|Length||15.3 km (9.5 mi), of which 1190m are on tarmac or concrete. Cumulative ascent/descent: 740m. For all alternative start points, resulting in a longer and tougher walk, as well as for opportunities to cut out some of the ascent and distance, see below Walk options.|
|Toughness||8 out of 10 Time: 5 hours walking time.|
|OS Map||OS Landranger Map: 160 (Brecon Beacons) OS Explorer Map: OL12 (Brecon Beacons National Park)|
The ridge linking the four table-top peaks traversed on this walk (Corn Du, Pen y Fan, Cribyn, Fan y Big) forms the majestic core of the Central Brecon Beacons and contains the three highest tops in South Wales. As a result, this classic horseshoe walk around a steep sided glacial valley is amongst the best ridge walks in South Britain, featuring some spectacular views in all directions.
From a remote reservoir north of Merthyr Tydfil you climb steeply to reach the ridge, from where the gradient is mostly fairly gentle over good engineered paths as you follow a sequence of steep escarpments to Corn Du and Pen y Fan. Pen y Fan is the southern-most mountain in Britain and a large glacial grassy mound with steep glacial sides.
Continuing along the ridge up to Cribyn (which requires a steep ascent and descent, but it can easily be circumvented).
Descent to a col, and either take a good gently downhill track back to the start, or make a final ascent to Fan y Big to complete the horsehoe. An out-and-back extension further along the fairly level ridge – to Waun Rydd alongside an upland bog – offers more superb views, lastly along the Usk Valley.
Route finding is easy (in clear weather), as the whole of the horseshoe route is visible at all times. Despite some steep drops this walk is not scary or dangerous, but it is exceptionally exposed to the elements.
As the horseshoe walk starts from a remote car park, 8 more accessible ascents to the ridge are described.
Note: Corn Du and Pen y Fan are very popular peaks as they can be (relatively) easily accessed from car parks on the A470. Expect lots of walkers (experienced and not) on that short stretch, in any weather.
The drama of the ridge walk develops best when approached from the Neuadd Reservoir car park, slowly ascending to the ridge and then up to the tops along it, before gently descending back to the start, but the car park is very remote. Therefore 8 other approaches to the ridge are described, enabling a start from:
These starts inevitably add distance and ascent to the walk, making it a very strenuous walk if also completing the full horseshoe. On the other hand they enable numerous variations of the ridge walk, going up one route, completing some of the ridge walk and/or the extension, and descending a different route. For an overview of the various ascent and descent options check the route map on the SWC website and for all details see pages 8 and 15 of this file respectively.
Storey Arms Bus Stop is on line T4 (Cardiff - Pontypridd – Merthyr Tydfil – Brecon – Newtown), with up to 11 buses a day Mon-Sat but only 2 on Sundays and Bank Holidays.
Talybont-on-Usk is on line 43/X43 (Abergavenny – Brecon) with up to 7 buses a day Mon-Sat only.
Saturday Walkers’ Club: This walk is not doable as a daywalk from London. Accommodation is available in Brecon, Merthyr Tydfil, Crickhowell and Abergavenny, as well as in the Llwyn-y-Celyn Youth Hostel.
The Brecon Beacons is a national park in south Wales. It consists of bare, grassy, glacial mountains, with north facing escarpments. Its peaks, just shy of 1,000m (3,000ft), are the highest mountains in the southern UK. The national park is also noted for reservoirs, and the Dan yr Ogof caves. Its 4 mountain areas, from west to east are:
The Black Mountain (singular!).
Fan Brycheiniog (803m) and the Dan yr Ogof caves.
Fan Gyhirych (725m), Fan Nedd (663m), Fan Fawr (734m), and the Henrhyd waterfalls (Sgwd Henrhyd)
The Brecon Beacons.
Pen y Fan (886m), Corn Du (873m), Cribyn (795m), Fan y Big (719m), Waun Rydd (769m). South of Brecon, north of Merthyr Tydfil.
The Black Mountains (plural!).
Waun Fach (811m), Black Mountain (703m). Abergavenny to the south. Hay-on-Wye to the north. On our 'to do' list
This is a challenging but achievable walk in good weather, even for young children, but it is in remote exposed mountain areas. It is possible to twist an ankle on any walk, and it will take hours for mountain rescue to drive to the trailhead, then climb the mountain, to reach you. So:
Help us! After the walk, we would love to get your feedback
National Rail: 03457 48 49 50 • Travelline SE (bus times): 0871 200 2233 (12p/min) • TFL (London) : 0343 222 1234
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Full directions for this walk are in a PDF file (link above) which you can print, or download on to a Kindle, tablet, or smartphone.
This is just the introduction. This walk's detailed directions are in a PDF available from wwww.walkingclub.org.uk