5 mins

7 of the best walks in the Brecon Beacons National Park

Rugged mountains, haunting moorland, mountain rivers, deep-sided gorges, and cosy valley settlements. The Brecon Beacons National Park offers exciting walking for everyone...

The Brecon Beacons National Park is home to some of the UK's most stunning views (Shutterstock)

1. The sweet ascent of Sugar Loaf, Monmouthshire

Sugar Loaf Mountain, Monmouthshire (Shutterstock)

Sugar Loaf Mountain, Monmouthshire (Shutterstock)

At just under 2,000ft, Sugar Loaf is a small but very sweet and satisfying climb. There are no cafés on the route, so grab a picnic from nearby Abergavenny and find your view with a chew on the way to the summit.

From the top end of the Sugar Loaf Car Park at Llanwenarth, follow the well-defined path by the National Trust sign north before heading east to tackle the summit. Continue up the steep and rocky ascent to the mountaintop with sweeping views to Abergavenny, the Usk Valley, the Brecon Beacons, and the Severn Estuary on clear days. From the trig point, retrace your steps back to the car park.

2. Along the Monmouthshire and Brecon Canal from Crickhowell

Brecon Canal (Shutterstock)

Brecon Canal (Shutterstock)

This is a gentle five-mile walk along the Monmouthshire and Brecon Canal, from Crickhowell to Llangynidr – taking in meadows, village and country lanes as well as leafy towpaths. The walk finishes at the lovely settlement of Llangynidr with its five locks, aqueduct, and a stone bridge that dates back to 1700.

From the centre of the town, cross the Crickhowell Bridge over the River Usk and through the kissing gates to cross the meadow to St Catwg’s Church at Llangattock. Head west along Owens Row until you meet the Monmouthshire and Brecon Canal, then north-west along the canalside to Dardy and Llangynidr. Have a cuppa (or pint) and explore the village before taking the bus back to Crickhowell.

3. Up south Wales’ highest mountain, Pen y Fan

At 2,907ft high, Pen y Fan is the highest mountain in South Wales (Shutterstock)

At 2,907ft high, Pen y Fan is the highest mountain in South Wales (Shutterstock)

At 2,907ft high, Pen y Fan just misses out on ‘Furth’ status (equivalent to the Scottish Munro). It’s not to be underestimated though. As the highest mountain in South Wales, the route is a challenging 10-mile slog through forest and moorland to the steep ridge of Pen y Fan. You will be rewarded for your endeavours, however, with superb views of the Brecon Beacons National Park. This is a great winter walk when the hills are dusted in snow or frost. 

From Taf Fechan Forest Car Park, follow the Horseshoe Trail north which emerges at another car park, then the road. Where the lane splits in two, take the rough track to the right to merge with the Taff Trail. Continuing north, follow the line of trees, then ford a stream, continuing up the open moorland with views to Upper Neuadd Reservoir. At a crossroads, turn left to follow the Beacon Way and continue up the sheer-sided ridge to the summit of Pen y Fan.

Continue south-west along the ridge of Corn Du, then follow the ridge path south along Craig-Gwaun-Taf. Look out for a cairn, where you should turn off to drop down to Lower Neuadd Reservoir. Continue through Taf Fechan Forest back to the stone bridge and retrace your steps to the car park. When open, the Old Barn Tea Room just down the road is a good place to refuel and recover from the strenuous hill walk.

4. From Brecon Mountain Railway to the shores of Pontsticill Reservoir

Brecon Mountain Railway (Shutterstock)

Brecon Mountain Railway (Shutterstock)

Catch the magnificent Brecon Mountain Railway from Pant near Merthyr Tydfil to Pontsticill Station beside the reservoir. From here, the seven-mile walk takes the rambler through woodland and water, with magnificent views of Pen Y Fan and the surrounding hills.

From the station, head south along the reservoir then cross the dam head to follow the Taff Trail. Climb through woodland on the western side of the reservoir, emerging at the reservoir road. Keep right to follow the road that crosses between Pontsticill and Pentwyn reservoirs and continue along the path between the railway track and reservoir back to your starting point. There’s a railway café by the dam to quench your thirst and stave off hunger.

