Brecon Beacons horseshoe ridge walk
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.
Come prepared for unpredictable mountain weather
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.
Taf Fechan car park, grid ref: SO038169
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 (970yd/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.
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.
Corn 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.
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 (955yd/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.
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.
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.
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.
Pen y Fan
On a good day the panoramic view from Pen y Fan gives a great insight into the way we use the land and the impact we have on it.
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-east face of Pen y Fan which falls away into the Cwm Sere valley.
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.
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.
Pen y Fan and Cribyn
This is a great vantage point to pause and admire the route you have taken, like Pen y Fan and Cribyn seen from Fan-y-Big.
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.
Taf Fechan car park, grid ref: SO038169
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