Pen y Fan’s Best Trail: The Horseshoe Route


Pen y Fan offers walkers in Wales a great half day hike. While most people take the quick, easy route up from Storey Arms, surely the best route up is the four peaked Horseshoe Route… & how could you disagree with Wales’ favourite weatherman, Derek! This walk offers some of the best views in South Wales, with stunning 360° landscapes of the Brecon Beacons, and culminates in the peak of Pen y Fan, the tallest mountain in southern Britain.


Four Peaks Horseshoe Route: Summary


Distance – 8 ½ miles

Time – 3 ½ hours

Start – Neuadd Reservoir (Near Pontsticill, North of Merthyr Tydfil)

Peaks – Fan y Big, Crybin, Pen y Fan, Corn Du

Difficulty – Moderate


The Route


The Horseshoe Route is circular trail around a stunning bowl-shaped ridge. It starts and finishes just south of the Neuadd Reservoir in Taf Fechan Forest. From there, we forked right up the Roman Road, though you can go the other way. We chose to go anti-clockwise because it seemed like a steadier start & you’re able to see the entire trail making it easier to navigate.


The Roman Road up to Pen y Fan

The Roman Road up to Brecon’s ‘Four Peaks’


The Roman Road takes a steady ascent up to the ridgeline for 45 minutes on a clear path. At the top, the trail splits with Fan y Big to your right. It’s definitely worth the short but steep ascent to the top of Fan y Big. It’s a 10 minute detour offering a great view & a chance to venture out onto ‘The Diving Board’, a naturally protruding slab of rock.


After testing your knees out on the steep trail down Fan y Big it’s another climb up with several annoying ‘fake summits’. Make sure NOT to woose out & take the trail around the side though! It’s well worth sticking to the more challenging ridge & making the 30 minute hike to the top of Cribyn where you’ll find yet more views of the beautiful town of Brecon & the surrounding scenery.


Brecon from Pen y Fan

Looking out on Brecon & the Welsh countryside


ANOTHER steep descent & ascent awaits to summit the highest peak of the day, Pen y Fan. Towards the top of the 25 minute slog you’ll get a real stretch of the legs & a bit of clambering before reaching the plateaued pinnacle of South Britain’s tallest mountain. Looking out over the rocky north face of the mountain is yet more picturesque Welsh countryside of never-ending greenery!… & a great spot for lunch.


The Route up to Pen y Fan

The route up Pen y Fan, south Britain’s tallest mountain


After that, the brunt of the hike is over. It’s then just 10 minutes up Pen y Fan’s twin peak, Corn Du, with similar views but worth the short walk. Then, it’s across the so-called ‘motorway’ trail leading to Story Arms, & up onto the long, flat ridgeline back towards the reservoir. There is a Bronze Age burial site somewhere along here, but we couldn’t find it… We just kept ambling up to random rock piles looking for a plaque! After an hour along the ridge you’ll reach a scree slope of a trail heading steeply down to the left & into the valley. Then it’s a straight shoot towards the reservoir’s pumping station & back to the car park.


Brecon Ridge Walk & Neuadd Reservoir

The long ridgeline back to Neuadd Reservoir


For some extra info, Weatherman Walking has TONNES of awesome treks in Wales, & a great map of this route. Here’s a Google map of the route too.


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