Through hiking the beacons way

A long weekend on the Beacons Way

Words & photography by Adam Ferris, intro by christian (OP CO-FOUNDER)

Both of us here at Outdoor Provisions are young Dads, so can appreciated how your free time becomes a premium when you have tiny humans to nurture. So when we saw a friend of OP (and top Dad) Adam Ferris post some cracking photos of a last-minute trip to through-hike a portion of the Beacons Way we knew it would make for an inspiring Rambling.

It's put the Brecon Beacons firmly on the must visit list.

Day One - Llandeuasent to Carreg Cadno

The planned last minute weather check wasn’t possible. No service. We were deep in the National Park already. The good forecast of an earlier check gave me the confidence to leave my rain jacket and bivvy where we were. We hastily donned our face masks and jumped in the taxi for the hour long journey to the start of our hike.

As I peered through the plastic sheet separating us from the driver to check the speed of the taxi, 90mph, I realised just how far away we were travelling and wondered if we’d been too optimistic with our plans. We soon pulled up to our start point and our first Beacons Way waymarker at Llandeuasent in the North East of the Brecon Beacons, where we would start our hike back to the van we had just left in Llangynidr.

It was late September 2020, covid social restrictions were briefly relaxed, Wales was open to visitors and virus cases were low. The three of us, each a dad of two, get together a few times a year for a multi-day hike with wild camping. We had 3 days available for this trip so we were keen to get into dramatic scenery and having long wanted to walk the length of the Beacons Way we settled for an A to B hike covering its most dramatic section.

We were to walk the middle 39 miles of the 99 mile waymarked path covering its highest peaks and most remote spaces. Designated long after the establishment of the National Park in 1957, the Beacons Way is a relatively new trail having been developed in 2005. Choosing the middle section meant we’d cross mountain ridges, pass natural lakes, cross a UNESCO Global Geopark, spot rare wildlife, see waterfalls, and more, all in near-perfect weather.

'Looking back toward the ridge we’d walked earlier that day we enjoyed rehydrated chilli con carne as darkness enveloped the mountains'


The first 300m of our route followed the River Sawdde before heading up steeply to the 667m peak of Waun Lefrith overlooking Llyn y Fan Fach lake. As the strong winds threatened to topple us we walked around the top sneaking views over the edge whenever there was a gap in the gusts. On to the ridge of Bannau Sir Gaer, further from the road, other visitors began to thin out.

We had no plan as to where we were going to set up camp in the evening but knew from scoping OS maps in the pub a few weeks back that once we’d left the peak of Fan Hir there was no flat ground until the village of Glyntawe. We’d want to get a considerable distance past the village before setting up camp so we kept moving. As we turned south and the lake of Llyn y Fan Fawr came into view, the wind began to slow and we enjoyed the leisurely descent into the village.

A quick bowl of chips and a pint of local ale in the pub garden and we were back on our feet. After negotiating several kissing gates built with no thought toward those carrying 45 litre packs we began were heading upwards and it wasn’t long before we passed a former limestone quarry and entered the moorland of Ogof Ffynnon Du Nature Reserve.

We settled into a recess in the limestone a few hundred metres off the trail. Looking back toward the ridge we’d walked earlier that day we enjoyed rehydrated chilli con carne as darkness enveloped the mountains, twice being disturbed by Brad’s setup collapsing due to the wind we weren’t quite able to hide from...

Day Two - Carreg Cadno to Pen y Fan

The sun was shining down as we enjoyed the peaceful, beautiful and easy walk through the nature reserve. All above one of Europe’s biggest cave systems rare plants thrive in the cracks of the limestone, heather and lichens cover the acidic peat and the reserve’s industrial past can be seen by the way of brickwork remains and perfectly straight dismantled tramways dissecting the natural environment.

It wasn’t long before we could see the peaks of Pen y Fan and Corn Du in the distance and were reminded of the distance we needed to cover today. Shortly before running out of water we arrived at a small river where we brewed coffee, made porridge, filtered water and soaked our feet in the clear water. We needed to move before getting too comfortable, this was a big day - we were aiming to be atop Horseshoe ridge by nightfall.

