SUGAR LOAF FROM ABERGAVENNY
Woodland and heathland leading to big views.
This pleasant walk takes you up, up and away from the Usk valley and bustling Abergavenny to the serene summit of Sugar Loaf mountain. You’ll climb 580m in all, through a landscape of great natural beauty that reveals clues of early industrial activity.
Need to know
Length: 9 miles (14.5km)
Time: Around 4–5 hours
Start and finish: Abergavenny National Park and Tourist Information Centre (at the bus station)
OS map ref: SO 301140
OS map: Explorer OL13 (1:25 000 series)
Facilities: Visitor centre and toilets at Abergavenny bus station, cafés, pubs, shops and railway station in Abergavenny
Along the way
This handsome country town, a member of the Walkers are Welcome scheme, is at the south-eastern gateway to the Brecon Beacons National Park. It’s a lively, prosperous place, with a long history and good choice of places to stay and eat – an ideal walking base for the central Brecon Beacons and Borderland Black Mountains, in fact (it’s surrounded by no less than seven hills). Attractions include Abergavenny Castle and Museum, the Victorian Market Hall, converted Tithe Barn, Borough Theatre and St Mary’s Priory Church, noted for its superb medieval effigies and Jesse Tree. The town is home to a National Park and Tourist Information Centre.
Its Welsh name means ‘small oak woodland’. It’s an ancient coppice, used by our ancestors to cut and burn trees on small platforms to produce charcoal for local industries. Today you can see that many of the oak trees are multi-stemmed as a result of being cut down, then regrowing from the cut stump. Small charcoal burners’ platforms can also still be seen, although the most obvious pits and hollows are the result of stone quarrying. In addition to this fascinating history, these woods, designated a Special Area of Conservation, today provide a unique home to rare and threatened species.
This big, bold, bald hill, at 596m, has a magnetic quality – everyone who visits Abergavenny just has to climb it. They’re rewarded with one of the finest views on the planet, as mountain ranges roll away for 360 degrees in great waves of green. Look west to the flat-topped central Beacons, north-west to Pen Cerrig-calch, north to the Black Mountains, north-east to Hatterall Hill, east to Skirrid Fawr and south across the Usk valley to the Blorenge. What a panorama!
Way to go
From the information centre turn right and walk through the town centre to the war memorial at the junction with Park Road. Cross Park Road and continue up Pen-y-Pound. Turn left into Avenue Road at the traffic lights and pass the cricket ground; the road then becomes Chapel Lane, at the top of which is a kissing gate. Turn right and walk up to the driveway of Llwyndu Court (at map ref SO 291155).
Continue on past the driveway entrance for a short distance and turn left onto a footpath, following it over a stile into a field. Walk up the left-hand side of the field heading for a stile to the right of the farm. Go straight up the road, veering left at the fork, to a car park. Take the right track and on reaching the hairpin bend follow the path up through the larger gate into Deri Fach wood.
After about 800m (at map ref SO 280169) the trees thin out and the hillside is covered with bracken and gorse. Ignore the stile ahead of you, but continue on up with the fence on your left. When the fence bears off to the left go straight on towards the top of the ridge. You are now on proper upland heath terrain. Sugar Loaf’s summit should soon be in view along with an old boundary wall off to the right. Keep following the obvious path to the summit.
From the trig point at the summit the path descends gently to your left (westwards). Fairly soon you are following a ditch and bank. Ignore tracks to either side and, keeping the bank to your right, follow it to a stone wall, then turn left. The wall zigzags on your right but finally turns downhill after 400m. Leave the wall here and go straight on, down to the car park on the shoulder of Mynydd Llanwenarth.
From the car park go down the road for about 100m. Turn left on a grassy track by a gas pipeline marker and go straight down for about 400m until you come to a fence at the top of a wooded slope. Turn left and where the fence begins to drop downhill on your right take the narrow left fork that winds through the oakwood to a deeply cut old track. Turn right here, then right again onto another old track and continue down until you come out above Pen-yr-heol Farm (map ref SO 279163).
Do not go on to the road at this point but turn sharp left, almost doubling back on yourself, down a track just above the farm. After passing the farm you will pass a cottage on your right before descending through the beautiful beech trees of St Mary’s vale. Below the cottage take the right fork that drops away steeply and bends round to the right, bringing you down to the Nant Iago stream, which you follow. Follow this down, crossing it at the bottom on stone slabs. The track then rises, passing through a metal gate before joining the route you followed to the summit. From here, retrace your steps back to Abergavenny.
Find more walks in the Brecon Beacons here