Brecon Beacons horseshoe ridge walk

Neuadd Valley, Brecon Beacons

Route details and mapDownload as a print friendly PDF
Craig Fan Ddu ridge looking west from Neuadd reservoir © N McAllister 2010

Craig Fan Ddu ridge looking west from Neuadd reservoir

Looking north from Craig y Fan Ddu towards Corn Du, Pen y Fan and Cribyn © Nick McAllister 2010

Looking north from Craig y Fan Ddu towards Corn Du, Pen y Fan and Cribyn

Looking north to Corn Du from Bwlch Duwynt © Simon Rose 2010

Looking north to Corn Du from Bwlch Duwynt

The Neuadd valley looking south from Pen y Fan © R. Reith

The Neuadd valley looking south from Pen y Fan

Cribyn from Pen y Fan © NTPL/Paul Harris

Cribyn from Pen y Fan

Pen y Fan and Cribyn looking back from Fan y Big © NTPL/Joe Cornish

Pen y Fan and Cribyn looking back from Fan y Big

Route overview

A challenging upland mountain walk that takes you into the heart of the Brecon Beacons. You'll be rewarded with spectacular views if the weather is good. A map and compass, waterproofs, and a whistle and torch are all essential for this walk, as the weather is very changeable in these mountains.

Route details

See this step-by-step route marked on a map

Map of route
  • Directions
  • Route
  • Bus stop
  • Parking
  • Toilet
  • Viewpoint

Start: Taf Fechan car park, grid ref: SO038169

  1. Starting from the Forestry Commission car park (grid ref. SO038169), walk north along the road to the old pump house at the Lower Neuadd Reservoir (grid ref. SO033180). Take a moment to absorb the stunning views up the valley to Pen y Fan (886m), the highest point of the walk. Make your way to the left of the reservoir, through a gate and start to ascend the steep climb onto the Craig Fan Ddu ridge.

    Show/HideCraig Fan Ddu ridge

    Craig Fan Ddu ridge is the first steep climb on the walk. Its steep but short, once you have climbed it you have a long underlating ridge to get your breath back.

    Craig Fan Ddu ridge looking west from Neuadd reservoir © N McAllister 2010
  2. Once you have got your breath back, turn right and follow the ridge around towards Corn Du. Looking to your right, you start to get a sense of the sheer scale and beauty of the glacial valleys. As you head north along the ridge, Cribyn, Pen y Fan and Corn du all come into view.

    Show/HideCorn Du Pen y Fan and Cribyn

    Corn Du, Pen y Fan and Cribyn seen from Craig Fan Ddu ridge. The south sides of these mountains are very different to the craggy and rocky north sides.

    Looking north from Craig y Fan Ddu towards Corn Du, Pen y Fan and Cribyn © Nick McAllister 2010
  3. As you approach Corn Du at Bwlch Duwynt, the path forks right will take you around to Pen y Fan, while left takes you up over the second highest peak in the Beacons (873m). Make your way towards the Bronze Age burial cairn. These cairns are prevalent on all the summits. Looking to your left you'll see a spectacular view of Y Gyrn, Fan Fawr, Mynydd Du and, in the far distance, the Carmarthen Fans.

    Show/HideCorn Du from Bwlch Duwynt

    Corn Du from Bwlch Duwynt. Corn Du is the second highest mountain in the National Park, the remains of a burial cairn can still be found on top.

    Looking north to Corn Du from Bwlch Duwynt © Simon Rose 2010
  4. Continuing around the crest of Corn Du, drop down into the saddle and up onto Pen y Fan. On the left is the Cwm Llwch valley, nestled in the bottom is Llyn Cwm Llwch - a wonderful example of an upland glacial moraine. Further down the valley you can see evidence of an old army firing range, demonstrating the varied use of the Beacons over the years.

  5. Pen y Fan is the highest point in the southern UK and it's easy to see the how the pressures of its popularity have taken their toll. On a good day the panoramic view gives a great insight into the way we use the land and the impact we have on it.

    Show/HideNeuadd Valley from Summit of Pen y Fan

    Looking south into the Neuadd Valley from the summit of Pen y Fan

    The Neuadd valley looking south from Pen y Fan © R. Reith
  6. From Pen y Fan there's a steep descent off the summit until you get onto a stone pitched path that takes you down Craig Cwm Sere, and up the steep climb to the summit of Cribyn. Looking back you can see the near vertical north face of Pen y Fan which falls away into the Cwm Sere valley.

    Show/HideCribyn

    The steep climb up to the summit of Cribyn seen from Pen y Fan

    Cribyn from Pen y Fan © NTPL/Paul Harris
  7. At the Cairn on Cribyn, turn right and follow the ridge along the back of Cribyn. Some sections along this path are fairly boggy, where the peat has been exposed and started to erode. This is evident in a number of places around the Beacons. Carry on down, until you come to the Gap Road. This was the first track to enable horse-drawn carriages to cross the mountain range. It's thought to be a Roman road, although no archaeological evidence has been found as yet.

  8. Crossing the track, you'll leave National Trust land, cross over the stile and follow the fairly steep path to the summit of Fan-y-Big. This is a great vantage point to pause and admire the route you have taken.

    Show/HidePen y Fan and Cribyn

    Pen y Fan and Cribyn seen from Fan-y-Big

    Pen y Fan and Cribyn looking back from Fan y Big © NTPL/Joe Cornish
  9. From Fan-y-Big follow the Craig Cwm Oergwm ridge heading back towards the Neuadd Reservoir. As the ridge arcs around to the left, split from the path and head straight on, making your way diagonally down towards the lower Neuadd reservoir. Coming back onto the Gap Road and through the metal gate, follow the tarmac road back round to the pump house, then follow road back to the car park and your starting point.

End: Taf Fechan car park, grid ref: SO038169

  • Trail: Walking
  • Grade: Hard
  • Distance: 9 miles (14km)
  • Time: 4 hours to 5 hours
  • OS Map: Explorer OL12 - Brecon Beacons West and Central area Landranger 160
  • Terrain:

    A challenging upland walk that includes steep climbs and a flat ridge, walking on made and unmade footpaths. Sturdy boots, warm clothing and good waterproofs are essential.

  • How to get here:

    On foot: The Beacons Way and the Taff Trail pass close by

    By bike: NCN Route 8-Lon Las Cymru and Taff trail pass close by from Brecon and also from Talybont-on-Usk to the east and Cardiff from the south. The infamous Gap road passes close by and can be joined from the trail at Torpantau. For further information, visit the Sustrans website. Beacons Bus carries bikes over the summer from Cardiff to Brecon

    By train: Merthyr Tydfil 12 miles (19kms), Abergavenny 30 miles (48km), then catch X43 bus

    By bus: X43 by Sixty Sixty, Cardiff – Abergavenny. Alight at Storey Arms. For further info visit Transport Direct

    By car: From Talybont-on-Usk, leave B4558 and cross the canal by a bridge, follow the road alongside the reservoir then up a steep hill through woodland. Keep following the road downhill until you reach a T-junction. Turn right here and follow the road up through the valley until you reach the second Forestry Commission car park on the left, which is the start point

    Access from Cefn coed y cymmer, leave the A4054 signposted Pontsticill. Pass through Trefechan and Pontsticill and follow the road alongside the Pontsticill reservoir and at the end take the left turn signposted Talybont on Usk. Continue along this road alongside Pentwyn reservoir until you reach the right turn for Talybont-on-Usk where you continue straight on to the second Forestry Commision car park to start the walk

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