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Bird's-eye View of Abergavenny

A short sortie on to the hill that towers above the Beacons' eastern gateway.

Distance 3 miles (4.8km)

Minimum time 1hr 30min

Ascent/gradient 530ft (161m)

Level of difficulty Easy

Paths Clear tracks over open mountainside, quiet lane, no stiles

Landscape Rugged mountain scenery, huge views over Usk Valley

Suggested map aqua3 OS Explorer OL13 Brecon Beacons National Park Eastern area

Start/finish SO 270109

Dog friendliness Care needed near livestock

Parking Small car park at Carn-y-gorfydd

Public toilets None on route


© AA Media Limited 2015. © Crown Copyright Licence number 100021153

1 From Carn-y-gorfydd Roadside Rest, walk downhill for 500yds (457m) and bear left, through a green barrier, on to a grassy track.

2 This leads easily uphill, through a tangle of bracken, eventually allowing great views over the Usk Valley towards the outlying peak of Ysgyryd Fawr.

3 As the path levels you'll pass a small hut. Continue along the escarpment edge, on one of a series of terraces that contour above the steep escarpment, and enjoy the views over Abergavenny and the Black Mountains. The rough ground was formed by the quarrying of stone.

4 Return to the hut and bear right, on to a clear, grassy track that climbs slightly and becomes stony. Away to the right, you should be able to make out the pronounced hump of a Bronze-Age burial cairn. The path now leads easily to the trig point and the huge cairn that mark the summit.

5 Continue in the same direction, drop down past an impressive limestone outcrop and towards the huge masts on the skyline. You should also be able to see the extensive spoil heaps on the flanks of Gilwern Hill, directly ahead.

6 At the masts, you'll meet the road where you turn left and continue easily downhill, for 600yds (549m), back to the start.

There's no easier peak to climb in the Brecon Beacons National Park, but there are also few that occupy such a commanding position. The Blorenge - the English-sounding name probably derives from 'blue ridge'- towers menacingly above the cramped streets of Abergavenny, with the main sweep of the Black Mountains leading way to the north. The mountain actually dominates a small finger of the National Park that points southwards from Abergavenny to Pontypool. It's unique in being the only real peak south of the A465 Heads of the Valleys road. It also marks a watershed between the protected mountain scenery that makes up the bulk of the National Park and the ravaged industrial landscape that forms the southern boundary. Typically, its northern flanks boast a Bronze-Age burial cairn and the ground above the escarpment is littered with grass-covered mounds, a remnant of past quarrying. The stone was then transported away on canals and railways.

Commonly seen as the eastern gateway to the park, even if it sits just outside the boundary, Abergavenny is a thriving market town that owes its success to weaving, tanning and farming. It feels a thousand miles away from the industrial valleys that nudge against its limits from the south. The name, which in Welsh means the confluence of the River Venny, refers to its position at the junction of the River Fenni and the River Usk, but oddly, in Welsh, it's known simply as Y Fenni - the name of the river.

Abergavenny sprang up around a Norman castle that was built to aid efforts by the invaders to rid the area of the Celts. The Welsh proved far more resilient than the Normans had expected and in the end, William de Braose, the lord of the town at the time, resorted to dirty tactics to achieve his aims, such as inviting the Welsh leaders to dinner and then murdering them while they were unarmed. The castle now acts as a museum with some interesting displays of the town's history. Another of Abergavenny's claims to fame is the fact that during World War Two, Hitler's deputy, Rudolf Hess, was imprisoned here after his plane crashed in Scotland.

Only 5 miles (8km) south of Abergavenny, but culturally and spiritually a completely different world, Blaenavon tells the full, uncut story of industrial expansion in South Wales. With iron ore, limestone, coal and water all found in local abundance, smelting began here as early as the 1500s, but the town, and the huge iron works that came to dominate it, didn't really get going until the Industrial Revolution of the late 18th century.

The colliery, now known as the Big Pit Mining Museum, was founded a full century later than the iron works and only closed as recently as 1980. It has been immaculately preserved and well organised to give visitors a meaningful insight into the industry itself, the conditions that the people endured and the culture that grew up around them. As well as the engine houses, workshops and the miners' baths, a tour, usually accompanied by a genuine ex-miner as a guide, includes donning a miner's helmet to descend one of the shafts to the actual coal-faces. Blaenavon is considered such an exceptional example of industrial South Wales that it was declared a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 2000.

While you're there

Blaenavon is well worth visiting. As well as the iron works and Big Pit Mining Museum, there's also the incredibly scenic train ride along a short section of the Pontypool and Blaenavon Railway, the highest standard-gauge track in Wales today. It stops off at the Whistle Inn, a nostalgic miner's pub that would have once taken it's fair share of the modest wages paid to the men at the face.

What to look for

This is one of the best places in South Wales to see and hear red grouse, which were once managed on these moors. The size of a pheasant, without the long tail, the male is a rusty reddish brown colour and the female more buff and mottled. You'll usually be alerted to their presence by a stabbing, alarmed clucking, followed by a short frantic escape flight.

Where to eat and drink

There are a few good options in the area at the mountain's foot. The Cordell Country Inn above Govilon is well worth a visit, especially for the 2-course Sunday lunch, as is the Llanfoist Inn in Llanfoist village. There's also plenty of choice in Abergavenny town.


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