Located in the Black Mountains to the north of the Brecon Beacons, the Black Hill & Hay Bluff walk offers majestic mountains, rocky peaks, wild moorland and spectacular scenery. Throughout this challenging yet rewarding hike, you’ll be swept away by the dazzling views of the Brecon Beacons mountains, the Herefordshire countryside and beyond.
First climbing steeply to the rocky peak of Black Hill, this Brecon Beacons walk then takes you along the mountain ridge to the peak of Hay Bluff. This circular hike next follows the Offa’s Dyke path to the peak of Black Mountain and continues further along the wild ridge, before dipping down into the charming Olchon valley. The Black Hill & Hay Bluff walk is easy to follow, as it mostly keeps to paths. Be prepared for inclement and ever-changing weather in the Brecon Beacons.
Location: Black Hill, Herefordshire
Walk difficulty: Challenging
Time: 5 to 6 hours
Distance: 9.5 miles (15 km)
Climbing the breathtaking Black Hill mountain
This Brecon Beacons walk starts at the Black Hill car park in Herefordshire, England. This mountain hike first climbs steeply to the Black Hill peak along the mountain ridge known as the Cat’s Back. The narrow ridge is named so as it resembles a cat about to pounce. The ascent to the rocky peak is very steep at first, but then lessens considerably.
From the very start of the walk, you can enjoy amazing views of the Brecon Beacons mountains and the Herefordshire countryside. As you climb the ridge, the scenery further unfolds before your eyes. Don’t forget to look back and admire the stony outcrop of the ridge and the contrasting backdrop of rolling hills.
At the trig point, you’ve reached the pinnacle of Black Hill, also known as Crib y Garth. Towering at 640m, Black Hill is one of the last peaks on the north-eastern side of the Brecon Beacons. There, you’ll be awestruck by the astounding and far-reaching views of the Brecon Beacons mountains, the Herefordshire countryside, the Malvern Hills, the Wye Valley and even the Bristol Channel. You can also spot the next steps in the walk: the peaks of Hay Bluff and Black Mountain, as well as the Olchon Valley.
Hiking the wild Hay Bluff & Black Mountain peaks
From Black Hill, you then continue along the ridge and make your way towards the next peak. Rather than taking the easiest route to Hay Bluff, this challenging walk leads you round the mountain where you can enjoy further fantastic views of the Herefordshire valley. You can also spot the distinctive shape of Black Hill. Along the way, you’ll meet wild horses and ponies, as well as sheep grazing on the wild moorland of the Brecon Beacons.
To reach the second peak of the walk, you leave the main path and climb steeply up the mountain flank. Towering at 677m, Hay Bluff is a Welsh peak in the Brecon Beacons. When I reached the top, the clouds had rolled in and I couldn’t see much aside from the wild moorland. However, on a good day, you can enjoy remarkable views of the Brecon Beacons mountains, the city of Hay-on-Wye, the Herefordshire countryside, the Wye Valley and even the Cambrian Mountains in Mid Wales.
This mountain hike then makes its way back towards Black Hill, before gently climbing Black Mountain, also known as Twyn Llech. There is no trig point to signal this 703m tall peak. On a good day, you can enjoy further amazing views of the Brecon Beacons, including Black Hill on the other side of the valley.
Walking along the mountain ridge, you then follow the Offa’s Dyke path, a stony trail across the wilderness of the Brecon Beacons. This national path is 177 miles long and stretches from the Severn Estuary to the Irish Sea. Named after the earthworks King Offa ordered to be built in the 8th century to delimit his kingdom of Mercia, the trail straddles the border between England and Wales.
Exploring the charming Olchon Valley
After walking along the Offa’s Dyke path for a while, you come to an intersection marked by a small stone pillar. There, you turn off and make your way down the steep mountain flank to the Olchon Valley. As you walk downhill, you can enjoy the amazing views of the valley as well as the towering shape of Black Hill one last time.
As you reach the base of the mountain, you’ll be be amazed at the sheer height and majesty of the sleeping giants you just climbed. You then make your way across a field of ferns before reaching a quiet country road. In the valley, the landscape is green and enchanting, and contrasts with the tall and wild mountains.
