Explore Pen y Fan and the Brecon Beacons with the Horseshoe Ridge hike

If you’re after a challenging but rewarding walk across wild Welsh moorland and up steep 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)

Climbing steeply up the arresting Graig Fan Ddu ridge

The Horseshoe Ridge hike starts at the Taf Fechan Forestry Commission Car Park (CF48 2UT). 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.

View of the Graig Fan Ddu Ridge and Neuadd valley on the Horseshoe Ridge hike in the Brecon Beacons
The Neuadd Valley and Graig Fan Ddu Ridge

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.

Enjoying spectacular views from Corn Du, Pen y Fan, Cribyn & 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.

Splendid views from Pen y Fan of the Brecon Beacons mountains and valleys on the Horseshoe Ridge hiking trail
Breathtaking view from Pen y Fan

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.

Strolling 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.

Roman road across the Neuadd Valley with views of the Brecon Beacons ridges and peaks
Walking on the Roman Road across the Neuadd Valley

Find the Horseshoe Ridge walk itinerary and map: Brecon Beacons Horseshoe Ridge walk nationaltrust.org.uk

Download the Horseshoe Ridge walk GPX file: Horseshoe Ridge hike on outdooractive.com

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).

Peaks of Corn Du, Pen y Fan and Cribyn from the Neuadd Valley in the Brecon Beacons
The peaks of Corn Du, Pen y Fan and Cribyn

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.

What to wear walking up Pen y Fan?

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.

View on Brecon Beacons Horseshoe Ridge Hike
View of Corn Du and Pen y Fan

I would recommend wearing/ bringing with you the following items of clothing:

  • Walking boots
  • Windproof rain jacket
  • Warm hat, scarf and gloves
  • Warm fleece/ jumper
  • Base layers
  • Waterproof trousers
  • Sunhat and sunglasses

I would also recommend bringing lots of water and snacks, as well as sunscreen. You may also want to bring walking poles.

Brecon Beacons Horseshoe Ridge walk details

Location: Neuadd Valley in the heart of the Brecon Beacons National Park, South Wales

Difficulty: Challenging

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)

Itinerary: National Trust’s Brecon Beacons Horseshoe Ridge Walk

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)

Facilities: 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 the magnificent Brecon Beacons further

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.

View from Sugar Loaf Mountain of Brecon Beacons hills
Views from Sugar Loaf Mountain

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2 thoughts on “Explore Pen y Fan and the Brecon Beacons with the Horseshoe Ridge hike”

  1. Living in South Wales and being a keen hiker, the Brecon Beacons are often our playground. It was only around Easter time of this year that we discovered the Pen y Fan horseshoe walk for the first time. Well, what a splendid hike it was! It was not only a real challenge but the views on offer are hard to beat and are often mesmerising. What’s more, you are almost guaranteed to avoid the crowds that you typically find on the shorter, easier routes up from the two starting points on the A470. If you are looking for a circular hiking trail in the Brecon Beacons, put this one on the top of that list!

    • Gavin, I’m so glad you enjoyed the Horseshoe Ridge hike! This walk is truly breathtaking and one of the best hikes in the Brecon Beacons. I would recommend you also check out the Llyn y Fan Fach walk, the scenery is as spectacular!


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