Walking in the Brecon Beacons
Walking is probably the best way to explore the Brecon Beacons, and there are many delights to enjoy on foot.
The suggestions below are just a flavour of some of the more popular routes hereabouts. The ‘Waterfall Country’ walks are along deep valleys which are internationally renowned for their rich mix of animal and plant life, as well as the spectacular sight of tons of water falling over cliffs.
From the Door
1. Hepste Fechan walk: – 4 hours, 9.5km, moderate. This route takes you from Beili Helyg over a ridge and down to the river Hepste that is crossed by stepping stones. The route follows the river upstream, and at Hepste Fechan, an old farm holding, the path fords the river again (not recommended if the river is high) and takes you to the top of Cadair Fawr.
From here you drop back into the Cwm Cadlan and walk down hill to Beili Helyg.
2. Pwll y Felin walk: – 5 hours 30 mins, 17.1km (10.6 miles), height gain 235m, moderate.
3. Garwnant forestry centre is about 3 miles away along forest tracks and quiet lanes. Alternatively you can drive there and follow one of several circular walks from the centre – see No 9 below.
4. Cwm Cadlan site of special scientific interest (‘SSSI’) and National Nature Reserve walk. The starting point is a 15 – 20 minute walk away. The Cwm Cadlan SSSI is a mosaic of wet grassland in the Cadlan valley. Lime-rich water cascades through the reserve and sustains the unique marshy grassland habitat, as well as the great variety of specialised plants and animals that live there. We see particularly unusual butterflies. Wetland like this is now an uncommon feature of the countryside, many areas having been drained for use in agriculture.
From Cwm Porth – About a 10 minute drive
5. The Waterfall walk: this is a full day’s walk and circuits a large part of Waterfall Country. 5 hours 30 minutes – 6 hours 30 minutes; 10 miles; Height gain 400m. Moderate.
From the car park the route takes you along ancient lanes to the Nedd-fechan river, which you follow closely all the way to Pontneddfechan after a small deviation to Sgwd Gwladys (Lady Falls). Pontneddfechan is a good place for lunch; it has some good food pubs and the waterfall visitor centre is also here. The Nedd-fechan river has a multitude of pools for wild swimming and paddling, waterfalls like Sgwd Ddwli (Gushing Falls) and Sgwd y Bedol ( Horseshoe Falls), some lovely picnic spots, and places to admire the view. After lunch the route takes you along the gunpowder trail which follows the River Mellte, over a bridge and uphill through woodland until you drop down to the waterside of the Hepste river. Here you have to cross the river behind Sgwd yr Eira waterfall. This is passable even in heavy rain as the path is in a shallow cave behind the curtain of the water. From here the route follows forestry paths and the banks of the River Mellte, back to the car park.
6. Pwll Du Walk: 3 hours; 6.6 miles; height gain 200m. Moderate. This walk is in Waterfall country, but the main interest is the peaceful scenery, unusual rock formations, caves, underground rivers and a limestone pavement. From the car park, the path follows the Mellte river downstream to Porth Yr Ogof before crossing to the Nedd Valley, visiting Pwll Du (Black Pool) which is the resurgence of an underground river, and then following the Neddfechan upstream, before crossing open moor to join small road back into Ystradfellte. Ystradfellte now has a cafe and the pub is also open most days.
FROM GWAUN HEPSTE – about a 10 minute drive.
8. Four Falls Walk: 3 hours; moderate.
This is a marked forestry trail and you can follow the numbered posts and finger posted signs to circuit the four falls, Sgwd Clun Gwyn (Waterfall of the White Meadow), Clun Gwyn Isaf, its near neighbour, Sgwd Pannwr (Fuller’s Falls) and last but never least Sgwd yr Eira, (Spout of Snow). The original path has eroded and the forestry path takes you through the forestry with short diversions to the waterside to see each of the falls. Therefore for a shorter walk you can omit one or two of the diversions.