Fan Fawr

Fan Fawr lies to the west of Pen Y Fan (the highest point in South Wales and Southern England). During the winter, it's flanks make for an excellent place for sledging, snowboarding and even skiing in the right conditions.

Map: OS (1:25K) Explorer 12 Brecon Beacons West and Central (1:50K) Landranger 160 Brecon Beacons

Non-Circular walk, although variations can be circular.

Suggested Start Point: Car Park at SN983203

Distance: 18.7km (11.6 miles) Ascent: 615m Descent: 976m

Walking Directions

Although this walk is in the mountains, this is a relatively straightforward to navigate except for one or two sticky bits. Starting in the car park nexzt to Storey Arms Hotel, head west and up the mountain. The peak is already visible, assuming clear weather! There is a path of sorts up to the peak, made by previous visitors. The footprints up the steeper sections are well worn. From the peak, head to the trig point at 715m. A compass might be useful at this point to ensure you're going in the right direction. Again there is a path of sorts, although be careful to keep an eye on its direction in case you've chosen a sheep track!

Once off the plateau, it should be clear that you are following the ridge southwards. There is no clear path after a while, and you need to create your own. Bear in mind, you need to get to the track at the end of the reservoir. This can moderate your descent, and allow you to avoid streams etc. It is boggy terrain, although not too bad unless you're unlucky. Once on the track, follow it southwards until you spy the footbridge over the river (Afon Dringarth). You cannot continue along the track to the road, since it is private property with clear "no access" signs. Instead, the footbridge is the beginning of a bridleway. Follow the bridleway to the road. You'll go through a sheep catching pen before entering the fields. When you come across two closely parallel fences stay to the right. The bridleway heads through Nantywenynen Farm briefly. They have a couple of dogs which bark but do retreat!

Once at the road, turn left and head uphill. You want to take the footpath off to the right after about a kilometre. The path has a wooden sign and begins through a large gate. The path follows a sunken ditch-like route until just before it joins the road. There is a metal footpath sign where you have to divert out of the ditch! The description doesn't really do it justice, as it is a very pleasant path. When you are again at the road, turn left and head around a couple of corners before again taking a footpath off to the right. This is again well signposted. The footpath begins with a stile. This path leads directly to the car park at Porth yr Ogof. The cave is certainly worth a look, so take a torch for this. The river runs underground for half a mile from this point. There is also public toilets here if necessary.

The next stage of the route is along a bridleway. The track leaves the road almost at the entrance to the car park, although slightly to the right. Make sure you take the correct one (by keeping to the right) to avoid going along the other paths that join nearby. The track continues until the road at SN919117. From here, you want to head westwards. You emerge close to a road junction, cross the road you join and walk along the other one for approximately 200m. When you come to a large gate, take the bridleway to the falls at SN913116. Without crossing the bridge, turn left along the river. The route now follows the river Nedd Fechan. At Pont Melin-Fach, the path emerges onto the road. Cross the bridge and the footpath continues on the other bank, via the large open picnic area. When following the river, the route passes Scwd Ddwli and even more unnamed waterfalls. Where two rivers meet at SN899091, there is the option of diverting briefly to another waterfall (Sgwd Gwladys). It is only 200m or so up the River Pyrddin. There is a large plunge pool, making for a cold swimming area!

Back at the river meet, cross the footbridge and continue to follow the river along the obvious path all the way back to Pontneddfechan.

Hike Profile

Hike Gradient


If driving, then a circular route is obviously desired. Since the terrain is access land, it is possible to combine part of the outlined route into a circular variation. Upon descending off Fan Fawr, circle around the southern end of Ystradfellte Reservoir before heading back up onto the ridge (Fan Llia) and then northwards to Fan Dringarth. In 2007, I walked along this stretch, although it is up to you whether you also take the Roman Road down into the valley and then head up onto Fan Frynych or simply stay on the higher ground. In either option, after Fan Frynych, head southwards in the direction of Fan Fawr, but along Craig y Fro before descending to the car park to finish.

Maps provided by OpenStreetMap under a creative commons license

Hiking History

Although I have sledged on Fan Fawr many times, I have only hiked the mountain twice. Once in 2007 in the pouring rain, when we finished in Ystradfellte after undertaking a much more northerly and mountainous route, and then again in 2012 with the route outlined. The stretch from Porth yr Ogof to Pontneddfechan is also undertaken on the Hiking Club's traditional Waterfall Walk in May. The autumnal colours certainly contrast nicely with the springtime wild garlic.

Notable Features and Highlights

Pen Y Fan

At 886m this is the highest peak in South Wales. It is in good company with Corn Du (873m), Cribyn (795m) and Fan Y Big (719m). It is common to see army training on this walk, with special forces using the terrain as part of the selection process.

Porth yr Ogof

This is a large cave system, and the initial part can be easily explored with only a torch and a bit of care and not even that much bending over to avoid hitting of the head

Scwd Ddwli

Although you can easily come across this waterfall on the route, it is best appreciated by walking further down the river and backtracking along the bank There are some paths where others have done the same. Otherwise, only a top-down view is really possible! Backtracking is also recommended for the following waterfalls, although the rocks may be slippery for these.

© Rhodri L T Bevan