source walk, Fi Darby

On a wet day, this makes the perfect picnic spot.

At the fork, take the right path to cross two footbridges and walk past a couple of beautiful still pools. Continue up to meet the track and view Rhaeadr Blaenhafren waterfall.

Take a break because the path steepens here.

Continue up the hill, zig-zagging steeply at times. As you emerge above the tree line, turn around to admire the view back down the valley.

And catch your breath!

The final section of this Source of the Severn hike is across open moorland but it does follow a path. By staying on the path, you’ll protect the local environment as well as making sure you don’t end up knee deep in peat.

Group of people walking uphill on bare open moorland. Cloudy skies
Moorland section, Source of the Severn route, Fi Darby

I’ve seen this happen more than once.

The Source of the River Severn is a beautiful pool. Some people are disappointed by its lack of stature but I find it a supremely peaceful and relaxing place to be.

Glimpse of sunshine over a small reflective pool surround by spiky grass.
The Source of the River Severn, Fi Darby

Enjoy the moment. This river source is far more accessible and obvious than many in the UK.

Author’s adventure

Smiling woman on open moorland with black smudges on her face.
Apparently peat is good for your skin, Fi Darby

I visited the Source of the River Severn as part of a wellbeing and walking weekend with Hafren Forest Hideaway and Wellness and Walking Holidays.

The weekend included accommodation, full board, a guided walk, a paddleboard session and an evening campfire. I visited on my own and had a lovely time, chatting to new people and enjoying new experiences together.

I came home with a sense of achievement but also feeling relaxed and revived.

Darren from the Hideaway was our walking guide on the Source of the Severn route. He’s a qualified Mountain Leader and knows the Hafren area really well. He shared some really interesting pieces of information and did a great job of making sure everyone (even slower walkers like me) had a great experience.

Although I am a confident navigator and enjoy solo walking, I particularly appreciated walking with a guide. It gave me the opportunity to ask questions and learn more about the River Severn and surrounding area.

I also enjoyed the laughter and fun that came from walking with a group of ladies.

Turns out girls do just want to have fun!