By the end of 2020, I was desperate for adventures. I had been home since March and was desperate to get out. Luckily, as a travel writer and frequent wanderer, I know that no matter where you live even if travel is restricted there’s always something exciting to discover nearby. For me, that meant heading to South Wales for a weekend break. To get there, I took the train from London’s Paddington Station to Newport and then rented a car for the drive through the Welsh countryside down to my cozy Airbnb rental in Brecon Beacons National Park. There are plenty of reasons why this park is one of Wales’ most famous attractions: Aside from its serene landscapes and breathtaking views, it also features some of Britain’s best hiking trails. Because I’m an avid hiker, I wanted to explore these trails firsthand and write about them so others could enjoy them too! After researching all the best spots in Brecon Beacons National Park during my stay at an Airbnb rental in Abergavenny Town Centre, here are three of my favorite hikes!
The Untamed Beauty of the Welsh Mountains
Moves me more than any other part of Britain.
There is something about the untamed beauty of the Welsh mountains that moves me more than any other part of Britain. The Brecon Beacons are an area where you can walk for days on end, exploring ancient forests and rushing rivers.
The view from Pen y Fan (2,906 feet) on a clear day is one of my all-time favorites it’s hard to believe that such beautiful countryside lies so close to a major city like Cardiff. When I’m walking in this area, I always feel as though I’m in another world… but also strangely connected with nature at the same time…
Sgwd yr Eira
Sgwd yr Eira is a waterfall in the Brecon Beacons National Park, about 3 miles south of Brecon. It’s a popular destination for hikers as it’s only a short walk from the car park. The stream that feeds Sgwd yr Eira flows through a wooded valley and over several rock steps before it reaches its final destination.
From the car park, follow the signposted mountain track past a stream and up to a ruined cottage where itinerant tin miners once lived. The ruins are worth exploring as they can be seen from below but not from above. Continue uphill on a mountain track across grassy slopes with views of the Black Mountains in the distance towards Cefn Coed-y-Cwm (Hill of Wood) and Llyn y Fan Fach (Small Waterfall Lake). Beyond this area, there is no path so it’s best to stay on footpaths or open country until you reach the dammed lake that was created by building this hydroelectric facility on one of three tributaries that feed into Ystrad Fawr Reservoir. The dam is reflected in its waters, surrounded by trees and bushes growing right down to its bank.
Returning down into Ogof Hemon (Hemon Cave), descend along its main passage which twists around itself in a series of chambers before emerging into daylight near its entrance at Ogof Duon (Black Cave). This partway point is an ideal place for lunch as there are picnic tables here too.
The Rock Behind two Foaming Falls
Waterfall Country in the Brecon Beacons is a treasure trove of trails, starting at lower altitudes and gradually leading up to higher peaks. The most northerly of these is the Pwll Du, which climbs steadily uphill through a forest before reaching its summit at the edge of a vast expanse of boggy moorland.
Once you’ve reached this high point, it’s time to take in one of Waterfall Country’s highlights: stepping stones lead over the fast-flowing torrent and through a tunnel carved out of the rock behind two foaming falls. It’s slippery here wear waterproof boots! And don’t forget your sunscreen, hat, gloves, and jacket; this part can get wetter than you might expect (we’re talking waterfall+rainstorm+spray=muddy). You’ll also need some supplies for when you reach your destination: water bottles are essential and so are snacks in case you run out halfway through your hike; don’t forget sunscreen either!
Sugar Loaf Mountain
As well as the River Usk, there are three other rivers to explore on this walk. They are:
- The River Rhiangoll.
- The River Rhiw.
- The River Rhoddi.
A Path Zigzags up Through Bracken-clad Slopes
You’re aiming for a prominent saddle in the ridge ahead. The path zigzags up through bracken-clad slopes, and it is steep and rocky. The way is well marked with cairns (small piles of stones), but it is quite narrow, you need to watch your footing, and you need to watch your footing now because there are some exposed bits Oh no!
Rocky Crags Topped by Large Cairns
From the pass, the steep hillside gives way to rocky crags topped by large cairns. The crags are in a high bowl-shaped amphitheater called Cwm Cynwyn (pronounced ‘coom kin win’). From here you have a choice of routes.
You can descend back towards the road, or continue your walk by following Cwm Cynwyn down to Llyn y Fan Fach from where there is a return route up over an impressive series of stepped cascades and waterfalls.
High Bowl-shaped Amphitheatre, Cwm Cynwyn
- Cwm Cynwyn is a high bowl-shaped amphitheater where two rivers, the Usk and the Cynwyn, carve deep gorges through towering cliffs before meeting below.
- The rivers join to form the Afon Cynwyn which flows into the River Usk.
- The Afon Cynwyn is a tributary of the River Usk.
In a place like this, it is easy to imagine the same scene thousands of years ago, when nomadic hunters roamed wild places, seeking shelter from Ice Age storms. And as you gaze into the distance, it is impossible not to be moved by the timeless beauty and grandeur of this landscape. The Brecon Beacons are an ideal environment for waterfalls. The high rainfall and steep mountain gradients give rise to the beautiful cascades of water that are present here. Their beauty isn’t lost on many who visit the Beacons and it’s a natural attraction that many choose to include in their itinerary.