The Black Hill & Hay Bluff walk crosses the Olchon Valley and takes you across verdant fields, through lush woodland and over bubbling brooks. You then reach the bottom of the valley before climbing the hill on the other side. This is the last ascent of the walk, leading you back to the car park.
Black Hill & Hay Bluff walk itinerary (with map)
1. From the Black Hill car park, go through the gate and follow the uphill path (known as the Cat’s Back). At the trig point, you’ve reached Black Hill. Continue along the path as it dips down and back up the hill. At the intersection at the foot of a hill, turn right down the stone path.
2. At the small stone pillar on the side of the path, veer left off the track and walk up the side of the hill diagonally and then along the ridge. When you spot the trig point, veer left towards it. You’ve reached Hay Bluff. Take the path on your left and walk back towards Black Hill.
3. At the intersection, veer right up the flights of steps and to the top of the hill. There is no trig point to mark Black Mountain. Continue along the path to a stone pillar on the side of the path, roughly in line with the Cat’s Back. At the stone pillar, turn left down the man-made path, following the sign for ‘Olchon Valley’.
4. Follow the man-made path down the flank of the mountain. When you reach the field of ferns, follow the path and turn sharply right, and at the intersection, turn left. When you reach the road, turn right and walk past a farm and a house.
5. At the footpath sign on your left (before you reach the intersection), cross over the stile and follow the man-made path downhill, keeping the brook to your left. Following the signposts, veer left and go over the brook, and then veer right and cross the footbridge.
6. Continue straight uphill, keeping the brook and the line of trees to your right. Cross over the brook and veer right. Go through the gate to the right of the house and walk along the back of the house. At the far end of the house, go through the small gate to your right, still following the footpath signs.
7. Continue straight uphill, keeping the fence and the brook to your left, cross over the stile and follow the woodland path to the road. Turn left onto the road and at the intersection, turn right. Follow the uphill road back to the car park.
Find the walk itinerary pdf file: Black Hill & Hay Bluff walk by adragonsescape.com
Download the walk GPX file: Black Hill & Hay Bluff walk on my.viewranger.com
Black Hill & Hay Bluff walk details
Location: Black Hill, Herefordshire
Walk difficulty: Challenging
Time: 5 to 6 hours with regular stops
Distance: 9.5 miles (15 km)
Trail condition: Good, but muddy in wet weather
Accessibility: Not suitable for pushchairs, wheelchairs or bikes
Parking: Black Hill car park (HR2 0PL)
Facilities: Closest toilets, shops and pubs in Longtown
Notes: Please be mindful of livestock and keep your dogs on a lead
Explore the Brecon Beacons further
The Brecon Beacons boast arresting mountains, wild moorlands, shimmering lakes, peaceful woods and enchanting waterfalls, all waiting to be explored.
The Horseshoe Ridge hike
If you’re after a challenging but rewarding walk across wild moorland and up rocky peaks that offer sweeping views over the Brecon Beacons, the Horseshoe Ridge hike is for you. At every step of the walk round 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 that stretch for miles in all directions. Find the Horseshoe Ridge walk guide!
Sugar Loaf walk
Located near Abergavenny, Sugar Loaf Mountain offers splendid views of the Brecon Beacons and South Wales. This charming walking trail takes you off the beaten path, across lush green meadows and over heather-clad hills, before climbing Sugar Loaf’s gentler ridge to the rocky peak. Check out the Sugar Loaf walk route!
Llyn y Fan Fach hike
The Llyn y Fan Fach walk features majestic mountains, peaceful lakes and breathtaking views. Llyn y Fan Fach is a well-known lake in one of the most remote and serene parts of the Black Mountain range. This challenging hike first explores the peaceful lakes of Llyn y Fan Fach and Llyn y Fan Fawr at the foot of the majestic mountains, before ascending them and leading you along the ridge. Find the Llyn y Fan Fach walk guide!
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Reference: National Trails
Featured image: Spectacular views from Black Hill
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