Gaze at gliders, climb to the country’s highest castle.
From Talgarth this moderate to hard route climbs up past the local gliding club on the shoulder of the Black Mountains to Castell Dinas, an inspiring viewpoint crowned with remnants of Celtic and medieval fortifications.
Need to know:
Length: 7 miles (11km)
Time: Around 3½ hours
Start and finish: Main car park in Talgarth
OS map ref: SO 153337
OS map: Explorer OL13 (1:25 000 series)
Facilities: Tourist information, toilets, shops and places to eat in Talgarth
Along the way:
Small, peaceful and friendly, Talgarth is a Walkers are Welcome town. It’s in the perfect spot for exploring the central Brecon Beacons and – even closer to home – the Black Mountains rising directly beyond the rooftops. St Gwendoline’s Church has a memorial to Hywel Harris, a remarkable man who led the Methodist Revival in Wales in 1735. The old watermill in the centre of town has been beautifully converted as part of a very successful community project that includes a bakery and café (mill tours are available). A popular walking festival takes place here each spring.
The Black Mountains, with their ridges and escarpments, regularly create perfect conditions for gliding. The club, founded by two local farmers over 30 years ago, is today a premier gliding site with some of the longest average flight times in the UK. It’s a friendly welcoming place – you’re invited to come along and watch, enjoy refreshments in the clubhouse and, best of all, take a trial lesson in a two-seater. Join the red kites and buzzards soaring in the thermals for a bird’s-eye view of the mountains.
If ever a place was destined to be a stronghold it’s this one. A looming guardian at the head of the Rhiangoll valley, ready to protect a strategic gap in the mountains, it’s easy to see why our Celtic ancestors built a hillfort here during the Iron Age. They weren’t the only ones to appreciate Castell Dinas’s ready-made defensive assets. The site was added to by Roman, 5th-century and medieval castle builders though, strange to report, it’s the Iron Age ditches and ramparts that have best stood the test of time (and weather), not the later medieval masonry. Go here and pick through ancient fortifications for a gripping sense of the past then enjoy awesome views in all directions. At 450m it’s reputedly the highest castle in the UK.
Full route description:
Walk back out of the main entrance to the car park and turn left towards the town centre. Take the second turn right (Bell Street) and fork left in front of old Magistrates’ Court. Keep straight ahead and then fork right to Penbont Road. After crossing a little stone bridge, and passing the last house on the left, turn left through a field gate, to walk up the edge of the field, with the hedge to your right. Continue through another gate and keep ahead as the field narrows to a stile at the very top.
Turn left onto the road and then cross another stile on your left to enter another field. Keep ahead to a gate and go through to drop through woodland into Cwm Trappi Dingle. Cross the bridge and climb to cross another stile. Continue for a few paces and turn right over a stile. Now head across the field toward a twin-pole pylon in the hedge. Cross the stile about 50m up from the pylon. Climb gradually across the field to the next stile. Follow the hedge on the left for a few metres and then head uphill to join a fence and line of trees. Follow this to another stile. Then head to a stile at the right hand corner of a wood. Follow path through the wood and cross stile into a field. Cross three fields via gateways to the tarmac road at Rhosgwyn (a converted chapel). To the left is the Gliding Club and a track which leads back to Pwll y Wrach Dingle.
Bear right onto the tarmac road in front of the converted chapel, and follow it all the way to the foot the mountains. Where the road turns left, bear right, through a gate, and now follow the main track along the edge of the open ground with the ridge of Y Grib above you. Where the track drops right towards Dinas Farm, keep ahead to cross a stile in the fence and climb steeply to the ruins of Castell Dinas. (The walk returns to the same place so the climb can be avoided if necessary).
The fort offers wonderful views over the surrounding area, with the Rhiangoll Valley leading south east into the Usk Valley and the Wye Valley stretched out to the north. Explore the ruins at will and then return to the stile at the bottom of the hill. Rejoin the track going to the left downhill towards Dinas Farm. Just before the farm, at the bottom of the hill, turn right over a way-marked stile, and head across the field to a second stile and gateway. Head downhill towards hedge on left to cross another stile. Follow hedge on right, crossing another two stiles. Reach a double fenced ditch and turn left to follow this to the bottom of the field. Cross stile and climb down to cross a stream. Then go through a gate and head diagonally across field to top right hand corner. Cross the stile and follow the hedge on left hand side across two fields to reach a stile onto a tarmac road at Pentwyn. Turn left and then straightaway right onto a drive to Middle Genffordd. Where the drive bends to the right, cross a stile and then go through first gate on the right. Cross field to a stile and then follow hedge on left through two more fields. After crossing a stile, head diagonally to top right corner of field. Join the tarmac road at drive entrance to Gwrlodde farm.
Turn right and walk down the road to rejoin the outward route at Point 2 back to Talgarth