We skirted the edge of Blaen Lila Forest, spotting a Goshawk in the small valley, and up the edge of the valley picking one of several trails toward the summit of Fan Llia at 632m. Broad open views are the reward for getting here with the peaks of Pen y Fan and Corn du still visible and seemingly getting no closer...

It was bittersweet as we approached the ridge of Craig y Fro and the A470 came into view. We were happy to be approaching the base of the biggest peak of our trip but were not so happy to be amongst people again, especially in the current (Covid) climate.

We followed the narrow path as it hugged the steep grass hill and slowly dropped towards the road. With a steep drop to the left Steve had to take a moment to steady himself after a hint of vertigo but aside from the brief stop, we were soon down to the layby and the Storey Arms we were found a locked gate and signs that said ‘Private’ and ‘No public access’.

We hopped around the gate anyway as our water filters was leaking badly. The second tap we found worked and with freshly sanitised hands we filled up and moved on to take advantage of the facilities in the main car park. I’ll not talk too much about how that went, safe to say the portaloos weren’t pretty and we’d be digging a hole later. The bins were full which meant our rubbish stayed in our bags and we moved on, heading for Horseshoe ridge.

We continued up the path at a steady pace but still passing the late casual walkers on their way to the summit. Upon reaching the ridge it’s possible to see much of it which, as the name suggests, is U-shaped! At 886m Pen Y Fan is the highest peak in The Brecon Beacons and South Wales. Regular walkers had thinned out by now so we dropped 50m down on the East slope, or Jacob’s Ladder, aiming for the fold where the contours were wide to set up camp having accomplished our goal of covering at least 16 miles that day. After a failed attempt to top up water from a nearby stream running dry we shared out what we had and settled down for dinner.

Being an International Dark Sky Reserve I knew we’d stand a good chance of seeing some stars, as long as it was clear. Without a cloud in the sky we lay on our backs and witnessed the shape of the Milky Way, several satellites and a handful of shooting stars.

'we lay on our backs and witnessed the shape of the Milky Way, several satellites and a handful of shooting stars'

Day Three - Pen y Fan to Llangynidr

We were rewarded for another quick start in the morning by witnessing the fog leaving Cwm Cynwyn as we emerged from the trail around Cribyn, joined by several wild Welsh mountain ponies.

We left Fforest Fawr Geopark, ten minutes and a steep scramble later and we were atop Fan y Big, noting the ease the sheep negotiated the steeper rise. No longer a mountain since its declassification in 2018, it's still an impressive hill. We followed the trail as it bypassed Fan y Big’s parent peak of Waun Rydd, an actual mountain; this section of the walk was stunning, benefitting from Pen y Fan pulling the crowds it silently sits beside offering a quiet beauty and a real feeling of isolation.

As we continued on, the East Brecon Beacons and the Black Mountains came into view. We could see for miles and could easily distinguish Sugar Loaf mountain, the Skirrid, Wach Faun and Hay Bluff. The Beacons Way does continue into the Black Mountains but we would be ending our walk just before entering them.

It was time to drop down from the beauty, silence and altitude. We passed friendly walkers on their way up while keeping to the edges of the path in an attempt to socially distance. As we approached the last of the steps we passed some waterfalls which were frustratingly out of reach - we were desperate for the coolness they held having been descending due south with no escape from the sun and heat.

As we approached the base of the 551m Tor y Foel directly in front of us I delivered the news that the route went around rather than over the peak. This relief was in contrast with the disappointment of not getting to take in the view of the Black Mountains and the Usk Valley from above but we turned right and stuck to our task. As we cut through farmland and an apparent Land Rover graveyard the sense that we were nearing Llangynidr and our finish was apparent. Half an hour later and we were back at the van, almost exactly 48 hours since we’d left it.

The bin in my kitchen was the first chance I had to throw away the rubbish I had produced from the trip. Outdoor Provisions wrappers were destined for the the compost heap, tearing them up a bit to speed up degredation. The Brecon Beacons are an incredible place. Without doubt, the best way to see an outdoor space is by spending a few days amongst it on foot, walking from point to point and camping wild.

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