5. The Four Waterfalls walk

Four Waterfalls walk (Shutterstock)

Four Waterfalls walk (Shutterstock)

This walk takes the rambler through woodland and deep-cut gorge to four sublime waterfalls, each one different in character. It’s a challenging four-mile walk, with some steep descents and ascents to the falls. Take a picnic and make a day of it – each waterfall has a place to sit and relax, as well as enjoy a spot of wild swimming. 

Start at the car park at Porth yr Ogof and follow the yellow marker, keeping the river on your right. Where the path forks, keep left and follow the edge of the wood. Now follow the green-banded markers to a crossroads and turn right, following the red markers this time downhill. Bear right until you reach the edge of the forest. Take the steps down to Sgwd yr Eira, poetically named ‘The Waterfall of the Snow’. Here, you can walk behind the curtain of the waterfall.

Retrace your steps to the edge of the wood. Turn left and continue to follow the red markers. At a fork, turn left and drop down to the river. Turn left again to view Sgwd yr Pannwr (Fall of the Fuller), then follow the river upstream in the opposite direction to Sgwd Isaf Clun-Gwyn (Lower Waterfall of the Meadow). To reach the most scenic stretch of this waterfall, some scrambling is required – and a chance for more precarious walking behind the curtain of water if you dare.

Retrace your steps downhill, turn left and climb back up to the top of the gorge. Follow the red-banded marker to Sgwd Clun-Gwyn (Fall of the White Meadow), where there’s a fenced-off viewing area. From here, follow the main track back to the car park, retracing your steps.

6. A stroll through Craig-y-Nos Country Park

Craig-y-Nos Country Park (Shutterstock)

Craig-y-Nos Country Park (Shutterstock)

This (just over) one-mile stroll around Craig-y-Nos Country Park meanders along the tumbling River Tawe and through the former pleasure gardens of the castle with its ponds, lakes, ornamental trees and rhododendron tunnel. Come in spring when the trees are in fresh bud and the rhododendrons are splashed with colour. There are plenty of waterside benches for a spot of al fresco dining.

From the country park car park in the Upper Swansea Valley, take the lane down to the River Tawe, ignoring the attractive wooden bridge for the moment to keep walking along the west bank of the river. Follow the curve of the river into the pleasure gardens. Explore the parkland of mature trees with its pavilion before crossing the bridge to the east bank, turning right to follow the path through woodland adjacent to the River Tawe.

You can take either fork in the pathway to reach the ornamental pond. Continue alongside the waterside path and turn left to reach the river again. Follow the River Tawe back to the bridge by the car park.

7. To the romantic ruins of Carreg Cennen

Ruins of Carreg Cennen (Shutterstock)

Ruins of Carreg Cennen (Shutterstock)

Carreg Cennen castle sits precariously on a sheer limestone escarpment in the Black Mountains, one of Britain’s most dramatic castle remains. This four-mile walk, through rolling pastures and deciduous woodland, provides tantalising glimpses of the romantic ruins along the way – but before the views of the castle, in all its magnificence, open out on the ridge ascent. Explore Carreg Cennen and enjoy a picnic with sweeping views of the surrounding countryside.

To start, head out of the gate at the top of the car park towards the castle. At a white building on the right, go through the gate and follow the path diagonally through the field to the road. Turn left, then right after a bend, just before a house. Cross fields to the River Cennen. Cross a footbridge and continue on to Llyn-Bedw Farm. Follow the farm track and ford the shallow stream. Climb a short hill and turn left over a stile to a stream. Continue over another stile and up a stony track, then detour down the narrow path to the source of the River Loughor, where it gushes out of a cave.

Return to the two adjacent stiles and turn right, passing a lime kiln. Where the track peters out, continue over meadow to the road. Follow the road for a short way, then the Beacons Way that sweeps left to the castle ridge. From the ruins, follow the track down to the road and the car park.

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