THE BEACONS CIRCUIT
The big one!
Gear up for this epic, big-view walk, which takes in the main summits and ridges of the central Brecon Beacons all in one go.
Need to know
Length: 11 miles (17.7km)
Time: Around 4–6 hours
Start and finish: Storey Arms, on A470 between Brecon and Merthyr Tydfil
OS map ref: SO 982203
OS map: Explorer OL12 (1: 25 000 series)
Facilities: Car park at Storey Arms. Toilets are located at the next car park, a few hundred metres to the south.
Along the way
This famous landmark is an understandable honeypot, located as it is on the A470 smack in the central Beacons. But don’t come expecting a pub. Storey Arms was named after landowner Storey Maskelyne and was never, as its name implies, an inn. It’s now an outdoor pursuits centre.
Tommy Jones obelisk
Little Tommy, aged just five, became lost on the night of 4 August 1900 while walking to the remote farmhouse of Cwmllwch. The obelisk, on the high ridge above Llyn Cwm Llwch, marks the spot where he collapsed and died of exposure.
The deep hollow beneath Corn Du is another of the Brecon Beacons’ many textbook geological features. This cwm, or cirque, was scooped out by grinding glaciers during the last Ice Age. Its glacial lake is another classic Ice Age feature.
You could play football up here – well, almost. The distinctive flat-topped summit of Pen-y-Fan is a Welsh icon. At 886m it’s the highest mountain in South Wales and Southern Britain (although just a mere 13m taller than neighbouring Corn Du), and a place of pilgrimage for many. The views are sensational, commanding much of the National Park, its hills and mountains rolling across the landscape like a green, petrified wave. Almost all of what you see in the central Beacons is owned and managed by the National Trust.
‘The Gap’ and Roman road
Bwlch ar y Fan is better known as ‘The Gap’ – and, if somewhat prosaically, it’s well named. This pronounced break in the mountains is an obvious north–south route through the central Beacons. The unsurfaced road that cuts through The Gap may well be Roman in origin.
Created over a century ago to provide a reliable source of water for the industrial valleys to the south, these scenic reservoirs have over the years settled into the landscape beneath a wild mountain amphitheatre.
Way to go
Set off from the car park opposite Storey Arms Outdoor Education Centre. Cross the A470 and head for the gate and stile to the left of the centre. Ignore the stone path and take the less obvious track off to the left (it’s the right of way marked on the OS map). After about 250m cross the remains of an old stone wall and continue on up.
At the top of Y Gyrn (619m) cross the stile over the fence and stop to admire the superb view of Corn Du (ahead) and Pen-y-Fan (left). The track here becomes harder to see. Follow it down a gentle slope before curling up and around to walk along Craig Cwm Llwch ridge, passing Tommy Jones’s obelisk on the way. Watch out for unexpected gusts of wind along these exposed edges.
Continue to the summit of Corn Du (873m) then bear north-east, dropping down into a saddle and back up to Pen-y-Fan (886m). Soak up the panoramic views before leaving the summit in a south-easterly direction down Craig Cwm Sere before climbing up to the top of Cribyn (795m). Follow the gentle decline off Cribyn along Craig Cwm Cynwyn to meet the wide, stony track at Bwlch ar y Fan, otherwise known as ‘The Gap’.
Credit: Crown Copyright (2016) Visit Wales
Turn right and follow the track downward for about 1¼ miles (2km) towards the Neuadd reservoirs. Above the deep cutting in the track opposite the lower reservoir turn right and go through a metal field gate into the reservoir complex. Bear right here, continuing along the track; when you reach the Tarmac road turn left down the hill towards the old filter house. Cross the Lower Neuadd reservoir’s dam wall and go through a metal field gate back onto the open hill.
Climb for 200m alongside forestry in the direction of a trig point at 642m – it’s a steep and often muddy path. Once at the top turn right and walk along the length of the ridge. At Bwlch Duwynt, a junction of the paths below Corn Du, turn left down towards the forestry at Pont yr Daf. At the bottom cross the bridge over the Taff Fawr and once in the car park turn right and walk along the road back to Storey Arms.
Find more Walking routes here