Black Mountain from Glyntawe

Black Mountain

This is a wild and desolate walk crossing varying terrain and a great introduction to the beauty and grandeur of the huge Black Mountain escarpment in the quieter western side of the Brecon Beacons National Park. The walk starts at the small Brecon Beacons village of Glyntawe in the valley the Afon Tawe. With several public houses, camp site, shire horse farm, Craig-y-nos country park and the spectacular Dan-yr-Ogof show caves it is a popular village, but still has a remote feeling to it. The start of the walk involves a stiff ascent to the main Fan Hir ridge but soon turns into a splendid ridge walk with stunning views both near and far. The walk takes in almost the entire escarpment edge, the longest of its type anywhere in Britain. After the fairly easily navigable ridge, the walk then takes on a darker side with a pathless route through a wild landscape of marshes, small streams and numerous limestone shake holes. This walk is probably a moderate walk in good weather for fit walkers, but if the weather turns, the navigation and the ground underfoot can become serious. If two words summed up this walk they would be 'wild' and 'wonderful'.

Route Directions

  1. The walk starts from the village of Glyntawe in the heart of the Brecon Beacons National Park. Glyntawe is probably most famous for its incredible Dan-yr-Ogof show caves, a must-see for anyone staying in the area.
  2. To get to Glyntawe from the M4 in South Wales, come off at junction 45 and head north on the A4067 towards Pontardawe. Follow the A4067 for another twelve miles after Pontardawe through the Tawe Valley and you will eventually reach Glyntawe. From the north, follow the A40 west out of Brecon until you reach Sennybridge, then take the A4067 south from Sennybridge for nine miles to reach Glyntawe.
  3. There is parking for several cars at the layby with a telephone box opposite the Gwyn Arms on the A4067 at grid reference SN 846 168, or alternatively use one of the two pubs or the ample pay and display parking down the road at the Craig-y-nos Country Park.
  4. The walk is best started from grid reference SN 848 171 on the northern side of the A4067, so from your parking place head along the northern side of the A4067 until you reach this position opposite the Tafarn-y-Garreg public house.
  5. Once you are here you will see a footpath head north from the road and then cross a footbridge over the River Tawe. Cross the footbridge and then turn right along the fence line of the farmer's field, keeping the fence on your left and river on your right.
  6. When you reach the corner of the field fence head left (west) passing the far end of the farm to a gateway onto open moorland. Pass through the gateway here and head up a steep path through bracken. The path ascends on a north westerly direction and views open up over the valleys to the right and back over Glyntawe. The path will eventually ease off and turns into a splendid ridge walk.
  7. The Brecon Beacons have the finest examples of sandstone escarpments in the nation -they are incredible. The area was mainly formed by glaciation during the last Ice Age. Keep walking along the ridge of Fan Hir and to your right you will now see many fine examples of the effects of glaciation on a landscape.
  8. As well as the stunning sandstone escarpments there are two other features clearly visible from Fan Hir. The first you will see is a bizarre small ridge just beyond the foot of the Fan Hir escarpment. This is a fine example of Moraine, caused by an advancing glacier leaving behind unconsolidated glacial debris usually of soil and rock.
  9. After gaining the highest northern end of Fan Hir you will be able to look down and see the second feature; the beautiful waters of Llyn y Fan Fawr, a classic Welsh cwm, or glacial lake.
  10. From the high point on the northern end of Fan Hir drop down into Bwlch Giedd then ascend the steep path on the other side to gain height and reach the summit of Fan Brycheiniog at grid reference SN 825 217.
  11. Fan Brycheiniog is the highest point of the Black Mountain at 802 metres above sea level. The summit has a useful circular summit shelter just short of its trig point pillar. There are far-reaching views from Fan Brycheiniog - on a good day as far as Exmoor across the Bristol Channel, Cardigan Bay, Snowdonia, and the outline of the Gower Peninsula and Pembrokeshire coast.
  12. Continue north along the summit ridge and you will reach the northern summit cairn. The Black Mountain is home to some beautiful wild ponies. By now you may well have seen them but if you haven't already you probably will at some point during the walk.
  13. From the northern cairn of Fan Brycheiniog head in a westerly direction. At this point you could head north out to the peninsula of Fan Foel or just keep heading west over pathless terrain to reach the bwlch between Fan Foel and Bannau Sir Gaer at grid reference SN 818 218. The view of the north facing escarpment of Bannau Sir Gaer from here is absolutely incredible. It looks, and is huge, and the wide panoramic views over lower mid Wales make for a fantastic contrast.
  14. Head up a steep ascent path to top out on the summit of Bannau Sir Gaer for yet more stunning views. Looking west from Bannau Sir Gaer the views across Llyn y Fan Fach to Waun Lefrith and beyond are incredible. Llyn y Fan Fach was once a reservoir. The reservoir building has now been turned into a bothy.
  15. Head west from Bannau Sir Gaer and after just over a kilometre you will be next to a scar in the red sandstone rock, and above the west end of Llyn y Fach, and about to start the descent to Waun Lefrith. It is well worth heading up to the summit of Waun Lefrith just for the view back along the escarpment above Llyn y Fan Fach.
  16. From the summit of Waun Lefrith head south for approximately one and a half kilometres down pathless and boggy terrain heading towards the River Twrch. On the map you will see a bridleway which on the ground is actually more of a faint path. You will reach this so-called bridleway before you reach the river. When you reach it head left, or east south-east, along it.
  17. Eventually the bridleway path will reach a ford over the River Twrch. The crossing here isn't always easy, especially when in spate, so cross where possible then head along the riverbank and pick up the bridleway again at grid reference SN 802 197 on the south side of the river.
  18. Continue heading south on the bridleway which is now much clearer on this side of the river. After half a kilometre the bridleway splits into two at Banwen Gwyn at around grid reference SN 806 190. Take the left bridleway and continue along it in a south easterly direction, crossing the Afon Giedd, and ascending slightly as it rounds Sinc Giedd.
  19. This area changes to a grassy and limestone terrain riddled with shake holes, streams and even the odd limestone pavement. As you ascend passing Sinc Giedd and Carreg Goch one of the larger shake holes has become a deep and tear shaped pond.
  20. After passing Carreg Goch then Castell y Geifr the bridleway starts to descend and turns into more of a proper track eventually reaching a step grassy descent then a switchback through gates and down into the campsite at Glyntawe. Head for the entrance of the campsite then left to the main road.
  21. Head left again down the main road for another kilometre to reach the layby or start of the walk. Take care on the main road as people do drive with a lack of consideration for walkers and there is no proper pavement, just a wide grassy side.
  22. For post walk refreshments there are the Gwyn Arms and Tafarn-y-Garreg pubs in Glyntawe, a cafe at the country park car park, and plenty of other options in the villages on the way back along the A4067.

