THE PEN ALLT-MAWR PLATEAU
It’s that day of the week again, when you’re starting to consider what your weekend plans will be, and start to crave a bit of open air freedom. So here’s another ace Walking Wednesday from Kevin Walker the king of killing boredom in the Brecon Beacons. Here’s a great hill-walk with stunning views, which makes for a great warm up for the Crickhowell Walking Festival.
DISTANCE – 16kms (10 miles)
HEIGHT GAIN – 730 metres (2400 feet).
START POINT – Crickhowell Car Park (pay & display).
GRID REFERENCE – SO/219183.
MAPS – OS Explorer OL13, OS Landranger 161.
A relatively straightforward hill walk, involving a steady climb through a wooded dingle in order to reach the open hillside, then up and around the edge of a high plateau with breath-taking views. The return journey takes in the Iron Age hill fort of Crug Hywel, known locally as Table Mountain.
Cars can be parked in the pay & display car park in Crickhowell, well signposted at the eastern edge of the town. The pedestrian exit through the disabled bays leads past the Crickhowell Resource and Information Centre, which is well worth a visit.
Walk west along the main road through Crickhowell, past the Shell Petrol Station and the primary school, until you reach the White Hart Inn, just before which you turn right up Pregge Lane. Follow this steeply uphill until, after about 200 metres, you can turn right onto a rough track over a footbridge. Follow this, initially with housing on the right, to a junction where you turn left.
The rough path now climbs gently between high hedges until, after several sharp bends, it reaches the wooded Cwmbeth Dingle – a deep ravine. Continue up the right side of the dingle until you reach a gate, go through this, cross the stream to the left, and stroll up the right side of the meadow. At the far end, the footpath goes up the stream (literally!) between stone walls, then continues more dryly to a sheep fold. Although this might sound complicated, the way is obvious throughout.
Leave the sheepfold through the upslope gap, turn left, and follow the obvious path up the hill, to the right of the wall, until the angle eases. The Darren cliffs are obvious above and to the right, and your route is up the faint path that climbs the slopes immediately to the right of the cliffs. Once above the cliffs, trend slightly right and head just west of north to reach the far edge of the plateau – a superb viewpoint.
You route is now obvious – just turn right along the edge of the plateau, the path slowly improving and becoming better defined. Wherever the path starts to descend, take the upper path, and you will eventually curve around to the left and reach Pen Gloch-y-pibwr, where there are many ancient cairns. Turn right here, and continue along the plateau edge, past another ancient cairn, to reach trig point and the summit of Pen Allt-mawr, arguably the best viewpoint in the Black Mountains and a great place for some refreshment.
Your route now follows the opposite side of the plateau, so head south along the edge of the plateau with the drop to your left, heading towards the obvious domed bulk of Pen Cerrig-calch, with good views across to Sugar Loaf. The path is awkwardly rocky in places, but always well defined, and leads through a peaty section to the outcrops which guard the summit. Scramble easily up the rocks, and shortly you will reach another trig point and yet more Bronze Age cairns on top of Pen Cerrig-calch. Continue in a southerly direction along a rocky, peaty path, heading almost directly towards the distant Sugar Loaf, meander past springs and through some old, grassy quarries, then descend more easily on a grassy track to a sudden descent at the sharpening of the spur. It is then but a simple stroll and short, final scramble to reach the obvious flat but sloping summit of Table Mountain (Crug Hywel), the original Iron Age settlement which became Crickhowell.
Leave Table Mountain through the old “gateway” to its east (along the left side as you approach from the spur), and follow paths to the left, then to the right, soon merging with a good path that curves around below the southern end of the hill fort and leads to a gate and stile . Climb the stile and walk down the rocky, damp path beyond, soon reaching a gap on the left, just beyond which there is a stile (also on the left). Cross the stile and descend the left side of the field beyond, cross another stile and descend the left side of the next field, then cross yet another stile (or go through the gate which is often open) and follow the left side of the final field to reach a stile leading to a sunken track. Follow this track to its end, go through the gate on the right, and continue straight head and into the farmyard. Turn left and walk down the farm road to reach a lane.
Carefully follow the lane to the right (it is surprisingly busy and there is no pavement!), bear left at the Y junction, and continue past houses to a T junction, where you turn right. Go straight on at the mini-roundabout, and you will shortly reach an alley on the left that leads back into the car park.
If you are in no hurry to get away, just before the alley, on the right, is The Courtyard, home to a variety of excellent local suppliers including Debs Kitchen, where you can buy amazing Welsh Cakes (amongst other delights), and Black Mountain Gold, also known as Chocolate Heaven, the workshop of a local award-winning Master Chocolatier! Alternatively, if you ignore the alley, continue to the end of the road and turn right, you will pass the excellent Crickhowell Adventure shop, and reach the wonderful Bear Hotel – a great place to recover and “rehydrate” after your walk. Enjoy!
This is another walk followed on Kevin’s popular walking breaks. Check out what else he has to offer at www.mountainacts.co.uk