If you’re after a challenging but rewarding walk across wild Welsh moorland and up rocky peaks that offer commanding views over the Brecon Beacons, the Horseshoe Ridge hike is for you. At every step of the circular walk around the U-shaped Neuadd Valley and up the four peaks of Corn Du, Pen y Fan (the highest peak in southern Britain), Cribyn and Fan y Big, you’ll be swept away by magnificent views stretching for miles in all directions.
I thoroughly enjoyed discovering the superb Horseshoe Ridge hike, which, in my opinion, is one of the best walks in the Brecon Beacons. With each step on this awe-inspiring trail, I fell a little more in love with Wales and the Welsh hills. Please be aware, the paths can be muddy, and the weather inclement and ever-changing, so be prepared.
Location: Neuadd Valley, Brecon Beacons, South Wales
Walk difficulty: Challenging
Time: 4 ½ to 5 ½ hours
Distance: 10 miles (16 km)
The challenging but rewarding Horseshoe Ridge hike
The Horseshoe Ridge hike is a challenging but rewarding walk in the heart of the Brecon Beacons National Park. The hike takes you along a ridge, known as the Graig Fan Ddu Ridge, up the four peaks of Corn Du, Pen y Fan, Cribyn and Fan y Big, and down into the peaceful Neuadd valley. This circular walk through wild moorland and up steep rocky peaks offers breathtaking views of the valley and the surrounding hills.
The steep climb up the arresting Graig Fan Ddu ridge
The Horseshoe Ridge hike starts at the Taf Fechan Forestry Commission Car Park. The walk begins with a leisurely walk along country lanes and past the pump house of the Neuadd reservoir. From the reservoir, you have amazing views of the ridge and the four peaks you are about to climb. Stop and admire the majestic and awe-inspiring sleeping giants; they have been around for centuries and have seen many climb up their flanks.
The most challenging part of the hike is the steep climb up to the Graig Fan Ddu Ridge. The ascent is made via a long and steep flight of steps, but the higher you climb, the more magnificent the views. Once at the top of the ridge and after a short break to catch your breath, the hike takes you along the ridge, through moorland and towards the four peaks of Corn Du, Pen y Fan, Cribyn and Fan y Big.
Spectacular views from the four peaks of Corn Du, Pen y Fan, Cribyn and Fan y Big
The Horseshoe Ridge trail is fairly popular and you’ll meet fellow hikers along the walk. However, when you get to Corn Du and Pen y Fan, it is hordes of sightseers that you’ll meet. Leaving the moorland behind and climbing up the rocky path, the first peak you hike up is Corn Du, closely followed by Pen y Fan.
From all four peaks, but especially from Pen y Fan, you’ll enjoy spectacular views of the surrounding hills and valleys, the town of Brecon, the Brecon Beacons Park, the Black Mountain and the Black Mountains. On a clear sunny day, you can even spot the Sugar Loaf Mountain in the distance.
Leaving Pen y Fan and the hordes of sightseers behind, there are two peaks left to ascend. From Cribyn, you’ll appreciate the towering scale of Pen y Fan as well as your hiking efforts. If you don’t feel like climbing one last peak, you can bypass Fan y Big, the fourth and last peak in the chain of mountains.
A stroll across the peaceful Neuadd Valley
At the bottom of Cribyn and Fan y Big, you’ll find the Gap Road, also known as the Roman Road, which takes you through the peaceful Neuadd Valley and back to the car park. The hike ends as it started, with a welcome leisurely walk along pebbled country lanes. From the valley, you can take a last glimpse at the majestic sleeping giants you just climbed.
When I discovered the Horseshoe Ridge hike, I was lucky enough to have minimal rain and sunny bursts. It was, however, very windy at the top of the ridge and the peaks. The trail was muddy throughout the walk, especially on the moorland. Be prepared for any weather and trail conditions; the Brecon Beacons can often surprise you with its ever-changing climate.
Find the Horseshoe Ridge walk itinerary: nationaltrust.org.uk
The four peaks of Pen y Fan, Corn Du, Cribyn and Fan y Big
Pen y Fan, Corn Du, Cribyn and Fan y Big are four mountains located in the heart of the Brecon Beacons National Park. Towering at 2,907 feet (886 m), Pen y Fan is the highest peak in South Wales and southern Britain. At 2,864 feet (873 m), Corn Du is the second highest mountain in South Wales. Cribyn stands at 2,608 feet (795 m) and Fan y Big at 2,359 feet (719 m).
Being the highest mountain in South Wales, Pen y Fan, pronounced ‘Pen y Van’, is a very popular peak to climb for hikers and sightseers alike. But this is nothing new. The mountain has been admired for centuries and you can discover Bronze Age burial cairns at the top of both Pen y Fan and Corn Du.
From the top of the four peaks and on a clear day, you can enjoy splendid views stretching across the Brecon Beacons, South Wales and all the way to South West England, as well as spot the lovely town of Brecon at the foot of the mountains.
Brecon Beacons Horseshoe Ridge walk details
Location: Neuadd Valley in the heart of the Brecon Beacons National Park, South Wales
Time: Approximately 4 ½ to 5 ½ hours with regular stops
Distance: 10 miles (16 km)
Ascent: Very steep (2,000 ft or 610 m)
Trail condition: Muddy in some areas, especially at the top of the ridge
Accessibility: Not suitable for pushchairs, wheelchairs or bikes
Parking: Free Taf Fechan Forestry Commission car park (Postcode: CF48 2UT; Grid ref: SO033180)
Facilities: No public toilets. Nearest toilets, shops and pubs are in Pontsticill
Notes: Come prepared for any weather. Please be mindful of livestock and keep your dogs on a lead
Explore more: The magnificent Brecon Beacons
The best way to explore the Brecon Beacons is to walk up its majestic peaks, along its arresting ridges and across its wild valleys. With each step you take, you’ll enjoy the spectacular scenery of the national park and South Wales. With each breath you take, you’ll find the wild landscape of the Brecon Beacons is a sight for sore eyes and a balm for the soul. From Sugar Loaf Mountain to Llyn y Fan Fach, find the best walks in the Brecon Beacons.