Pen y Fan

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  • Location: Pen y Fan
  • Distance: 10.5 miles
  • Description of this walk: A challenging walk through breath taking mountain scenery, taking in Pen y Fan, Corn Ddu and more.
  • BBC Disclaimer: The Weatherman Walking maps are intended as a guide to the TV programme only. Routes and conditions may have changed since the programme was made. The BBC takes no responsibility for any accident or injury that may occur while following the route. Always wear appropriate clothing and footwear and check weather conditions before heading out.
  • Download the map of this walk: Print off and follow in Derek's footsteps (PDF 1.18MB)

We started the big circular walk at the Llyn car park at the edge of the forestry, just over an old stone bridge.

Roman Road

From here head away from the pine trees and up towards the old Roman road.

There's some argument as to whether it is actually Roman or not, but it's certainly an ancient track, well used and well worn over the centuries.

While it's still with us however, it's a great path to follow and is straight and true to the foot of the peaks.

After ten minutes of walking you'll get some great views of the Pentwyn reservoir on your left.

Nestled alongside it is one of Wales' best recording studios - Twin Peaks, which regularly attracts some of the biggest names in Welsh music including The Manic Street Preachers - drawn here by the views and solitude.

Fan y Big

Traditionally walkers turn left at the top of the old road and head straight up Cribyn but we wanted to show people everything that this spectacular and walker friendly range has to offer.

So, we added another tough chunk to this leg stretcher of a walk and turned right toward the very steep climb up to the top of Fan y Big.

It is a short but pretty tough climb, helped a little by the zig-zag path to the summit.

Ten minutes of hard walking and some serious huffing and puffing brings you to one of the best view in the National Park.

As you crest the top of the slope a huge 'U' shaped valley opens up below you giving you an unparalleled view that stretches for miles.

You also get to see all the ridges and hills that flow to the right of the peaks, something that the big view on top of Pen y Fan doesn't give you.

As well as providing an awe inspiring demonstration of what glaciers can do to a landscape, there is one other big attraction up here - the diving board.

As the name suggests, it's a narrow rectangular slab of rock that juts straight out from the peak and invites the more intrepid walker to walk out, and 'hang' in mid air to get a view like no other!

It looks scarier than it is but be warned (and take care) if you feel like braving this natural but fearsome platform.

In the wrong weather conditions e.g. high winds, wet, slippery or icy conditions this is not advisable.


After safely negotiating Fan y Big your knees get no respite because the pull up Cribyn is another hard, sharp climb.

It takes a while to hit the top of the peak but it's worth it for the view it gives you up and down the spine of this collection of peaks.

There's also a great view back the way you came, with the reservoir a glassy flat blue pool in the smooth scrubbed landscape.

Alternatively you can take a lower path straight to Pen y Fan and by-pass this peak but this walk is all about making the height and gaining access to the high rise sights and sounds.

So it may be the easy option but it certainly not recommended. Better to feel the pain, do the hard work and get the full effect of being this high up in the Beacons!

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Pen y Fan

The daddy of all South Wales walks, Pen y Fan is the highest mountain in Southern Britain and comes in at a whopping 886 metres high (that's 2,907 feet).

Far fewer people arrive at the peak from the direction we've taken though so you may be surprised by the numbers of people on the top here, when you finally haul yourself up to the summit.

On a clear day you'll see from the Black Mountains to the Preselli Hills, from Exmoor to Plynlimmon and on a clear day you'll see the sea beyond Mumbles.

You'll also get a great view of Pontsticill reservoir which lies just above Merthyr Tydfil and the South Wales valleys beyond.

Corn Du

The next peak along on the journey, Corn Du is slightly smaller than Pen y Fan at a mere 873 metres.

On the top of "the Black Horn" you'll find a Bronze Age burial cairn and the remains of an old peat bog, while if you look down towards the Libanus side of the peak, you'll see a small glacial lake.

This is Cwm Llwch and to the left of it, on the other side of the sloping ridge down, you may be able to spot a small standing stone.

It's a fairly recent addition to the landscape, erected just over one hundred years ago and is a memorial to a local boy - Tommy Jones, who was lost on the mountain in 1900 when he went missing in the fog.


This is the point where the path dips between Corn Du and Craig y Byllfa.

If you were to walk up from the Storey Arms this is the point where you feel the full force of the wind that hammers through hence the name "windy gap".

If you're following in Derek's footsteps though you'll skim through here and head up to the last set of 'Fans' and onto the path that will take you down the valley and back to the car park in the Taf Fechan forest.

The Horse Shoe

Before you strike hard for home there's one more recommendation we have for you.

As we've said all along, this walk is about having a big mountain experience, touching the sky as you hit the high peaks and soaking up those amazing views!

As such, this is your last great view before leaving the mountains - in fact it might even be the best.

Halfway down the Craig Fan Ddu - take a long sweeping, look over the ridges you've just walked.

It's at this point that you will be able to see the classic silhouette of Pen y Fan and Corn Du, Cribyn and appreciate the long pull of the Roman Road.

This is where the sense of achievement overcomes any tiredness in your legs and you realise just how lucky you are to be able to walk a route like this.

From here, head across the peat bog tops of the hills (which can get boggy on wet days so be careful and think about your footwear!) and then cut down into the valley above the reservoir.

Safely down, it's then a brisk half hour walk back to the car park.

If you're tired by the end of it don't feel bad - remember the SAS use this route for training purposes (although they do add a few more miles to it and do it twice, back to back, in a day, with full back pack).

Julian Carey - Producer on Weatherman Walking


Derek Brockway on Pen y Fan

Pen y Fan photos

Take a look at the photo gallery which accompanies this walk.

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