Best Walks in the Brecon Beacons | 10 Mapped Routes - Outdoors Magic

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Best Walks in the Brecon Beacons | 10 Mapped Routes

OM's Will Renwick picks out his favourite walks in the national park, ranging from 3-mile jaunts to two-day epics

For the best walks in Wales and indeed anywhere in the southern part of the UK, the Brecon Beacons is one of the finest spots to head. Just ask Outdoors Magic writer Will Renwick. The current President of Ramblers Cymru, Will chooses to spend nearly all of his spare time hiking the earthy red trails of the national park, which he calls ‘the Beacons’ (“never ‘the Brecons’”). He’s walked basically every inch of the area, not just on day trips but on long distance journeys on trails like the Beacons Way, the Offa’s Dyke Path and the Cambrian Way,

As part of our latest collaboration with route planning app komoot to help them champion some of the best walking routes in the country, Will has whittled down his top 10 favourites within the confines of this amazingly accessible national park, which, by the way, is less than 30 minutes drive from the M4, and as little as 2 hours 15 mins by train from London. Thinking of sleeping out? Check out our guide to wild camping in the Brecon Beacons.

Best Walks In The Brecon Beacons: The Top 10

  1. The Beacons Horseshoe
  2. Waterfall Country
  3. Sarn Helen
  4. Craig Cerrig-gleisiad
  5. Sugar Loaf
  6. The Dragon’s Back
  7. Ysgyryd Fawr
  8. The Black Mountain
  9. Monmouth and Brecon Canal
  10. Capel-y-ffin and the Vale of Ewyas

 

Walk 1: South Wales’s Highest Point


Pen y Fan is undoubtedly one of the most popular mountains in Wales with walkers in their thousands climbing to the 886m top throughout the seasons to see its spectacular view. Due to this popularity, it can at times feel a little crowded, especially when taking the Pont ar Daf route from Storey Arms. Our recommended walk, the Pen y Fan Horseshoe, is a big day out but it offers a much quieter, wilder experience of the mountain, while taking in two of the long ridges that run off the summit.

Will Says: “The Pont ar Daf approach isn’t just busy, it also doesn’t really provide any breathtaking views until just short of the top. This, the Pen y Fan Horseshoe route, will take a lot longer and be much more challenging, but you’ll certainly get a better feel for the mountain.”

 

Walk 2: Walk Behind A Waterfall



As the name suggests, this is a route that visits a number of rather picturesque waterfalls, including one that you can walk right behind – it’s a spectacular experience, especially when there’s been some heavy rain. The water is enticing here, but wild swimmers be warned, because even on a hot day it can be extremely chilly.

Will Says: “This area is a real gem. You’ve got deep ancient woodland, steep-sided valleys, and irresistible pools of water. Make sure to bring a waterproof jacket, as there’s a fair bit of moisture in the air around that waterfall!”

 

Walk 3: The Route of The Romans


There’s evidence of Roman presence in Wales right across the country, and this is one of the main examples; a road stretching from Neath right through the mountains to Brecon. There’s actually a section along it where you’re walking along the original Roman cobbles. 27 miles is a big day out, so we’d actually recommend taking this on as a two-day backpack.

Will Says: “I walked this last autumn over two days and wild camped overnight in an incredible spot where I could see Pen y Fan set glowing red by the late evening sun. What I really liked about it is that the path is so straight I could just switch off and not have to keep checking my map constantly.”

 

Walk 4: The Eiger of the Beacons

Sheep have long roamed freely throughout the uplands of the Brecon Beacons, and as a consequence, any form of shrubbery gets nibbled away quickly. Not here though. Being too steep for sheep to climb, Craig Cerrig-gleisiad’s gaping north facing crag is covered in a plethora of vegetation. The result is an example of the Brecon Beacons at its most natural and wild. Fun fact: it’s the most southerly point in the northern hemisphere where you’ll find the purple saxifrage, a mountain plant that’s common in the Arctic.

