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

SDC10836 Corn Du, Pen y Fan. the shortcut path from the col runs left-right

Corn Du, Pen y Fan. the shortcut path from the col runs left-right

Apr-11 • Andrew Murphy

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Apr-11 • Andrew Murphy

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Apr-11 • Andrew Murphy

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Apr-11 • Andrew Murphy

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SDC10849 The way to Waun Rydd

The way to Waun Rydd

Apr-11 • Andrew Murphy

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SDC10853 walkicon


Apr-11 • Andrew Murphy

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Llyn Cwm Llwch from Escarpment on way up to Corn Du SWC Walk 278 Breacon Beacons Horseshoe - Bannau Brycheiniog (Ascent from Storey Arms Car Park)
Llyn Cwm Llwch from Escarpment on way up to Corn Du

SWC Walk 278 Breacon Beacons Horseshoe - Bannau Brycheiniog (Ascent from Storey Arms Car Park)

Jul-16 • thomasgrabow on Flickr

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Length 15.3 km (9.5 mi), with 804m ascent/descent. For alternative start points with longer and tougher walk, and for opportunities to cut out some of the ascent and distance, see below Walk Options.
Toughness 6 out of 10, with 4 ½ hours walking time.
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 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.
Continuing along the ridge up to Cribyn (which requires a steep ascent and descent, but it can easily be circumvented).
Descend 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 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 the walk directions pdf respectively.

Maps OS Explorer: OL12 (Brecon Beacons National Park)
OS Landranger: 160 (Brecon Beacons)
Harvey Superwalker XT25: Breacon Beacons West/Bannau Brycheiniog Gorllewin and Brecon Beacons East/Bannau Brycheiniog Dwyrain
Harvey British Mountain Map: Breacon Beacons/Bannau Brycheiniog


Neuadd Reservoir car park, map reference SO 036 170, is 9 km north of Merthyr Tydfil, 229 km west north west of Charing Cross, 401m above sea level and in Powys, Wales (as are all other start & finish points). The Neuadd Reservoir access road car park, CF48 2UT, car only, no public transport, is about 3.5 hours (265 km) from London. It's 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 Old Barn Tea Rooms on the road between Neuadd Reservoir and Talybont, the Red Cow Inn in Pontsticill on the way to/from Merthyr (and Cardiff, the M4), or places in Merthyr itself.
Storey Arms Bus Stop is on line T4 (Cardiff - Pontypridd – Merthyr Tydfil – Brecon – Newtown), with 11 buses a day Mon-Sat and 6 on Sundays and Bank Holidays. As of Jul-22, travel 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 if you have motorised transport.




A couple of options not far from the end of the Horseshoe, but more options at the alternative end points, in Talybont and in Brecon. See page 2 of the pdf.

Stay Accommodation is available in Brecon, Merthyr Tydfil & Crickhowell, and in the Llwyn-y-Celyn Youth Hostel.
Welsh Glossary

aber: estuary, confluence, river mouth; afon: river; affwys: abyss; allt: hillside, cliff; aran: high place; ban/fan/bannau (pl): peak/beacon/crest, hill/mountain; big: peak; blaen: source of river, head of valley; bod: dwelling; bre: hill; bron: hill-breast; bryn: hill; bwlch: gap/col/pass; cadair: chair; cae: field; caer/gaer: stronghold, fort; capel: chapel; carn/garn/carnedd/garnedd: cairn, heap of stones, tumulus; carreg/garreg: stone, rock; castell: castle; cefn: ridge, hillside; celli: grove/copse; cerwyn: pot-hole; cist: chest; clog/clogwyn: cliff; clun: meadow; clwyd: hurdle/gate; clydach: torrent; coch/goch: red; coed: wood; craig/graig: rock; crib/cribyn: crest, ridge, summit; crug: mound; cul: narrow; cwm: hanging valley/corrie/bowl/dale; cyfrwy: ridge between two summits (saddle); ddinas: fort; dibyn: steep slope, precipice; dim: no; din: hill-fortress; disgwylfa: place of observation, look-out point; dôl: meadow; du/ddu: black, dark; dwfr/dŵr: water; dyffryn: valley; -dyn: fortified enclosure; eglwys: church; eira: snow; eisteddfod: meeting-place, assembly; esgair: ridge; fach/bach: small; fawr/mawr: large; fechan: smaller; ffald: sheep-fold, pound, pen, run; ffordd: way, road; ffridd: pasture; ffrwd: stream, torrent; ffynnon: spring/well; gallt: wooded hill; ganol: middle; garth: promontory, hill, enclosure; glan/lan: river-bank, hillock; glas: green (when referring to grass, pasture or leaves), blue (when relating to the sea or air); glyn: deep valley, glen; gors: bog; gorsedd: tumulus, barrow, hillock; gwyddfa: mound, tumulus; gwylfa: look-out point; gwyn/gwen: white; gwynt: wind; hafn: gorge, ravine; hafod: summer dwelling; hen: old; hendre(f): winter dwelling, old home, permanent abode; heol: road; hesgyn: bog; hir: long; is: below, lower; isaf: lower/lowest; llan: church, monastery; llawr: level area, floor of valley; llech: slab, stone, rock; llther: slope; lluest: shieling, cottage, hut; llwch: lake, dust; llwybr: path; llwyd: grey, brown; llwyn: bush, grove; llyn: lake; llynwyn: pool/puddle, moat; maen: stone; maes: open field, plain; mawn: peat; mawnog: peat-bog; melyn: yellow; merthyr: burial place, church; moel/foel: bare, bald/bare hill; mynydd: mountain, moorland; nant: brook/stream, dingle/glen; neuadd: hall; newydd: new; ogof/gogof: cave; pant: hollow; parc: park, field, enclosure; pen: head, top/end, edge; penrhyn: promontory; pentre(f): homestead, village; perfedd: middle; perth: bush, brake, hedge; plas: hall, mansion; pont/bont: bridge; porth: gate/gateway, harbour/bay/landing-place/ferry; pwll: pit, pool; rhiw: hill, slope; rhos: moor, promontory; rhudd: red, crimson; rhyd: ford; sarn: causeway; sgwd/rhaeadr: waterfall; sticill: stile; sych: dry; tafarn: tavern; tâl: end, top; talar: headland (of field); tan/dan: below; tarren/darren: escarpment; tir: land, territory; tor: break, gap; tre/tref: settlement, hamlet, town; twlch: tump, knoll; twll: hole, pit; tŵr: tower; twyn: hill; tŷ: house; uchaf: upper, highest; uwch: above, over; waun/gwaun: moorland, meadow; wen/wyn: white; y, yr, ‘r: the; ynys: island, holm, river-meadow; ysgol: ladder, formation on mountain-side/school; ysgwydd: shoulder (of mountain); ystafell: chamber, hiding-place; ystrad: wide valley, holm, river-meadow.

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By Car

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


National Rail: 03457 48 49 50 • Traveline (bus times): 0871 200 22 33 (12p/min) • TFL (London) : 0343 222 1234


May-23 Andrew Thomas G

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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