Saturday Walkers Club www.walkingclub.org.uk
SDC10836

SDC10836

by Andrew Murphy

SDC10845

SDC10845

by Andrew Murphy

SDC10847

SDC10847

by Andrew Murphy

SDC10848

SDC10848

by Andrew Murphy

SDC10849

SDC10849

by Andrew Murphy

SDC10853

SDC10853

by Andrew Murphy

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)
Walk Notes

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.

Walk options

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:

  • car parks and bus stops along the A470, and a Youth Hostel south of Libanus
  • Brecon,
  • Talybont-on-Usk,
  • a car park near the highest road pass in the Brecon Beacons (i.e.: with the least amount of ascent to the ridge)

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.

Transport

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.

Brecon Beacons

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.

medium The Black Mountain (Fan Brycheiniog and Fan Foel) from Glyntawe - The best ridge walk in the southern UK to a summit.
tough The Black Mountain (Y Mynydd Du) from Glyntawe - A longer version of the above

Fforest Fawr.

Fan Gyhirych (725m), Fan Nedd (663m), Fan Fawr (734m), and the Henrhyd waterfalls (Sgwd Henrhyd)

low-level Henrhyd Falls (Sgwd Henrhyd) from Craig y Nos - Famous waterfall

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.

medium Brecon Beacons (Pen Y Fan) from Storey Arms - Short walk to the highest summit in southern England
tough Brecon Beacons (Pen Y Fan) Horseshoe from Neuadd Reservoir - Classic walk bagging all the Brecon peaks

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

New Walkers

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:

  • Check the weather, and start early.
  • Take a paper OS map and compass - GPS are great... until the batteries go flat or you drop it
  • Let someone know you're going, and take a mobile, if only to let people know you'll be late. NB: Mobiles only work at higher altitude. SMS is better in poor reception.
  • In hot weather, wear a hat, take and drink plenty of water
  • In any weather, take waterproofs, a survival bag (a big bin bag to keep the wind and rain out), some energy food (chocolate).
  • Be careful drinking from mountain streams - conside water purification tablets (Boots sell them).
  • Take breaks on the way down to give your knees a rest - they are absorbing all the energy you put into climbing!
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By Car

Start: Neuadd Reservoir car park, North of Pontsticill, Merthyr Tydfil, CF48 2UT | Directions

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Help

Start walking Large print Using GPS data

National Rail: 03457 48 49 50 • Travelline SE (bus times): 0871 200 2233 (12p/min) • TFL (London) : 0343 222 1234

Version

Jan-17

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Walk Directions  

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