Will Says: “This, to me, is up there as one of the most picturesque spots in the Brecon Beacons. The slope leading up to the top of the mountain is steep and can get very slippery, so good, grippy shoes or walking boots are essential here.”

 

Walk 5: The Mini Mountain

The Sugar Loaf is one of Wales’s most distinctive hills. It’s fairly short at just 596m but it has a quirky shape to it, somewhat like a wizard’s hat or the sandpile at the bottom of an hourglass. From its slightly bouldery top, you’ll see all of the uplands of the Black Mountains as well as all the way to the Bristol Channel, the Wye Valley and English border. In summer, the hillside is full of wildflowers and bracken.

Will Says: “People talk about mountains having character to them, and to me that definitely applies here. I love the final approach to the top where for a short section you’re almost scrambling.”

Walk 6: A ‘Ridgewalk’ In the Black Mountains

As the English name suggests, Y Grib (‘the Ridge) has a distinctive shape to it. It’s a narrow grassy ridge and at some points along it will feel only a few metres wide. In reality you could probably walk down each side if it was ever necessary. Waun Fach is also visited along this route, which, at 810m is the highest point within the Black Mountains range.

Will Says: “I love the views you get in this part of the Brecon Beacons. There’s an incredible contrast between the wild mountain moorlands and then the patchwork fields below which stretch right out into mid Wales.”

 

Walk 7: The Shattered Hill


Pronounced uh-skirrid-vower, this quirky little hill’s name translates as ‘great split’ or ‘great shattered’, a reference to the huge gap on its western flank. An Ice Age landslide is the geological explanation for this, while the more romantic or perhaps theological cause is a lighting bolt at the moment of Christ’s crucifixion. This route begins at the Skirrid Mountain Inn, the oldest and, reputedly most haunted pub Wales.

Will Says: “You can start this from right at the foot of the mountain and have a much shorter walk, but the Skirrid Inn is worth a visit, especially in winter when a huge open fire warms the room.”

 

Walk 8: The Black Mountain of the West

Not to be confused with the Black Mountains in the east, this mountain range is worth a visit for its dramatic escarpment which, with its green walls and dark lakes below, you could say has a northern Scandinavian look to it. Looking eastward from Fan Brycheiniog you can see right across the national park to Pen y Fan and beyond. The westward view gives a real sense of just how isolated this part of Wales is, with nothing but moorland stretching endlessly into the distance.

Will Says: There’s an eerie tale about a lady of the lake here that, when combined with the effect of the towering dark walls and the often wild weather, gives this place a very surreal atmosphere. It’s one of the most dramatic places in Wales, for sure.”

 

Walk 9: The Canal Walk


A much easier walk than the others on this list, just a gentle towpath wander along the peaceful Monmouth and Brecon Canal. Here, boats chug by at walking pace, water life abounds, and not-so-distant mountain tops poke their heads over the trees that line the canal banks.

Will Says: “There are some lovely pubs at either end of this route, with the Bear at Crickhowell and Red Lion in Llangynidr. If you want an easy walk without hills in the Brecon Beacons, this is your best bet. Accommodation-wise, I once stayed at Rock Cottage in Llangynidr and can highly recommend it.”

 

Walk 10: The End Of The World

There’s a lot to see on this walk. You’ve got a tiny little bothy at Grwyne Fawr, the quirky church with a wonky steeple at Capel-y-ffin, incredible views over the rest of the Black Mountains and of course the ivy covered ruins of Llanthony Priory. Mixing up moorland trails, bridleways and paths through gentle countryside within the deep valley, this is a route with plenty of variation and a couple of steep climbs where you’re made to work for the view at the top. 

Will Says: “This is a fairly big day out but there are a few options for shortening it. I really recommend staying overnight at the farm’s campsite here. Firstly because when there’s no cloud, the night skies are incredible and secondly because there’s a great pub nearby underneath the priory!”

Note: Some of these walks are in challenging, wild terrain where a good level of fitness will be required. Only undertake them if you are able to navigate safely and have the appropriate outdoor clothing and equipment. Visit Adventure Smart UK for tips for enjoying Wales’s mountains safely.

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