Maps for this walk

Paper maps for this walk

Click to buy OS Explorer OL12 Map Click to buy OS Landranger 160 Map Click to buy Harvey Super Walker Brecon Beacons West Map Click to buy Harvey Brecon Beacons Mountain Map

GPS files for this walk

Route map of this walk

Photos & Trip Reports

Planning for a walk

Check the weather

The weather is a very important part of hill walking. Weather conditions and daylight hours will dictate where you walk, what gear you will need to carry, how far you walk, and may even decide if you go at all. The following links will help you gather information on weather conditions for areas of Britain...

Plan your journey

Planning your journey before you set off for your walk can save you vital hours on the day. You need to make sure you know the area surrounding your starting point as many factors can influence or change the place you park. Don't forget change for parking meters and fees.

Maintenance of your vehicle and being ready for breakdown situations when driving to remote areas is also vital. Pack a full spare petrol can in your boot, and take de-icing tools in winter, including a shovel. The Transport Direct website below is a great resource for anyone wanting to get to the start of their walk using public transport...

Pack the right gear

Carrying and wearing the right gear is essential for walkers to remain comfortable and safe while hill walking in Britain. However, the best gear in the world is of no use to anyone who doesn't know how to use and care for it. Knowing how to use your gear will give you a much more enjoyable experience. The following items are, in my opinion, the essential items to wear and carry for a hill walk in Britain. It would be foolish to head into the hills and mountains of Britain without these essential items and the knowledge of how to use them. Check out the gear section of this site for techniques and gear lists...

  • Footwear
  • Clothing
  • Rucksack
  • Warm Clothes
  • Waterproofs
  • Map & Compass
  • Emergency Kit
  • First Aid Kit
  • Food & Drink
  • Seasonal Gear

Know what to do in emergencies

It is good practise to tell someone where you are going, and when you expect to return. If you don't get in contact when you said you would on your return, and those you told can't get hold of you, at least they will be able to provide the search party with your general location.

Emergency equipment in the check list above means items such as a survival bag, whistle, and emergency food rations. This isn't anything special; any whistle will do, the orange emergency bags only costs a few pounds, and basic food rations can consist of a couple of chocolate bars. Carrying a head lamp is also an important component and a vital piece of kit used for signalling when you require rescuing.

You should always try and get out of a difficult or emergency situation using your own gear, knowledge and energy. If you cannot do this, then you should dial 999 and ask for the police. Use all the gear you have to keep any unwell or injured members of your party or yourself safe and warm, and use your signalling devices to let the rescuers know your whereabouts. To do this blow six good long blasts on your whistle, or flash six flashes of your torch. Stop for one minute. Repeat. Carry on with the whistle blasts until someone reaches you, and don't stop because you've heard a reply.

Never contact mountain rescue unless absolutely necessary, but on the other hand don't ever feel guilty for having to do so, especially if you are a prepared walker. The Mountain Rescue teams are full of fantastic like-minded souls who love nothing more than people who are prepared for being safe in the mountains.