The formidable crags of one of the Beacon's best-known nature reserves.
Distance 4 miles (6.4km)
Minimum time 2hrs
Ascent/gradient 1,050ft (320m)
Level of difficulty Medium
Paths Clear footpaths and broad stony tracks, 4 stiles
Landscape Imposing crags and rolling moorland, great views
Suggested map aqua3 OS Explorer OL12 Brecon Beacons National Park Western & Central areas
Start/finish SN 972221
Dog friendliness Difficult stiles, care near livestock, on lead in nature reserve
Parking Pull-in by small picnic area on A470, 2 miles (3.2km) north of Storey Arms
Public toilets Storey Arms car park
© AA Media Limited 2015. © Crown Copyright Licence number 100021153
1 There's a bridge and a small picnic area at the southern end of the lay-by. Walk towards this and go through the adjacent kissing gate (signposted to Twyn Dylluan-ddu and Forest Lodge). Head towards the crags, following a clear footpath, until you come to a gap in the next wall.
2 Pass through this and turn right to follow a dry-stone wall north. Head down into a small valley, cross the stream, then a stile to continue in the same direction. Drop into another, steeper, valley and climb out, still following the track. Continue through the bracken to a stile.
3 Cross and turn left on to a stony track. Follow this up to a gate and a stile and continue through rough ground, churned up by mining, until it levels on a dished plateau. Bear right here to the whitewashed trig point of Fan Frynych, then turn sharp left to return to the main track above the escarpment.
4 Turn right on to the main track again and continue past more rough ground before dropping slightly into a broad but shallow valley. At the bottom, go over a stile by a gate.
5 Cross another stile on your left and turn right to continue in the same direction, this time with the fence to your right. Climb up to the highest point, then follow the obvious path around the top of the cliffs. The path starts to drop, easily at first but getting steeper as you go.
6 Continue carefully down the steep section and follow the path around to the left when you reach easier ground. This leads you to a stream, which you can ford or jump (it's narrower a few paces downstream). Turn right, through the gap in the wall, and follow the outward path back to the car park.
This is a short walk but it has much to offer. Firstly, there are some fine views over the Tarell Valley to the true kings of the National Park, Pen y Fan and Corn Du, whose lofty crowns command your attention for most of the way round. And secondly, the daunting crags of Craig Cerrig-gleisiad are a true spectacle in their own right and are well worth admiring close up, both from below and above.
This is a unique environment and, as such, it hosts a range of habitats that support a number of rare species of flora and fauna. The cirque itself was formed by the action of an ice-age glacier, which scoured out a deep hollow in the hillside and then deposited the rocks it had accumulated at the foot of the cliff to form banks of moraine. The retreating ice left a legacy - a selection of arctic-alpine plants that were sheltered from the rising temperatures by the north-facing escarpment. These plants, which include saxifrages and roseroot, also need a lime-rich soil, present on the escarpments but not on the more acidic moorland on the tops. For most of these plants, the Brecon Beacons represent the southernmost part of their range.
The cliffs only make up a fraction of the 156-acre (63ha) National Nature Reserve. One of the things that makes Craig Cerrig-gleisiad - which means 'Blue-stone Rock' - special is the diversity of the terrain. The lower slopes are home to mixed woodland and flowers such as orchids and anemones, while the high ground supports heather and bilberry. You'll see plenty of sheep within the reserve, but grazing is controlled to ensure a variety of habitats. The diversity isn't just restricted to plants either - 16 species of butterfly have been recorded on the reserve and over 80 different types of birds, including the ring ouzel, or mountain blackbird as it's often known, and the peregrine falcon, which is definitely a bird of the cliffs.
This mainly upland region of the Brecon Beacons National Park is partitioned from the central Brecon Beacons by the deep slash of the Taf and Tarell valleys. The name Fforest Fawr, which means Great Forest, comes not from trees but from its one-time status as a royal hunting ground. The high ground is largely untracked and barren, but the north-facing escarpment, of which Craig Cerrig-gleisiad forms a part, is steep and impressive. As the land dips to the south, it is chiselled into a succession of north-south running valleys that cradle the infant forms of some of the National Park's greatest rivers. These are seen to best effect on the southern fringes of the park, where they form Fforest Fawr's greatest spectacle, Waterfall Country.
This is the nearest walk to the National Park Visitor Centre on Mynydd Illtud Common, near Libanus. It's a great source of information about the National Park, hosts some great displays and has a programme of guided walks.
Much of the outward leg follows the line of a pristine dry-stone wall. Although changes in farming practices in the hills haven't altered as radically as they have in many lowland areas, the hedgerows and walls that once divided the land are expensive to maintain and have been slowly replaced by wire fences. The National Park Authority provides free consultation to landowners wishing to keep the more scenic traditional crafts alive.
The National Park Visitor Centre at Libanus serves tasty lunches, with vegetarian options, as well as delicious home-made cakes. If you fancy a pub there's the Tai'r Bull Inn, also at Libanus.