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Skyline Walking Above the Caerfanell Valley

Spectacular escarpments above a wild and remote valley that shelters a touching memorial.

Distance 5.5 miles (8.8km)

Minimum time 3hrs 30min

Ascent/gradient 1,542ft (470m)

Level of difficulty Medium

Paths Clear tracks across open mountain tops, along river and through forest, some mud and wet peat, 3 stiles

Landscape Moorland, craggy escarpments, remote valley, coniferous plantation, waterfalls

Suggested map aqua3 OS Explorer OL12 Brecon Beacons National Park Western & Central areas

Start/finish SO 056175

Dog friendliness Care needed near livestock, 1 dog-proof stile

Parking Large car park at start, 3 miles (4.8km) west of Talybont Reservoir

Public toilets None on route


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

1 Walk back out of the car park, either crossing the cattle grid or a stile to the left, then turn immediately right on to a stone track that heads uphill, with the stream on your left. Follow this track steeply up to the top of the escarpment and keep straight ahead to cross the narrow spur, where you bear around, slightly to the left, to follow the escarpment.

2 Stay on the clear path, with the escarpment to your right, for about 1½ miles (2.4km), till you meet a number of paths at the head of the valley.

3 Take the sharp right turn to follow a narrow track slightly downwards, around the head of the valley, towards the cliffs that can be seen on the opposite hillside. Keep left at a fork and continue to the crash memorial.

4 Almost directly above the memorial, you'll see a rocky gully leading up on to the ridge. On the left-hand side of this, as you look at it, is a faint track that climbs steeply up. Take this to the top and turn right on to a narrow but clear track. Follow this track easily above the crag, to a distinctive cairn at the southern end of the ridge. Just north of the cairn you'll see a small stream.

5 Follow this down for 10ft (3m) to join a clear grassy track that trends leftwards at first, then follows a clear grove down the spur. This becomes an easy footpath that crosses a broad plateau and then leads to a junction at a wall. Turn right here and drop down to the Caerfanell river.

6 Cross the stile on your left at the bottom and follow the narrow footpath downstream, past a number of waterfalls. Eventually you'll pass the largest of them and come to a footbridge.

7 Cross the footbridge and then a stile to follow the track into the forest. Pass some ruined buildings on your right, and before you cross the small bridge, turn right on to a clear path that leads uphill into the forest with waterfalls on your left.

8 Continue uphill on the main track, taking optional detours to the left and right to see other waterfalls. Eventually you'll meet a broader forest track where you turn left and then right to return to the car park.

If I were asked to recommend just one walk that summed up everything good about walking in the Brecon Beacons, it would be this one. In only 5½ miles (8.8km), it encapsulates almost every sort of landscape found in the National Park.

It starts by climbing steeply on to an impressive peak from where you track easily along a steep sandstone escarpment, so typical of the area's high mountain scenery. The airy path crosses the head of a precipitous waterfall, rubs shoulders with an expansive moorland plateau and provides views that will remain in your memory for a long time. At the half-way stage, you'll get a sneak peep of the highest peaks in the National Park as well as a bird's-eye view over Cwm Oergwm, one of the most spectacular valleys in a wild land that's famed for them. The return leg passes the forlorn wreckage of a Canadian warplane and a fitting memorial to those who perished in her, before dropping easily down to follow a delightful upland river past a series of tumbling waterfalls. It finishes with a steep pull up through a small plantation, bejewelled by further cascades and rapids.

As you approach the clearly visible cairn beneath Waun Rydd, a sharp eye will spot flashes of red, draped over the impeccable stonework. As you draw closer, you'll see that the red is in fact, a plethora of poppy wreaths hung over a simple memorial. A bronze plaque lists the names of the young Canadians who lost their lives when Wellington bomber R1645 came down in bad weather, following a routine training flight on 6 July 1942. The twisted wreckage, a deathly shade of dull grey, lies strewn around the bracken covered hillside below the cairn. The serenity and beauty of the Beacons' landscape makes a fitting backdrop to the scene and it's always difficult to pass this spot without pausing for reflection.

Gigfran is Welsh for raven and the diminutive crag that shades the memorial is named after these powerful birds that can often be seen performing aerobatics above it. They are the largest members of the corvid family, easily distinguished from carrion crows, rooks, jackdaws and the rarer chough, by their size. Ravens are synonymous with remote upland areas and rugged coastal regions, where they tend to nest on crags and perform tumbling flight displays that appear more for pleasure than for purpose. Although the majority of their nourishment in the mountain environment comes from sheep carrion, they are endlessly resourceful and incredibly skilful hunters too.

Where to eat and drink

There's a tea shop in the post office at Talybont-on-Usk, as well as four pubs in the village. The best of these is the Traveller's Rest, 500yds (457m) south east of the village on the road to Llangynidr. It has a canal-side garden and a good restaurant.

What to look for

As you progress along the grassy slopes of the uplands, you'll become familiar with the sight of small, mottled brown birds that flee upon your approach. These are either skylarks or meadow pipits and although they look similar at first sighting, they can easily be told apart. The skylark is slightly larger, lighter in colour, has a stouter beak and a small crest on its head. The pipit makes a dipping flight, while the skylark is well known for its continuous song, usually performed as it hovers high above you.


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