For the best walks in Wales and indeed anywhere in the southern part of the UK, the Brecon Beacons, now officially referred to as Bannau Brycheiniog, is one of the finest spots to head. Just ask Outdoors Magic writer Will Renwick. The former President of Ramblers Cymru, Will chooses to spend nearly all of his spare time hiking the earthy red trails of the national park. 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.
Will has whittled down his top 10 favourite routes 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 there? Check out our guide to wild camping in the Brecon Beacons.
Best Walks In The Brecon Beacons: The Top 10
Here are the 10 routes that will reckons make for the best walks in the Brecon Beacons. He’s picked out of range of options to suit different abilities and preferences.
- The Beacons Horseshoe
- Waterfall Country
- Sarn Helen
- Craig Cerrig-gleisiad
- Sugar Loaf
- The Dragon’s Back
- Ysgyryd Fawr
- The Black Mountain
- Monmouth and Brecon Canal
- 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.”