Brecon Beacons National Park Wales: Pen y Fan and Cribyn mountain walk

Yesterday we had a kid-free day and I wanted to climb a mountain so we drove to the Brecon Beacons National Park in Wales. We headed to the Central Beacons which took one hour 50 minutes to drive from our home in Gloucester. We climbed two peaks: Pen y Fan and Cribyn. Read on to learn the route we took and see the incredible views of Welsh Mountains.

The drive there is quite beautiful through the hills and valleys of Wales, passing Sugar Loaf mountain on the way. The drive is only slightly ruined by the never ending road works in Wales, but they’re also very interesting to see as they build main roads and the scale of such a project proves what incredible structures humans can create.

I had wanted to visit the Black Mountains, but Ben had discovered The Brecon Mountain Railway in the Central Beacons and was heading that way after dropping the kids off, thinking it would be a great steam train ride for us.

Of course it would have been, but I looked up prices as he was driving and it would have been £31 for both of us. Great for another day, but aside from fuel costs I wasn’t planning on spending any money this weekend. We’d packed a noodles and rice pot for lunch with a thermo flask of hot water to heat them, along with some dried fruit snacks. I was hoping for a free day out so we decided to skip the train ride this time, but Ben had found a spot to park at the end of the railway line in Torpantau from where we could begin our mountain walk.

Walk to Central Beacons from Torpantau

We hadn’t totally decided where to walk or which mountain to climb, if any, so once parked in the small car park in Torpantau, we began to walk. There was a path which is part of the Taff Trail (a 55 mile trail from Cardiff to Brecon) that started our walk. But we then continued to the Brecon Beacons passing the Neuadd Reservoirs which had been drained, so no water to see there, but plenty of filled reservoirs on the drive to Torpantau if you want to see some.

We walked on various terrains from a road to soft grassy paths and then to the trickier terrain of steep rocky climbs with a stream running constantly before getting to the beacons. I was glad we wore our waterproof boots! There were many mountain bikers on the rocky paths, but even they were pushing their bikes on some of the steep parts with one commenting to us ‘I know my limits!’

Approaching the beacons and seeing their jagged peaks was amazing. They looked really dramatic, but not rugged as they are softened by their green covering.

Later, after our walk, Ben said it was at this point he wasn’t sure we would climb them as they seemed so far away and high! But we ended up climbing two of the peaks!

Climbing mountains Cribyn and Pen y Fan

We knew Pen y Fan was the tallest of the peaks at 886 m above sea-level, but we weren’t sure which the first mountain was we climbed until afterwards. It was Cribyn. We could also see the peak of Fan y Big behind us and after Pen y Fan we took the path that bypassed the peak of Corn Du rather than climbing a third peak as we knew we had a long walk back!

First we arrived at the foot of Cribyn to the left of us and Fan y Big to the right, not knowing what they were at the time and we decided to go left and climb Cribyn. It’s not too bad a climb, quite steep at the last part, but perfect to stop and take a breather when needed on the way up to turn around and admire the incredible views!

pen y big from cribyn
^ Fan y Big behind me as I climb Cribyn
Amazing view from the top of Cribyn
^ Amazing view from the top of Cribyn
^ Pen y Fan view from top of Cribyn
^ Going down from Cribyn to climb this peak in the distance, Pen y Fan!
^ Here we come Pen y Fan!
^ We just climbed down this side of Cribyn

Once we’d climbed Cribyn we then decided to climb Pen y Fan to the left of us as we could tell this was the highest peak. We first had to climb down the steep side of Cribyn and then up Jacob’s Ladder to Pen y Fan.

As we got closer to the top of Pen y Fan it got a lot colder and wet and we were actually in the cloud!

We made it to the top and the views were incredible! It was freezing, wet and windy though so we didn’t stick around!

Pen y Fan peak in cloud
Pen Y Fan summit peak
Made it! In a cold wet windy cloud!

Instead of going back the way we came we decided to do a loop. We walked back across the high almost cliff side like footpath that went along the ridges of Gwaun Taf and Craig Fan Ddu. The path is so close to the edge! Don’t look down! From Craig Fan Ddu we came down a steep rock footpath and then took the paths we had started on back to the car!

Let’s walk along this mountain ridge to get back!

We walked 16km across all sorts of challenging terrain, up two peaks and it took us around five hours in total. The views and landscapes were amazing!

Our Torpantau to Pen y Fan route 16km


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2 thoughts on “Brecon Beacons National Park Wales: Pen y Fan and Cribyn mountain walk

  1. Those views are stunning, especially on such a beautiful day! The Brecon Beacons are gorgeous.

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