Rising from the soft hills of South Wales, are blunt summits bare and bleak, looming under changing skies. The Brecon Beacons are a wild place. The type that broods beyond rural villages, inviting wayfarers. A mountainous landscape of swirling cloud and howling wind. Of course, the Brecon Beacons can be a place of cerulean sky too. Both light and dark, sublime and pastoral. With hundreds of square miles of upland terrain and secret river valleys The Brecon Beacons attract walkers from all over the UK.
There is a wealth of hikes in the Brecon Beacons, so to help you choose we’ve picked a few flagship ones to discover.
This is South Wales’s most quaintly named mountain. Who wouldn’t want to walk up something called Sugar Loaf? It evokes images of Charlie and The Chocolate Factory, chocolate rivers, custard lakes, pink horizons.
Sugar Loaf sits above the town of Abergavenny, volcanic in its shape, though emerald in colour. A mellow mountain, offering expansive views over the patchwork fields of South Wales. Ascending Sugar Loaf isn’t too demanding either and can be done in a couple of hours, starting near Abergavenny.
Sugar Loaf Mountain may have a sweet name, but it’s part of a range of hills with a spooky one. The Black Mountains. Evocative of crows circling and creeping fogs. These mysterious mountains climb to rugged heights from the bucolic countryside that rambles into Wales from Herefordshire and makes up the eastern fringes of The Brecon Beacons. There are many walks to be found in the Black Mountains, alongside Sugar Loaf. Walk on the banks of crystal upland streams and look out over the Welsh borders, a secluded rural idyll.
Another iconic peak in the Black Mountains, The Skirrid, or Ysgyryd Fawr in Welsh, rises from the lowland Welsh borders like Weathertop in Lord of the Rings. It is the first and last outcrop of the Black Mountains, and seen as a holy place in folklore, a gatekeeper to the wilderness beyond. The stark isolation of the Skirrid means it has some of the most panoramic views of any peak in Wales, despite not being as high as some. The National Trust recommends taking the route to the summit through Pant Skirrid Wood, rather than tacking the north face directly.
Remember the falls that hide the Bat Cave in The Dark Knight Rises? Yes, it’s the very same. A beautiful, secluded waterfall cloaked in lush woods—standing a dizzying 27 metres tall. The tallest waterfall in Wales. It’s a beautiful sight to find hidden deep in a valley. The Nant Llech river drops off a sheer face, known as Farewell Rock, and into a shadowy pool below.
It’s also the sight where the fossilised trees outside Swansea Museum were discovered by Sir William Edmond Logan, who went on to become the head of Geological Survey of Canada.
The Walk to the falls is a popular one with a National Trust car park and shouldn’t prove too intense, but has a big payoff.
This is it, the pinnacle of South Wales. The highest mountain in Southern Britain. Not an easy walk, though the spectacular view is second to none. On the ridge you’ll be able gaze over the vast unfurling of South Wales in all its cinematic glory. Truly, an existential experience. The only thing to remember, is that Pen Y Fan represents the full wild force of the Brecon Beacons and the weather is changeable. Therefore, it’s wise to go prepared with warm clothes, wet weather gear, a compass, a torch, and a whistle etc. Also, don’t forget your camera—capture the exhilarating moment of reaching the top.