Length: 15.3 km (9.5 mi) or 22.8 km (14.2 mi)
Ascent/Descent: 740m or 1030m; Net Walking Time: 5 hours or 7 hours
Toughness: 8/10 or 10/10
Meet at 09.30 in the south east corner of the Morrison’s car park in Brecon’s town centre, near the four-way road junction opposite the Bus Interchange (drivers: please bring your cars).
The start of the walk is at the remote Neuadd Reservoir car park, map reference SO 036 170, 9 km north of Merthyr Tydfil, when all cars have arrived. Directions: Drive north from Merthyr Tydfil, past Pontsticill, along the west side of the large Pentwyn reservoir. Where the road bends right along the top of the reservoir (near CF48 2UT), go straight on (north) along a single track tarmac lane (the Neuadd Reservoir's access road) and continue to a Brecon Beacons National Park car park.
If we do have more walkers than spaces, the ‘spare’ walkers will have to either…
Take the 10.51 bus T4 (direction Merthyr Tydfil/Cardiff) to Storey Arms, arrives 11.07, and take the alternative start from there up to the ridge (see pdf). The only return bus is at 18.03. Or…
Take one the alternative start routes from Brecon to the ridge (see pdf).
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 and Fan y Big requires some steep descents and re-ascents, but both tops can be circumvented.
An out-and-back extension further along the ridge – to Waun Rydd alongside an upland bog – offers more superb views, lastly along the Usk Valley. This adds 7.5 km/4.7 mi and 288m ascent.
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.
Lunch: Picnic on the ridge.
Tea: lots of choice in Brecon (see pdf) or en route to Brecon in Talybont-on-Usk (see pdf) or in Libanus.
For all walk options
, a summary
, route map
, height profile
, photos, walk directions
or gpx/kml files