Brecon Beacons (Pen y Fan) Horseshoe from Neuadd Reservoir walk
A classic horseshoe walk of the Brecon Beacons (Pen y Fan, Corn Du, Fan y Big) around a glacial valley, with an extension to Waun Rydd
|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 in good weather.
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.
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 the walk directions pdf respectively.
The Neuadd Reservoir access road car park, CF48 2UT, car only, no public transport, is about 3.5 hours (165 miles) from London. Its a small car park, busy at weekends. In winter (only) you can continue further along to a car barrier with a few side-of-the-road spots by the barrier at the end, but don't block the farmer's gate. The closest facilities (from the south) are the Red Cow Inn in Pontsticill on the way to/from Merthyr (and Cardiff, the M4), or in Methyr itself. Note: The M4 River Severn Toll has ended.
Storey Arms Bus Stop is on line T4/T14 (Cardiff - Pontypridd – Merthyr Tydfil – Brecon – Newtown (T4) / Ross-on-Wye (T14)), with 6 buses a day Mon-Sat and 5 on Sundays and Bank Holidays. As of Feb-19, T4/14 is free at weekends.
Talybont-on-Usk is on line 43/X43 (Abergavenny – Brecon) with 7 buses a day Mon-Sat and 4 on Sundays and Bank Holidays.
Saturday Walkers’ Club: This walk is doable as a daywalk from London by car.
Accommodation is available in Brecon (to the north), Merthyr Tydfil (to the south) & Crickhowell (to the east), and in the Llwyn-y-Celyn Youth Hostel on the T4 bus route.
The Brecon Beacons National Park is 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:
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:
After the walk, we would love to get your feedback
National Rail: 03457 48 49 50 • Travelline (bus times): 0871 200 22 33 (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